(newest entries at the top)
7 March, 2018: Added Paul Magriel
Backgammon - He wrote the book ... he lived the game
A brilliant mind
Once met - never forgotten
I can still hear him 'singing'
"... an old fashoined gentleman ..."
'Foxy' backgammon player and Mine Host
Did you know he was 'Barry Bigplay'?
Dental Surgeon, Artist and Backgammon Player
Occassional Biba player - Frequent Liverpool and Manchester Player
A backgammon character who stood out among many backgammon characters
Backgammon player, good friend and loving grandfather
He did a lot more than play backgammon!
A quiet Irish lass who will be missed by many players across the backgammon world
A family man whose competitiveness was edged with humility
Biba's first ever tournament winner
Always a smile . . . always laughing
An 'antique' player who made us laugh . . and cry!
No more shall I keep him waiting.
A quiet man that brought the European Championship to the Isle of Man
A master theorist who helped us all
A rarity - a shy backgammon player? Apparently not!
"a young man in his fifties"
Mad person & friend
The quiet Irishman
Backgammon player & friend
04/09/1935 - 25/08/2003
It is with great sadness that I have to report the sudden death of Gerry Smith, from Blackburn. Gerry died in the early hours of Bank Holiday Monday, 25 August, in hospital following an operation.
Brian Lever: I am really sorry to hear the news of Gerry’s death. I’ve known Gerry all my backgammon playing life, from the early days in the Manchester casino tournaments. Win or lose, he was an absolute gentleman and would have made a fitting recipient of Dod’s sportsmanship trophy. To think we only lost his wife Daphne a matter of months ago. Perhaps they’re on a white cloud somewhere, enjoying a celestial chouette with our other departed friends!
Ricardo & Maria Isabel Falconi-Puig: Our deepest condolences.
Ian Tarr: Very sad news indeed. You summed it up. A perfect gentleman.
Dave Coyne: It is with great regret that I received the news.. Backgammon has lost one of it's greatest gentlemen players, whenever I met Jerry he made me feel so relaxed, when playing that the result was irrelevant. He shall be sadly missed by all that knew him.
Adam Stocks: I am very sad to hear of Gerry's death. He was such a personable guy, and it was always a pleasure to be in his company. He will be greatly missed by all his backgammon friends.
Rosey Bensley: I was very sad to hear of Gerry's death, and can only hope that his spirit is reunited with Daphne. I agree with Michael, Gerry was a gentleman to the ladies. He always made me feel special when we met at BIBA. Every time I played him I seemed to get into a commanding position, only to have him come back and pip me to the post - I don't think I ever did get that win against him! He was always very apologetic, but never lost that smile. I shall miss seeing him.
John Slattery: How sad for backgammon to lose such an excellent ambassador. He will be missed.
Peter Chan: Sorry to hear the sad news of Gerry passing away. Gerry will be missed, so will his jokes!
Paul Money: I remember Gerry well. He had the largest hands I have ever seen and his congratulatory handshake was indeed fraught with danger! He had a big heart as well and delightful manners. There's more to life than bg and there's more to bg than match equity tables. A true sportsman, he will be missed.
Steve & Sue Hallett: He will be remembered always for the gentleman he was.
Alan Greenwood: Life was better for knowing you, A true gentleman.
Danny Cohen: I am very sorry to hear about the sudden and recent passing away of Gerry.I have known Gerry for over 25 years and he along with his late wife Daphne were such nice friendly people who were always very welcoming.
I would like to convey my sincere condolences to his family and I am sure that those Backgammon players who knew him over the years will agree that we have lost a very decent and genuine person.
NB: If you have something you'd like to say about Gerry, email it here.
Died 17 January 2006
I didn't know Dave Coyne very well. I'd only met him a few times, always at backgammon tournaments, either the Irish Open or the British Open; but what I knew of him, I liked.
Sadly Dave passed away at his home in Dublin on Tuesday morning; and with his passing goes a true gentleman; not unlike Gerry Smith. Dave was always seen wearing a collar and tie; the picture above was taken at the 2000 Irish Open when he was part of the winners of the Team Event.
Everyone has heard the expression, the quiet Irishman, but few of us know its origin - but it matters not for it could have been used to describe Dave himself. To me he was always quiet and calm, softly spoken and always considerate.
A formidable backgammon player who was always on the lookout for a good match and a bit of action. A stalwart of the Dublin BG Club he'll be missed by his many friends - both in Eire and across here in the UK.
Goodbye, Dave. I'll miss your cheery smile and quiet wit. Have a game or two with Gerry . . . and recreate your match with him at the 2000 British Open.
I played against him a few times, most recently in the 2004 Irish Open. I remember the match because it was our final one of the 6 on the Saturday, and the loser would go into the play-offs for the last 16 on the Sunday.
There was a lively debate after, with various spectators airing their views over a play Dave had made (which probably lost him the match), so much so that it delayed the play-offs. But we were having a good laugh, and that’s what I’ll remember.
I was very sad to hear of Dave's death.I got to know Dave quite well, through my many trips to play in the Irish Open. He struck me as a really lovely man, and I remember having several tough matches with him. More than that, though, I can picture him in the bar at Wynns, with a pint of Guinness in his hand and a smile on his face.
I'll drink a Guinness tonight and think of the many laughs we shared.I and many others will miss him.
NB: If you have something you'd like to say about Dave, email it here.
6 January 1957
10 July, 2007
Grahame never took anything seriously; and that included life. He took it by the scruff of its neck, French-kissed it, his tongue deep down its throat, and then he cast it aside and began living it. Thus he started on a binge of drugs, alcohol and, when he was lucky enough to get some, sex! Is it any wonder he died so young? I mean, whose body could take such punishment and survive? Did he care? No way! He not only burnt the candle at both ends, he burnt it in the middle, too.
I first met Grahame in the late 80s when we were both members of the National Backgammon Players Society (NBPS). The year he won the UK title (it's so long ago now I don't even remember when it was) he was the only player to beat me . . . and he got the title and I got bugger all! When I formed Biba, Grahame was one of the first to 'defect' from the NBPS (even though he was told he'd be barred from the NBPS) and join Biba on 5 March, 1990; and he remained a member until he died. He won the 1991, County Cups tournament; another event where the only one to beat me was him! But I think his greatest win was the 2003, Irish Open. He enjoyed this victory and was most proud of it.
When he was first diagnosed with an inoperable cancer (or as Grahame put it, "an 'orrible" cancer) he rang me and we talked for ages. He told me he was very disappointed to be dying of cancer - it had always been his ambition to die of alcohol poisoning! Mind you, he told me he was going to work on attaining his ambition. When he first went to see the specialist (or #@%& as he so eloquently put it!), he was told he had just seven weeks to live. On his next visit it rose to six months; and on a later visit, 18 months. "I'm going back tomorrow," he told me, "so that I can have three years!"
Sadly, the six month estimate proved the closer of the lot.
But, back to his ambition: Near where he lived there are three pubs down the Portobello Road, and Grahame planned to go in one telling the landlord he only had three months to live; after which he could enjoy a good few "sympathy pints". After three months he'd go to the second pub and tell the landlord he only had three months to live . . . Sadly I don't think he made it to the second pub; but I bet he had a bloody good try.
