What a start for the 2009 season! Week one was a tumultuous ride of great matches, cinderella stories, upsets, dominance, and hectic action on and off the field.
The most gripping story is obviously what happened in Chicago. Team Hammond secured the top seed and picked the Simbots first and 1000 24th. That pairing would seem to be a dream alliance, but it lost in the quarter-finals. 1732, 2041, and 1652 pulled off one of the greatest upsets at the regional level in FIRST history.
Was it the upset of the decade? Probably not, a number of Championship upsets exist that could be argued greater, namely the stunning loss of 60, 33, and 1241 in the quarter-finals of Archimedes in 2004 (and that was the pre-serpentine era, so the #8 seed beating the #1 was an even bigger deal) in only two matches.
What exactly happened to the vaunted top alliance in Midwest? Most will point to 1114 being pinned extensively, but it was a lot more than that. Neither the Simbots nor the Beast played very well, with the Simbots putting a lot of balls on the ground and the Beast spending too much time chasing the opposition. 1000 wasn’t a scoring bot, and couldn’t make up for the lost scoring of 1114 while pinned. 1732 and 2041 shouldn’t have both been around to form this #8 alliance either, but both snuck under the radar to form a potent alliance with 1652.
The bottom line is, the #1 alliance was out driven, out played, out strategized, and plain old beaten.
What’s next for 1114 and 71? Well, both teams are going to get better, and that’s a very scary proposition. You won’t see 1114 not moving in autonomous again. They’ll have improved camera tracking and traction control, both of which will make it harder and more dangerous to pin them. And most importantly, you better believe their drivers are going to practice and learn from their mistakes.
Wait, you mean there was more to this regional too? The winning alliance of 111, 1625, and 1675 could have, and likely would have, topped that #1 alliance as well. Winnovation emerged from a strong 2008 campaign with an ever stronger 2009 bot, and was arguably the best bot in Chicago. Their outstanding floor gathering was on sped up by their ability to human load in autonomous, and until more teams start scoring in auto (which only a handful did in Week 1, and 1712 was the only with any consistency) will give them a huge advantage. Their driving was stupendous and their skills and robot only made a very solid Wildstang team that much better. All three alliance members have promising futures for 2009.
Outside of Illinois there was plenty of action too. New Hampshire perhaps has the biggest, and most controversial, story. A slew of field problems caused many matches to be replayed (even after scores were tallied). More importantly, because of a replay the ranking came out wrong, and the alliance selection had to be redone. The new selection broke up the superpower alliance of 121 and 20, but both teams still reached the finals.
121 paired with a very strong and well-driven 175 (who was on the alliance that beat 121 in quals) team and topped the combination of 20 (who was perhaps the most dangerous team) and 40 in the finals. Both alliances also recieved valuable contributions from the third partners, with 2621 playing some of the famed NE defense and 885 helping move empty cells. The Rhode Warriors were by far the most consistent team at the event, and combined with their massive hopper, advanced traction control, and skilled driving they were not only the best team at BAE, but perhaps the best period during week 1.
Jersey saw the end of the reign of 103 and 25, as niether team managed to extend their streak of consecutive victories (254 breathes easy, but 1574’s shadow is looming). Instead a trio of young guns earned their first regional victories. 2753 took home gold and went undefeated in their first ever FRC event, after absolutely dominating FTC last season. 1923, who had never even reached the elimination rounds in their three season prior to 2009, emerged as possibly the best team at the event and was the #1 over-all selection by 2753. 2344, in only their second year, emerged as a strong youngster as well, and looks to improve further in NYC. Once 2573 and 1923 paired, it was going to be tough for any pair of other scoring teams at the event to top them. It’ll be interesting to see how all three teams fair at their second regionals (NYC for 2753 and 2344, Philly for 1923).
1742 was one of the more impressive shooters in week one, although (like most) they didn’t shoot from far away. Unlike most of their bretheren, they seeded first, picked the #2 seed (1561, one of the more interesting dumpers, although after their first dump they would move to empty cell duty usually) picked 2004 and won Oklahoma City.
If you had to guess where the second highest alliance score of the weekend came from, you wouldn’t probably say Kansas City. But 1208, 835, and 1939 put up 141 (second only to 151 by 1625, 71, and 2741 in Midwest) in Q70. 1208 would then be selected by #1 seed 1806 and score 121 in the last match (along with 931) to win the regional (despite close calls in all three rounds of the eliminations and even a tie in the QFs).
Another pair of #1 and #2 seed teamed up in Buckeye, as 1747 and 1038 formed a formidable 1/2 punch that won the event. 1038’s first regional victory since 2006 is easily their biggest at the regional level (although not as large as their 2004 division title). 2010 also provided enough smart driving and skill to help the alliance top #3 seed 1018, a resurgent 868, and rookie-all stars 3010.
In Traverse City a second year team, 2645 seeded on top and picked BOB (85) and 247 (Da Bears, who have quietly now won 4 events in the past 4 years) to win the first district competition. It wasn’t easy though with the semi-finals and finals each going to three rounds (including a tie and a 2-point match in the finals).
While it didn’t have the depth of Midwest, Washington DC sported some of the top teams of week 1. Once 45 (who went undefeated) and 234 paired up, it was all over though, especially once nabbing the steal of 620 at the last pick (who could score and run empty cells very well). The only alliance that could have stood a chance would have been if 2068 and 365 paired up, but they faced against eachother in the quarter-finals instead (with 2068 emerging on top). Between the three scoring machines and 234’s human player, there was simply nowhere to hide on the field from their offensive firestorm. And 45’s fan gave them enough power and acceleration to make it almost impossible to play effective defense against this alliance.
The finals had a match-up of two very different styles of play, with the #1 alliances offense and the #7 alliance (1279, 118, and 538) defensive and super cell style. 118 would score their 7 starting balls and run empty cells (their human loading was not effective enough) and 538 played monster defense. But the combined firepower of 45 and 234 was too much, and 118’s hopper was often filled with balls by them while they tried to exchange empty cells. 1279’s alliance kept it close in the first match (88-78), but couldn’t hold on in the 119-50 monster blowout of a second match.
Overall Lunacy played well during week one. Qualification matches were often slow and cumbersome, but that’s true for many FIRST games. The excitement turned on in the eliminations, but the scores didn’t always skyrocket. Some of the best matches aren’t necissary the highest scoring in this game, as good driving and effective trailer control (as possesed by the best teams) will make it harder to score. There is a very definite sense of tempo to each match, as teams that are scoring are also often easier to score on while they do so. The gameplay will still evolve a fair bit over the course of the season, and week one alone showed us two or three different ways to play the game.