John Wright writes:
Good afternoon. The teams for the inaugural North/West v South/East challenge have been announced.
Backgammon players are accustomed to the best laid plans going awry. So on a dark March evening, despite accidents on most of the motorways and a dead train at Doncaster, there was still a good turnout for the opener to our Tour season – although your author only made the draw with seconds to spare. I need to get fitter to run up stairs! 44 players kicked off the West Yorkshire Open for the Friday night freeroll, named in honour of Paul Gilbertson.
Within five minutes, Kevin Jones (remember that name…) was picking up the title of Fastest Loser, having one of those games where you put barely a foot wrong but still get double-gammoned in a three-pointer. My luck was clearly running well, as a series of top players took a bit of a battering at the hands of my dice; meanwhile Daniel Molan was also racing through opponents in the other half of the draw. Despite the speed, six rounds before closing-up time wasn’t going to happen and Daniel and I had to leave the final for later.
Saturday morning brought an unusual problem for out TDs – often an occasional player can’t make it on the day, but today due to a misunderstanding we had one too many! As our extra had come from Europe to be with us, Tim Cross very generously stood aside from the Swiss stage to allow him to take part. With numbers rectified, groups of 10 players were auctioned off, followed by the first auctions of some classic books, and the competition proper began.
The first round of the Swiss draw threw up the same pairing as the freeroll final – the omens were good for Daniel as he easily beat me, and went on to reach four wins with ease. With a final 32 on the Sunday, three wins in the Swiss stage was very likely to be enough for a place; many qualified automatically and the rest just had a single 1-pointer to go through…
The evening brought doubles, plus a special match: back in 2018 there had been talk of sending a women’s team out to Georgia, but nothing came of that as the tournament had problems with sponsorship and in the end didn’t happen. The enthusiasm it generated inspired Tim to organise a “Team UK Battle of the Sexes” – teams of seven, playing an eleven point match each with a special trophy and a lot of bragging rights up for grabs.
On the basis of ratings, this should probably have been a pretty one-sided affair, but there were quite a number of raised eyebrows in the audience as Rosey and CJ scored really quick and dramatic wins; and when Rachel overcame Tim 11-5 suddenly an upset seemed to be on the cards. Peter Snape pulled one back for the men against Dorothy, and the remaining three matches all looked like they were going to be long ones. Mark eventually beat me 11-7, in a match with not so good PR on both sides as tiredness was setting in. Peter Bennet pulled the match level against Anna Clarke, and everyone gathered around the crucial board – Brian vs Anna Price…
At this point Anna was 6-9 down, but Brian got caught up in a really deep backgame and Anna played a really impressive defence against it and came away with a double gammon… 10-9 Crawford and suddenly hopes were rising again amongst the ladies… but the next game went all Brian’s way to end up with a gammon and the match to the men by the narrowest possible margin. Well played to all, it was a fantastic experience, and many thanks to Tim and Rachel for organising everything and especially for the souvenir team shirts – I’m sure we’ll treasure ours! Watch this space for a possible return match…
Sunday’s knockouts, with five rounds to get through in the main and early main losers also dropping into the consolation, had rather shorter matches than many Tour events at 7 points i nthe beginning, but the consolation (7) and last chance (5) rather longer. We also had the doubles to complete from Saturday night and the Freeroll from Friday, resulting in quite a severe case of fixture congestion…
Our fastest loser, Kev, had clearly thrown off the Friday disappointment as he first despatched Friday finalist Daniel, and then won a very hard-fought semi-final against Radu Ciortan – who is definitely overdue a big Tour win. Daniel then recovered to win the heavily delayed freeroll final. In the other half of the draw it was Sean Casey who put out two strong contenders in Peter Bennet and Saul Brody. So we had our final, and it seemed to be rather a one-sided affair at first as Sean racked up a quick 4-0 lead. But Kev dug in and clawed back steadily to level the match, then take a small lead and hang on to it as games went back and forth, to his second Tour title – the first being this very event two years ago. It was a captivating match to watch, and a lot of players remained around to spectate!
The assembled crowd were also delighted by Steve’s announcement that he will be back next year – it was a fantastic weekend, extremely well organised, and many will be looking forward to 2020. Many thanks to Steve and all his helpers.
Lynne MacFarlane writes:
“Awesome”, “Excellent”, Brilliant”, “Friendly” and “Good Fun” – some of the comments received at the inaugural meeting of the Saltburn Backgammon Club. For a first meeting it was well attended, with players coming from Yarm, Hartlepool, Newcastle and Redcar. Eight of us gathered in the still-being-refurbished Function Room at the Cons Club. Three boards were set up and the players took their seats. Soon the room was filled with the rattle of dice in cups, the click of counters and the buzz of conversation.
We’re delighted to report the results of stage 1 on the 2019 UK Tour, the West Yorkshire Open: