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Rosey Bensley Reports on the 2006 European Championships
by Rosey Bensley - 5 June 2006

ROSEY BENSLEY

Held at the Casino Velden in Austria this was the first overseas tournament Slatts and I have been to this year. Marco Fornasir’s tournaments are our favourite and Velden is such a lovely venue.

In all there were 114 players from 27 countries and total prize money distributed was €37,150. The event was held from May 19 to 22, 2006.

There was a disappointing turnout from the Brits this year with only Martin Barkwill, John Broomfield, Gay Roberts and us there, here we are:

Competition in the main flights started on Friday evening and whilst I was winning my first match 9-5 to 11 points, I still managed to lose! Never mind, I always had Slatts to entertain me! I joined him when he was 4-8 down against Koch (Germany). I had not decided to write a report at this stage of the tournament but am please to report that Slatts never lost another point. He won the match 13-8.

The next round was due to be played on the Saturday but Haas (Austria) was on a roll having beaten his opponent, Di Bella (Italy) convincingly. He asked Slatts if he minded playing that night – this was music to Slatts’ ears as he is a night bird! Haas must have regretted the decision as Slatts stormed through to the Quarterfinals with a score of 15-10. I wished by now that I had decided to start writing, as there was some brilliant play from both players.

On Saturday, having made quite a quick exit from the Championship Consolation I made up my mind to write a report. I decided to start by reporting on the game being played between the 2000 European Champion Harald Johanni (Germany) and Michel Serrero (France). For those of you that are not familiar with my reports it is worth saying that I am not a match recorder, but try and capture the essence of the game in words. Watching fast professional players does not leave me much time to record positions but hopefully, readers will still enjoy the report.

I joined the match when the score was 9-8 to Serrero to 15 points. It was a quick game with lots of hitting backwards and forwards but when Serrero offered the cube, Johanni had to decline. Score: 10-8.

Johanni cubed when ahead in the next game (no contact) and Serrero dropped. Score: 10-9.

In the next game Serrero (Red) developed a board early and cubed when he had three points made in his home board compared to Johanni with one, even though he was on the bar!

Red doubles

Johanni thought a long time but eventually dropped. Score: 11-9.

In the next game Serrero cubes and Johanni takes. Soon Johanni, having two men on the bar, looks bad as Serrero makes a 6-prime; however, with his next roll Johanni manages to come in and start to develop his home board!

He rolls 11 making his 5 point sending Serrero to the bar. Unfortunately for Johanni, Serrero is in hitting mode and hits two more checkers giving Johanni seven back on Serrero’s 1 point. Can Serrero bear off safely against this? He needs a gammon for match. It’s not the smoothest of starts when Serrero rolls 44 and has to clear his 4 point leaving three checkers on his 6 point and three on his 5 point. Johanni soon gets a double shot but misses! A lucky 33 means Serrero moves all his men to his 2 and 3 points. There is a chance for Johanni when a Coup Classique position arises – will it happen? No! It’s not Johanni’s day he rolls 66 and Serrero gets an unneeded backgammon to win the match and go through to the quarterfinals of the Masters Main! Final score: 15-9.

I commiserated with Johanni and he asked me if I had seen the game that turned the match around when Serrero rolled a superb double-one. I said I had not and asked Johanni to set it up for me – here it is!

Red to play 11

Serrero rolls 11 and comes in with two men and plays 6/5(2) to hit. Johanni danced with 43. Serrero cubes to 4 and Johanni has to drop. Instead of what looked like a likely gammon for Johanni to put him in the lead 7-12 the good roll (and play of course!) followed by Johanni’s bad rolling made the score 9-8 to Serrero.

I then join Phillipe, an old friend of ours from the Netherlands who was playing Nar from Turkey. The winner of this match plays our very own John Slattery (Slatts) in the quarterfinals of the Masters Main. The score is 5-9 to Nar (White) in a 15-point match and the position is:

Red on roll, cube action?

It is Phillipe’s (Red) turn and he is busy counting the pips (seen here in small white text on either side of the board) but with only 2 pips difference he decides to roll. If he had known he was going to roll 66 two rolls later he would have cubed! Nar drops when the cube is offered. Score: 6-9.

In the next game Nar rolls an early 66 making both bar points and Phillipe follows it with a 66 of his own which he can do little with. However, we all know how difficult it is to move off an opponent’s bar so Nar throws the cube across in this position before life gets too awkward! Phillipe thinks about it for a long time before declining. Score: 6-10

Phillipe is hit early in the next game and rolls 66 to dance! Nar makes his 5 point and next roll hits Phillipe on his 4 point but Phillipe hits back! Nar now has three men back against Phillipe’s one. Nar rolls 22 and hits Phillipe again making his 4 point. Phillipe comes in on the 3 point but Nar hits loose again, Phillipe dances and Nar covers. He now has a 4-point board but three men still on Phillipe’s 5 point. Phillipe comes in next roll with 21 and Nar throws over the cube.

White on roll, cube action?

Phillipe drops. Score: 6-11.

