The 2007 Festival of Backgammon — Zakynthos

Report from Neil Davidson



10 December, 2007: Please note that is the first report from Zakynthos - and it isn’t referring to the one published here, they are separate events! It appears that this ‘Festival’ might have given the impression it was well attended, certainly the photograph above does suggest a good turnout - however; I have been informed that the staff outnumber the players by a ratio of nearly 2-to-1.

I have published both accounts so that you, their potential customers, can make up your mind with whom to spend the next Festival. For information on this event contact Neil Davidson.

The heatwave had just got going when the players arrived to take part in the 2007 Festival of Backgammon on the beautiful Ionian Island of Zakynthos. This was the 6th year of the tournament and was universally hailed as the best. David Hale had visited from Crete, Mick Vacarey had taken a route that even Marco Polo would have been proud of, via most major cities in Europe, and people dropped in and arrived to take part every day to enhance the experience for everyone.

Temperatures reached 42 degrees but the shaded playing area, and the breeze kept the players cool, except when anti-jokers popped out of the throwing cups.A tournament took place every day after lunch, and a full draw meant that everyone got loads of backgammon for their entry money. As in previous years, the focus of the week was friendly competition in a houseparty type atmosphere. There did not have to be a single ruling all week, even when Malcolm Robertson lost 180 points in a chouette in a single game. Malcolm never missed a beat, and is as gracious a loser as you can find. He was awarded the annual Spirit of Backgammon trophy at the final prize giving despite protests from him that he didn’t deserve it. The overall prize for the week went to a previous winner, John Hurst, who has attended every year that the festival has taken place. Runner up was Mick Vacarey, who collected his prize in between the poker, which he won, and windsurfing. Eight pairs entered the doubles competition which was eventually won in a close final by Ann Pocknell from Canada   and Leroy Brown from New Zealand..

As well as windsurfing, we had water skiing, tennis, table tennis and trips by speed boat to some great tavernas - one of which we had to jump out of the boat and wade in to reach the fish on the table! Whilst out in the boat ,we had the rare treat of being in the middle of a shoal of leaping tuna and dolphin. According to the local boatman, he had been out 10 times every day for 6 years and had only seen this twice. How lucky were we, and it was a sight we wont forget.

As always, the atmosphere was fantastic, and some participants took the opportunity to hire a car and visit the neighbouring islands of Cefalonia and Ithaca. It truly followed the original intention of a holiday with backgammon and the photos bear witness to the beauty of the place and the fun had by all. Every  participant has provisionally booked their place for 2008.

The provisional dates for 2008 are June 21-28. Anyone registering their interest before the end of August for 2008, will be entitled to the frequent players discount of $150 on next years festival. Email Neil Davidson on