Finally. I do hope he's made adequate provision for Harvey. I'd hate to think the poor soul is left alone and neglected. He loved that rabbit.
NB: If you have something you'd like to say about Grahame, email it here.
Nicky Check - My friend, Mad Dog Grahame
I first met Grahame around 1994. I was new to the game and Grahame quickly showed me all his good qualities, how to play well, but more important how to use backgammon as a way to meet a wide variety of people, have a laugh and drink loads of alchohol. I quicky learnt from him and thank him.
Over the years Grahame continued to come to tournaments with me, and I was amazed how quickly he took to new people, making friends. I fondly remember the days back at the George in Solihull where the ' Ealing ' crew would be the first at dinner and the last to leave, all drunk, then Grahame would start on the whisky chasers.
He was a great ambassador for the game - running for a long time the Ealing Backgamon Club on Sundays with his 8-man knockout tournaments. Grahame made everyone welcome. A lot of people passed through Ealing in those days.
Grahame faced his illness with a lot of strength and dignity, fighting it to the end. I will miss him, going to tournaments with him, shouting and singing in my car, insulting everyone he could. The sad thing was, he was more together in the last year than ever since I first knew him.
Take care Mad Dog
Chiva K. Tafazzoli
I sadly never had the opportunity to meet Grahame personally, but I sure would have liked to be around such a personality. It is with deep regret and sorrow that I learned about him entering his next life and I wish him to do longer and better there... Any loss of a player is a loss for the backgammon community. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. May he rest in peace now since he was restless in life.
I was very sad to hear of Grahame's passing, in a game full of characters he truly was a one of a kind. Always a tough opponent and great fun to share a drink with. Will miss you Grahame.
I'm very sorry for that. I didn't know Grahame personally but I'm sorry when a Backgammon Players pass away. Please, give to the family my condolance.
The world is a lesser place when it loses one of its mad rabbit lovers. Sorry for your loss, Michael. Sounds like a great funeral.
I have fond memories of Grahame and his colourful character. The first of which, goes way back to 1990 at a Biba event held at the George Hotel (what a great venue that was). I was playing a certain Miss Bett. Grahame got wind of it and said to me 'If you get beat I am going to spread the news to everyone'. A few rolls later I found myself 8-0 down. The pressure was on. Luckily I got out of jail. Over the years we struck up a friendship that can only be described as camaraderie whenever we met. There were never tears, only laughter. Making you laugh was his personal signature on life and this is how I will remember Grahame most of all. I'll miss the tears of laughter.
I got a link to this site and read the fine comments from some of your members about our mutual friend Grahame Powell who recently passed away.
Although I did enter the British Backgammon championships with Grahame sometime in the mid eighties, when we shared a flat together in London, it was not through backgammon that I met him. I met him about 1980 in Greece and from then until about 1988 we were a group who used to spend our summers there. Months on end pissed as farts until we couldn't take it anymore. Then go home around November and dry out for a few months. After that it was back to the "rock" as we referred to the island of Ios, where we spent most of our time. We did play a lot of backgammon there, for example during a period in about 1986 myself and Grahame rented a house together. We took ourselves down to the square every morning where we'd meet up with others for "breakfast"... breakfast consisted of a backgammon session during which we went through the cocktail list... we usually ended up going through it again backwards after doing it from the beginning.
Anyway, some of us have always kept in touch, including Grahame. Although anyone who has ever got a handwritten letter from Grahame will understand how difficult that was :-) The appearance of email made that much easier and just last year we were on our way to having a 25 year anniversary get together, even though it would've been 26 years :-). Because of commitments we couldn't all get together at the same time so nothing became of it.
Four of us booked tickets last month to come and see Grahame next month, August, but we are too late as you know. None of us realised really how bad he was. Although it seems he was fine and then suddenly it all went very quick. Anyway, we have decided to do it anyway. We will be in London, we're coming from Sweden, Germany and Scotland, on the 24th of August until the 27th. We'll meet up with some of Grahame's friends there who we're in contact with and have a little rememberance ceremony for him and celebrate his life... then go on a bender where I imagine we'll all be telling stories of Grahame's escapades... of which there are many :-) Of course everyone who wants to be there is very welcome. Just email me on email@example.com
He's going to be missed.
Christy Confrey, and on behalf of: Andy Towers, Mike Dunz, Mark Donaldson + many many more of Grahame's old travelling mates.
Rosey Bensley (and Slatts)
First of all I would like to say a few words to Grahame from Slatts “ If ya kinny ya kenny ya ken!”. The two of them spent many an hour at my house playing backgammon, saying stupid things to each other, smoking a lot, reminiscing about music, telling jokes and generally being loud and annoying me!! Slatts is in Thailand and cannot be at the funeral but I am sure he will be there in spirit.
I will remember Grahame most fondly for the time we spent in Solihull when playing BG at the George. We went out and had lunch together and consoled each other over the fact that we both had bad ankles, told each other stories about our previous lives and I do believe Grahame managed not to swear once! You see he was just a sweety at heart!
Paul Confrey (added 8 July 2009)
It's nice to be able to say a few words about Grahame.I first met Grahame on Ios in '86 or '87,I met him through my brother Christy Confrey. I really got to know him though when we lived in Cricklewood in London and stayed in touch with him when I moved back to Dublin. He came over a few times to play backgammon here and of course we went on the piss. I loved drinking with Grahame he was one of the funniest blokes I've ever met and if half his stories are true he must of made a lot of enemies, but he did make a lot of friends and I am proud to be one of them. Just to let anybody who knew Christy Confey from Ios or backgammon that Christy died on the 17th Feb this year (2009) so I can imagine what the two of them are getting up to now. May they rest in peace.
I didn't know Sarah or Steve that well. I had met them a few times at Biba events, but for different reasons they have reserved a space in my memory. Sarah's space is one of a fun-loving girl who liked to cause mischief, and one particular memory is of a comment she made during a doubles event - a comment that I can't divulge here . . . . to protect the guilty!
Steve's space is one of disruption and mayhem! As you'll read below in Rebecca's comments, he had a certain reputation and he made my job as TD difficult at times . . . but he also showed great humour and it was difficult to stay mad at him for long. I shall always remember the time he was barred from the Daventry Paramount hotel after being manhandled by staff after a drinking contest between him and a girl . . . Steve lost! Like Grahame Powell above, he spoke his mind and was as daft as him too. He was a one-off . . . thank God!
Now that Steve, Sarah and Grahame are in backgammon heaven the rest of the departed players had better watch out - heaven is about to explode!
I met Sarah Rosich of Bristol and Steve Lynch of Birmingham at a Biba event in Coventry approximately 8 years ago. Steve and Sarah both modestly considered themselves brilliant players and were constantly aggrieved by the fact I was the only one to win a trophy. ( I hope they are reading this, ha ha ).
We remained firm friends until Sarah's sudden death from influenza in December 2007, aged just 40. Steve and I attended her funeral in January of this year and " the Power of 3" as we jokingly called ourselves became "the Power of 2". Steve and I made a pact to rekindle our love of Backgammon in Sarah's memory, it had been a couple of years since any of us made it to a Biba event, mainly due to family and financial commitments. We planned to start after the summer.
