Adventskalender del 5: De tre vise menn @ 10 Dec 2016
(Dette er den siste artikkelen i en serie på fem om avanserte strategier i SSP i forkant av årets NM 10. desember, skrevet av verdens største stein, saks, papir-stjerne - amerikanske Master Roshambollah. Les del én her, del to her, del tre her og del fire her).
It was supposed to be my last day in Norway.
I was there at the request of the Norwegian Rock Paper Scissors Federation (NFSSP,) to interview some of their top players prior to the 2016 Norwegian National Championships of Rock Paper Scissors (RPS.)
Thus far I had interviewed three past Presidents of NFSSP, and though I greatly enjoyed reuniting with these legendary figures, the visits were full of the type of pomp and formalities present during any state visit.
Today was a day to which I'd been greatly looking forward since arriving; a meeting with the "Three Wise Men" of Norwegian RPS: Mikkel "The Pickle" Aukrust, Martin "The Terminator" Gisset, and the shadowy figure known only as "Bob the Builder."
Eschewing administrative tasks as "unfit work for the hands we have devoted to the sport," the three of them cut an imposing figure in the world of professional RPS, competing on multiple continents, and excelling in both Street and Tournament play.
Today we were headed to Svalbard, inside the Arctic Circle, home of the North Pole Classic, one of the world's most exclusive tournaments. The three of them showed up at my hotel room armed with rifles. Rifles are standard gear when in Svalbard; everyone carries a rifle in case of polar bear attack. They tossed me a rifle of my own, and I accepted it, making a mental note to wipe my fingerprints from it at the end of the day.
While I am not an expert in topography, I am pretty sure the area we were passing through qualified as frozen tundra. It had been quite some time since we had seen any sign of civilization, and I half-expected them to pull over, hand me an ice ax, and tell me to start digging my own grave. I was not disappointed; this is exactly what happened.
"A mere formality," exclaimed Martin, his eyes glimmering with malice. "Yes," agreed Mikkel. "After the traditional ritual death and rebirth from the ice cave, you will be one of us, and we can freely discuss matters of RPS strategy." Bob the Buider paced nervously in the background.
What the hell, I figured, I'm already here. There were three of them and only one of me, and I didn't like my odds. I had played against Mikkel many times, and knew how fast he was. The other two couldn't be much slower. I got to work digging, and after about an hour had a small cave dug. "It won't be long," offered Mikkel, and I got in.
They covered me with a blanket from the back of the car, and sealed the entrance with pine boughs and ice. True to their word, after a minute or two of half-hearted shivering, they dug me out and taught me a handshake. "You are now a Son of the Tundra!" exclaimed Martin, while Bob the Builder gave me a huge bear hug, lifting me from my feet.
We drove to Svalbard proper, which wasn't very far away, and went to the familiar confines of the Svalbard Pub. A couple of funny handshakes and secret knocks later, and we were in a private room, dimly lit, but well appointed. As we consumed a local brew, we discussed matters of immediate interest: winning strategy for this weekend's Norwegian National Championships.
«Tournament play among casual and amateur players has never been more predictable»
Mikkel «The Terminator» in action.
– Some see this as a failure of NFSSP, but we can't be blamed if we have created an environment suitable for professional players to enjoy success.
When I asked him exactly how play has become predictable, he responed
– A lot of the usual. Players never repeat the same throw twice, especially a losing throw. Three in a row is unheard of, so we have been training in the classic World RPS Society triple gambits" (such as the Avalanche, which is three rocks in a row.)
– Many casual players are thrown off by unconvential stances and throw delivery," added Martin.
– My traditional jumping delivery, where I pump with my whole body and not just my arm, really throws people off. As does any sort of strange or odd behavior.
He gestured towards Bob, who was busy building a castle out of beer coasters. Bob gave a gruff growl of agreement, and went back to work. Mikkel added:
– Also - and we really shouldn't be telling you this - we've been scouting casual play at local bars in Oslo, and Scissors is being used as an opening throw an astonishing 45% of the time. Standard deviation of +/- 3%, naturally.
I had everything I needed. After another hour or so of discussing local trends, Martin said:
– It's a shame you can't stay and compete, what time is your flight tonight?
It was then that I sprung on them the real reason for my visit. I had come to Norway not to interview their top players, but to take that information and use it myself.
– I'm not going anywhere, I told them.
«I'm staying another night - and competing in the 2016 Norwegian National Championships!»
– It's a shame that won't be possibe, said the familiar voice of Geir Arne Brevik from behind me.
Turning around I saw Geir the Viking along with Pål the Wall and NFSSP President Markus Thonhaugen. I began looking for exits and blunt objects. Pål raised his hand.
When Pål "The Wall" Magnusson showed up at a tournament, one could almost hear players groan in collective dismay.
– Such theatrics will not be necessary. I'm afraid there was a minor clerical error regarding your visa. It has been cancelled.
Cancelled? This was impossible! How did it happen?
– I assure you everything is on the level. I have a close personal friend at the embassy, said Markus, smiling broadly.
It was only after I got back to the US that I found out you don't *need* a visa to be in Norway. They had obviously anticipated my plan to compete using the information I had gleaned from them, and resorted to outright trickery.
Still, as I went back to the waiting NFSSP limo for a friendly but brisk drive back to the airport, I found they were all as civil and friendly as usual. My luggage had been packed and brought along from the hotel, which I found kind of creepy.
As we arrived at the airport, they formed a single line, and I went down it, shaking each hand as it came out. I wished them all success in the tournament, and found to my surprise that I truly meant it.
Remembering a final gift, I reached into my luggage and grabbed a small box still cold from my hotel fridge. I passed it to Markus. "Philadelphia cream cheese?" he asked. "No," was my response, "Norwegian cream cheese. Enjoy." I turned and went to board my flight. Some jokes are better when no one else is in on the joke. Eh, Urbanus?
Thus ended my visit. I learned much about Norwegian RPS, and I definitely plan to compete next year; if those cowards at NFSSP give me enough advance notice. To those competing in this year's tournament, I won't wish you good luck, but I will wish you strong throws, and sound strategy.