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Quarter-finals day; A very off-beat semi; And a brutal Japanese duel
by Will Cockerell - 23 March 2008
WILL COCKERELL
The grand plan for Easter Sunday at the 2008 Nordic Open was a simple one: turn the 32 hopefuls in the Consolation tournament into a punch drunk, delighted quartet, and make the 8 stars still alive in the Main, just 3. Three? I hear you say; yes, we’ve already had one memorably bizarre semi.

The quarter-finals saw two real classics. Home favourite Dane Hans Christian Mathiesen, known as “Kedde”, surged into a 10-3 lead against Hans Liby before some extremely nasty swings saw him go 11-15 down, surely his fine run in the tournament had to end now, expecially as in the next, he had a man on the roof, against a five-point board, just the five point open. Finding the five was compulsory, finally he found it, but Liby had a builder on his 6 point, so needed an ace to hit back. He found 11 to pick and pass. HCM doggedly found another 5, but by then Liby had found another builder for the 6 point, and he called up the 11 again! For a third time HCM found the 5, and for a third time Liby had the builder in place, and this time picked and passed with 21. Quite extraordinary. However, when the fourth 5 duly arrived, Liby had been forced to slot. He got hit by Kedde’s lethal dice and nearly gammoned. 15-13 became 15-15, and we were at DMP.

Kedde found himself in awful trouble in the decider as he had a stranded checker behind Lidy’s 5-prime. But whilst the 5-prime refused to become a six-prime, hope remained. Liby kept slotting at the front of it, kedde kept hitting back and finally leaped as well when Liby convalesced on the bar! Wow, Kedde had a touch of the ‘John Hurst’s’ about him… [The UK Masters winner, who never knows when he’s beaten]. It then came down to Liby playing a desperate 5 point holding game; could Kedde bear in safely? Soon it came down to him needing anything but the bogeymen of 41 51 or 61. He rolled 11, oooooh. Then he rolled 31, aaaaahhhh. Then he rolled 21. The suspense was intoxicating, when finally a 53 arrived, Kedde had another sensational win to go with his Houdini escape in the last-16 the day before.

Kedde would face the winner of the table next to him, which was also a DMP’er after Manouchehr Parshami edged into a 9-6 lead before being pegged back to 14-14, which inevitably reached 16-16. In a tense final game Arildo Idsoe played a desperate 2 point holding game, waiting for the shot which never came. The all-German affair of Jan Jacobowitz and Gotz Hildsberg never quite hit the heights, as after Hildsberg early lead, he was simply ground into the earth by the relentless Jacobowitz, who is the biggest name left in the draw.

In the Claus Cato-Tassilo Rzymann match, Cato was clearly the favourite as he has performed formidably in many big tournaments the world over. The match turned out to be all about two erroneous 4 cubes shipped by Rzymann. The first at 7-5 up when he cubed a little light but won the game, and then in the next, with the score at 11-5 cubed in the extremely unusual position of “too good/take”! Cato had a take point of 14.8%, and Rzymann cubed at 18.2% wins for Cato. The gammon threat was there though, and that’s what happened.

 


First Semi-final report


Manouchehr Parshami, Sweden [Hereafter known as MP], and Hans Christian Mathiesen, Denmark (Hereafter known as HCM).

The first semi-final, between Parshami and Mathiesen which ended at the reasonable hour of a little past midnight was a strange and puzzling affair, due to the completely differing playing styles of the two men: the purity of Denmark, and the flamboyant, bamboozling, skull and crossbones style of Parshami’s Middle Eastern play. MP won a freak gammon in game 2, which set the match up beautifully, and nullified the edge that HCM started the match with. 4-1 to MP, which became 6-4 to MP a few games later. The cream was taking a while to rise to the top, and HCM was passing cubes which were ‘takes’ as the early gammon had clearly unsettled him, and he wasn’t going to let that happen again in a hurry.

In Game 7 HCM accepted a fine take, and swung the game before recubing to 4 at just 58.8% with 30% gammons. It was a huge blunder of MP to pass, but pass he did, perhaps understandably afraid of the 8-points he could have lost. HCM took the next cube as well but then blundered hugely when recubing to 4 when he was so far too good by an enormous margin.