Sadly, Steve took his own life in May. Largely an obnoxious and arrogant backgammon player you may remember him either drunk, boasting, sulking or causing disruption, but he was hugely entertaining and under all the male bravado he had a good and caring heart and would move mountains for those he loved. He was also a genius in many ways and by his own admission "slightly magical"! So now all that's left is "the power of 1" and I shall be back at BIBA events later in the year in memory of two very special, unforgettable, people - my Sarah and Steve x
It was Sarah who taught me to play backgammon although she would only admit to it should I win something! Her enthusiasm for the game was very contagious and as such we spent a lot of time together some of the most memorable being the biba competitions especially the Coventry weekends. At Coventry Sarah introduced me to Steve Lynch a highly competitive fun loving man who like Sarah had an edge for being mischievous albeit a little more demonstrative!
I can remember we would always start out with the best intentions of playing to win. Sarah also introduced me to Becca (Rebecca Bell) and as a small group, when not playing backgammon we would eat drink and be merry but mostly drink. Strange how a late night with lots of alcohol can make the very reason for being there seem very unimportant! Alas never winning a trophy (except Becca) we did make in into the biba magazine not in the ratings but more in the anonymous incidents and indiscretions that sometimes occurred made all the more amusing by the over-reaction of some of the more conservative biba members!
I must admit I can’t see a backgammon board without thinking of Sarah. Whenever I think of her I find myself smiling because she was such a unique woman who made people laugh and always great fun to be around. Usually loud and somewhat opinionated a natural extrovert she enjoyed being in the company of people whilst being very gifted at being the center of attention! Sarah gave something of herself to everyone she loved and those who knew her will, I’m sure look back and remember her with fondness whilst feeling a great sense of loss that she’s gone.
(picture courtesy of Mike Main)
Died July 2008
I didn't know Jon that well. He came to a few Biba tournaments and I have to say he was always cheerful and very friendly. I last saw him in January 2008 when he came to Brighton after a long illness. He looked tired and drawn but he was still cheerful and optimistic about entering future events. Sadly, he never returned.
NB: If you have more details on his date of birth and death, please let me know.
I first me Jon about 5 years ago, although we only really got friendly about 3 years ago. Jon was a regular at Biba during that period, and always played the game with a smile on his face. I guess to describe John - he was a young man in his fifties. No one who plays backgammon ever grows up, and he was no exception to the rule. Not a bad player, he was always up for a challenge. He would do anything for his many friends and was a founder member of the Croydon Backgammon Club. Jon was a keen music fan, and was a semi famous rock star in the seventies touring America and taking full advantage of the scene on offer. Last year Jon had major surgery, and never fully regained his strength. He last came to Biba in January and enjoyed seeing all his friends. I last spoke to him at the beginning of the month, and he told me he was looking forward to getting his strength back. Sadly this was not to be.
NB: If you have something you'd like to say about Jon, email it here.
29 June 1965 – 10 April 2009
It was a great big shock to receive the news on Easter Monday from Andy Plater’s sister that he passed away on Easter Friday. I had no idea he had a history of blood clots, and even his own family did not know they were life threatening. The latest one, however, let Old Father Time get hold of him and gave him a massive pulmonary embolism – and at the such early age of 43.
Many of you will be unfamiliar with Andy. He virtually never played any UK tournaments, and unfortunately never graced his presence at a BIBA Tournament. In fact, he only played a handful of Tournaments overseas. His main joy as a player was Online – and many of you may have played him at one time or another using one of his several nicknames – the latest being Hoopi. He was accustomed to playing big stakes. A short while ago he told me how he had just lost £1,000 in a one-point match. He thought he was playing for a hundred, but somehow made a bit of a faux pas!
Despite his relative lack of action in live games, he was one of Britain’s very very best players – right at the top of the tree. His few overseas tournaments resulted in him winning the 2nd Consolation at the 2007 World Championships in Monte Carlo. This was the only British ‘win’ in any of the Main Flights there – to my knowledge – for the last 20 years or more. The first time I met him was at the 2005 World Championships for which he qualified online, and, from memory, he had unsung success by reaching the last 16 – something few brits have ever done. He had more success online than any other player I know of. Last year he qualified online for the prestigious last 16 shoot-out for the WSOB – and courtesy of an admittedly unlucky John Hurst, he reached the last 8. Andy also reached the final of the True Money Games Queens Cup from yet another massive field – this time 1,000s. I don’t think the final was ever played and they split the prize.
I don’t know the full story of his mathematic abilities, but I would think he was something of a maths genius. As far as I can make out though, much that he loved the maths, he found Backgammon far more profitable. He did his degree at Warwick Uni – and went on to Cambridge for his PhD, where he stayed. He did spend a couple of years in the States at Boston and Berkeley, as well as a bit of time in Bordeaux, France. Much that he loved travelling, he’d always return to Cambridge, which he seems to have adored, and was invariably seen punting down the Cam or playing Frisbee on its banks. He was a million miles from just being a maths swat – and read a wide variety of books. Reading and travelling – perhaps the pillars of greatest wisdom.
As a person he was quiet and unassuming. He didn’t drink a lot, and didn’t smoke – so how unfair it is that he died of something lots of us players deserve far more than him. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying, but perhaps he was a little shy. One of my favourite times of the 2007 World Championships was getting him away from all the hubhub down to the beach for a head to head session – the day after he picked up the Consolation. On his own he’d open up and told me a lot of interesting stories. He looked so happy that day in the sun by the sea – a great big beam all over his face – and that’s how I’ll always remember him. What a tragic loss to life and to our game – and of course to his family.
I only met Andy a couple of times and I didn't know him that well. However, I offer my condolences to his family. It's always sad losing a fellow backgammon player, but to lose one so young is a tradegy. I am sure his many friends, especially in Cambridge, will miss him for many years to come.
I first met Andy in the mid 1990s, playing backgammon on FIBS (the First Internet Backgammon Server (www.fibs.com), where he played as andyp. This was back in the days of telnet, and playing backgammon with text, using x and o for the pieces!
I got to know Andy because I had decided it was time to learn how to play backgammon properly, rather than just going on the site and being thrashed consistently, and he was one of the highest rated players on there, and was from the UK. It turns out that we both lived in Cambridge, in fact, and Andy delighted in imparting some of his backgammon tricks, and to teach me how to play. I also learnt that he was single and a university maths academic, but mostly, we talked about backgammon!
Several months later, when my play had improved sufficiently, I decided to go to a BIBA tournament, and I met Andy for the first time “in real life”, on the way. It was my first tournament, and I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing, and very shy of all these people, including the carload of mathematicians who were taking me there. The person who was driving us all there was also from the University, and already knew Andy, but I was really surprised to see the young, scruffy chap waiting by the roadside, who bounced into the car, and immediately started rabbiting in an open and friendly way about this and that and backgammon. I had expected a stereotypical academic, so was delighted, and relaxed immediately.
During that tournament, I discovered that he was gentle, quietly intelligent, but good fun, and also tight with his money! The event was held in a hotel, where the coffee was really expensive, and only supplied in a pot, even if you only wanted one cup. So, Andy just helped himself to people’s leftovers!
I had always known that he was a much better player than me, but only really found out how flamboyant he was as a player, as I got to know him, and as I got to know how to play backgammon. Although he took backgammon very seriously, he seemed to enjoy the money play more than tournament play, not just for the money itself, but because his flamboyant and risky play was perhaps better suited to that medium.
