It is with great sorrow that we report the passing away well before his time at age 47 of one of our non-UK based members, Martin Birkhahn, last Friday, 3rd February in his home nation of Germany.
Martin sadly developed a form of cancer about six months ago and was fighting it bravely up until a serious operation recently, the outcome of which was extremely bleak. In consultation with Martin’s medical team, his family took the heartbreaking decision of letting him go painlessly.
I met Martin some years ago at the Swedish Open in Stockholm. Simon Barget, Martin and I walked about the town doing a little sightseeing and enjoying some local food. We immediately found Martin to be an enormously engaging, intelligent person who quickly became our friend. He had a wonderful dry sense of humour and sharp wit that always made for fun meetings.
Since then I’ve met him across the world at various backgammon tournaments including Frankfurt, Munich, and just last year in Tbilisi, Monte Carlo and London.
In fact, I was due to play doubles with him last May at the German Open in Frankfurt but he pulled out quite late on with health issues and I am left to wonder if that was around the beginning of his illness.
It is a little-known fact that Martin’s mother was Scottish and we had endless fun getting him to say things in a Scottish accent.
Martin was also a very strong athlete with regular fast times in marathons and other middle and long distance events with a 10km race time of 39 minutes 25 seconds in Rostock in 2007.
Over the time I knew Martin he went from being a relative beginner at backgammon to an extremely strong player and representing Germany at the 2016 World Team Championships in Tbilisi in Georgia. In addition he reached the finals of or won many top-class tournaments including the 2014 UK Open.
He was a great student of the game, recording all his matches and happy to discuss and share his knowledge with anybody interested.
I never knew him to have a bad thing to say about anybody. Since the sad news broke yesterday I have noticed that the universal feeling on social media has overwhelmingly been for people who knew Martin to reflect on what a pleasant, quiet yet intelligent person and excellent player he was.
This is absolutely the Martin Birkhahn that I was proud to call my friend.
I am still in shock about this news and my thoughts are with his family and other close friends who must be quite devastated at this untimely loss.
Martin, you are gone but you will never be forgotten.
RIP Martin Birkhahn 3rd February 2017