Andy Plater (GBR) vs John Hurst (GBR)
Plater the online qualifier took on Hurst the UK Masters winner in this long, complex opening match. At DMP, Plater rolled a fine 33 to point on Hurst and boss the game. Hurst ended up in a desperate 3 point holding game and Plater cleared his lines without incident. Hurst, the master roller of big doubles to win tough races couldn’t find them here. 3-2 Plater.
Tassilo Rzymann (AUS) vs Frederick Andrieu (FRA)
Rzymann, of Nordic fame, cubed a little too good in the first and Andrieu cubed massively too good in the next. Another decider. Tassilo dominated the decider pinning Andrieu to the ace-point game. A 44 leaves a shot, it can either be a 3-shot, or a 5, ripping one more man but leaving 32, 41 extra. Rzymann bizarrely opts for the latter (giving four extra numbers) and gets hit. Andrieu makes a ‘creative’ checker play of breaking his 6 point to try and contain Rzymann who wriggles for several minutes but is eventually put away for the horrendously bad beat. Tassilo’s error rate was 2, Andrieu’s 11, and Tassilo went into the match 104% favourite. As you do. 3-1 Andrieu.
Andreas Christian Olsen (DEN) vs Lars Trabolt (DEN)
We go to DMP yet again and Olsen is on life support with 3 in the air and just the deuce point open. He gets a 2, then another, and Trabolt still has men to get round the board. He gets hit, then another checker is sprung loose. ACO counter-primes Trabolt and closes his board with Trabi on the roof, what a swing! Bearing his men in ACO rolls a 33. He has a choice for his spares: he can have one on the ace and two on the 5. Or he can have one on the deuce, one on the 4 and one on the 5. AND HE CHOOSES THE LATTER! Why give himself bad 55 and 66? It’s only a .3% error; with 96.6% wins compared to 96.9% for the correct play, but why give the world champion the glimmer of hope?! For the increased gammons? They don’t count. The punishment is swift and severe as ACO ROLLS 66!! Where’s the 5 for Trabi? There – but he cocks the other die. He fires again: 5! With Trabi’s board crunched the race is close but ACO limps too much and goes out. He states: “The error is tiny, it makes no difference what you do.” 3-2 Trabolt.
Rida Hassan (EGY) vs Athanasios Lagopatis (GRE)
Hassan, the runaway winner of the WSOB race is too much of a handful for online qualifier Lagopatis. Rida pins five men back on the deuce in the first and wins the gammon playing on too good. He smoothly consumes his prey thereafter. 3-0 Hassan.
Bob Koca (US) vs Mike Svobodny (US)
Welcome back to the big-time, Svobo. One of the world’s most legendary high-stakes games players and backgammon world champion from 1984 is here due to his direct $10,000 buy-in. The first game is a touch gammonish and Svobo doesn’t want to kiss goodbye to all his cash in three minutes. Pass. In the next he’s in real trouble with two on the roof and his entering means at least he attracts the cube and lives to fight another game. But he barely gets a roll of note in that one either and it’s not the most lucrative investment Svobo’s ever made. Short but sweet. 3-0 Koca.
Jacob Simonsen (DEN) vs Oscar Carlsson (NOR)
JS cubes nice and early with a blitzing threat, but OC instantly takes and has soon equalized the game. After a great sequence it’s OC who has the biggest threats. JS has the golden anchor but also a blot on the 4 point, of OC’s 4-point board. OC has a builder on the 6, the bar, and the nine point. A 52 thus points on the JS blot and makes the 5-point board. BUT OC MISSES THE PLAY!! It gives up 20% wins right there. Another sensational error which can only be down to the lights, camera, pressure and stakes. OC leaves JS 8s and 9s to hit a fly-shot to get right back into the game. JS finds it and brutally turns the game around. OC wriggles off the gammon, but he’s toast – no way are the dice gods going to forgive him for that. 3-0 Simonsen.
Matvey “Falafel” Natanzon (ISR) vs Aron Korper (NETH)
The great Falafel clashes with Korper who’s won 16 matches in a row online just to be here, but has never played on a live board, and is bamboozled by the clocks/checkers/heat/dice cups/Jessie’s questions etc. Mismatch? Anything but. The crowd loved this pearl of a match, rooting for the underdog and their favourite son in almost equal measure.
After an easy start for 1-0, Falafel plays the opponent and not the position by not cubing when 84-94 up in the all-but non-contact race. He easily cashes later for 2-0. Korper wins a tense Crawford and then wins the free drop. In the decider it is Falafel who slips in to early mire but Korper’s four-point board (points 6 thru 3) can’t contain him, and the game turns into a grueling slugfest. Soon Korper has the 4-point anchor, and gives the anchor a friend for company: it’s a 2-4 back-game, and real danger for Falafel. Korper under 40 seconds now, and Falafel under a minute. Korper’s timing is desperately close but he manages to keep a four-point board with only one man burnt. The crowd are whooping and hollering after every roll, and the clock issue is mesmerizing. “16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10…!” They chant as Korper agononizes. Finally the double shot comes! Missed. And then a last gasp single shot for the gutsy underdog. Missed. And Falafel is home. Pea green but home. 3-2 Falafel.
Karsten Bredahl (DEN) vs François Tardieu (FRA)
Two real juggernauts, and another fabulous match. KB cashes too good in the first and in a volatile second game FT finally gets his cash. FT immediately cubes in the next to make it the decider. He blitzes for all he’s worth but KB – the consolation winner – and one of the world’s hottest players of the moment, simply won’t lie down. KB has 3 pinned back on FT’s deuce and three in the air and FT has the 4 and 5 points slotted in an aggressive blitz, with the 3 point made. KB MUST perform. THERE’S the 44 off the roof! And we’re in for a long, highly complex game. KB starts lashing out and slowly building up his board. A 2,4,5 back game offers huge equity but he keeps hitting, preferring to try to win going forward. Instead he slips into a 1,4 defence. But then FT starts fanning on KB’s 4-point board with the 1 and the 5 open. KB descends on his prey hungrily and finally has too much firepower and does end up with the win by going forward. Whew, KB was up in trouble for most of that, but FT couldn’t quite finish it. 3-1 Bredahl.
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