Hnefatafl: the Game of the Vikings

Hull Hnefatafl Tournament 2017

The 2017 Hull Hnefatafl Tournament was a live tournament that took place on Saturday 17th June 2017. There were six participants:

Kevin Alty
Nathaniel Alty
Steven Downie
David Lonsdale
Steve Lonsdale
Dorothy Vinegrad

The tournament used the Swiss system, aiming to reduce the number of players to two for a final match. Dorothy Vinegrad had to leave the tournament after round 2, so only two matches were played in round 3. As the third round of the Swiss tournament produced one contestant in the lead and two in joint second place, a single semi-final was played between the joint second-place contestants.

The match rules were Tablut. The king must escape to the edge of the 9x9 board with the help of eight defenders, while sixteen attackers try to capture him. The king is captured like any other piece, unless he still stands on his central castle, in which case four attackers must surround him, or unless he stands beside his central castle, in which case three attackers must surround him with the castle on his fourth side.

Hull 2017 Round 1: Alty (K) vs. Lonsdale (S)


Kevin Alty vs. Steve Lonsdale, Hull, 17th June 2017. Steve is a hnefatafl tournament veteran, while Kevin had some brief exposure to hnefatafl previously but had not been a regular player. Sides were chosen at random; Kevin took the attackers' side while Steve played the king and defenders. This was an extremely short match. It taught a cruel but clear lesson: if the king has access to an open row, and the attackers fail to block it, ... (read more...)

Hull 2017 Round 1: Alty (N) vs. Downie


In this match, two players met for their first hnefatafl tournament match. Neither had played the game before the day of the tournament. Steven Downie is a chess player, who could carry some of his chess experience over the hnefatafl. Nathaniel Alty was our youngest participant who joined us with his father Kevin, also participating. If enough junior players join us in future tournaments then there is scope for a separate junior tournament, but as Nathaniel was our only ... (read more...)

Hull 2017 Round 1: Lonsdale (D) vs. Vinegrad


In this first round match David Lonsdale took the part of the attackers, and Dorothy Vinegrad played the king and defenders. David is a regular at hnefatafl tournaments, while the tournament was Dorothy's first time playing hnefatafl. The match shows the gradual construction of a blockade, which is complete a few turns from the end of the game. The fourth move shows a windmill-like construction which you can see by playing out just the attackers' first four moves ... (read more...)

Hull 2017 Round 2: Alty (N) vs. Lonsdale (D)


This was a match between David Lonsdale, who took the king's side, and our youngest participant Nathaniel Alty. The tournament was Nathaniel's first exposure to Hnefatafl, and this game probably his first experience of the danger of leaving an open row - in this case the G file which David exploited to win the game. (read more...)

Hull 2017 Round 2: Lonsdale (S) vs. Downie


Steve Lonsdale played the part of the attackers in this match, while Steven Downie played the king and defenders. This match shows the gradual construction of a blockade. As in many matches won by the attackers, the blockade wasn't completed in full as this was not necessary by the time the game was won. As the match neared its end, the king's forced gradually dwindled till the final moves, when the two remaining defenders were not enough to ... (read more...)

Hull 2017 Round 2: Vinegrad vs. Alty (K)


In this match, Dorothy Vinegrad took the part of the attackers while Kevin Alty played the king and defenders. Dorothy began with an unorthodox opening which soon began to close off the top right corner and force the king in other directions, but the tactic did not in the end give success. The king could have won on turn 11, moving downwards to E2 or E3, both of which were on open ranks. Instead an alternative move prolonged ... (read more...)

Hull 2017 Round 3: Downie vs. Alty


Steven Downie vs. Kevin Alty, Hull, 17th June 2017. This short match exhibits the classic trap of an open row, which gave victory for the king. If the king can reach a rank or file that is otherwise completely empty, and is not in a position where he can be immediately captured, then his win is automatic. He has two paths to the edge, and if the attackers block one then king will win by the other. (read more...)

Hull 2017 Round 3: Lonsdale vs. Lonsdale


David Lonsdale vs. Steve Lonsdale, Hull, 17th June 2017. This match illustrates the significance of the closed castle rule: on a couple of occasions in the game, the rule forbidding any piece from landing on the central square denied the king what could have been a safe refuge. A version of  Tablut  where the king only may return to the castle square is played on the site . In that version, 53% of non-drawn games are ... (read more...)

Hull 2017 Round 4 (Semi-final): Lonsdale vs. Alty


Steve Lonsdale vs. Kevin Alty, Hull, 17th June 2017. As three rounds of a Swiss tournament produced a contestant in the lead, and two in joint second place, the two second-place players fought it out in a single semi-final match to see who would play in the final. In a match of average length, with some interesting exchanges along the way, Steve Lonsdale triumphed by bringing his king to an unstoppable position; had Kevin Alty not resigned, the ... (read more...)

Hull 2017 Round 5 (Final): Lonsdale vs. Lonsdale


Steve Lonsdale vs. David Lonsdale, Hull, 17th June 2017. This was the final match from the Hull Hnefatafl Tournament, 2017. It was the battle of the Lonsdales, David Lonsdale taking the part of the attackers, while Steve Lonsdale played the defenders. To anyone watching it would appear a nail-biting see-saw of a game: a dramatic reduction in the defending force made it look like an attacker win, then the open field appeared to work in the defenders' favour. ... (read more...)


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