From then on, Andy and I became firm friends, and often met up to go to the cinema, or out to the pub, or out for dinner, and he started asking my advice on things like how to pick up women (being a bit of a maths geek left him rather short of social skills sometimes)! He even asked me to set him up on blind dates! Later on, he moved in and lived as our lodger for a while. When I set up a home page on the internet, he insisted on having a mention in the section about my home and family, as he regarded himself as part of it, and chose a photo of him winning an offline FIBS tournament as a photo to illustrate it!
I kept in touch with Andy after I left Cambridge, and was honoured and pleased that he continued to look to me for support, and to confide in me at times of need. I think he saw me as some kind of a big sister, and he used to phone me up for advice, and sometimes even buy me lunch or dinner in exchange for said advice! So, I think I knew him better than most people, and certainly from a different perspective from his family in recent years. Unlike Mike, I knew exactly what Andy was doing in Cambridge, and how he was spending his time, and his concerns about life, the universe and everything.
Mike is wrong to say that Andy was shy – he most certainly was not. He was confident and lively, with a cheeky sense of fun. Because he took backgammon seriously, both money and tournament play, he sometimes came across as not being sociable when backgammon was involved. However, Andy and I went out drinking, eating or otherwise socialising on many occasions, without any backgammon around, and he was a different person.
I am really glad that I spent time with Andy last time I visited Cambridge, a few weeks ago, as I did most times when I went back, and I shall miss him.
The above photo is one which he used on several websites, because it was one that he liked.
NB: If you have something you'd like to say about Andy, email it here.
1948 – August 2009
Backgammon has lost one of its finest exponents and champions, Walter Trice, who died aged 60 during an afternoon nap. I didn't know him personally but I knew of him through his books and publications, his best known being Backgammon Boot Camp, and his co-written, Can a Fish Taste Twice as Good? with Jake Jacobs.
His books have been constant companions of many backgammon players who have gained enormous insights into the game thanks to his mathematical analysis and unique writing style. He might have passed away, but he was left a legacy that will live on as long as there are backgammon players eager to learn how to improve their game.
Douglas Zare, a personal friend of Walter's, has published a tribute on GammonVillage. You can read it here. If you are not a member of GV, I urge you to become one if only to read Douglas's tributes and Walter's prolific contributions.
NB: If you have something you'd like to say about Walter, email it here.
Hercules Robinson, Baron of Culcreuch
1919 to 21 December, 2009
Herky, as he was affectionately known, had for many years organised backgammon tournaments, together with his wife Bridget. Initially, his tournaments were held on the Isle of Man, where they lived, and he subsequently ventured forth to a variety of European locations. It was Herky who asked Michael Crane to co-direct the European Backgammon Championships many years back when Biba was just starting out, an event from which Michael learned much from his mentor, and will always be grateful for.
He was born in 1919, and had had a good innings, passing away in hospital at the age of 90.
He lived in Southern Rhodesia for some years, returning in 1961 to England, via a two year stint in Monaco. Perhaps this is where he acquired his main desire for backgammon! He had built up his own businesses in Africa and, following an early retirement, inherited from an Aunt an estate in Scotland. He was a first class bridge player, as well as retaining his passion for backgammon. An active man to the end, despite being severely afflicted by jaundice, he was still able to beat his daughter Rose in August of last year!
During World War Two he served with the City of London yeomanry, an armoured regiment, and obtained the rank of Captain, serving in North Africa.
Herky was cremated at Douglas on Thursday 7 January 2010. Herky had acquired many backgammon friends over the years and the world of backgammon was represented at the service by John Broomfield.
I learned a lot about tournament directing at the European Championships after Herky asked me to co-direct it with him. I had only been running Biba a year and it was a great honour to work with him. Over the ten days I was there I learned a lot from Herky and became friends with him and Bridget, sadly, though in recent years we lost touch due to him (and Bridget) moving around quite a bit, and it was only late last year that I (through Martin Barkwill and Gay Roberts) was reacquainted with him for his 90th birthday.
He was a great friend of Robin Clay (see above) and I first met them both at a tournament run by the NBPS whereat Herky and Robin were going around collecting names and address of entrants, much to the annoyance of Director, Haig Kessedjian, who later barred them from his future tournaments. This back-fired for Robin and Herky became Biba members and loyal supporters of Biba!
He and Bridget were a super couple and I offer my deepest condolences to her. No doubt he and Robin (and perhaps others from this web page) will be playing backgammon - he won't be alone, wherever he is.
Very sorry to hear of Herky's death; I remember him well from the Isle of Man tournaments in the late 80s and early 90s - always had a soft spot for them because you were guaranteed lots of kippers for breakfast!!
NB: If you have something you'd like to say about Herky, or if you have any photos of him (no matter what age) email it here.
August 2010 aged 72
It is with great sadness that I report that Arthur died recently of liver cancer, twelve years after an apparently successful treatment of colon cancer in 1998. He, and his wife, Judith, joined Biba in October 1992, and attended many tournaments (but never as many as they'd have liked, Judith told me), a result of which was him winning the 2004, Sandy Osborne Trophy. The above photo is of him with his winner's trophy.
His last tournament was another Sandy Osborne, the 2009 event in which he was knocked out in the semi-final by Peter Bennet. More recently he had been studying poker and was planning to enter the Biba Poker Grand Prix on his next visit - sadly, this never happened.
I shall always remember him as a cheerful man, never any trouble at tournaments, and, if anyone had to wait a long time for their next match, it was always Arthur! It happened so frequently that I often wondered if he'd pack it all in and not bother - but he kept coming back.
His son, John, is also a backgammon player, and I hope one day he follows his dad and adds another Musgrove to the Sandy Osborne annals.
I first met Arthur several years ago, soon after starting my B/G Club in Herne Bay. He won the first two Chritmas Tournaments I held there. He and his wife Judith always added a touch of class to my modest club. He was a gentleman and a lovely man.
NB: If you have something you'd like to say about Arthur, email it here.
15 October, 1934
Ken took up backgammon after wanting a bit more excitement than chess was giving him. He and I were original members of the National Backgammon Players Society of Gt. Britain, and we both, on several occasions, travelled to Morecambe for its annual championship. I remember one particular year when Ken and his son, Nic, both entered and were drawn to play each other in the first round! Ken wasn't a happy bunny!
Ken joined Biba in April, 1990, at our first ever event (in which he came 14th) and for many years he was a loyal supporter. He was also a regular at the Lincoln Backgammon Club during which time he lived in Horncastle in a suite of rooms over his antique shop. We had many a tournament above 'the shop' where Ken (and his wife Peggy) wined and dined us and kept us entertained. I remember on one occasion when Ken made us all laugh as he sat by his landing window and dropped a fishing line into the river that ran behind his shop.
This was a typical 'Ken' thing. He was always making us laugh - and he laughed the loudest. One of his funniest moments came when we were playing at the Liberal Club in Lincoln. Ken had had a hip replacement a week or two previous and, as the night drew on he told us, glancing at his wristwatch "I'll have to get off now, Peggy is picking me up." With that he gets onto his crutches and we could hear him clacking down the wooden stairs one-by-one to the street below. Ten minutes later we hear the same laboured clacking as Ken ascended the stairs. As he got to the top he looked at us and said, "I forgot to put my watch back!"
