CALVIN’S COMMENTARIES: Online Hive championship review

If you have been following these reviews long enough, you may recall I am a big fan of Hive.

First released in 2001, from designer John Yianni, the game is an abstract strategy game which has amazing aesthetics, easy transportation allowing for play virtually anywhere, with lots of depth in a game that usually lasts under half an hour.

It would be in my top-10 games list for hitting on all the above.

The game is also highly competitive, including an online world championship.

Recently the 2017 edition of the event was captured by Joe Schultz, a 33-year-old, who was born and raised in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA.

I managed to catch up to Schultz via email to get some insights into his recent championship win.

“It means a lot – about three years ago now I injured myself training for a judo tournament and needed shoulder surgery, so while I sat and healed, I played Hive. Lots of Hive,” he said. “I was lucky enough to be quodlibet’s (online name, real name Christian Arce), throwing dummy in 2015, the year he won the championship. I learned a lot from this and kept playing throughout my recovery. About a year later, and probably a thousand games (online and offline) I made a good run for the 2016 title, but came up short.

“My main training partner tzimarou, (again online name, real one is Dimitrios Kampilakis), won that year (2016). I spent a lot of time preparing for the 2016 tournament, making many notes and solving difficult attacks, etc. this evolved me into a better player; (a) classic case of the journey being the important piece and not the result. The player I became allowed me to win the following year (2017), to my great relief. Next year (2018) is bound to be even harder with good new players, but also old players who are following in my footsteps. I will be releasing a book that will help guide players to obtain an opening advantage.”

The win gives Schultz a platform from which to build the game.

“Winning the tournament allows me to be perceived as the current best and thus provides me a platform to teach with my prestige. My mission is to evolve the game,” he said via email.

The win did not come easily.

“Competition was really tough, I played through two past champs in the finals (Eucalyx, real name Christian Sperling, and quodlibet) and before that played with tzimarou (last year’s champ) and many other prospects who had a very legit chance at winning. I lost some games, but managed to win the really important ones.”

Schultz said Hive is hugely popular, nearly 27,000 owners have been recorded at, but the elite are a smaller community, much as would be the case with a game such as chess.

“Thousands of people play the game, but there are not many players who can compete with the top players,” he said. “There was about 40 or so competitors in 2017s tournament, and out of that total about 10 had a real good shot at winning. Another 10 to 20 had a decent shot at winning and about 10 players were simply outclassed with no realistic chance at ultimate victory. Some really good players were missing (10 to 15 players with a semi legit to very legit chance to win), but the main ones were there for the most part. The tournament is long and it is a true commitment, so some players are discouraged a bit, but it’s the only way. I hope that more players will play next year… I am on the tournament committee, so promotion is something we need to think about soon.”

As for the new book, Schultz is in the process now.

“I plan to release my book in the lead up to the tournament,” he said. “This will hopefully peak interest as well as train these players and allow them to raise their game and the game of Hive in general to new heights.”

So what initially drew Schultz to Hive?

“I have always had a knack for strategy games; games that make you think,” he said. ”So, when a friend of mine introduced me to the game I began with open arms. When I found out I could play online, I immediately began playing and evolving to meet the level of play at that time.

“I really enjoy seeing a plan come together. Lots of times plans play out differently than anticipated. I like that fluidity and the process of adjusting plans to meet the chaos of other people’s plans. It is a really action/reaction game and it fits me perfectly.”

So what tips for players would Schultz suggest?

“First, learn and understand tempo and the tempo attack,” he said. “Then dedicate yourself to learning how to stop the tempo attack. This is where the ‘real game’ is played.”

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