I think most players would agree that the 2016 Gibraltar tournament was a resounding success. Steen Grønbech and his hard-working team, in close collaboration with both Franco Ostuni, General Manager of the Caleta Hotel, and the Gibraltar Government, must be congratulated for an amazing job. Government backing for the tournament was further demonstrated by the fact that the Education Minister Gilbert Licudi participated in the Intermediate Flight, and both he and the Minister for Sport, Steven Linares, attended the Prize-giving dinner. That the organisers were able to attract over 200 players to this first event shows that they are getting plenty of things right. One such attraction was the addition of £22,000 (yes, Gibraltar does use the good old British pound sterling!) spread over all events and Flights. As a result the Championship prize pool alone was close to £80,000.
One problem directly resulting from this success was that the hotel didn’t seem quite large enough for the number of players attending. In his welcoming address Steen said that he had expected 80 to 90 players but we numbered over 200: 165 in the Championship and 51 in the Intermediates. The main playing room was barely large enough for the Championship players but, for those looking for quieter conditions, there were other playing areas, including three floors down amongst the Intermediates. Another problem for some was that Valentine’s Day fell on the last day of the tournament…when, as Carter put it, “it’s hard to concentrate on the game when you are supposed to be out with your wife.” Other than these quibbles, it was hard to find anything to criticise.
Mochy’s lecture on Friday morning was on the unexciting subject of 3-point anchor games. The chosen subject, and the fact that it started at 10.30am, led Mochy to expect few attendees…in fact there was a full house! As Mochy pointed out, 3-point games may not be very exciting but it pays to know the correct cube action because, unlike backgames for example, they come up so often.
There were opportunities for sightseeing on the Saturday morning when (nearly) all the players were invited on a ‘rock tour’ with food and drinks in St Michael’s cave. I say ‘nearly’ because some of us had to forgo this pleasure: Andy Bell and I had to play an eighth qualifying match instead. However my flight home wasn’t until Monday evening so Lawrence Powell and I spent most of the last day walking round the Mediterranean Steps; up to O’Hara’s Gun Battery; through the caves; and then down into the town, passing a few monkeys along the way. During WWII Gibraltar was a fortress guarding entry to the Mediterranean and it has 32 miles of tunnels bored through the rock. What makes this even more surprising is that the total area of the territory is a mere two-and-a-half square miles.
For those unfamiliar with the Gibraltar tournament format, in the Championship Flight there was a seven round Swiss over the first two days (Thursday/Friday), comprising 11-point matches, and those on five or more wins qualified for the knockout stage. The 165 Championship entries were whittled down to 38 who finished on at least five wins. Twelve of these (drawn from those who finished on exactly five wins) went into the round of 64; the rest (including all on 6 or 7, and some on 5 wins) ended up in the round of 32. During the Swiss phase, British players were doing very well resulting in five qualifiers. Sadly four of these failed to get a bye into the last 32 AND they ended up playing each other in the round of 64! Roland Herrera beat Tim Line and I beat Andy Bell (in a DMP thriller) to join Sebastian Wilkinson in the last 32. Here I had to play Sebastian, who hammered me 15-5, while Roland was beaten by one of the top Danes, Mik Larsen. In the round of 8, Sebastian lost to the eventual Champion, Jurgen Orlowski, thereby ending British interest in the Main Championship.
One of the 17-point quarter-final matches which attracted much attention was between Mochy and Thomas Myhr of Denmark. This was streamed locally within the hotel but I’m not sure if it was streamed on the internet. Thomas built up a commanding lead of 16-6 Crawford, only to see Mochy claw his way back into the match. Both players played to a high standard and there are some incredible sequences. Check out the match file here. Several other matches from the tournament can be found on YouTube.
In the Intermediates, four British players were among the 19 who qualified for the knockout stage: Mark Manley, Anna Clarke, Warner Solomon and Mike Murton. Three were drawn to play in the round of 32: Mike lost his match and Anna beat Warner to join Mark in the round of 16. Unfortunately neither Anna nor Mark advanced any further. There were plenty of local Gibraltar players in the Intermediates and the reigning Gibraltar club champion, Stewart Stone, can be seen here enjoying a drink at the welcome cocktail. From left: Mike Murton, Gaz Owen, Stewart Stone and Anna Clarke.
In the Championship, those players who failed to qualify for the last 32, along with the losers from the round of 64, went into the Consolation. Aref Alipour came very close to winning this, eventually losing the final to Steen Haff of Denmark. The Consultation Doubles, with a very large field of 64 teams and a sizeable entry fee of £150, was certainly worth winning, and here Aref had further success. He and team-mate Eric McAlpine reached the final where they overcame the formidable team of Mik Larsen and Akiko to take first prize of £5,500.
Together with Karsten Bredahl, Mochy also provided the commentary for the all-German Championship final between Jurgen Orlowski and Peer Röwer. This was full of interesting positions, particularly containment problems in what turned out to be the last game after a hit in the bear-off. Jurgen eventually succeeded in containing Peer’s blot and brought the position home to become the 2016 Gibraltar Champion.
There was a great atmosphere at the Gala Dinner and Prizegiving on the Sunday evening, which nearly all the players attended. Red roses were presented to all the ladies present, in recognition of the day! Here it was announced by Steen that the date of the 2017 Gibraltar Championship had been fixed for 8-12 February….so players will be home in time for Valentine’s Day! The icing on the cake is that the added prize fund will be even larger next year.
As Arnie is fond of saying: “I’ll be back”.
CHAMPIONSHIP (165): 1-Jürgen Orlowski (Germany), 2-Peer Röwer (Germany), 3/4-Thomas Myhr (Denmark) / Martin-Frédéric Kahn (France), 5/8-Leon Dorel (Romania) / Sergei Erokhin (Russia) / Masayuki Mochizuki (Japan) / Sebastian Wilkinson (England); 1C-Steen Haff (Denmark), 2C-Aref Alipour (England).
INTERMEDIATE (51): 1-Florin Sabau (Romania), 2-Andrea Chen (Italy), 3/4-Karina Langhoff de Thurah (Denmark) / Kazuko Numazawa (Japan); 1C-Airat Metshin (Russia), 2C-Morten Knudsen (Denmark).
SUPER JACKPOT (32): 1-Ed O’Laughlin (USA), 2-Pavel Bielewicz (Poland).
SPEED TOURNAMENT (128): 1-Aron Tendler (Sweden), 2-Vincent De Nardi (France).
CONSULTATION DOUBLES: 1-Aref Alipour (England) & Eric McAlpine (England), 2-Mik Larsen (Denmark) & Akiko Yazawa (Japan).