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Michel Serrero of France Claims 2006 European Champion Title at WBF event in Velden, Austria
by Michael Strato - 30 May 2006
2006 Champion of Europe

MICHEL SERRERO

Michel Serrero of France claimed the title of 2006 Champion of Europe on May 21 at Casino Velden in Austria by defeating his fellow countryman Eric Guedj 21-15 in a 21-point final.

Some 114 players from 27 countries attended this 18th annual Worldwide Backgammon Federation European Championships and 5th Velden Open held from May 19 to 21, 2006 in Velden, a quaint and picturesque town at the western end of beautiful Lake Wörthersee in southern Austria, near the Italian border.

The tables were set up in a large circular conference room accessed through this very stylish casino owned by the Casinos Austria group. The European Championships have been hosted here for the last three years and the Velden Open for the past five. The championships were previously held in Nova Gorica, Slovenia.

The playing room with the casino in the background.

The three main categories, or flights, that one could enter were - Masters, Champion and Intermediate – and there was a variety of exciting side events; the Warm-Up, Sperti Trophy, Super Jackpot, three 1-Pointer President’s Tournaments and a new Ladies Tournament.

The Warm-Up and Sperti Trophy began on May 18 providing some action to those who like to arrive the night before the main events. Both of these were free of entry fee for card-holding WBF supporters.

The Warm-Up, 5-point matches for all rounds, saw 53 early birds participating and was won by Zbigniew Szczerek of Poland. Zbigniew has become an admirable player in recent times and encourages his two young sons, Karol and Andrew, to also compete live. All three have been regular WBF tournament players for several years now and dedicate a lot of time studying the game through literature, practice and the use of the GNU bot.

Zbigniew ran into a couple of tough opponents along the way, namely, three-time European Champion and Backgammon Giant #3, François Tardieu in the quarterfinals followed by Martin de Bruin of the USA/Spain in the semifinals, and then bested French Riviera backgammon promoter Olivier Lafon of Cannes in the final. The Zbigniew clan gets a free weekend stay at a Velden hotel at next year’s championships.

Zbigniew Szczerek (L) versus François Tardieu in the Warm-Up.

In the Sperti Trophy tournament, also 5-pointers for all rounds, Domenico Torrielli of Italy got past Andrea Riebler of Austria in the quarterfinals and Nodar Gagua of Russia in the semis to reach the final where he conquered Hamza Nar, a budding player from Turkey. Torrielli took home an elegant $600 backgammon board contributed by Alfredo Sperti, a WBF sponsor and manufacturer of fine backgammon boards from Milan, Italy.

Friday, May 19, the 114 players and their traveling companions were invited to the Welcome Cocktail reception offered by Othmar Resch, the Director of the Casino who personally welcomed the players accompanied by the WBF’s big brass, President Alberto da Pra and Tournament Director Marco Fornasir.

Glasses of wine and champagne were served to the players and a splendid variety of hot and cold hors d'oeuvres were laid out in trays and platters that were promptly devoured by the guests only to be replenished again and again until everyone had their fill.

Director Fornasir then held the public draw for the three main flights with the help of Assistant Director Antonio Pierattelli and staffers Juliet Maffezzoli, Veronica Fornasir, and Matteo Pellicciotta.

The WBF staff execute the public draw of the main flights.

Over the next three days, 34 players competed in the Masters, 39 in the Champion and 38 in the Intermediate for a total of 111 players in the main flights. Those that lost in the main would get a second chance at some prize money Saturday and Sunday, either in the Consolation or the Last Chance brackets programmed for each flight.

The total of 114 previously mentioned comes from when three women, not playing in the main flights, joined the Ladies Tournament That event was won by Rosey Bensley of the UK who played Maria Grigis of Italy in a very close 7-point final 7-5.

In the Intermediate flight, Filippo Gottardis of Italy, a player attending his first-ever live backgammon tournament, waded his way into the flow of the competition, and, soon attuned to the rhythm, managed to roll his way through round after round to find himself in the 11-point final on Sunday against Werner Ketteler of Germany, who he outclassed 11-9 in a nail-biting cliffhanger that went to DMP.

How about that Filippo? One tournament and you’re already the Intermediate Champion of Europe! A proud Filippo told GammonLife he was delighted with his victory and owes it to much study and training – he plays backgammon online and analyze his matches with GNU.

WBF President Alberto da Pra awards Intermediate title to Filippo Gottardis.

Moving up to the next level, the new Champion Division Champ is 76-year-old Martin de Bruin. Martin is originally from the USA but has lived in Spain for many years. He travels to European events with his wife Bambi, where they set up their backgammon store. The store sells a wide variety of boards, books, doubling cubes and dice. They also rent precision dice out to the players. Martin also published a newsletter for many years called European Backgammon News, which is no longer in print.