The next game starts with Phillipe getting the upper hand and soon making a 4-prime, from 8 to 5 his point. Nar has three men back and Phillipe offers an early cube. Nar takes. Nar rolls 55 and rather than jumping over the prime decided to hit Phillipe on the 1 point making his 1 and 3 points. Phillipe comes in with 64 and hits a loose checker on Nar’s 10 point giving Nar four back in Black’s home board. Phillipe rolls a 22 and moves 7/3(2) and now has a 3-point board. His next roll is an awkward 54 and he has to leave a blot on his 9 point.

White to play 41

Nar misses with a 41. Phillipe does not roll well and fails to gain any more points.

Red to play 62

Nar eventually makes a 5-point board and then Phillipe with a bad 62 in the position above decides to leave the shot on his 3 point.

Nar misses again! Later, Phillipe leaves a blot on his 8 point and this time Nar hits and now has control, he is how holding the cube! He closes his board with Phillipe still on the bar and needs a gammon for match. Phillipe comes in as soon as the 6 point is open. Nar cubes and Phillipe has to drop. Score: 6-13.

In the next game Nar has the best of the dice and escapes both his back men. Phillipe manages to make a 5-point board but still has three men back on Nar’s side of the board. Nar never leaves a blot and wins the game by cubing Phillipe out. Score: 6-14 Crawford.

I had a small break and when I rejoin the match Nar rolls 66 and hits Phillipe on his 2 point giving him a 3-point board. Phillipe comes in but has two loose checkers. Nar rolls hits Phillipe again while making his 4 point. Phillipe dances, Nar rolls 55 making his 3 point and a 6-prime. Phillipe rolls 11 to come in on the 1 point and leaves a blot. Nar throws 65, which misses and is not a good roll. He leaves Phillipe’s bar point and Phillipe rolls another 11 to hit him and with the next roll creates a 6-prime.

Nar hits loose on his 1 point and then Phillipe hits back and now Nar has two back against Phillipe’s 6-prime. Nar ends up having to break his board whilst Phillipe saunters home. Phillipe only has one man off when Nar rolls a 6/1 and runs. Phillipe cannot hit the loose checker and Nar runs with a 62 to try and win the race. Despite 66 followed by 22 Nar has to give in! Score: 7-14 Post Crawford.

Phillipe gets a better structure in the next game; however, Nar gets his two back men out safe whilst Phillipe has one left on Nar’s 1 point.

Red on roll

From here Phillipe rolls a 41 moving 10/6 54, Nar a 61 making his bar point and leaving a shot on Red’s 12 point that Phillipe misses by rolling a 52, which he played 8/3 4/2. Nar then makes a 6-prime with a 3-1 (8/5 6/5) and Phillipe rolls a 6-6 that virtually kills his timing, he plays it 13/1 (2).

Nar rolls his prime home, eventually hitting Phillipe and closing him out. Nar rolls the inevitable 51 and chooses to clear his 5 point and takes one off. Phillipe dances but Nar rolls 61, leaving a blot on his 5 point. Phillipe misses and comes in next roll with a 6 and it’s all over. Nar wins through to meet Slatts in the quarterfinal. Final Score: 7-15

Nar won their last encounter (Slatts vs. Nar) in Cannes last year at DMP so was looking confident, however, Slatts was looking for revenge! Match to 17.

Within two rolls Slatts had a 4-point board having rolled 42 followed by 55. Nar wasn’t feeling too bad though as he hit on the 1 point which resulted in him making Slatts’s 5 point. But then he didn’t feel so good after Slatts hit a third checker and made him dance for three rolls! Having come in on Slatts’s 2 point, Slatts followed it with a 42 pointing on Nar! Slatts was going for an un-doubled gammon, but when Slatts had to clear his 6 point leaving three on his 7 point he decided to cube. Nar dropped. Score: 1-0.

In the next game Slatts opened with a 61 and whilst Nar made a 4-prime he had to give up his midpoint when he threw 66. Slatts made a broken 4-prime but Nar got over it with a 42 and Slatts missed a double shot. When Slatts threw 65 he thought about jumping out with both checkers but found himself 24 pips behind. So what did he do? He did it anyway! Then Nar (White) though about doubling here:

White on roll, cube action?

Nar cubed and Slatts took. Fourteen rolls later the position looks like this:

Red on roll, cube action?

Slatts cubes and Nar drops. Score: 3-0.

In the next game Slatts throws an early 66 and when Nar rolls a 66 part way through the game Nar has to leave his midpoint with two men still on Slatts’s 1 point. Slatts leaves a 7-shot and Nar hits. Slatts returns the compliment with a 54 and the battle continues with Slatts having three men on Nar’s 4 point. Nar slots his 5 point, but Slatts rolls 64 which does nothing for him! A subsequent 44 puts Slatts in a predicament when in this position:

Red to play 44

He decides to hit Nar and leave a blot on his 4 point. Nar misses the blot and comes in on Slatts’s 1 point. Nar has to break his board as he fails to roll a 4 and when Slatts cubes he has to drop. Score: 4-0.

