Nordic down to the last Eight, after more blood, sweat and tears
by Will Cockerell - 22 March 2008

It’s been another magnificent day with some spine-tingling drama. Let me paint you a quick picture. At seven minutes to one in the morning, with three last 16 matches to be completed, their scores were 16-15, 15-15, 14-15. Chairs being used strictly for standing on, as 40-50 were crowding round tables creating mini little amphitheatres popping with electricity.

Hans Christian Mathieson of Denmark had a big problem though, he was the one who was 14-15 down and was only 3% to win the next. His 66 drew some oooh’s and aaah’s from the crowd and it came down to a last roll scenario, when Hans needed an all but compulsory double. He found 33! And the roar from the crowd was raucous and unabashed. Hans celebrated winning the game as though it were the match, and duly put a shell-shocked Yousef Azari away thereafter.

The big German gun that is Jan Jacobowitz was in the 15-15 match. It too came down to a thrilling bear-off race and a 66 for Soren Andersen meant Jan HAD to find another double of his own at once. The 44 came on cue and Jacobowitz is through. The Austrian Tassilo Rzymann romped into a 14-6 lead against before getting gammoned, then gammoned again to arrive at 16-15 versus Alexandros Deliakis. Finally a hugely relieved Rzymann stumbled over the line. Tassilo has been playing in tournaments now for just a year, and has already ‘cashed’ in several. He is as calm over the board as he is excitable off it.

It was another day of big backgammon names falling like trees. Ray Fogerland couldn’t keep his excellent form from the night before together, while poor ‘Falafel’ lost his round two match at about 4am Saturday morning, and then promptly pull an all-nighter with Gus Hansen over the checkers. (Gus STILL hasn’t been to bet yet at 2.30am the following day). Several times in his last-16 match the former World number one Ed O’Laughlin looked to be home and dry, before finally arriving at yet another 15-15 scoreline against Iran’s Manouchehr Parchami, [now a naturalised Swede]. O’Laughlin had the match very nearly locked up before leaving a 63 65 fly shot, and Parchami FOUND the 63. O’Laughlin then had three more chances to hit Parchami, but he missed them all and got gammoned for match. A real heart-breaker that one. 2006 World Champion Philip Vischjager was slammed by the suave Danish champion Andreas Olsen, but Vischjager died wondering so to speak, when he bizarrely passed a 4 cube when 4-14 down when Olsen was 96%. 4-16 is not generally a position someone would choose to be in, and Vischjager’s clock was down to 1:45. Curious stuff to choose a .75% scenario over a 3-4% one.

So, the quarter final line-up line is thus: Parchami versus Arildo Idsoe [a highly successful Norwegian Oil businessman]. Denmark’s confident and so far untroubled Claus Cato versus Rzymann. Another Norwegian, Hans Lily versus Christiansen (known as ‘coach Kedde’ due to his thematic approach to the game and willingness to share his knowledge with others); and finally the tasty match-up of Germany’s Riotz Hildsberg (vanquisher of Gus Hansen and the above mentioned Olsen) against Jacobowitz.

As for you humble correspondent, after my thorough going over at the hands of Falafel yesterday, I scrapped through two noted Danes in the Consolation today and the small matter of Nodar Gagua. Against Gagua I shipped an 8 cube when 6-0 up to 11, which the crowd were slightly startled by, but, well, Nodar passed so he fancied taking me out real savage from 0-10. Perhaps he’s seen me play before… Nodar also had a secret weapon in the form of his beautiful 2-year old daughter Elena, who would on occasion place checkers from another table on to ours. I looked away for a moment and when I looked back I suddenly had 3 on the roof, and 18 men to care for. Nodar graciously asked if Elena’s alterations were acceptable, but generously agreed to remove them when I got down on both knees and begged. And the 11-1 victory was mine. Tomorrow I meet, you guessed it, yet another top-20 Dane. They keep coming at me, like menacing angry mosquitos, but so far my insect repellent is doing the job.


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