A quick, correct cube and pass in Game 10, saw the cream now bubbling nicely at the top as HCM had a robust 10-6 lead. They shared the next two before the game that broke MP’s heart. After he shipped in a massive no double-take he soon had only a 65 or a double available to him to safely clear off the 14 point, and flukily found 65. Surely game over with just the 8 point to clear, against HCM’s lone sentry on the bar point. Only 51 61 would leave a shot. Out came 51!! MP threw his head back in anguish. From 96% wins, he was down to 70% and an instant cash if HCM found the ace. Out it came! But then, almost unbelievably, with a 5-point board, three builders, and MP on the roof HCM didn’t cash the game! He gave MP a shot at 16 enter and leap. He rolled 15… Then HCM had to hit loose on the ace point. MP hit back, and suddenly had a shot at the escaping 6 to get right back in the end. It wasn’t there, and HCM finally cubed. But why the delay of three rolls earlier is simply anyone’s guess. 13-7 to HCM.

In game 14 MP shipped in a ghastly cube at about 51%, and was obviously on tilt in a big way. In almost no time he had no fewer than 8 men sent back, and managed to conjure up a 1, 2, 5 back game. It became a 2, 5 back game and his winning chances rose to 40-60. The shot came, he hit, and only a 64 was any good for HCM to enter and land on the anchor on 15. Out it popped! What a shot. Poor MP simply can’t do a thing right. HCM then cubed at 96% with 15% gammons – a little too good yet again.

They traded points in the next two to arrive at Crawford 8-16. MP needed a miracle and it started with a fine gammon for 10-16. However in the next he had two on the roof facing a board with the 6, 4 and 3 points made, and with PM lining up a stack of builders to make the 5 and 2 points in the next couple of rolls. Only 55 was going to keep HCM in the tournament now, to enter both men and hit HCM out on the ten point. And it came!! A huge cheer from MP and his supporters, as he threw his hands in the air celebrating his stay of execution. Gammon chances even followed but MP had to settle for 12-16.

Suddenly we had a fantastic match on our hands, and HCM’s insistance on playing his opponent and not the checkers and cube was not looking so brilliant; indeed his facial features, normally smiley, looked positively grim.

MP blitzed for all he was worth in the next but it didn’t come off and soon he had an awkward, rather hopeful 2,7 holding game. HCM unnecessarily volunteered a shot bearing in and was missed. Then he volunteered another, perhaps thinking that now was the time to get hit with MP only owning a 4-point board and a slotted deuce. But he got hit, fanned twice and MP covered the deuce! A terrible decision for HCM to volunteer the shot, it’s looking like 16-14! All MP needed to escape his checkers on HCM’s 5-point was a 2, 5 or 6, but he found a gut wrenching 44 which horribly crunched him and opened up his own 5-point. A relieved HCM duly entered, and swung his man round safely, to finally lock up the match.

I tell you something though, it was getting very hairy for the hot favourite there, and an initial computer analysis states that it was Parshami and NOT Mathieson who went into the match a 56.1-43.9% favourite. Still, HCM is thoroughly delighted to be in the final, where I’m sure he’ll play a different type of game, and address some really quite acute problems with his cube action.


I’m sad to say I’m not one of the consolation semi-finalists, as I lost a horrendous ‘sicko’ in the last 16. But Greece’s Alexandros is there, as are Rida Hassan (an almost unbelievable sequence of results for him at London and now here – around a 16-2 record!), Karsten Bredahl, and the great Mochy Mochizuki of Japan who embarked on his quarter-final with his inscrutable countrywoman, the divine Akiko Abe. It was a torrid affair which started at midnight and didn’t end for getting on for 3am. Akiko threw simply everything she had at Mochy and at 9-8 ahead to 11 it boiled down to a stomach-churning non-contact race. One nice double for Akiko now and the match was hers! But it never came, and Mochy won by a few pips and then Crawford as well to complete the Consolation semi-final line-up.

 

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