The World Series is at 3-2. Brett Favre just beat his old teammates on their home turf. And last night, 18 people saw victory over a seven-column, six-row vertically-suspended grid. The “game” we now refer to as Connect Four is centuries old, when Captain Hook used to play it so often with his fellow mates it was coined “Captain’s Mistress.” Well, last night was surely an affair to remember.
The checkers are no longer red and black like the Milton Bradley version most of us remember from our youth. They are now a cheery red and yellow. The Grid isn’t yellow anymore, it’s blue. Get over it, because it’s over you. The rules haven’t changed—get four of your color in a row, whether it be vertical, horizontal or diagonal. Let your opponent do so and you lose.
At the Bell House around 6:30 p.m., 40 challengers gathered to play practice rounds and scope out their competition before the real rounds began at 7. Heather D, the coordinator of the tournament, insisted that I enter. It suddenly became more than just a “blog post” to me. I was going to win this bitch. The last time a Connect Four board was in front of me I was being baby-sat—but last night no one was looking out for me.
Opponents were to be chosen randomly by Bell House staff; anyone at this place could have been my rival. I attempted to gather tactics from the nervous contenders. Beth Ann Coulton and Jeff Ciprioni (both of Williamsburg) employed a haughty laugh when asked how seriously they were competing. Their air of cool indifference chilled me to the bone, so I practiced it in the bathroom. Erin Watts of Gowanus told me she once beat someone in four moves, and “they weren’t even a child, he was a real person.” Erik Courson (Red Hook) simply said “I’m going to win this thing. Write that down.”
I finally received some advice from the kindhearted-but-still-fierce Amber Marlow-Blatt (Park Slope), who said: “You want to stay really still when you know you’re going to win.” Providing coaching and support was husband Rob Blatt, who had not entered the competition; he felt it would be a “lose-lose” situation to end up across from Amber in the actual competition. He offered great advice, as a good mentor should. Rob revealed that in Connect Four, “the best defense is good offense.” The opposite of football.
The bell rang and I was announced at Table 6, across from one Desmond Eaddy. I tried to small-talk him out of focus. He came from the Upper West Side for the competition, and used to play C4 at a bar in Miami a lot. He claimed he found out about the event from the My Open Bar app on his iPhone, but I knew then that he had a Connect Four Tournament Alert App on his phone (a member’s-only app I’ve heard rumored about.) A disadvantage for me, to be sure, but I figured that I can count and see straight, so I still had a shot.
After my loss, I got another drink found Erik of “write that down” and immediately addressed his downcast face. “You lost! Do you feel dumb?!” He pointed at his defeater; by the name of Keith Sanders, he drove from Midwood for the games. He didn’t have a strategy, he said. “You’re just lining up four circles. No big deal.”
But it is—it’s what-could-be a $1000 grand prize (if participation grows, says the Bell House’s Heather D.) to the winner on November 24, three weeks from last night. The winners from last night will head directly there to compete, and everyone who lost tonight is invited to try again next Tuesday and the next after that. The 24th is purely for winners from the first three Tuesdays in November; you can’t buy your way into true victory.
Most people seemed a little disappointed that it was one-and-done last evening, as some had traveled far, and some had been employing Michael Phelps’ carb-to-protein ratio all day to prepare. But in a challenge like Connect Four, someone’s always going to be disappointed. Like Nich, down from the UWS, who had hoped Jay-Z would be in attendance. He wasn’t, but apparently Connect Four is very big in the hip hop scene. And for what it’s worth, Trevor Grayson (Financial District) informed me that in Thailand, the prostitutes are excellent Connect Four players, because that’s what they do with their down-time in the bars.
Next Tuesday is getting closer by the day. Erik isn’t sure if he’s going to return. Desmond, I heard, is flying to Toronto for a practice tourney this weekend. Keith will calmly wait until the 24th, a day labeled on his calendar as “Day of Destruction.” Taking Rob Blatt’s advice off the board and on to the table, I’m going to practice distraction techniques. Stay tuned.