The Making of a Champion

Champions aren’t always winners. Sometimes they are heros, sometimes they are ordinary citizens, and during 2018’s tournament– they were NMEs.

We began this year with 36 combatants (13 females and 23 males). Over a six week period, starting in February, they were whittled down to 3.

Logan pulled the grey President and took his seat at the Final Table ranked 142.30.

Ian (141.60) pulled Black.

Easton (101.80) was White.

But, there can be only one!

After the opening ceremonies it began quickly as Easton traded Navies with Ian (both upperclassmen). Logan (one year behind them) has been here before, in 2017.

“Be your own person,” was the lesson learned that year.

This year’s motto is “never give up, never surrender.”

Because, when despair infiltrates a players mind, their eyes dull and drift. Their heads droop from the weight produced by their own imaginings. And then, once they enter that dark space, their mistakes are amplified (not necessarily increased), and their worldview grows bleaker until eventually they see their own demise and surrender to it (all in their minds) before the game is over.

Easton is among the final 3 because he never gave up. Week 5, with only his president in the game, he captured his opponents remaining infantry and forced a compromise, earning him a seat at the Final Table.

Logan ranked upper-middle throughout the tournament and sat down Week 6 as Topdog, followed by Ian whose  second week put him in 12th place. Logan’s bad day was Week 3 (after eliminations)– out of 24 combatants, he found himself 17th. This was also Easton’s bad day, he’d fallen to 7th.

Which brings us back to Week 5, a one game elimination where 12 combatants become 3. After 2.5 hours Easton eliminated the first President at Table Two.  Twenty minutes later he forced his compromise and (by 0.3 points) reached the third position at the Final Table, 39.8 points below Ian who was 0.7 points below Logan.

Fully matured humans can’t handle the stress, nor comprehend the complexities of this game. Every single combatant (win, lose, or compromise) is to be congratulated for having what it takes to try.

Week 6 increases the stress exponentially. And this year was no different. Two hours into the final game, Ian is in control with both of his Airforces still in play. His eyes sparkle as he captures Logan’s last Airforce.

Ian has got this in the bag, all he needs to do now is eliminate Easton and Logan will fall. But, not giving up, Logan sees whats happening and blocks Ian’s path into Easton’s base with one of his Navies.

15 minutes later both of Ian’s Airforces are captured, one by each of his NMEs. Ian’s tears pool up and spill out onto the board as Easton assaults him. During the chaos, Logan infiltrates Ian’s base and reacquires his first Airforce.  This causes Easton to regroup, which allows Ian to catch his breath.

At the 3 hour mark Ian moves on Easton with his Specialforce while trying to infiltrate his base, hoping to trade an Infantry for an Airforce. During the skirmish, Logan walks down, infiltrates Easton’s base this time, and reacquires his second Airforce. Now, it is Logan’s eyes that sparkle. In his mind he sees his name engraved upon the base of Abraham’s Pyramid. The game is his and everyone knows it.

But, in this exalted state combatants lose sight of what’s right in front of them and tend to miscalculate their security.

Ian (with a Specialforce and 3 Infantry in play) puts Easton’s President under threat of assassination.

Logan (with 2 Specialforces, 2 Airforces, 1 Navy and 2 Infantry) slides his Navy up one star, putting Easton’s Airforce in danger, forcing him to choose between losing it, or the game.

Easton (with an Airforce and 5 Infantry) sees what Logan doesn’t and…after a long pause…moves his trembling Airforce into Logan’s base, eliminating his President.

By moving his Navy, Logan had put his-self under threat.

“If it couldn’t be me,” Easton said after the game. “I wanted another sixth grader to get it.”

There isn’t a Junior High tournament, yet: ) But with some help we could change that…

America’s Chess

I began to define NME as a small business but realized that we are even smaller. NME is run entirely by volunteers; many are school-aged children.

Some of these children are in college, while others just began the 7th grade. Two freshmen are currently designing a downloadable NME game for a high school project that will teach players the Moves and Rules of Engagement.

NME Club meets Fridays after school for elementary aged children. I have been told that many of these children skip recess to play, watch, teach and learn NME. This year I have several new club members that already know the game-I didn’t have to teach them the basics: )

One recent meeting I pulled my stronger players aside to discuss the invisible playing-field.

“Do you know,” I said. “This guy named Trump?”

Every child raised their hand. A few went further, “he’s the president,” they said.

“And,” I went on. “He’s the greatest NME player in the world.”

The children read me for signals. I did not give any. I wanted them to make up their own damn minds.

“Yes.” I reaffirmed Trump’s NME status. “He keeps the politicians, and us, divided,” I said looking them over. “If he…” I began…

“Can keep them divided,” a child finishes my sentence.

“He’ll win the game,” several others exclaim–not at the exact same moment, but close enough to have realized the truth of it for themselves.

And that is what we are up against. Divisiveness has its uses, but like Sauron’s ring, it comes with Great-cost.

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