At this point Nar gets out a small bottle of Eau De Cologne which he put on his forehead and Slatts jokingly remarks “No chemical warfare!” He did resort to his own secret weapon though, Red Bull! In the next game Nar hits a blot and Slatts rolls 44 comes in and hits Nar twice leaving a blot on his 1 point. Nar hits it giving Slatts four men back. Nar cubes Slatts drops. Score: 4-1.

4-1 wasn’t only the score but the first roll of both players in the next game! Nar played 13/9, 24/23 and with his 41, Slatts chooses to hit on his 1 and 2 points. Whilst Nar didn’t hit back he did manage to get his two back men out before Slatts does, but has not developed a board. Slatts rolls 44 twice and whilst his board looks good he still has blots on Nar’s 3 and 5 points. A 31 by Nar hits and makes the 5 point but another 44 lets Slatts enter and hit, leaving Nar dancing for one roll but then his next roll, a 62, sees him come in and out. Nar now needs to keep outfield control and hit Slatts every time he comes out. However, Slatts now has a closed board and Nar has to be careful not to get hit himself. Nar only has a 2-point board but is holding points 8 to 5. A few rolls later the position is:

White to play 63

Nar roll 63 to put Slatts on the bar with move 8/2 5/2. Slatts rolls 61 to hit and Nar dances. Slatts picks up another checker but Nar comes in quite quickly. Slatts cubes and wins 1 point. Score: 5-1.

Nar opens with a 31 and after Slatts splits his two back checkers with 51 Nar goes for the blitz. However Slatts rolls well and Nar ends up with four men back! Slatts only has a 1-point board though and finds it hard to develop anything, he leaves a shot and gets hit finding himself back on Nar’s 1 point against a 4-point board (6 to 3). Nar leaves a blot on his bar point but Slatts misses it and Nar rolls 51 to put Slatts on the bar. Slatts rolls a 21 but doesn’t hit back choosing to leave himself at the edge of the 5-prime and covering a blot on his 3 point. Nar still has three men to bring round a badly timed 66 leaves him having to run from Slatts’s 5 point with a 62 leaving two blots. Slatts hits the one in the outfield but Nar rolls the 5 he needs to cover and makes Slatts’s 5 point again. Nar gains the upper hand when he rolls a 55 to escape. He cubes and Slatts drops. Score: 5-2.

Slatts opens with 42 and follows it with 31 and then 61 giving him a 4-prime in quick time! Nar doesn’t do so badly himself making a 5-prime 9 to 5. Slatts is on Nar’s 3 point when he rolls a 66 and whilst he manages to get two of Nar’s men on the bar it doesn’t look good as his board breaks when he can’t get to the edge of Nar’s 5-prime. Then...

White on roll, cube action?

Nar cubes and Slatts takes! Snowie actually says this is too good to double and it is definitely not a take!!

Nar eventually has to break his prime when he rolls 66. Slatts has one man on the bar still but holds the 3 point. Nar has three men off and two men on his 4 point when he rolls 31 and leaves Slatts a shot. Slatts hits but has three blots and only his 2 and 1 points made. Although Nar rolls 21 to dance once! It now becomes a race with Nar the favourite, even more so, when he rolls a 44. Slatts gives in! Score: 5-4.

Slatts gave an early cube in the next game, which Nar takes. After several rolls Slatts has a broken 5-prime.

White to play 55

This time when Nar rolls a 55 it doesn’t work so well. His next roll is 42, which meant he had to leave a blot, but Slatts misses. All it needs now is for Nar to roll a 44 or 66 and he goes favourite. He doesn’t do that but does roll a 64 and runs with both men. Slatts hits with a 51 but has a blot on his 1 point. Nar rolls 41 and hits. Slatts covers and hits again on the 1 point. This time Nar misses. Slatts rolls 11 and chooses to leave his blot and make his 4 point instead. He hits Nar’s second loose checker. Nar rolls two 61s and Slatts now has two on the bar. It’s then a real roller coaster as there is hit followed by hit but Slatts eventually closes Nar out with two on the bar and Slatts looks for the gammon. He doesn’t make it though but appreciates the two-point win. Score: 7-4.

Slatts (L) versus Nar as Rosey takes notes.

Slatts has a 31 opener and I am supposed to leave my reporting at this point to play in the Ladies tournament. But I couldn’t, as it got exciting!

Slatts cubes after Nar dances, having already got three men back. Nar takes. He subsequently makes a 1 and 2 point back game with good timing. Slatts bears in well and has three men off when Nar leaves the 2 point with one checker. Slatts has to hit it and Nar rolls 65.

Red to play 43

Slatts rolls 43 the position above, leaves two shots and Nar re-cubes…

White on roll, cube action?

Slatts takes the 4 cube, and this time Snowie agrees with him – No Double, Take. After more eau-de cologne Nar rolls 31 and hits both blots! Slatts anchors but Nar hits another checker. Slatts has three on Nar’s 2 point and six on his own 1 point when Nar has to leave a shot. Slatts misses! Nar goes on to win the four points despite leaving Slatts another shot! Score: 7-8.

So I did leave the match at this point and after having at last won a few games I found myself in the quarterfinal of the Ladies Tournament. This meant I could get back to my reporting and supporting Slatts!