I didn't always get on with with Ken, he could be very annoying at times and was a bugger for trying to catch his opponents out on a premature roll by reaching for his dice and then stopping just as they rolled theirs. But, I liked him, and when he left Horncastle and moved to Grantham we (all) lost touch . . . until the text last week from his son, Nic.
But, Ken Staines lives on with his 'Staine's Rule' (see here); with his nickname, 'Stacker Staines' for his trait of stacking checkers 8 and 9 high on a point; and for his oft remarked, "Punish to the max."
As one of life's eccentrics I think Ken had tremendous charm. Even though at times he tried to indulge in childlike petty gamesmanship, this eccentricity never made me really annoyed at him.
He and his wife were also tremendous hosts. Twice in the 90s he invited the Sidcup mafia and me for a fantastic chouette weekend. The second time, when he had the antique shop in Horncastle, we had power cuts. Not to be daunted Ken went into the shop and brought back a regency table candleholder. We all thought this was marvelous fun but Ken's board was almost ruined by the wax stains next day.
I say ruined but in fact Ken added it to his collection of annoying backgammon boards he took to tournaments insisting that they be played on. The worst of these was some cheap plastic/magnetic board about 2.5" square where each player needed an additional magnifying glass and tweezers to play. But it was in accordance with the rules [at the time]. LOL. Good old Ken.
NB: If you have something you'd like to say about Ken, email it here.
19 October, 2012
No flowers. Donations please for the Roy Castle Appeal
This is from the memorial service at the church. Just as we began watching a video
featuring photos and Angies's favourite music the sun shone through the stained glass window.
She was smiling at us.
It is with great sadness I have to report the passing of Angie Dell after a short battle against cancer. At the moment I don't have any details regarding the funeral but when I have any I shall post them here for those who knew her.
Our thoughts and condoloences go out to her husband, Carl.
They gave us directions to their house (they lived just past Penny Lane in those days) and we arrived some time later in their road but unable to remember the number of their house (I had forgotten to write it down; duh!). So, I parked at the kerbside and called them on my mobile asking, "What number do they live at?" They replied, "The one you're parked outside!". We looked to our left and there they both were laughing and waving from the front window.
This set the tone for the next two days and nights; laughter and smiling. I honestly can't remember a time when she wasn't smiling or laughing; not just that weekend, but each time we met her it was the same. And this is how I shall always remember her.
Wherever she might be now, you can be certain she's smiling; and the next time I look into the sky and the sun is beaming down on me, I'll just tell myself it's Angie doing what she's always done - smiling.
My thoughts go out to Carl and the rest of Angie's family at this very sad time. Angie will be missed not only in backgammon circles, but by anyone who knew her.
NB: If you have something you'd like to say about Angie, email it here.
Photo via Michael Maley . . . taken about 20 years ago!
23 January, 1938
15 November, 2013
Bob Parmley was one of the first members of Biba; #32, he joined in January 1990 and in February of the same year he entered our first ever tournament, The Jarvis Trophy.
In the last round of the Swiss format event he met Jimmi Wong and it was down to Bob to stop Jimmi in his tracks and in doing so, become the first Champion. He went into a 10-0, Crawford; Jimmi fought back but Bob eventually won 11-7 and shot into the backgammon history books. Alas, this was Bob's only Biba Main victory, but an important one; the one that got it all started.
He was a Founder member of the Wansbeck Backgammon Club and he organised and ran several tournaments over the years, some staged at some of the bleakest yet most beautiful locations.
He will be missed by all those that knew him and played against him. He'll be remembered for his sought-after boards; but most of all he'll be missed by all of us lucky enough to call him, friend.
Rest in peace, Bob.
Saddened by the news of Bob's passing but he had a few tough years and the last few months were not good. But he was the best friend I will ever have and will never forget him and as he always said, he won the first ever BIBA ranking tounament in early 1990, a proud and happy moment indeed.
Please send you tributes to firstname.lastname@example.org and I shall reproduce them here.
1945 - 30 December, 2013
John was a very modest person, quietly intellectual and loved reading and doing The Times crossword. Perhaps it was quite fitting that he passed away after dinner on the sofa at his home with a book of Diamonds Are Forever on his lap. His Diamond was Helen and they were together for 50 years and my thoughts and condolences along with other Biba members who remember John are sent to Helen, Rob and Shirley.
I do remember he showed a lot of enthusiasm for the game and was very comptitive, especially within the family membership; and this is borne out by his higher ranking than his family.
Despite the long time its been since I last saw him I shall always remember his cheery smile, his bearded face split by it and a twinkle in his kindly eyes.
He will be missed by all that remember him.
image courtesy of David Startin
1 December, 1953
3 June, 2014
She was diagnosed only three months ago with a particularly virulent cancer. I played backgammon with her a few times after the diagnosis, and she was in her usual good form.
She died this morning surrounded by her family. The funeral arrangements have not been made yet, but will probably be on Friday, 6 June, 2014.
It is with great sadness I report the loss of another well known and well liked backgammon player. Liz Perry. Liz has been a Biba member for many years and although she came across from Eire a couple of times she was best known for her entries (and co-directing) in the Irish Open.
One of her modest successes was the Ashford Trophy, at the Wicklow Backgammon Championship in 2007. This report is from the Wicklow People
Shark trophy up for grabs in Ashford
It was a case 'Girl Power' reigning supreme at the Wicklow Backgammon Championship as Liz Perry left the Ashford House proudly clutching the Shark Trophy. Liz may have been the only female entry out of 20 different players but the Dubliner didn't let that put her off her play.
Five of the top ten players in the country made it to Ashford on Saturday for the start of the day long championships while backgammon experts also flew in specially from England. Proceedings got underway at 12 noon and continued on until 8.30 p.m. when Liz was finally declared the overall winner.
This photo is from Peter Bennet and was taken at the 2013 Irish Open, Main semi-fialists
The caption is from Brendan . . .
Brian Lever, Rob Perry, Liz Perry, (no relation), Peter Bennet (no relation either)
Saddened by the news of Liz Perry's passing. She was a friendly, gentle person, and made me feel welcome when we met up in Dublin. It was always a pleasure to be in her company. I shall miss her.
If you have any images of Liz please email them to me.
30 June, 1950 - 29 July, 2014
I was shocked to hear the news of Bill's death. I got a message from his brother, Bob, telling me he'd been badly injured in a paragliding accident and had passed away. At first, because I didn't recognise the mobile number I hoped it was a hoax - sadly it wasn't.
Not many of you will know Bill, it was his brother, Bob, who came to Biba tournaments on a regular basis with Bill only attending the odd occasion. One of Bill's 'odd' occasions was the 2008 Bright 'n' Breezy during which he beat the 2006 World Champions, Philip Vischjager, a feat he was immensely pleased with.
It wasn't until I attended his funeral that I learned how little I knew about Bill other than he'd played backgammon. He seemed a quiet, calm man, always keeping his cool and never getting irate or annoyed. With hindsight I put that down to his SAS training!
Yes. that's correct, Bill was ex-SAS (and current SAS Reservist). But that's not all, he loved extreme sports and loved paragliding, water kite skiing and cycling to name but a few of his non-backgammon pursuits. A veteran of 97 parachute jumps (he was an instructor) he sought that adrenaline rush that only the exhilaration of life in the fast lane can supply.
