Word has spread, competition has gotten fierce, and tonight I got my ass kicked. I already admitted I didn’t practice. But while last Tuesday was mostly light-hearted, tonight felt personal. Got that, Robert?
At the Bell House in Gowanus about 30 people gathered to compete in the world’s largest Connect Four tournament. Fewer than last Tuesday, but then again, all the winners from last week- the real die-hards- needn’t come back until the Championship Night on Nov. 24.
Robert Arnow of Park Slope beat me in three sequential games. You can play up to five, but see, if you lose those three, there’s no way to win. (If you didn’t understand that, then you definitely shouldn’t show up next week.) Rob also has a chess background, and once used a Connect Four board to keep track of which roommate had to empty the dishwasher. Though my distraction technique didn’t work on him at all, Robert deployed it on me to great effect. I told him I’m an actor/comic, and might make fun of him publicly, like, maybe for taking a really long time with each move, and he cleverly waited until I was debating a difficult checker drop to ask, “Beth… do you have a day job?”
But hearts were being broken all over the place. Crystal Heller (Bushwick) and Justin Smith (Park Slope) came together and remained friendly during their practice round. While Crystal and I chatted about bars that have games (Common Ground), she suddenly noticed that he had taken two turns. I’m not saying he cheated, but when the two were randomly paired to compete against one other, Justin won again. Not. Saying. Anything.
Greg Carr (Gramercy) won tonight. He came all the way from Manhattan. Post-win, he played some unofficial rounds with Chris from the Skint, who sat out and observed during the competition (but says he’ll play next week). Greg claimed to have no specific strategy; he got into Connect Four at a Vermont ski lodge last winter. That image almost made me fall in love with Greg right there. I was entertaining cozy images and flannel and romance, until the fantasy turned to us playing Connect Four over some hot cocoa, and his beating me at the game over and over again, and my being pissed at him, and us being stuck in this lodge…
Katie Enna (Washington Heights) and Nick Bolt (Bronx) had been practicing at the corner of the bar when I arrived at the Bell House, and after the rounds, I found them in the same corner; they never entered. They remained amicable, neither bitter. I think I convinced them to come back and play for blood next week.
Remember Amber “just-sit-still-when-you-know-you’re-gonna-win” from last week? Well, she lost last week, but, like a gymnast who falls off the high bar, she was back tonight. She lost again. I’m telling you: competition was fierce! And she had been practicing, on a web site whose name I would tell you, except it might give you an advantage. Even if it didn’t give her one.
So, next Tuesday, I’m wearing sunglasses, to psyche out the competition. We’ll see what Amber, Nick, Katie, Chris and Crystal bring. It’s the last chance to be entered to the championship round, where there is a huge cash prize, maybe even $1,000. But at this point, we all know, it’s not about the money. It’s about pride.