I rejoined the match at 14-16 Post Crawford. I considered this to be a good score considering Slatts had been down 12-16. Nar wins the opening roll and true to form Slatts delays the cube until he gets a hit, has a 3-point board and has escaped his last checker. In fact he leaves it until he has only five checkers left to bring in with Nar on his 4 point, but Nar still takes. Slatts only has two checkers off when Nar makes a run for freedom but Slatts has seven off by the time Nar takes one off. So with a win of two points Slatts makes it DMP. Score: 16-16.

At this stage a 20% equity swap was done so this meant that they were both winners. The last game started off quite volatile with a lot of hitting backwards and forwards resulting in Nar having four back and Slatts ending up on Nar’s 2 point with a 4-prime in front of him. Play continued and Nar makes a 5-prime.

White to play 64

Nar rolls 64, does he run or hit loose? He hits! Snowie does not agree with the hit and lists it as the 15th choice of roll! Slatts rolls 52 and hits Nar on the 2 point and loose on his 1 point. Nar dances. A few rolls later Nar hits and Slatts dances. Nar then comes in with a 1 but has to leave a blot on his 3 point. Slatts rolls 43 and hits. The next series of rolls leave the crowd ooh-ing and aah-ing as the game swings back and forth. Right at the end Nar is left with two pieces: one on the 4 and one on the 5 point. Slatts has two left on his 1 point. It is Nar to roll and Slatts puts the customary “curse of the seven hedgehogs” on him! It works! Nar rolls 32 and Slatts goes through to the semi-finals. Final score: 17-16.

This was a very friendly match and the crowd loved it!

So now it was my turn to fly the flag for Britain! I had to play Mrs. Winkler (Austria) in the quarterfinals of the Ladies Tournament. The score was 3-3 to 5 with the 2-cube in play when I found myself, playing as Red, in this position:

Red to play 61

I rolled 61 and had to decide whether to come in and out again, which I did! There then followed a lot of activity including a succession of hits until a point when I said I needed a 65 and promptly rolled it, much to my opponent’s dismay!

She managed to closed her board but I never left a shot so won a place to the semi-finals. I must just point out that I was the only person in the semis who had to play four rounds to get there! The semi-final was going to be a long way off though as one of the Ladies, Nanga, was playing for a place in the Championship Main final.

I got back to watch Slatts playing Eric Guedj (France) in the Masters Main semi-final. The score was 5-4 to Slatts (Red) playing to 19 points.

A game was already in progress and Eric cubes and Slatts takes only to find himself on the bar next roll against a 5-point board. Slatts proceeds to dance for a number of rolls. He eventually does come in but not until Eric has escaped his back men. He puts Slatts back on the bar and starts bearing off. Slatts rolls a 33 to come in and now has to save a gammon. He has five men to get round when Eric has two men off. Eric hit Slatts loose and he dances. Eric’s next roll was 11, which gives him a 5-point board. Slatts dances and dances, but eventually Eric leaves the shot and Slatts hits! Eric now has the hassle of coming in on Slatts 5-point board, which he does straight away but Slatts hits him again! Eric comes in straight away again and Slatts hits again! Eric comes in and hits Slatts this time! Slatts comes straight in. Eric rolls a well-timed 66 and Slatts only just saves the gammon. Score: 5-6.

The next game started as a hitting contest with Slatts ending up with four men back behind enemy lines! It wasn’t long before Eric also had four men back. After a lot of play Slatts rolled 66 to get all of his men his side of the board but Eric was still on his 3 point. Slatts had to leave a blot on his 5 point but Eric very nicely kept missing it. He also missed the blot on the 7 point until Slatts was able to get a man off. Eric eventually did hit a shot and with a closed board offered Slatts the cube. He declined the kind offer. Score: 5-7.

The next game went in favour of Eric, and Slatts unable to develop anything, refused the cube. Score: 5-8.

Eric went favourite in the next game again after he hit Slatts in his home-board without leaving a blot. Slatts danced a few times but eventually came in on the 1 point. Eric thinks about cubing but with Slatts having a 5½-point board and being ahead in the race he decides to wait. Slatts jumps out to his 18 point knowing that Eric can hit him if he rolls a 2. Eric again thinks about cubing here…

White cube action?

…but he doesn’t. After a few more rolls the position looks like this:

White cube action?

Eric thinks again about the cube but he waits until he has two more men off. Slatts takes and his next roll is a 44, but Eric finishes him off with a 55. Score: 5-10.

Slatts has now lost 10 points in a row and must have been wondering what was going wrong. Eric cubes him again when he has a better board. Slatts takes. Eric hits loose on his 1 point and whilst missing the blot Slatts comes in and anchors on the 2 point. It doesn’t get any better for him though when he throws an awkward 63 and has to leave several blots. Eric hits one of them. Slatts dances and then next roll hits Eric on his 1 point. Eric rolls 55 to come in straight away and moves on to his own 5 point. With 64 Slatts runs to Eric’s 11 point but immediately gets hit and Eric makes his 1 point. It now looks like a definite gammon is on as Slatts fails to come in. Eric does leave a shot but Slatts misses and does get gammoned. Score: 5-14.