When I mentioned 'cycling' don't get the idea he pedalled around town to and from work - not Bill. He spent 14 months cycling from from Perth, Scotland, to Perth, Australia, to raise cash for a Wessex Heartbeat campaign, cycling through 14 countries (at least one of them 'undercover' SAS style!) raising £14,000 on the way!
Sadly it was his love of paragliding that ended a life of excitement and adventure. On the morning of 29 July, 2014, at Combe Gibbet in Hungerford, Berkshire, Bill lost control of his paraglider when a gust of wind got caught in the wing of his craft and crashed to the ground. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
At his funeral he had an SAS Guard of Honour of many past and a few present comrades all of whom stood to attention as the hearse crawled by. To a man all looked straight ahead and remained doing so for a good 10 minutes before being ordered to stand down. It was a very emotional scene. The crematorium was so full that even with people standing either side the SAS contingent, being the last to enter, had to stand out in the entrance. At the reception later we (Sharen and I) learned we weren't the only ones to discover Bill's hidden depths. Almost everyone we spoke to said they never knew this or that about him. So, my first comments describing Bill were correct - he didn't boast or brag about what he'd done or where he'd been. He just got on and did it.
On 29 July, Bob Young lost a brother; on the same day a lot of people lost a friend and colleague; and the world lost a man who didn't just live life, he grasped it with both hands and wrung out a life of adventure and excitement - the like of which only a few of us get to experience.
As one of his Commanding Officers put it: He was never destined to suffer old age and dependency upon others, he died doing what he loved best - Living.
Michael Crane: I first met Don and Jean Hatt at the Isle of Man European Backgammon Championships in 1990 where we we’re joint Tournament Directors; and from that moment on we struck up a friendship that's lasted to this day. Don joined Biba in July, 1990 and he persuaded Jean to join - which she did in June, 1992. They attended a few tournaments (at least one with Grandson, James) but success eluded each of them in the trophy department but they enjoyed themselves nonetheless. In later years 'old age' as Don told me, caught up with them both and they travelled less and less to tournaments. Sadly Jean died last year.
Here's a brief clip from his eulogy :-
During their time in Guernsey and the Isle of Man they would regularly look after their grand children James, Angela and Daniel, during the school holidays. All three have many fond memories of playing cards and backgammon. He was a kind, loving grandfather and was loved dearly by all of them.
image courtesy of David Startin
25 November, 1949
26 January, 2015
Michael Crane: It is with personal sadness I have to report the passing of Mick Vacarey. I don't have many details at the moment but will update them as and when they become available.
Mick has been a frequent supporter of Biba events and over the years he's stood out as a bit of a character among many backgammon characters. He wasn't the best backgammon player in the world but he was one of the most dreaded of opponents! His checker-play was flamboyant (to put it mildly) and when it paid off for him, it paid off big-time. Only recently in Brighton, whilst playing against Jon Barnes, Mick made one of his 'flamboyant' moves - backwards from Jon's home board into his own home board! It made Jon smile; and that's what Mick could do. Surprise you and made you smile, albeit wryly.
He joined Biba in January 2004 and over the years he managed to win a few events, 3-pointer (which was were in inevitably ended up most events!): English Open 2009 and British Open 2011; but his most ‘famous’ was the Last Chance in the 2013 British Doubles when his team-mate, Sharen Crane, actually walked away from the board after one of Mick’s more flamboyant plays convinced they’d lost . . . and Mick turned it around to everyone’s surprise but his own!
Once a London bus driver, he moved to the Isle of Wight upon taking early retirement and he's often entertained me and a few others with his stories about his boat around the island - one of the funniest being the time he hit a sandbank and his boat was stranded there until the next tide. Mick saw this as brilliant opportunity to stock up on beer for the long wait and waded ashore to the nearest off licence returning with a dozen or so cans to see him through to being re-floated.
I shall miss him at tournaments and I'm pleased that I last saw him mid-January . . . and at a time, ironically, that he looked better than he had for a long time.
Cheers, Mick - and I mean that in whatever sense you want to take it in. ;-)
Sean Thomas: I never got to play Mick, but I watched him play Jon Barnes when he played his move in reverse from the 24 point straight to his 2 point. It was a great game as Mick was absolutely drunk and yet he still had Jon sweating as he had some of the luckiest dice. Unfortunately he was too far gone to know what to do with them. RIP Mick, a great Character that loved the game!
Sharen Crane: Reluctantly I agreed to play doubles with Mick in the 2013 BIBA Doubles Tournament. The more Mick drank the more cavalier he became and the more frustrated I became. In the end I was quite pleased he was so cavalier as we went on to win a trophy. That tournament taught me that I am more competitive than I originally thought and that my heart could not stand to play in another doubles tournament with Mick as my partner! RIP
Wayne Felton: I remember him topping up his pint of lager with his inadequately concealed bottle of scotch on numerous occasions. I recall a story where,adequately refreshed one evening, he fell asleep next to a backgammon board. An enterprising player sat in front of Mick placing 2 checkers on the bar against a closed home board and the cube on 2 and woke Mick up claiming they were in the middle of a cash game. Mick apparently apologised for falling asleep and carried on playing. RIP.
Al Hogg: I first met Mick in 1989/1990 long before either of us entered planet backgammon. At the time he was a systems tester for British Telecom, a coveted position to have. I also worked as an IT analyst at the time and much of our early friendship was spent swapping notes about mainframe platforms and packages and so on. Before long (a euphemism for immediately), we played backgammon, a game that in those days went very well with Mick's waistcoat and cigars as opposed to my denims and Marlbros. Because of his sartorial flamboyance and maverick personality over the board, people would watch us play in the Jolly Butchers (as was in Stoke Newington) and tell me he was 'the guvnor' and that I shouldn't play him. Yeah, he used to kick my butt for 50p a point when 50p was worth something, but that misses the point. He was a great character and made backgammon a joy with his ability to win and lose with near equal attitude.
Colin Owen: Mick was never in the best of health, so it wasn't really a surprise to me to learn he is gone - but I nonetheless feel gutted about it. Mick was one of my favourite characters in the game, and someone I had a lot of time for. For one thing, if players shook, or tossed their dice like he did, the baffle boxes would stay at home. I shall certainly miss him. Adios, Mr Vacarey.
Rosey Bensley: That is sad to hear if not totally unexpected. He lived his life not caring about what people thought of him and gave me many a good laugh when playing poker in particular. He was always polite and loved his backgammon. Condolences to his family. RIP
Raj Jansari: Heard the sad news that Mick Vacarey, an old friend and beloved member of the British backgammon scene, has passed away. Mick was a wonderful, jolly character most often seen with dice in one hand and a drink in the other. You will be missed my friend.
Julia Hayward: Very sad. I played against him a couple of times at BIBA and quite a few times online at PartyPoker; he was great fun to have as an opponent. Certainly a very colourful character.
John Hedge: That's sad news. He was always an interesting character at BIBA. Both at the backgammon and poker table. RIP
Jon Barnes: Mick was one of BIBA's great characters and I am saddened at his passing. His beer and whisky chasers by the BG board was one of the iconic images of BIBA tournaments over many years. I can honestly say the last match I had with him was one of the most entertaining and funniest BG experiences of my life! I will miss him.
