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Exciting second semi-final...

plus Hansen/Lylloff Play for $10K

by Will Cockerell - 24 March 2008

WILL COCKERELL
Here we go then with this 17-point match, semi-final number two, of this year’s tremendously successful Nordic Open.  154 hopeful Gammoners are down to just three.  Denmark’s Hans Christian Mathiesen awaits the winner of this match.

Tassilo Rzymann, Austria [Hereafter known as TR] versus Jan Jacobowitz, Germany [Hereafter known as JJ]

Austria’s Rzymann goes in as something of an underdog when compared to the juggernaut that is Jacobowitz but starts early on with a tangy gammon for 5-1, quickly pulled back to 5-5 by JJ.

We pick up the action in the scintillating 8th game of the match with JJ leading 7-6.  It starts with a blitzy cube from JJ, and TR is briefly squealing with two in the air and a 4-point board.  But a gorgeous 22 enters both men and lashes out on his 5-point.  TR suddenly looking hot here.  Soon he has a cash with three JJ checkers in the air, but he misses it!  Then his position deteriorates and he cubes at just 60-40!  Wow.  Then TR fans on a three-point board several times in a row, and with JJ marshalling his troops we could be looking at a snowman (8-cube).  Soon it evolves from a blot-hitting fest into a holding game with TR on JJ’s 4-point, and JJ owning the golden anchor.  But hey, there’s another twist here, JJ’s time in this game has gone from 15 minutes to under 8.  Finally, JJ’s superior position gives him the 8-cube, and it’s a slim take.  However, perhaps with one eye on JJ’s time (7:16), TR passes for 6-11; but this is an even match folks because of the tick-tock-tick-tock effect.

Game 9:  TR ships in a blitzy cube, easy take though.  The game swings violently from side to side before, bang, a superb 54 fly-shot gives TR some gammon chances with JJ holding the 5-point, and a lot of freight to shift in the outfield.   He keeps fanning as TR scuttles his men in and starts his bear-off.  He clears his 6-point and gammons up over 90%.  But then JJ in four rolls goes 44 55 44, and suddenly he can save the ‘g’ if TR finds an ace; but he rolls 32, and it’s a breath-taking gammon.  11-9 to JJ.  Has JJ’s error rate started to rise with his time problems?  Oh, you betcha’.

Ghoulish fanning by TR in the next brings us to 12-10, and in Game 11 it’s Burger King for the whole family, as TR’s dismal pass is a triple whopper with cheese and a sprinkling of onions, as Magriel might say.  13-10.  Could the match be slowly slipping away for the Austrian now?  He gets miserably trapped on JJ’s 3-point in the next; at least the 4-point is open.  TR gets a shot!  But misses.  Then he gets another one!  But misses that one too.  That gap on the 4-point has meant TR is playing a phantom 3-4 back game.  Then, wow, a third apple falls from the tree, last chance this.  TR HITS, and then inexplicably misses his market with the 4-cube next roll (slim pass), and comes to his senses the roll after.  13-12 to JJ who is starting to play looser and looser as he addresses his time problems which are not so serious now at 4:24.

The next swings quickly to TR, 13-13, and so does the next, but then, whoaaaa, a super-duper JJ joker off the roof, enters, hits in the outfield, and turns a 2-point board, into a 4-point board.  Some roll that, and TR winces at the miscarriage of justice.  14-13 to JJ.

Into Game 15 now and JJ has one man back stranded behind TR’s growing 4-prime.  He ain’t gonna be taking any paperweights that come his way that’s for sure… over flies the cube right on cue, and JJ TAKES!!  What on earth was that??  Easily the dodgiest piece of cube action I’ve even seen in top flight backgammon.  TR is 65.4% but with 26.6% gammons.  JJ knows he is the stronger player than TR; how can he give him such a carte blanche chance to take the match?  The computer comes up with a skull and cross bones, and screams that it’s a triple blunder.  The blitz from TR is swift and severe.  However… this isn’t quite over.  TR finds an awkward 66 when stuck on JJ’s bar point, and has to make the ace and leave the 2-point open for JJ to enter.  JJ finds the deuce, but has to leave TR 6s and 4s to hit back.  TR finds an ugly 53, which opens up two blots, and JJ is able to pick them both up.  However, he has a blot in board and TR finds the hit from the bar and a devastating ‘hoover manoeuvre’ entails.  JJ is closed out with 4 on the roof, and it’s a sensational end to a fabulous match.  Was that the worst take of JJ’s career, given the moment, given the match?  It certainly has a case.  The stats tell us Jacobowitz went into the match at 66.9-33.1% favourite. 

Error rates 5.4 Jacobowitz, 8.2 Rzymann

The action as we await the final is stimulating.  After the iconic Mochy cruises through his semi-final and final to win the Consolation (you can’t keep a good man down, huh?); there’s a delightful exhibition match under the lights, for 10,000 USD between Gus Hansen and Sander Lyllof.  5 pointer, 3 minutes in the time bank.  Sander romped into a 3-0 lead but burnt a lot time in so doing.  Then Gus roared back and rather outwitted an unusually tense Sander to take the match 5-3.  Great entertainment, and a fine illustration about what top-level, high stakes BG is all about.

 

Copyright © 2008 by the World Series of Backgammon

WSOB /Will Cockerell - All rights reserved.

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