After a gap of a number of years, the Bristol Open rejoined the calendar this year, and there was a really celebratory atmosphere as the event coincided with both Simonetta Herrera’s 50th birthday… and Halloween!
Held in the very welcoming surroundings of the Rainbow Casino, just yards from the waterside, we were treated to drinks and buffet on the Friday night before settling down to the warm-up knockout. A remarkable 66 players kicked off, including a substantial number of overseas players, and play continued deep into the night. With seven rounds to get through, it was inevitable that sleep would intervene and we’d carry on in the morning – things went quiet at about 1.30am… and a couple of early birds squeezed in a round early on Saturday morning, resulting in me being in my first significant final since – Bradford 1992? The warm-up had an extra-special incentive – for the winner, a beautiful board donated by Erhan Doğrusöz.
The main event kicked off with 103 players, including 52 Masters and 42 Intermediates playing double-elimination, and nine beginners having a complete round-robin on both Saturday and Sunday – great to see complete newcomers mixing with some of the all-time giants! Simonetta was busy playing as many people as possible, and giving goodie-bags to everyone who managed to beat her – clearly not too many people managed this as they went quite slowly. As play drew to a close ready for the dinner break, the cake was cut and we got an improvised version of “Mambo Italiano”…
At this point we’d reached the semi-finals of the undefeated brackets, and our four remaining Masters were Leyla Zeloutskaya, Seb Wilkinson, Peter Bennet and Ann Pocknell – and in the Intermediates Anna Price, Neil Young, Bek Barbaros and Richard Beagley. But it was time for the doubles and poker to start, along with a few remaining fighters’ games, and another long night ensued…
There were plenty of early risers on Sunday morning, who came along for a seminar by world #2 “Michy” Kageyama about playing small doubles in the opening game. There was plenty of food for thought for all present – and some comfort for those of us who got the demonstrated positions wrong as Michy revealed he’s played them wrongly over the board as well.
The Halloween theme continued with the “Tombstone Trophy” last-chance and there was a steady stream of speedgammon jackpots and one-pointers in between the main events. Simonetta’s queue of challengers was substantial all day as people took shots at extra-lucky bag no. 20 – but none of the successful candidates managed to roll the double-5 required to get that one!
In the two main tournaments, there were no late challengers coming through from the fighters’ brackets this time; in the Masters Leyla defeated Seb once, but Seb returned immediately via the fighters’ final, won their second game 11-4 and then the “final” final 5-0 to take the title of Open Champion. In the Intermediates Anna Price and Neil Young also played each other three times, with Neil prevailing after a trio of tough and finely balanced matches.
After hundreds of games played over the three days there was a long prizegiving – our winners being:
Spirit of the Event Award (voted on by the players): Simonetta Herrera
Friday Warm-up: Winner Roland Herrera; Runner-up Julia Hayward
Masters: Champion Seb Wilkinson; Runner-up Leyla Zaloutskaya; 3rd Chris Rogers; 4th Ann Pocknell
Intermediates: Champion Neil Young, Runner-up Anna Price, 3rd Richard Beagley, 4th Adam Sinclair
Saturday Beginners: Winner Adrian Foster
Sunday Beginners: Winner Mary French
Speedgammon: Winner Gaz Owen, Runner-up Sean Williams
£5 1-pointers: Winner Matt Black, Runner-up CJ Uttley
Doubles: Winners Ann Pocknell and Steve Morris, Runners-up Neil Young and Simon Hughes
Tombstone Trophy: Winner Andy Bell, Runner-up Anna Clarke
Semi-Super-Jackpot: Winner Bob Wachtel, Runner-up Michy Kageyama
Backgammon Players’ Poker: Winner Alex Yate, Runner-up Andy Bell
There’s more pictures on the event Facebook page… congratulations to all our winners, and a massive thankyou to directors Tim Line and Ian Tarr for keeping so many events running smoothly, and Carel Lindley and Christina Mattig for assisting. We’re also hugely grateful to Rainbow Casino for the great venue and for taking care of us so well.
And so on to Manchester for the final leg of our tour – see you there!