Slatts cubes early in the next game and Eric gives him the point. Score: 6-14.

Slatts gets a double shot early in the next game but misses and ends up getting hit himself on the next roll. He rolls 44 to dance. Eric cubes and Slatts has to drop. Score: 6-15.

Next game, Slatts cubes after Eric dances on a 3-point board. Eric drops. Score: 7-15.

Where has Slatts’s magic gone? He throws 66 twice when he is on the bar. Eric cubes and Slatts drops. Score: 7-16.

Lady Luck has definitely gone for Slatts. As soon as he leaves a blot it gets hit! He has four men back on Eric’s 1 point with Eric having made his 7to 5 points. Slatts rolls a 33, which allows him to come up to Eric’s 4 point with all four checkers. He has a blot on his 8 point, which Eric of course hits. He comes in on the 1 point, Eric hits it next roll and makes the point! Slatts comes in and now has five on the 4 point. When Eric eventually does leave a shot Slatts has 9s and 1s to hit but misses. Cube. Drop. Score: 7-17.

Slatts starts off well in the next game and soon has a 4-prime, however, when Eric jumps over it leaving a blot, Slatts misses. When Slatts leaves a blot next roll, Eric hits. Slatts closes his board but cannot escape the checker on Eric’s 1 point. Eric closes him out and eventually cubes. Slatts drops. Score: 7-18. Crawford.

Eric hits every blot Slatts leaves but leaves himself unstructured and eventually has to leave a shot, which Slatts hits for a change! He makes a 4-prime (7 to 4) and Eric is stuck on his 1 point. Slatts manages to get another of Eric’s checkers back and closes him out. He proceeds to bear-off but is well aware that Eric now has a closed board and so he has to be ultra careful. He is, and wins his first point for ages! Score: 8-18. Post Crawford.

Slatts cubes late but Eric still takes. With two men on the bar Eric rolls 55 to go favourite – but there is still a long way to go. He follows the 55 with a 66 and now it looks bad for Slatts! Slatts has three men on Eric’s 4 point with a 4-prime in front of him. He escapes one man with a 64 and then miracle of miracles rolls 55… but is it good enough? Slatts has two men on his 14 point and Eric has two men on his 13 point. Who will clear first? Neither of the players can roll high enough for six rolls! Eventually Eric rolls a 44 and Slatts can only manage a 43 followed by 11! A 55 by Eric finishes it off. Final score: 8-19.

Eric now plays Serrero in an all French Final.

I then found another Brit to report on! John Broomfield ‘JB’ was playing Koch (Germany) in the semis of the Masters Consolation. I joined them when the score was 11-4 to Koch in a 15-point match.

Red cube action?

JB (Red) cubes and Koch takes. JB goes on to win the two points. Score: 11-6.

A well-timed roll of 44 gave JB the next game. Followed by another quick game when he cubed Koch out. Score: 11-8.

In the next game JB’s habit of hitting loose in the early game resulted in him having a 1 and 4 point back game. Koch had cleared his back checkers so was just looking for an easy route home! This wasn’t so easy though; however, JB missed the first chance at a blot and with three men still back JB had to decline Koch’s offer of the cube. Score: 12-8.

With two men on the bar JB rolls a 66 early on in the game. Koch rolls a 66 himself when he has a 3-point board and hits a third red stone. This was promptly followed with a 55. He now has a 4-point board but he hits JB loose twice on his 1 point and JB hits back both times spoiling Koch’s momentum! Not that you would have noticed, as Koch rallies back and JB once again has two men on the bar. He hits Koch loose on his Koch’s 5 point and manages to makes it in next roll so he is now with a 1 and 5 point back game. Sorry, I blinked! A double-6 rolled by JB ruins that. JB later gets a shot, which he hits, but Koch comes straight in and out. Koch cubes and JB takes, however, Koch follows the cube with a 66 putting JB on the back foot. They get down to three checkers each and Koch wins the two points. Score: 14-8 Crawford.

The Crawford game went JB’s way with Koch dancing for a while on JB’s 4-point board. JB rolled a 11 and switched points to hit Koch, but this time he had no trouble in coming straight in on top of his two checkers on JB’s 4 point. His next roll was 44 and he comes out with all three checkers hitting JB in the process! JB later rolls a good 44 of his own, hitting Koch. He dances and JB closes his board. Koch gets gammoned. Score: 14-10 Post Crawford

In the next game both bar points are made when JB gives the cube and Koch takes. My writing was dwindling now having been doing it for 8½ hours! JB had two men on the bar and two men on Koch’s 4 point which was the only point he could come in on! No wonder he kept dancing. Eventually the 44 came… but was it too late to save the day?

White to play 32

Several rolls later Koch nearly had all his men home but the gap between his 11 point, where he had two men, and his 6 point must have looked enormous! Koch rolls a 32 (position above) and decides to leave a blot on the 11 point.

JB hits with a 61. Koch rolls 63 to dance. JB makes his 5 point and when Koch rolls a 41, he comes in on the 4 point and hits loose on his own 4 point. JB rolls the 4 to hit. What had looked like match for Koch now looked decidedly dodgy! When JB rolls another 44 to hit Koch twice you could sense Koch’s disappointment. He ended up with two men on JB’s 1 point against a 5-prime (7 to 2) and all of his own men were on his 1 and 2 points. He loses two points. Score: 14-12.

