Until recently, there have been few successes on the world stage for UK players and teams.
That all changed with Gaz Owen, Raj Jansari and Chris Rogers winning major overseas events and the UK capturing the inaugural Worldwide Trophy in Tbilisi, Georgia last year & being runners up in the European Team event in Copenhagen.
Two UK teams returned to Tbilisi this May comprising Tim Cross (captain), Sebastian Wilkinson, Chris Rogers, Eric McAlpine, Peter Bennet and Leo Waters for the first team, the defending champions, and Martin Barkwill (captain), Mark Calderbank, Wayne Felton, Tim Line, John Broomfield and Romolo Mudu for the second team.
Unfortunately the second team had the misfortune of losing all three matches by 2-3 and were eliminated at the same stage as a very strong US team. In fact two of the teams our second team faced played out the final against one another.
The first team achieved early wins against USA and Russia, and after moving to 3/3 match wins it looked like history could well repeat. Sadly it was not to be as three losses out of the next four matches against Armenia’s 2nd team, Germany and Iran ended the team’s progress and resulted in a creditable but disappointing fifth placed finish.
Armenia II won the final against the host nation, Georgia. The individual event which had $125,000 added, was won by Armenian player, Tsaruk Manukyan. First prize was $30,000.
Our hosts raised a total of $150,000 added prize money, including the team event, and put on a gala dinner on the last night with local singers in national costume. Arda Findikoglu and Marco Fornasir were the tournament directors and they succeeded in a smooth running of the tournament. There were justified complaints of a lack of live streaming of matches. In mitigation, Georgia has only very recently undertaken the running of international events – however they need to address this shortcoming to enhance credibility and raise awareness.
I would strongly recommend aspiring players to push themselves towards selection for one of the national teams. It is an honour to represent one’s country and a great team spirit is evident with most meals taken collectively and opportunities to go on sightseeing tours around the country or local bars.
On behalf of both UK teams I’d like to thank the UKBGF for their efforts in promoting team events and for undertaking a great deal of behind the scenes work that I fear is not fully appreciated, especially UK Captain Tim Cross for his inspirational leadership and work with recruiting the teams and ensuring an excellent spirit of camaraderie throughout our time in Georgia, and of course the aforementioned players who took time off work and incurred substantial expense to represent the UK.