Biba’s Own, European

Backgammon Champion 2003

Martin Hemming & Michael Crane

John Slattery

European Backgammon Champion 2003

I want to celebrate what must be the most notable achievement by a Brit on the international scene for many years. John Slattery (Slatts) has won the European Championship of Backgammon at Nova Gorica, Slovenia.

Slatts is a flair player rather than a technical guru. He plays instinctively and intuitively with a mix of psychology and a good ability to tailor his plays and particularly his cubes to his opponent's weaknesses. Playing to his strengths means he never plays online. How could an online opponent react to his dazzling outfits and wry observations? 'Did we have money on it?', he'll ask an opponent chuffed to bits at having beaten him. On receipt of a negative he'll riposte 'Oh, I feel like a winner now.' ... And then he'll offer a rematch with a 'bit of interest'.

I doubt Slatts has ever studied a match equity table. I've seldom if ever seen him pore over an interesting position at the club. And his opinion of Snowie is summed up by his offer to outplay anyone for cash if they promise to follow S3's 3-ply suggestions against him in a backgame. Despite (?) this he's had some successes all over the world. But Slatts is famous for his character and his dress sense as much as for his wins. He's one of the great bg personalities and it's great that he's won this title for Scotland and for Britain.

Could this be the start of something for the under-achieving Brits?

Just watch ....

MC: John's opponent in the final of the 64 field was Rolf Vetsch of Switzerland. He clinched the title in the Crawford with the score 19-12. Not only did he win a great big trophy and a load of dosh, but the respect of his peers, all of whom gave him a standing ovation at the gala dinner and prize presentation.

And to think, just a few years ago, he started his backgammon career with Biba at the 1998 Scottish Open, reaching the dizzying heights of Runner-up in the Consolation. Who'd have thought he'd be European Champion five years later?

It's about time Biba members made their mark in Europe - let's hope Slats is the vanguard of British Backgammon.

Well done, Slats. Let's hope it's the first of many.