Schmucki of Austria is the 2007 European Backgammon Champ
by Michael Strato - 14 May 2007
VELDEN, Austria - Schmucki of Austria has become the new 2007 Backgammon Champion of Europe by defeating Zbigniew Szczerek of Poland 21-18 in the final match of the Masters Division of these 19th Worldwide Backgammon Federation European Championships that we have covered over the last few days. This tournament was hosted by Casino Velden in Velden, Austria.

Schmucki’s name is Werner Schmuck but he told GammonLife last night that he prefers to be referred to only by Schmucki (his backgammon nickname) from now on, and therefore we will respect his request.

This was the third time Schmucki reached the final for this title; he was defeated on one of the previous occasions by Francois Tardieu of France and on the other by Harald Johanni of Germany. Congratulations to this fine player and a gentleman, who is a businessman from Vienna.

Zbigniew Szczerek (L) versus Schmuck in the Masters Final.

So how does he feel about winning?

“I not really into backgammon for the money or titles,” Schmucki responded. “I have been playing live since 1986 and I very much enjoy coming to this event each year. Velden is a beautiful town and I have many friends that come here too.”

2007 European Champion Schmucki with his wife Dahlia.

Schmucki went on to say that it is really more of a social occasion for him and that he admires Marco Fornasir and the WBF organization that always run excellent tournaments. He does not train with Snowie or GNUbg and says he has never even looked into acquiring them because he is content with his ability to play.

Meanwhile, his opponent in the final, Zbigniew Szczerek, and in fact Zbigniew’s entire family, are very dedicated to backgammon and study the game regularly using all the various resources that are available. He said it was a pleasure to play against Schmucki because “he is one of my very best friends here, we see each other at these events and socialize a lot together. So, I don’t feel bad about losing, plus we hedged a bit.”

Zbigniew Szczerek - 19th European Backgammon Championships Runner-Up

However, Zbigniew told us last night that he probably lost the match because of a hasty play, possibly one that was a blunder. Let’s take a look. First, with the score at 18-18 (3-away, 3-away) White on roll, Schmucki sends the cube over at 2 in this position:

In our chat after the match, Zbigniew and this writer both agreed that it was clearly an easy take but we were not so sure if it was a double, however, when I checked the position later with the Snowie computer program, Snowie said it was a good double.

Zbigniew believes that where he blundered was in this position that came up a few moves later:

Red to play a 3-1, should Zbigniew just make his 5 point because, after all, the 5 point is the 5 point? Is it really that obvious? Or, how about his Bar (7) point, with 11/7 and hope that if Schmucki comes down from the Bar, he will do so on a low point (1 or 2) and be trapped from escaping, forcing most other moves to break one of his mostly stripped points, since Schmucki’s only spare is on the mid-point - with another factor being that Schmucki has two "deep" checkers on his 1 point?

What about two on the bar, hitting Schmucki’s blot on Zbigniew’s 2 point? Two on the bar is always a strong play and Zbigniew has a bit of ammunition to carry on with a blitz, or close him out?

Well, that’s the move Zbigniew made and according to Snowie it is a huge blunder and in fact any other play but 8/5 6/5 is on route to Blunderlandia. Well, Schmucki went on to gammon Zbigniew and it was all over.

Over in the Championship flight, Feza Diyarbekir, a very nice person from Turkey, a happy-go-lucky type, always smiling, always polite, was defeated by Oliver Schneider of Germany in a 17-point match that went to DMP ending with a score of 17-15.

Oliver is the 2007 Champion of Europe in the WBF Championship Division.

Congratulations to Oliver!

Oliver was happy to talk to us about the final and another important backgammon title to add to a most prestigious one he earned in 2005:

“I was trailing 7 or 8 points at one time but slowly came back one and two points at a time and was fortunate to take the final game and the title. It was a good match,” Oliver said.

Action in the Intermediate final between Oliver Schneider and Feza Diyarbekir.

Some of you may remember that Oliver is also the 2005 Intermediate World Champion (Monte Carlo) and he tells us that he is 44 years old and works as a Controller for the Finance Department of the Volkswagen Company based in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Oliver Schneider - 2007 Champion of Europe - Championship Division.

Finally, in the Intermediate Division, the title of European Champion goes to Turkey and a great player, Sureyya Sertasi, who beat Stefano Sinopoli of Italy 11-10 in the 11-point final match.

Sureyya Sertasi (L) plays the Intermediate final against Stefano Sinopoli.

A great personal victory for him and also for his countrymen, who are very proud players of this game. Congratulations Sureyya!

Sureyya Sertasi raises his hand in victory as he is congratulated

by some of his fellow Turkish players.

The WBF Turkish Backgammon Association, headed by Arda Findikoglu, came to Velden with 16 players and left with as many trophies as you will see in photos from the Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony, which we will upload in pictorials when we get back to Canada, this Tuesday or Wednesday.

Here's a peek at the trophy table just before the Awards Ceremony:

That it’s for now. Check back soon for the pictorials mentioned above... got to run to catch a plane.


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