Poker has always been an integral part of the Cotswolds event and this time the first of 3 Texas Holdíem tournaments was played after dinner on Friday night. Almost 5 hours of play finally produced a winner from the 21 starters in the form of Jay (sorry, I never got your surname!), the partner of Leanne Myers who was present for the intermediate backgammon.
The intermediate backgammon tournament, newly introduced this year, attracted 9 players who were organised in a round-robin tournament of 8 x 7pt matches each during the course of the weekend.
It was pleasing that all contestants completed their schedule, everyone tasted victory at least twice, and Alison Lee (6 wins) came through as Intermediate Champ, with Liz Barker (who also had 6 wins but who lost her encounter with Alison) taking runner up spot.
Jo Curl made a gallant effort to catch them on the last day but a loss in her final match with Paul Myers left her in third place on 5 wins from 8 matches.
Saturday morning saw attention switch to the main event, and proceedings kicked off with an auction of 6 groups of players conducted in his inimitable anti-style by master auctioneer Dod Davies, who raised the tidy sum of £530.
The draw for the usual best of three 7pt match main flight threw up a number of intriguing encounters: John Slattery was paired with Brian Lever (Slatts came through only to encounter Julian Fetterlein in round two!); John Broomfield with Martin Barkwill (MrBarkers prevailing) and Mike Heard played Chris Ternel (Chris taking the honours).
Other high-profile first round casualties included Peter Bennet (who succumbed to Roland Herrera), last yearís Consolation winner Mike Greenleaf (who lost to Mardi Ohannessian), and 2003 Cotswold Champ Tony Lee (who missed out to Ian Tarr).
The starred match in the second round was that between 2004 Cotswold champ John Slattery and the man who succeeded him to the title, Julian Fetterlein. Julian emerged the winner and went on to face Stuart Mann, another redoubtable opponent, in the quarter-finals. The full line-up read:
Fetterlein v Mann
Martin Barkwill v David Fall
John Hurst v Dod Davies
Myke Wignall v Ian Tarr
The last-named player in each bracket prevailed, and by Sunday lunchtime we were ready for the semi-finals between Stuart Mann and Dave Fall, and Dod Davies and Ian Tarr. I managed to catch a crucial position in the deciding match of the Fetterlein-Mann encounter. Stuart (playing black) was leading 4-2 in the match to 7 and was holding a 2-cube when he managed to get ahead in the bear-off and was looking at a re-cube to 4 that could win him the match.
Stuart had borne two more men off than Julian, had nearly a 25% pip lead and was on roll, but given that he had a dangerous gap on his 4-point and that he might be putting the match on the line with a recube when he could quietly play on for 6-2 crawford ahead, did he have enough of an advantage to turn the cube?
Stuart thought that he did, and most onlookers seemed to agree. The question was over whether Julian should take. After thinking long and hard Julian took the cube and Stuart rolled a middling 5-2, taking 2 men off.
Julian recubed to 8, Stuart took and then saw Julian roll 3-3, taking 4 men off the 3-point.
Despite this scare, Stuart rolled out to win the game and the match.
The subsequent analysis revealed that Stuart found an excellent cube here, giving Julian a very tough decision which, according to Snowie, he got wrong. Despite Stuartís nasty-looking gap, Julianís winning chances were only 13.8% in this game against the 15.7% he needed to justify the take.
Saturday night is Poker night, and this year the main event was a £20 re-buy Texas holdíem no limit tournament.
The early stages were characterised by frantic betting, raising and re-buying on one of the three tables, resulting in a huge pot, bigger than any played for before in a backgammon-related poker event.
At the freeze-out Andy Hemming (brother of your correspondent) had amassed a gigantic chip-pile and many thought he had the tournament in the bag.
Some who had played Andy before, however, were glad all the chips were in a place where they were readily accessible, and one even laid evens that he would not reach the final table. That bet was lost as Andy made the last 8 with as many chips as his 7 rivals combined.
Andy was disappointed to finish in 4th place, although he did take £100 with him as a deal was struck to pay the last six left in the tournament. Andyís exit left Jo Curl with a short stack against Mr and Mrs Lee, a formidable prospect which was averted by the striking of another deal, which left Tony as the 2006 Cotswold Poker Champion and Alison as runner-up.
On Sunday morning the progressive Consolation flight of single 11-point matches began to take shape, and the Last Chance (taking the form of an open 32-draw with one re-buy per player) commenced.
John Gilbertson lost to Mike Heard in the second round and eventually, after initially thinking he might head for home, decided to re-buy. He was glad he did, as he managed to get past Fanika Petkovska, Myke Wignall, Chris Ternel and Roland Herrera to reach the final. Waiting for him was Simonetta Herrera, who had come past Tony Lee, Richard Stevenson, Rosey Bensley and Mike Heard. Simo got to the final first, and with 2 in the last 3 the Herreras apparently negotiated a good deal on the £640 consolation pool. However it was John Gilbertson who took the Cotswold Last Chance winnerís title.
The quality of the 4th Cotswold field was apparent from the quarter-final line-up in the Consolation which, after the losing main semi-finalists joined, read as follows:
Andrew Sarjeant v Peter Bennet
John Slattery v Mardi Ohannessian
Julian Fetterlein v John Hurst
Dave Fall v Dod Davies
Peter beat Andrew, Slatts beat Mardi, John beat Julian and Dod beat Dave, and it was Dod and Slatts who eventually made the final late on Sunday evening. At DMP they agreed a deal on the money and it was Dod who emerged from the shoot-out with the title of Cotswold Consolation Champion to go with the main runnerís-up title achieved in his only other appearance at this tournament in 2003.
So to the main final, the first ever national event final to be fought out between two players from the Bristol backgammon scene. That represents a major breakthrough for Bristol, which waited ages for one of its players to win a national tournament (Ed Turnerís victory in the 2003 Brighton Breezy). Since then Stuart has tasted success on the national scene, but perhaps will only now get the full recognition he deserves for his keen study of the game and the quality of his play.
Ian confessed to being astounded by his march to the final, but his long-held position in the high 1600s in the BIBA rankings and his recent run to the final of a Bristol knockout tournament belie suggestions (mostly from Ian himself!) that his prowess is on the wane.
Ian started well in the final, going ahead to 4-1 and 6-3 crawford in the first match before being pegged back by a relentless, determined and (on his own admission) fortunate Stuart. After the tension of the first match the second went by more quickly, and at the end of it Stuart emerged as Cotswold Fireside Champion of 2006.
Again, the best of 3 format proved popular with the players and it certainly, on present evidence, allows the cream to rise to the top.
Just a reminder of the Cotswold Hall of Fame:
2003 Champion Tony Lee, Consolation winner John Hurst
2004 Champion John Slattery, Consolation winner Julian Fetterlein
2005 Champion Julian Fetterlein, Consolation winner Mike Greenleaf
2006 Champion Stuart Mann, Consolation winner Dod Davies
A fellow we know, for a lark,
Went off chasing a girl in the dark.
He bungled his pitch
When he fell in a ditch.
Said the lady "Youíre not a bright spark!"
A nice girl, on him she took pity.
Though our hero was smelling quite shitty,
She took him inside,
But while he washed and dried,
She laughingly made up this ditty.
This tale has a moral, I think.
Donít philander when addled by drink.
Donít succumb to the scourge
Of the sexual urge,
Or youíll cause a most terrible stink!