With a 2-cube in play Koch had built a broken 5-prime and had one of JB’s checkers on his 1 point with his 5 point open. JB rolls a 54 to escape. Koch fails to hit the shot in his out-field and the race for home gets going. Koch is holding JB’s bar point with JB having his 13 and 8 points to clear. Koch rolls a 33 and moves up to his 15 point and covers the blot on his 1 point. His next roll was a 22 and he moved to his 11 point leaving a virtually no-contact game with Koch slightly ahead. Another double from Koch and a poor 21 from JB meant that Koch was the first to bear-off. It was still close! Down to eight men each, then five men each and then three men each! Then JB rolls a 55 and wins the two points. Score: 14-14.

So a place in the final looms for one of them! Koch gets off to a good start and holds both bar points after rolling 66. JB’s rolling wasn’t too bad either and he soon has a 3-point board and only one man back on Koch’s 4 point. Koch rolls 22 in this position:

White to play 22

He chooses to pick and pass to cover his blot on his 2 point. JB dances first time but manages to come in with a 51 on his next roll. Koch picks and passes again but leaves blots in his outfield and JB manages to hit one of them. Koch comes in but JB hits him loose. Koch is now behind in the race but is still holding JB’s bar point. JB is relentless and keeps hitting Koch and soon has a 5-point board with only his 2 point open. He has two men off before Koch comes in. JB does leave a shot but Koch misses and JB wins a place in the final. Final score: 14-15.

So Sunday arrives and I play my Last Chance match and promptly lose it 5–0! Oh well, out comes the pad and paper! I had checked the status of the Ladies tourney but the quarterfinal had still not been played and Nanga was now playing the final against our good friend Martin de Bruin (USA/Spain). I didn’t get a chance to watch this match as my loyalty was with my fellow Brit, John Broomfield, who was about to start his Consolation Final. I would just like to report that Nanga was winning 16–4 to 17 and Martin made a brilliant comeback to win the match! Well done Martin!

Slatts was able to have a nice lie in on Sunday as he had already cashed in the Masters Main and therefore had nothing to do on the final day.

The Masters Consolation Final was a 17-point match between JB and Babillon (France).

The first game started with blots all over the place and JB cubing when Babillon was on the bar. Babillon takes. He soon had three men on the bar against a 5-point board and must have been regretting his hasty take! He was holding JB’s 1 point though. JB resisted the urge to hit another blot. Babillon eventually rolled a 11 (the French are good at those double 1s!) and came in from the bar but now had to try and create a board in case he got that important shot. It did come, but not until only one of JB’s checkers remained on JB’s 2 point. Babillon missed and was gammoned. Score: 4-0.

It looked like the next game would also be a blot-hitting contest but JB decided to be more conservative and anchored on Babillon’s 4 point. Babillon quickly made a 4-prime in front of him. This was soon to become a 5-prime when Babillon rolled a 44. And then … Wow! … JB rolls a 66 to jump over the prime (don’t you just hate they do that to you?). Not only does JB jump out but he also makes a 4-prime in front of Babillon (9 to 6). JB cubes and Babillon takes. JB rolls a 55 to put him ahead in the race and all he needed to do was come home safely. Babillon left his 5 point anchor and JB rolls a 31 to hit the blot and now has a 7-prime! Babillon dances and JB closes his board. JB goes for the gammon but Babillon rolls some high dice and saves it. Score: 6-0.

An early 66 gives JB the edge in the next game but there’s a long way to go and he is sitting on Babillon’s bar point (not the easiest point to clear). He decides to leave it when he rolls a 54 and Babillon pounces rolling a 22. With a 4-point board he cubes and JB takes. JB dances and Babillon makes his 1 point leaving only his 3 point open. JB rolls the required 3 but with cocked dice – aaaaaaahhhhh! Eventually another one comes but he is not on the board for long as Babillon closes him out. Babillon soon clears his 5 and 6 points when he rolls a double 4. JB comes in straight away and runs for his life to save the gammon. All to no avail as Babillon rolls a 55 and takes the four points! Score: 6-4.

The next game starts with another blot-hitting contest and Babillon takes JB’s cube when he has one on the bar and three others back. Babillon makes JB’s 1 and 2 points and the game continues with JB hitting another checker and Babillon dancing on a 2½ point board. Babillon hits the blot next time but JB comes in with a 11 and hits and whilst he does get hit back he now has a 5-prime in front of Babillon’s five checkers on his 2 and 3 points. JB considers hitting another checker and decides it is the right play. He develops a 6-prime but also has two men back against a broken 4-prime. He manages to escape one man but it is soon pounced on and JB chooses to hit loose in board and gets hit again. He now has three men back. With another man loose inboard he has to think twice about hitting Babillon again and leaving his anchor. He does it anyway! Babillon misses the shot and JB makes his 6-prime again. Babillon has five back at this stage of the game – one on the 1 point and four on the 2 point. His own board is breaking up and has three blots in it when JB chooses to hit loose on his 1 point. Babillon hits it but JB dances (only once though!) but hits a checker on the second attempt.

