Inaugural Palago World Championship


Where:  Guillestre, France.

When:  16-19 May, 2009.

The inaugural Palago World Championship was played in the beautiful Alpine village of Guillestre over the weekend of May 16-19, 2009, between the game’s publisher (Mike McManaway) and its inventor (Cameron Browne). Mike had arranged the event so was deemed the incumbent champion with Cameron challenging for the title.

Mighty prizes were on offer:
1) The official Palago World Champion t-shirt, which Mike had been sporting all weekend, and
2) Champ, the Palagonian.

The playoff involved a number of warm-up games followed by the official match games at various local cafes over many cups of coffee (Mike's poison) and beer (Cameron's poison). It’s difficult to imagine a nicer setting for such an event but the games were taken most seriously and hard fought.

Before the start, Mike made the provocative comment that he wouldn't lose a single game. This may have been a ploy to spur his opponent to maximum focus, but proved somewhat optimistic as each game played out differently and often threw up surprising situations; both players were evenly matched and had to admit that they were still just scratching the game's strategic surface despite having played over a thousand games between them.

Things were tight throughout the event and neither player gained a lead of more than one game before the opponent caught up. Mike adopted an aggressive style of play and would invariably attack at the first viable opportunity, while Cameron tended towards solid defense and positional play. The success of both approaches highlighted an inherent balance, as gaining the initiative with a sequence of attacks may force a win but will also tend to weaken the attacker's position in other parts of the board — if the onslaught falters for a single move then the opponent may counter-attack to force a win themselves.

The match came down to the very last game with Cameron needing to win in 26 moves or less to claim the title. This is a difficult task against a good attacking player, but midway through this game Mike fatefully decided to switch to defensive mode in order to see out the remaining moves safely. This ironically led to a quicker defeat as it was not his natural style and Cameron was able to force the win in 24 moves.

So with two moves to spare, Cameron took not only the title of 2009 Palago World Champion but the shirt off Mike’s back — literally. In fact, Mike was so certain of the title that he hadn’t even bothered to wash the shirt, a tradition to be honoured as it passes from champion to champion over the years… or maybe not.

Overall this was a great tussle in a great location with many fascinating games. Both players learnt a lot about Palago and developed an even greater appreciation of its unfolding depth.

Mike demonstrates The Shirt.

Champ, the Palagonian.

Palago World Championship


1. A World Championship Playoff involves two opponents: the current World Champion and the challenger.

2. The match should be played with two sets of tiles, as games at this level may exceed 48 moves.

3. Both players must decide on an even number of games to be played, to ensure an equal number of starts each.

4. A tile is randomly drawn to determine which player takes which colour, unless both players agree on preferred colours. Players should use the same colour throughout the match.

5. A tile is randomly drawn to determine who starts the first game, unless both players agree on first starter. Players take turns starting each subsequent game.

6. Games are to be played according to the official rules described at:

7. Players are allowed 10 minutes total move time per game. A clock should be started after the first move of each game (a Chess clock set to count down from 10:00 to 0:00 works well). A player forfeits the game if their time runs out on their move.

8. A game is declared drawn if the tiles run out before either player wins.

9. The result of each game and the number of moves made should be recorded.

10. The winner of the most games wins the match. In the event that this number is tied, the match is awarded to the player who achieved their wins in the least number of total moves. In the unlikely event that this number is also tied then additional pairs of games are played until a winner emerges.

11. The challenger, if successful, becomes the Palago World Champion for the remainder of that calendar year.

12. Any player may challenge the current World Champion to a playoff match over the following year(s). The onus is on the challenger to arrange a meeting to play the match at the champion’s convenience (on-line matches may be allowed if both players agree). The current champion need not accept more than one challenge per month.

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