Martin had an operation on his heart a few years back so he and Bambi are more laid-back these days. They recently took a six-week cruise visiting many countries and Martin has been doing a lot of golfing, and backgammon playing too. He won the 17th City of Venice International Backgammon Tournament last July and was semi-finalist in the 2005 Nordic “Wide” Open.

In the semi-final, Martin outrolled Florin Popa of Italy/Romania to reach the 17-point final on Sunday against a very tough lady with previous WBF wins, Jeanne Nanga of Cameroon, who eliminated Zoran Maric of Bosnia on the other side of the bracket. But Martin stay focused throughout the long battle over the board and emerged victorious 18-16.

Martin de Bruin shows us the money - €4,600 for his Champion division win paid in casino chips which one converts to money at the cashier in the casino.

In the Masters, three previous European Champions were looking for a repeat title, Harald Johanni of Germany, François Tardieu of France and John “Slatts” Slattery of Scotland. Johanni lost in Round 3 to Michel Serrero of France, Vice-President of the French Backgammon Federation. Tardieu reached the quarterfinals where he fell to Rainier Witt, a well-known international player from Germany, while the flamboyant Slattery beat Hamza Nar of Turkey to reach the semi-finals.

The match between Slattery and Nar drew a huge crowd. On several occasions, Nar stood up and took footage of the audience with his video camera. It was really basking in the moment and enjoying the attention, and it warmed the tense atmosphere and getting smiles and laughs from the crowd. The 17-point bout not only went to DMP but came down to the very last roll where Slatts had two checkers remaining on his 1 point and Nar on roll with a checker on his 4 and one on his 5 point. At this point, Nar does some more filming of the panorama and then finally sits down to shake his cup. The right roll will get him a minimum of 1,750 Euros for making it to the semi-finals, more if gets to the final… alas, out came a 3-2 and Slattery moves into semis.

John Slattery (L) versus Hamza Nar in their exciting quarterfinal match.

In the semi-finals of the Masters, Slattery is taken out by Eric Guedj of France 19-8. Rosey Bensley has written a report in with commentary on Slattery’s matches against Nar and Guedj, as well as some other matches, please read Rosey’s Report at this link.

In the other semi-final Rainer Witt succumbed to Michel Serrero for an all-French, final.

The score in the 21-point final was a seesaw affair – at Game 10 Guedj pulls ahead 11-7 but Serrero rebounds and by Game 16 the score is tied at 15-15. Serrero then scores 4 points making it 19-15 and then wins two more games to take the title and €9,600 - about $12,100 U.S. dollars or close to 6,600 GBP – while Guedj won €3,600 for second place.

Serrero and Guedj play the final in Velden.

Here's the scoresheet from the final match:

It was an exciting moment for Serrero with applause and congratulations all around and surely much more expected at the next regular meeting of the French Backgammon Federation on his return to Paris. This was his second WBF win in less than a year. Serrero also won the Masters flight at the 15th Mitteleuropa Backgammon Championships last September in Nova Gorica, Slovenia.

In the other events, Piergiorgio D’Ancona of Italy trounced Heimo Krainer of Austria 11 - 4 in the final of the Super Jackpot. Eight players participated at €500 with the winner receiving €3,000 and second place €750.

The winners of the three 64-player, 1-Point President tourneys (€5 entry) were Alain Babillon of France, Alexander Iliopol of Germany/Russia and Nedim Yardimci of Turkey.

On Sunday night, May 21 an excellent supper was served to all in a new conference hall of the casino where the Awards Ceremony took place.

François Tardieu, the 2005 European Champion and Backgammon Giant #3, presents the BIG trophy to the 2006 European Champion Michel Serrero as
Alberto da Pra, Martin de Bruin and Marco Fornasir revel in the moment.

See many more photos from this tournament in our Pictorials Section and the full list of winners of the 18th European Championships and 5th Velden Open in GammonLife’s Results Section.

A total of €37,150 was distributed to those who made it to the money rounds.

The players came from these 27 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cameroon, Costa Rica, England, France, French Antilles, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iran, Isle of Man, Italy, Poland, Monaco, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine, and the USA.

Director: Marco Fornasir – Italy

Organization: Regent Entertainment Ltd.

Tournament Committee: Alberto da Pra (WBF President); John Broomfield (England); Nino Di Bella (Italy); Nodar Gagua (Russia); Harald Johanni (Germany); Michael Strato Liberopoulos (Canada); Michel Serrero (France); and Rainer Spörk (Austria).

Next WBF tournament:

Ambassadeurs Backgammon Open
Grand Hotel Des Ambassadeurs
Menton - France
Friday July 7 - Sunday July 9, 2006
Warm-up, Sperti Trophy, Quarter-entries, Super-Jackpot & Jackpots
Thursday July 6, 2006
For information contact Marco Fornasir at info@wbf.net

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