bunny_hugger entered the New Year's Eve Ball Drop tournament almost but not quite tied with MJS --- the tournament host --- for 16th place in the state rankings. If she beat him by enough in this tournament, she could get the last of the state finalist positions. If she did not, then, not. They both knew it. I knew it. Our friends MWS and CST knew it. MJS and his friends and family knew it. So we all were watching the progress of the two. Others might have, if they were curious, although I couldn't blame anyone for not much caring which of the two people they wouldn't play in the first round of the state finals was in.
They might not play one another directly. Four-strikes tournaments make it impossible for most pairs to ever meet. It would be a matter of who won more matches, played entirely against other people. CST suggested, ``Why don't we send you two outside with Nerf bats and let you settle it?'' They had no Nerf bats. I could watch by following the tournament's progression, per the results poster and per the Brackelope web site's report, and from running to bunny_hugger to see how she was doing.
Much of the day there were an odd number of players, so someone would get a bye. bunny_hugger hoped repeatedly for that --- it would advance you a round, as good as a win. She never got it. I don't believe MJS ever got it either. Failing that, she hoped she would draw someone she could beat. The surest of that was the girlfriend of one of the serious players; she didn't have much experience, and no stake in doing well. She didn't draw the girlfriend. MJS did. bunny_hugger drew a match against me.
Should I throw the game?
I confess, I considered it. There was good utilitarian logic to it. I had by that point already had my best performance in a four-strikes tournament. I couldn't change whether I got to the state finals whatever I did. While it would be great to finish this tournament one of the top four, I didn't think that possible. (It turned out that I was one win away from that, but I would not have credited the possibility if you had told me.) Meanwhile, bunny_hugger getting one more win in would help her standing. She might get that needed edge on MJS. It might be the difference whether she went to the state finals. She would be miserable if she did not get in, and joyful if she did. And MJS had almost as good as a bye, that round.
I couldn't throw it. I felt dishonest considering it. I would feel dirty if I had. I would earn bunny_hugger's disapproval if I did, or if she suspected I did. I must play honestly, to the best of my ability. But I could hope that I lost. I hoped as much as I could, without success.
This would be credible. We were to play Fast Draw, a solid state game from 1975. It's easier, or it's perceived as easier, for an upset to happen on a game of that era. An unlucky bounce can end the ball with no recourse, and no hope for one. It happens my fourth ball --- it's a five-ball game, as many of that era were --- was such a bad bounce. But before that I had a really good third ball. Sometimes the pinball behaves as if it will not miss a target, will not enter the outlane, will not drain. My third ball did not quite reach that zone, but I could see it sneaking up on that.
bunny_hugger, much like GRV, rattles. She recovers slowly from being rattled. After that third ball put up a good but not unthinkable lead she was sure she was doomed. She was having none of my promises that she could beat me easily. I advised her what to do to get the high-scoring targets --- hit all the drop targets; then, the black drop targets in the middle of the bank would be worth something like five thousand points apiece. She misunderstood me, though, thinking she had to hit all the drop targets except the black ones. She didn't; the black drop targets would pop back up once the banks were cleared. But she was trying to shoot something more complicated than she needed, and she wasn't quite able to do it.
She had a fair fourth ball, and was gaining on me on the fifth, when the ball careened down the center. She groaned. I groaned. She wasn't knocked out yet, mercifully, but she was that one strike nearer.
bunny_hugger had a rough day. She lost in her first round, on her favorite game, FunHouse. She would lose that round to me. She was finally knocked out on Road Show, a game that tried to be FunHouse But More, one that she's never gotten the hang of and doesn't care for. (Many people don't. It's loud where FunHouse is whimsical, never a good trade.) That same round, MJS was playing someone or other on Getaway, one we knew he could dominate. We'd seen him in practice.
He did not. MJS was knocked out in the same round. They would tie for the tournament. And, as a result, he would be the 16th-ranked and the last of the guaranteed invitees to state finals. bunny_hugger would be the first alternate, there if someone declined (no one has) or proved unable to attend (so far, no one has indicated they won't).
We would not know the exact numbers for a week or so. Mercifully, my beating her did not block her out. Merely one more win would not have put her in state finals. But I still feel the pang of having been part of her loss, in the last hours of 2015.
Trivia: After the 1932 cancellation of the Ten Year Rule --- the planning assumption that the United Kingdom would not face any major conflicts for ten years --- the cabinet waited another eighteen months to authorize the armed forces to rebuild capabilities. Source: The Vulnerability of Empire, Charles A Kupchan.
Currently Reading: King of the Comics: 100 Years of King Features, Editor Dean Mullaney.