Engin Ongel: Mick was a wonderful great character. I am deeply saddened at his sudden passing away. Mr Vacarey will be grossly missed in the world of backgammon. I would like to express my deepest condolences to his family.
Mike Heard: Extremely sad news. We have lost one of the greatest characters in our game - perhaps THE greatest character - in his own unique way. Sadly, I did not take take the time to talk with him about his past life - but I am sure he had a myriad of interesting stories to tell. Not quite sure how he got through a match sometimes - let alone win them - but he did! Rest in peace, Mick
Chris Ternel: You will be sadly missed Mick, always a character with a laid back attitude and good fun over the board and elsewhere
Stewart Pemberton: Very sad to hear this. I played Mick at my very first BIBA tournament. It could also have been my last as my confidence was shot after Mick soundly beat me while taking frequent breaks to refresh his pint, fell asleep over the board at the end of the match, then came to find me later to ask who had won. (I told the truth.) A real character who was always fun to play. RIP Mick.
Myke Wignall: I played Mick at backgammon & Poker.He was a pain in the Arse but fun,entertaining and above all a complete gentleman.
Simon Morecroft: This is very sad news. Mick was a great character and always enormously entertaining over a backgammon board. His appetite for backgammon was equalled by his taste for beer and whisky, (one followed the other, etc.) and he was one of the few players I know whose play seemed to improve with a few drinks inside him. His presence at UK tournaments and his acerbic wit will be missed.
Anthony Fawcett: Very sad news indeed, Mick was not every ones cup of tea but mostly always turning up like the proverbial penny but none the less a great character and avid backgammon player that will be missed by many.
Danny Cohen: A very pleasant guy who never lost his Liverpudlian roots or accent. I wish to send my sincere condolences to his family and those close to him.
Ann Pocknell: Very sad and shocking news. Mick was a very kind man with an endless supply of entertaining stories. I'll miss him.
Neil Davidson: Mick came to Zakynthos several times. He was a character and an unforgettable , lovely man. RIP Mick.
Darryl Kirk: Very sad to hear about Mick. I managed to play Mick on several occasions and enjoyed each and every game. A very colourful and flamboyant player.
David McNamara a.k.a Cracker: I am saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Mick Vacarey. He was one of backgammon's unique characters. He was a great supporter of the Irish Open, and I understand Dublin and Blackpool were top of his itinerary for this year. He will be missed, but not forgotten, on both sides of the Irish sea.
Image courtesy of Manchester Backgammon Club
Thanks to John Wright for sending in this from the Bolton News
Published in the The Bolton News on 10 February 15
Alan Greenwood passed away peacefully after much suffering bravely borne on 7th February 2015 aged 83 years. A proud postman for over 40 years. Reunited with late wife Doreen. Loving father of Paul, dearly loved granddad of Katie, dear friend to Carly, Leanne, Nikki and Michelle. A special thanks to all the Rossi family.
Funeral service and committal will take place on Thursday 19th February 2015 at 11:30am in Overdale Crematorium, West Chapel. Family flowers only please donations in memory if desired to Cancer Research UK. (Please note, all cheque donations accepted no cash.) All Enquiries and cheque donations to Shaw and Son Funeral Directors, The Old Parsonage, 20 Park Street, Bolton, BL1 4BD Tel: 01204 526218.
Michael Crane: I didn't know Alan that well, he joined Biba in December 1993 and played in the occasional tournament; however his most frequent appearances over the years were Liverpool and Manchester - mainly Manchester where he is mentioned 'in despatches' frequently.
Image courtesy of Manchester Backgammon Club
He won the 1-pointer in the Manchester One-Day in 2006, beating Ian Shimwell in the Final.
David Startin: I am sorry to hear this news. Alan was the first player that I ever played against at a BIBA tournament. I think it was the only time that I played against him, but it was clear how much he enjoyed playing backgammon. After I won the match 11-10, Alan did not bemoan his luck. He said it had been a good match and that he had enjoyed it. He was a gentleman.
1926 - 9 March 2015
Brian passed away peacefully on 9th March 2015 in the MacMillan Unit at Christchurch Hospital, aged 89. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends.
A short celebration of Brian’s life will be held at Bournemouth Crematorium, Strouden Avenue, Bournemouth, BH8 9HX, at 1.15pm on Monday, 23rd March. All those who knew him are very welcome to attend. As you might expect, the dress code is strictly informal.
No flowers please, but any donations to the Birthmark Support Trust would be greatly appreciated. These may be made through George Scott Funeral Services, 258 Charminster Road, Bournemouth BH8 9RR, on the day, or via https://www.justgiving.com/4w350m3/donation/direct/charity/141465#MessageAndAmount
Michael Crane: I only met Brian at Biba tournaments and they were mostly, if not exclusively, in Brighton. He won the 2002 Bright 'n' Breezy after beating Dod Davies in the Final - his reward was a kiss from Julie Mooring. I remember him being a very generous man and at one of the events he entered he kindly gave me one of his original paintings. Latterly he hasn't been playing in Brighton - yet fellow players still ask after him. I and many more will miss him.
Andy Darby: I met Brian in my first year playing backgammon (I think it was 2001) and through conversation at a BIBA event, we realised we lived around the corner from each other in Bournemouth. Each week I would go around to play Brian in his Art Studio and over time he became more than a playing partner but a good friend. His lovely wife Carol was always accommodating and would always provide a nice cuppa and slice of cake. Brian wasn't only great at Backgammon. He was an amazing artist, short story writer and had an incredible mind and imagination. I enjoyed my conversations with Brian immensely and looked forward to them each week. We discussed everything from architecture to the universe and he always took an active interest in how my two boys were doing. As time went on I stopped playing Brian at backgammon and I would just visit for a chat and coffee.
I'll always remember Brian as a true gentleman with a warm heart, integrity and a great mind. He would often say that life is like a game of backgammon. Some times you're ahead and sometimes you're behind. You never know when it will turn and you can never be sure the decisions you make are right. But if you make enough right moves with the best of intentions you will never be disappointed. Whenever he wasn't sure about a decision he would say 'Probably best!' and make his move. Brian you were far from 'Probably best', you were the best. It was an absolute honour to have known you.
Rosey Bensley: When I got the news that Brian had passed on it brought back some lovely memories. He was a regular visitor to my house at Maidenhead, he came to play backgammon with Slatts. They played long matches over many hours whilst I looked on and tried to learn but failed. My job was to keep them fed and watered and Brian was a delightful guest. He never complained about my limited menu and always ate everything on his plate.
The thing that I remember most is that every time Brian stayed over he always managed to leave something behind. I would phone him the next day to let him know and after the 4th time he said "Rosey, you must have realised that I leave something on purpose, I then know I will have to come back again." He was welcome anytime.
The backgammon world has lost a true gentleman and I have lost a dear friend RIP Brian.
image courtesy of Alex MacCalman (daughter)
12 October, 1938 - 7 June, 2015
Chris Bray: Barry was a backgammon and golf friend for over 35 years and was a very well known figure on the UK and European backgammon circuits. For many years we travelled to backgammon tournaments together and nearly always found time for a round or two of golf as well.
