"The best-laid schemes o' mice an' menThings did not go according to script for IT Alliance yesterday in PNQY.
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!" - Robert Burns
Several weeks ago, IT Alliance announced an "all in" deployment to Catch in order to defend The Initiative from the Southern Russians. With the main IT Capital fleet thus occupied, Goonswarm made disturbingly quick work of Black Star Alliance in Fountain, and moved to strike the IT Alliance stronghold of PNQY in that region. Two days ago, with their Fountain allies unable to hold the line and the PNQY station coming out of its last reinforcement, IT made the decision to quit their Catch operations, recall their main fleet, and move it up to PNQY to save the station and blunt the Goon's offensive.
SirMolle's commanders put out a full scale call to arms. The fleet called for was to consist of armor tanking heavy assault cruisers (AHACs) and capital ships to number in excess of 1700.
Elements of the IT Alliance fleet began arriving in system the day before the battle to ensure they were on the grid before the Goon fleet arrived. Knowing the fight for the system would draw a large Goon battleship fleet, the IT Alliance plan appears to have been to occupy the high ground from a lag perspective and leverage the priority given to Titan doomsday weapons that make them effective even under heavy lag conditions - a tactic they'd used to good effect in Catch against the Southern Russians. Taking a page from Pandemic Legion's book, the IT Alliance commanders deemed a HAC fleet the best sub-capital answer to the Goon's battleship fleet.
Leading up to the fight, IT Alliance postings in the various Eve forums seemed confident of victory. They were fighting close to home. They had the strategic high ground. They had a vast advantage in Supercapital ships. The battle would take place during the prime hours of the European Time Zone, IT Alliance's sweet spot from a player participation standpoint. Even the Goons posting in forum seemed to anticipate an IT win.
Nonetheless, there was excitement in the air. This was to be a knock-down, drag-out brawl between two legendary foes. All eyes turned to Fountain.
As the boxer and sometime philosopher Mike Tyson once observed, "Everybody has a plan 'til they get punched in the mouth". IT Alliance appears to have taken a shot to the head early in the battle and never recovered.
Numbers seem to have been key in this fight. Despite the priority of the call to arms and the presence of allies, IT Alliance was unable to assemble the 1700 ship ordered by its fleet commanders. The count of ships on the IT Alliance side seems to have topped out at about 600. There are indications that large numbers of IT pilots were off ratting in the home regions during the PNQY battle; a key failure in CTA discipline. Meanwhile, the opportunity to be a part of an epic battle against the legendary IT Alliance drew pilots from all corners of New Eden to the Goonswarm fleet, swelling their ranks.
Goonswarm and allies entered PNQY system on schedule and, despite lag, began to make a steady stream of kills against the IT Alliance AHAC formations - Drakes taking a particularly heavy toll of the IT Zealots. IT Alliance appears to have held back its supercapital fleet, possibly owing to the unanticipated size of the Goon fleet. Battle reports to date indicate the presence of a single IT Titan that was quickly pointed and reduced to structure before managing to log off.
Without support of their Supercapitals, the IT AHAC fleet was badly mauled and the fight quickly turned into a rout for IT Alliance as their subcapitals attempted a retreat to an IT POS in system. Unfortunately, the IT Alliance allies had not been provided the POS password and many lost their ships just outside the POS shields. This led to early reports that IT Alliance had fled the field early in the battle, abandoning their allies in the process.
At 21:46 the IT Territorial Claim Unit (TCU) was destroyed. As the Goonswarm TCU was deployed SirMolle is reported to have been in a rage, demanding that IT's Euro pilots fight on into their night to prevent the system from falling to the Goons. However, the fight seems to have gone out of the IT Alliance pilots and killboards record no IT Alliance kills or losses in PNQY after 22:25, about 40 minutes after the IT Alliance TCU went down.
Now, there is no reason that yesterday's defeat should be more than a minor set-back to IT Alliance. Their Supercapital fleet is intact. They are still, at least on paper, the most powerful single alliance in all New Eden. Their losses in the battle can be easily replaced. Goonswarm's fleet numbers are a statistical outlier - they're not going to get that many pilots in fleet on a regular basis.
What happens next will be very much up to the IT Alliance leadership. If SirMolle and company can use this loss as a galvanizing event to unite disparate factions within the alliance and wake its PvP elements from their apparent slumber, there's no reason to believe IT won't come roaring back at their enemies with a vengeance.
However, if this event is allowed to precipitate a crisis of confidence among IT Alliance members, it's not going to be pretty.
Victory, they say, has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. Outrage and finger-pointing among the IT leadership could broaden current rifts within the alliance. Allies, angry at being led to defeat, may not be inclined to support IT Alliance in its next fight. The loss at PNQY, when circumstances leading up to the battle were so in IT Alliance's favor, will encourage SirMolle's enemies. If they're allowed to seize the initiative and continue on offense against IT and its allies, the cohesion of IT Alliance will be tested even further.
In that case, PNQY will be remembered as the place where the BOB/IT legend fell to earth.