Babillon now has a 4-point board and now makes JB’s 1 point. JB bears in without mishaps but can he bear off without any mishaps?? Unfortunately not, but with Babillon only having his 1, 2  and 3 points JB is not too concerned. He shouldn’t have chosen that moment to roll a 21 though! After coming in and out next roll, he then rolls a 11 which allows him to hit Babillon on his 1 point. Babillon dances and this gives JB the chance to get his loose checker safe. He goes on to roll a well-timed 22 to score a gammon. Score: 10-4.

Well, this was exciting, three doubled gammons out of four games! I will let you in on a secret though. JB had told me before the match started that he was going to have to play fast and furious as he had a plane to catch and had to leave at 4:45 p.m.! He had to get back to London to catch a plane early the next day to fly to the Philippines. His baby son, David (who is a delight!) was getting christened there the following Saturday.

Game 5 was another blot-hitting fest with Babillon ending up with four back and JB three back. A couple of 55s gave Babillon the edge but JB still accepted the 2 cube when it was offered! It was a brave take as he had two men on Babillon’s 2 point behind a broken 6-prime (midpoint open). JB played to get another man back and succeeded but came in quickly which meant his board would crunch unless he could roll a 65 to escape. He was lucky enough to do this so his 5½ board remained intact. Will he get a shot? Yes! Babillon has to either hit with a 2 or break another point. He chooses to hit but JB misses the blot. He comes in with a 6 and now has to run to save the gammon. He succeeds! Score: 10-6.

Wow, a game with no early blots – how can this be? However, eventually the first hit proved damaging when JB splits his back men and Babillon ends up hitting both. It’s game over when JB turns down the proffered cube! Score: 10-7.

The next two games are over quickly when Babillon cubes early and JB drops both times. Score: 10-9.

It was JB’s turn to cube early in the next game and Babillon took. He had three men back but JB only had a 2-point board. Babillon hit loose, got hit back, and then hit two of JB’s checkers. So both players now have four men back and only 2-point boards! JB escapes one man and hits Babillon again. Will either of them ever get around to making a board? Whoops, there goes another checker back for Babillon who now has six men back but is holding JB’s 1 and 5 points. He gets the opportunity to hit two of JB’s men but decides to hit only one and to get some structure to his game. A few rolls later the position is:

White on roll

Unfortunately, play doesn’t stop while I am writing so when I get back to looking at the board Babillon has no checkers in JB’s home board and JB is still on Babillon’s 3 and 4 points. JB gets a hit and Babillon throws 64 to dance. He does come in after on the 1 point but not before JB has developed a 4-point board. JB hits again and Babillon comes in and makes JB’s 3 point. JB is forced to leave a blot and gets hit. Babillon now has his 3, 5 and 6 points made. JB dances. Babillon makes his 2 point. JB rolls a 4 and comes in. Babillon leaves a one-shot but JB rolls a 66. Babillon misses a shot at a 6 but rolls a 55 to stay in the race; however, it also leaves a double shot. JB misses and leaves Babillon a one-shot, which he hits. JB dances and Babillon rolls a 66 but he can only play three of them as JB is blocking the fourth 6. However, a 55 that comes later invokes Babillon to ship the cube over and JB has to drop. Score: 10-11.

Babillon asked for a five-minute break at this point. The time was 4 p.m. so JB knew he had to play aggressively. There had already been an amicable split on the money so if he had to concede the game it was not a total disaster.

The next game was over quite quickly as JB developed a 4-prime and Babillon dropped the cube when it was offered. Score: 11-11.

In the game that followed, JB eventually finds himself on Babillon’s 1 point against a 6-prime! He is then closed out but if can come in quickly once the board breaks he has some chances. Babillon has three off when JB rolls a 66! It wasn’t good enough though and Babillon wins the two points. Score: 11-13.

In the next game JB finds himself stuck behind a broken 7-prime, but with Babillon dancing on his 5-point board he manages to find the 3 needed to move up. This was followed by a 55 to jump over the remaining 4-prime. He closes Babillon out and goes for the gammon but Babillon saves it. Score: 12-13.

JB took a cube in the next game, which I can only guess was based on his travel arrangements! He has three men back behind a 4-prime and whilst Babillon had three men back JB’s board had crunched. He managed to regain a 5-point board but not until Babillon had started bearing off. He lost the two points. Score: 12-15.

Next game, JB cubed Babillon when Babillon has two on the bar against his 1, 3 and 6 point board. He is really conscious of the time now. After a lot of play he finds himself behind a 7-prime and his board is crunching. Babillon starts bearing off, he leaves a shot but JB misses. He concedes the match at the appropriate point and rushes for his plane. Final score: 12-17.

Well done to Babillon for winning and congratulations to both players for an exciting match.

So now I join the Masters Main, here is a photo by Michael Strato of Michel Serrero (L) and Eric Guedj when the score was 9 to 7 for Eric.

I started taking notes when Eric (White in the positions below) was leading Serrero 11-7 to 21 points.

