72 started, 24 remain… the UKBGF Online Championships have reached the end of the first stage.
The tournament kicked off with nearly a third of our membership signed up. I had originally anticipated quite a small field, but with so many taking part they were arranged into eight round-robins of nine each, the top three progressing onwards into the final knockout. I did have a couple of sleepless nights over what size to make the groups – wanting to give everyone a decent amount of play, to have few dead rubbers, to keep things interesting for people to the end of the stage, and to give everyone a shot at qualifying. I’d also originally thought that we would have people playing on a variety of platforms – I myself play on at least five different ones – but there was a clear majority on GridGammon, resulting in a flurry of applications for accounts from the rest. Many thanks to the GridGammon support team for coping with me forwarding so much work!
Play got off to a flying start in January with a stream of results coming in a number of groups. Although the round robins were long, it did mean that even after three losses there was still something to play for. After a bit of a hiatus in February, the approaching deadline focussed attention again and the tables were almost filled by the end – sadly there were a few unplayed games, but it’s a bit of an occupational hazard in a long-lived event, especially when you have competitors in different time zones and with different work patterns…
Special mention goes to Neil Webb and Alexandru Pascu who both kept clean sheets and comfortably topped their groups. Some groups were much closer, and indeed only Group G required six wins to progress from; none of the third place qualifiers was decided until the final week and I had quite a few headaches computing all the different tie-break possibilities as the end approached – one group needing an extra match to separate third and fourth. Some big names didn’t make it through by the slimmest of margins – but we’ve ended up with a good mixture of long-established players and the up-and-coming continuing to the knockout stage. A big thankyou to everyone who took part, and for making it a very easy tournament to direct – I’d love to hear your opinions as to how we can make next year’s even better. And good luck to our surviving twenty-four – you can track their progress here as we head towards the final.