“I came here as a pygmy . . . and I leave as a Giant.”
Thus said Peter Finnimore as he became the UK’s first ever, Giant of Backgammon after going through a gruelling best-of-three, double knockout, format. He’d made it to the Final after beating off Simon Morecroft in the KO#1 semi-final. His opponent from KO#2 was Peter Bennet. Peter B had lost in the first round to Jysen Qwt after a very tough match and he’d just beaten Bob Bruce in the KO#2 semi-final to face Peter F in the Final for the title.
In the 15 point match, Peter F, coming from the Main 1st Round started off at 5-0 up. This was the 'penalty' set against Peter B for losing his 1st Round match. In a normal knockout Peter B would have been relegated to the Consolation, but, here he was in the Final and a chance at the UK Giant title, albeit 5-nil down to 15. Better this chance than none at all.
In the positions below Peter F is playing as black and Peter B as white. Peter F took the fist point in a match that neither player put a foot wrong according to XG and were both rated World Class. Peter F took his first 'proper' point with this double.
White: 0---------------------Black: 5
Black cube action
The race is close and Peter B's last checker, although on its own is in no immediate danger but it is correct to cube and correct to pass, decisions both players' made.
In the next game Peter B had a choice of double-hit or just hit on his bar-point.
White 0---------------------Black: 6
White to play 51
During his 12 seconds to play the move before using up any reserve time he looked at double-hitting, but he did look a bit half-hearted about it; and he was right not to play it, instead going for the single hit, 13/7* and avoiding a blunder.
Black's reply however did not avoid the blunder.
Black to play 22
Peter F was expected to play 25/23, 22/18*, 18/16, and this was XG's best play; however, for reasons known only to him, Peter F didn't hit at all preferring to go for his 4-point with 25/23, 13/11, 6/4(2). White looked quite pleased with this play for it left him free to play his entire roll to make a decent point, perhaps even placing black onto the bar into the bargain. He rolled 42: 24/22, 11/7 and made his bar-point.
Black's reply was an error.
Black to play 33
Clearly hitting on the 3-point is essential, however, instead of using one of the 3s to move 23/20 black moved 7/4. Black went 8/5(2), 6/3*, 7/4 whereas it'd be better played 8/5(2), 6/3*, 23/20 leaving 4s to cover the 3-point blot instead of 1s and making escape that little bit easier.
In the next game each player got an 'outplay' - a play better than that chosen by XG.
White 0-----------------------Black 7
White to play 33
I must admit when I first saw this roll I went with making the anchor and then the 3-point with 24/21, 13/10, 6/3(2). It looked good to me so I was surprised when white went with 24/18, 21/18, 13/10. I had chosen XG's move and Peter had bettered it with his!
Black to play 32
Not to be outdone in the outplay stakes black went with 24/22, 11/8, a risker play than XG's 11/8, 6/4, XG preferring to keep from putting a back checker in 'danger'. However; the riskier play showed XG a thing or two!
In the next game it wasn't going Peter B's way at all
White 0----------------------Black 9
White to play 21
Still to get his first point white has rolled an awful 21. It can't be played safe and no matter what he does he's going to leave a shot on. 12/9 is far too passive so he correctly goes with 8/5* even though it leaves two blots on. If he played the passive 12/9 he'd still have been clobbered by black's return shot of 65: 25/20*, 20/14. The only good thing about 12/9 was the single blot. From hereon it doesn't go well at all for white. He dances for a while, and his second blot is picked up,
He eventually comes in and ends up with four checkers on black's 1-point and two on the black bar-point while black is all in and ready to bearoff. A few rolls later black is forced into leaving a shot which is hit onto the bar. Despite many attempts by white to keep this blot from getting home he fails and saves the gammon only after black doesn't get his last three checkers off with a double-two or greater.
The score moves to 10-0 to black, then 12-0 and then Peter B pulls it back to 12-1, finally getting his first point in a very short game: Black starts 64: 24/18, 13/9; he's hit with 11: 8/7*(2), 6/5(2). Black dances with 55 and is cubed out. Peter next went on the win an ungammoned two points, 12-3 and that's where he stayed.
Peter F moves it to the Crawford at 14-3 and it goes almost with him from the start as he rolls out quickly when a cracking 66 sees Peter Bennet resign and Peter Finnimore take the first ever UK’s Giant of Backgammon title.
It was an exciting match to watch and Peter Finnimore played a good bit above his usual fighting weight. Being pitched against one of the UK's best players (and currently Biba's highest ranked) galvanised him to play his very best and XG rated him Expert and gave him an estimated ELO of 2024, a rating well above his Biba rating 1515! Peter was rated World Class and rated a few points above his Biba rating of 1967.
Click HERE to download this match in the usual formats.
Main: Peter Finnimore and Peter Bennet
In the Consolation Final, Eric McAlpine had a fantastic lead and was soon at Crawford with opponent Colin Owen needing to win everything if he was to snatch it from Eric's clutches . . . which he did. Post-Crawford games are always the hardest to win for the leader, you are most likely holding a two-cube, you don't want to take too many chances in case you're gammoned and you end up playing a more defensive game than you usually might. Both Eric and Colin were using a flip over Score Card to show the score and Colin was also keeping a written record of the score (as detailed in the Biba Rules). When Colin got a gammon on a 4-cube for the match the flip over was showing 10-5 against Colin but the actual score was 10-7. Eric questioned the score and thankfully, Colin's written record clearly showed the score as being 10-7 (both players had forgotten to flip over the 10-7 score) and this was corroborated by a third party who had seen it written down at the time. I must point out, both player must always keep a written score even if you are using a flip over. When called to a dispute the TD will always go by the written record and not the flip over.
Consolation: Eric McAlpine and Colin Owen
Last Chance: Michael Crane
The Last Chance was a small affair . . . both players in the Final were 5' 7" or under! Jysen Qwt came out above me (Michael Crane) to take the trophy after I got only two points in the 11 point match.
As usual it all began at the Friday 500, an event that saw Mick Vacarey walking off the winner after winning a couple of backgammons on the way as he demolished Colin Owen and then Jysen Qwt.
On Saturday we had a Doubles KO and, thanks to a rebuy, Ends and Fenz got back in and all the way to the Final where they saw off Ebony & Ivory. It was good to see the return of Julia Hayward to Biba events; and good that she won the doubles . . that might bring her back more in the future.
Due to the lack of poker players this weekend it the poker didn't take place - again.
So, how did the Double Knockout, Best of Three format go? It went very well indeed, thanks for asking. Everyone had a load of backgammon to play and in between rounds the Cash or Play continuous format kept everyone who entered entertained and it will certainly be making a regular appearance in the future. I had many players say how much they enjoyed it even though it was a strenuous event (that’s what you have to go through to be a Giant!) and I am considering other Best of Three events in the future.
Before I go I'd just like to say how good it was to see John Hedge who came over from Down Under with his wife, Sveta and son, David. It was John's 64th birthday on Saturday (he keeps trying to catch me up but I always manage to keep six months ahead of him!) and this . . .
. . . is what was left of his birthday cake before anyone decided to take a photo of it.
Finally, don't forget the Winner-Takes-All Rollover at the SAC next month, will you?