Eric is holding a 2-cube and has a man back on Serrero’s 2 point with all other points closed. Serrero hits him loose. He dances and Serrero closes his board. Serrero has five men off before Eric comes in but Eric saves the gammon by rolling a 33. Score: 11-9.

In the next game the position is:

White to play 22

Eric has a 22 to play. He decides on 20-18(2) 13/11(2). Play continues and Serrero has a 5-point board (5 to 1) when Eric is forced to leave a shot. Serrero misses and has to run from his anchor leaving blots on his 19 and 14 points. Eric fails to hit. Serrero rolls a 54, which is a bad roll for him. He plays 19/11 giving Eric a direct shot at a 4 which is hit. Serrero dances, Eric cubes and with another blot in jeopardy Serrero has to drop. Score: 12-9.

In the next game Eric gains the first advantage, hitting Serrero with a 9 followed by a 44 which puts Serrero on the bar against a 4-point board. Serrero comes in and hits Eric back. Eric offers the cube and Serrero takes. Eric comes in and hits Serrero. On his second attempt at coming in Serrero rolls a 54 and makes Eric’s 5 point. Serrero rolls well and Eric now finds himself on Serrero’s 2 point with two men against Serrero’s broken 6-prime. He puts Serrero on the bar, but Serrero comes straight in with a 53 and Eric is now on the back foot. Serrero thinks about the re-cube but decides to carry on. Eric rolls the 53 he needed to jump out and over the prime but is still vulnerable. Serrero cubes and Eric drops. Score: 12-11.

They broke at this point so I went to see how Slatts was doing in a €200 jackpot. Not well as it happened he was 3-0 down to 7. When the score was 4-2 his opponent cubed to 2 which Slatts took and re-cubed. He won the four points with some typical Slatts 66s and went on to win the match!

So back to the finals of Masters Main… and the game is quite well advanced. Eric is holding a 4-cube but has two men back on Serrero’s 4 point. Serrero has all his other points closed. Eric’s board is crunched and he has only his 1 and 2 points left. He has to run with a 65 and Serrero hits the checker on his 4 point and has to decide whether to leave the blot or pick and pass. He chooses the latter so Eric needs to roll a 54 to hit in Serrero’s outfield. He dances. Serrero closes his board but Eric manages to come straight in and saves the gammon. Score: 12-15.

In the next game Serrero has a 62 to play in this position:

Red to play 62

Should he hit on the 12 point? This was the first play he looked at before considering making his bar point. He opted for the hit.

Eric did come in but a timely 33 from Serrero meant that Eric was soon on the bar again. He rolled 62 to come in and moved to his 15 point. Serrero hit this blot next roll. Eric came in with 11 and now Serrero found himself on the bar. He rolled 42 causing him to leave a blot on his 9 point, but he was quickly able to safety the checker. Soon after, Eric found himself on the bar again, but with four checkers behind a broken 6-prime, Serrero’s board was soon going to crunch unless he could roll a 52 or a 62. Eric offered the cube whilst still on the bar and Serrero took. He left Eric a one-shot, which he missed the first time but when Serrero failed to safety it and Eric hit. Serrero now had five men back on Eric’s 5 point – sooner or later the outside prime must crack! Eric rolled an awkward 43 leaving a 2-shot, but Serrero misses. Eric only had to bring two men in from his 10 point to win this important game, but can he do it without leaving a shot?

White on roll

No! Eric ended up leaving a shot on his 8 point but Serrero missed this one as well and Eric cleared next roll. He got his men safe with a 33 and went on to win two points. Score: 14-15.

I went away for a short time and when I came back Serrero was winning 19-15. Eric was on the bar and Serrero already had three men off. Eric got a 66 which he needed to try and save the gammon, which he did. Score: 15-20 Crawford

I missed the final game but Serrero went on to become European Champion 2006. Well-done Michel!

So off I went to play my semi-final in the Ladies tourney. I was lucky enough to win this 5-1 and got ready to play the 7-point final. I went into a three point lead and when I was offered the 2-cube with the score at 3–2 to me I thought it was a gift. Slatts, however, told me afterwards that he thought it was a drop and that the previous cube I had dropped was a take! Well, that’s why he’s a former European Champion and I’m not!! As it happens I did manage to turn the game around and win the two points to go 5-2 ahead.

This is definitely when I am at my most vulnerable… 2-away! In the next game I thought I was going to get an un-doubled gammon for match when I had a blitz situation but I kept hitting loose and kept getting hit back so I ended up with three men back myself! My opponent cubed at this point and I still thought it was worth taking. I went on to lose two points though! This was followed by me having to drop the cube in the next game taking the score to 5-5. I cubed quite early in the next game so we were playing for match. I think I would have probably dropped the cube if it had been offered to me as I was definitely in a stronger position. I didn’t complain though as I went on to win the two points and the match. I emailed my brother, Paul, to tell him and he wanted to know if that made me European Ladies Champion and did he now need to bow and scrape!! I told him that of course he did - so if you see him bowing and scraping at the next UK tournament you will know why!!

So this was the end of what is likely to be our only international tournament this year and therefore (you may be pleased to know) my last report for 2006!

 

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