Last year in Bradford our newly-formed women’s team took up the challenge from their counterparts and played a competitive match of seven 11-pointers (one each). They put up a very good fight and lost by the narrowest of margins; this year a rematch was scheduled to happen as part of the London Open. Of course virus restrictions meant that a face to face match was impossible, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t go ahead online…
It also meant that we could expand the match to be a whole day – three rounds of 13-pointers with plenty of break time in between. Unlike the live version, both captains also had a choice from pretty much the whole country, not just the tournament attendees… and there were a few conversations beforehand about whether we had bitten off more than we could chew this time. Perhaps, but we were up for the challenge – and I was up for the challenge of running the event on a mixture of Zoom and Youtube, Gridgammon and Heroes, with eighteen players and two commentators to juggle. Everyone assembled in the Zoom room for a chat and the draw, then dispersed off to play undisturbed.
So the morning round kicked off; obviously as I was playing I didn’t pay much attention to the other games once they were all set up and running… in my match I’d trailed Tim most of the way through the match, levelled at 9-9 and then pulled a rather undeserved double-gammon out of nowhere – sorry Tim! – and needed a few minutes to regain my composure before scouting around the other games to find we were already 2-1 up and Simonetta well on the way adding a third, which took a very long time to come as Julian rallied from a big deficit. Suddenly there was a bit of a buzz in the chatroom with what-ifs and we switched from one game to the next seeing them end. Our hopes were raised too soon – at 3-3, with the final match at DMP we watched as Cecilia was forced into leaving a late shot – a hit – and round one to the men.
So on to the afternoon. I’d learnt by this point that servers can pop up windows when you’re watching games and it’s not the best experience for the commentators! So I put myself on the live stream, with the sound off so I had no idea what was being said… I do wonder how much insight into my thought processes I was giving away to Simon with my mouse tentatively hovering over the “double” button on occasions, only to pull away again… and no, I wasn’t delighted by an 8.7 PR but I’ll take the win against such tough opposition any day!
Again, as results trickled in it was obviously going to be another close round, and once again we found ourselves at 3-3 and DMP in the seventh match. Does every time we play have to go to that score? This time Rachel and Julian had been engaged in an epic battle, and the sixteenth and final game had turned into a race where Rachel had a 2-to-1 advantage but knowing that a double can pop up at any moment to reverse it – and Gridgammon duly threw out a 55 to dash our hopes again.
So, on into the evening and round 3 – five needed for an upset. My heart sank somewhat as I drew Peter for myself – not quite my nemesis as such, but someone I’d never managed to beat despite several attempts at BMAB in the past… and the omens immediately went bad as I slumped to 0-5. A slow and patient fightback to 5-7, and then this… cube action?
I’d just fanned and Peter doubled quickly – I had a sudden rush of irrational blot-terror picturing two on the bar against a mass of builders coming down and passed, thereby picking up the dubious honour of Worst Decision of the Day, worth -1.157 (nearly 3 PR) on its own. Perhaps the capricious dice gods took this as their cue to act, as another razor-close double-gammon came my way soon after and then victory.
Stamina was clearly playing an important part by now as everyone’s PRs were highest in this round. The match had slipped away while I was playing but with G&T in hand we sat back and watched as for the third round in a row, the final match in play went to DMP – and this time Rebecca picked up a hard-won point to leave a very respectable scoreline.
Many thanks to captains Chris and Anna for all their preparation behind the scenes at short notice, all the players who made it a very enjoyable – and very tough – day, and our commentators. And particular congratulations to Gaz for both three wins and the best performances in every round.
How the UK teams work
Once every two years a UK Captain is appointed. For 2020/2021 that is Martin Barkwill, and he has chosen Chris Rogers to be the Online team captain and Anna Price as the Women’s team captain. Despite the problems and interruptions this year all three have done a magnificent job. One of the things that the UKBGF board and all three captains want to encourage is that it is a honour to be selected for the teams and players should represent the UK in a sporting as well as determinedly competitive way and this honour would be diluted if UK appearances were handed out willy-nilly. During the lockdown there have been many more opportunities for online team backgammon. Any proposed online match carrying the UK team name should be discussed with Martin and Chris who may sanction playing the match as Team UK even if they don’t act as captain; alternatively they may ask you to change the team name to UK Select or something similar.