In Danny Kleinman's books Barry Bigplay is one of his cast of fictitious characters. As Barry epitomised BB in real life he quickly took on that name in our London chouettes and that is why BB figures in my own writings.
The pinnacle of his career was winning the 1989 European Open in Deauville.
Barry was a true gentleman over the board. Whether winning or losing large sums of money he would remain phlegmatic and the largest reaction you were likely to get from him was a raised eyebrow.
In the real world BB is no more but he will continue to play on in my chouette until I stop writing. I will miss him. RIP old friend.
Chris Ternel: We all liked Barry, he was an extremely well mannered and fun person to be with. Interesting and enigmatic, he had some great stories. The backgammon world will miss him. My condolences to his family and friends.
image courtesy of Alex MacCalman (daughter)
3 August, 1946 - 24 December, 2015
It is with much sadness I am reporting that Robbie Richards died on Christmas Eve at the Royal London Hospital. He had bravely borne some months of illness and operations but it was thought he was finally rallying. However he didn’t recover from a heart attack in mid-December.
Robbie and Carol (his wife) owned and ran the Fox Reformed Wine Bar for 35 years. In its heyday, the Fox hosted one of the strongest backgammon clubs in the country. It held regular Monday night tournaments and a hotly contested annual ladder. Large groups of Fox players regularly attended UK and international tournaments.
Not a grandmaster himself, Robbie was a great promoter of backgammon. I am one of many to whom the Fox introduced the game and its many weird and wonderful players and friends including Dod (my husband).
I worked at the Fox for and with Robbie and Carol for nearly 10 years off and on. They remained great friends after I moved permanently to the other side of the bar. He was a local character. I always found him an excellent host, however he did have his opinions and he sometimes failed to tolerate fools. His mind was always on the go, he was full of plans and ideas. But my overriding memory is of his sense of mischief and fun. He was a gentleman and a hoot. I will miss him greatly.
The Fox finally closed it doors for good in February of last year. That was sad enough. Our thoughts now are with Carol, and their children, Alice and Jack.
I only met Robbie a few times, and then it was mostly at the Fox. He and Carol (and a load of backgammon players including Jo and Dod) made Sharen and I very welcome following a successful Mind Sports Olympiad. On the same evening, Mick Vacarey, was also present and it's very likely that wherever they are now they'll be swapping stories and playing backgammon - no thing changes. :-)
Died 25 August, 2016 aged 87
He also played in a few national tournaments, famously becoming the first ever winner of the BIBA Bright 'n Breezy in 1998, at the age of 68. Around '95 or '96 he won the NBPS British Open; I remember him bringing the trophy along to the Double Fives club. Willy often used to ring me with backgammon positions, and I have to say that, despite his very much greater age, he both amazed and shamed me with how much more intellectually curious he was. He was also intellectually able of course, and was a top amateur chess player, once defeating Russian Grandmaster Gennady Tunik in an official tournament game, when aged 65 or 66; his opponent was 24 years younger, and also had the advantage of the white pieces. In the last three years of his life our paths didn't cross very much, but I rang him in late May, and was surprised that his mind was as sharp as ever. He enthused about his monthly sessions at the Clapton Hart, which had become his only playing venue.
When we held a surprise 80th birthday party for Willy seven years ago, there was no shortage of people at the restaurant; there were perhaps 30 who came along, mostly the backgammon crowd. This, of course, reflected the love and esteem people had for him. In his later years he could be a bit irascible, and a few times players had to talk him out of a very premature resignation, not always successfully! This was usually over some perceived irregularity rather than the rolling. We put it down to his advancing years, and nobody needed the apologies he nearly always gave, when he'd had a day or two to think about it.
Helen Helm-Sagar, who won the Brighton event three years after Willy, doubtless knew him best of the backgammon crowd, going out of her way to give him lifts to the Tollgate PH and other places, when he became too old to drive. Less than a week on, she is still coming to terms with his loss, but wrote:
'He was an old fashioned gentleman in the very best sense of the word, kind, generous and had a strong loyalty to his friends. He had a puckish sense of humour and was a mischief maker in the nicest possible way.'
He will be sadly missed by many.
I didn't know Willy all that well. He only entered the Bright 'n' Breezy events and his Biba claim to fame is he was its first ever winner in 1998 after beating Brian Busfield in the Final. What I do remember about is how quiet and courteous he was.
Died September 2016
Image: Roy Hollands Trophy - September 2000
I have just heard of the death of Ralph Eskinazi. I apologise for the delay in posting this.
Ralph joined Biba in March 1993 and was a regular entrant in many Biba tournaments. His two Main victories came four and five years later when he won the 1997 County Cups and 1998 SAC.
Always a gentleman, Ralph was the perfect player from a TD's point of view. Always bright and cheery and never a problem.
Latterly he stopped attending Biba tournaments but still managed to get to a few Liverpool and Manchester tournaments, with Liverpool 2016 being his last appearance.
What I shall always remember is his voice. Whenever he addressed me as 'Michael' he sounded like he was singing. It's hard to explain but I can hear him now as if he was here with me.
He will be missed by many.
Died 25 January, 2017 Aged 73
Ernie died suddenly at the end of January. He was a backgammon player of some considerable merit and once met, never forgotten.
As a TD I never knew how to handle Ernie. One minute he is cracking jokes and making everyone laugh and the next he's insulting his opponent and swearing like a trooper telling me, "I'm not playing him." Unpredictable isn't the word!
But, he was also a very generous man and I, Sharen and many others were welcomed to his home for a weekend's backgammon and he and his wife, Irene, and doughier Frankie, were excellent hosts.
Backgammon was a big part of his life and he starred in his very one TV programme, Ernie's Game in which he is followed around by a camera crew as he plays in chouettes and tournaments. He was very entertaining and very funny and he appears exactly how he lived - as himself.
Playing with John (Slatts) Slattery, October 2004
Sadly Ernie and I fell out a few years back and he stopped playing in Biba tournaments. Despite his sometimes abrasive behaviour he will be missed by many ... including me; for I remember the times he made me laugh - and there were many.
This image is from the 2006 British Open
22 March 1966
20 January 2018
It is with great sadness I report the loss of Nigel Merrigan. He wrote a very touching tribute to his long term friend, Grahame Powell (above). Grahame died aged just fifty and now, just one year older, we lose Nigel.
Nigel joined Biba during its early days in February 1993. Weeks later on the 2nd of April he became the second winner of the British Open and is one of the two players to win it twice, the second time in 2006 (one year after Rachel Rhodes)
Not only was he an excellent player he was a brilliant analyst writing many papers and articles on backgammon. His 'A Question Of Simplification Versus Accuracy' was typical of his style. "After some serious math, a few trees worth of paper and a bowl of cornflakes, I managed to achieve 74.3 without spilling any milk. However, I needed more data before I could breakout the Kellog's again." He often tempered serious subjects with humour. This can be seen here http://www.bkgm.com/articles/Merrigan/Simplification/
Although this was published in July 2000, Nigel, along with David Wallbank, devised and published in Babafax 36 a formula which formed the basis of the 2000 article.
Backgammon hasn't just lost a great player, it's also lost a fantastic analyst and tactician.
Backgammon has lost one of its biggest personalities. In fact, it's my opinion that Paul was the greatest player of all time. His influence is far reaching and literally tens of thousands of players worldwide know who he is and hold him in high esteem.