British Open 
7 & 8 April 2001

Tournament Report by Michael Crane

Steve Hallett the new British Open Champion finalist Stuart Mann

Main (114)
What a great turnout; for the third time we had an entry of 114 players; the two other occasions being 1996 when it was won by Stephen Turner and 1999 when one of the top players in the world, Neil Kazaross, won it. Tournament sponsor, Amico Drinks in the guise of Andrew Sarjeant had hoped to break the record but it seems we're stuck on the 'Groundhog Day' one hundred and fourteen!
Andrew's generous prize fund of £600 was very welcome, and, with it being pitched towards encouraging new players to enter by offering cash prizes to the Main Top Intermediate and Main Beginner and prizes for the Last Chance and Sad Losers (Andrew's choice!), it was extremely successful inasmuch as Biba gained a dozen new members.
Defending champion, Rachel Rhodes made it into the last sixteen, as did two other female players, Sarah Rosich and Helen Helm-Sager (Brighton 2001). Unfortunately Rachel was knocked out by Stuart Mann and failed to make the last eight; Sarah went out at the same time to new-comer, Chris Rogers who, thanks to this victory went home with the Top Beginner's prize of £100; well done, Chris. Helen faired a little better (by one round) but went out thanks to Steve Hallett.

Steve's reward for his victory over Helen was a semi-final match against Paul Lamford (most players 'tip for the top' and certainly the favourite); but, backgammon being backgammon it was Steve who emerged from the fray as the finalist leaving Paul in joint 3/4th place. Stuart Mann's victory over the defending champion proved to be the turning point in his bid for the number one spot; all he had to do next was beat Dave McNair the 1997 British Open champion in the semi-final . . .
I was unable to watch this match myself but by all accounts it went down to the wire and could have gone either way; and it went Stuart's way, robbing Dave of being the first player to win it twice.
So, the final: Steve Hallett vs. Stuart Mann. You couldn't find two more contrasting players if you tried; Steve is so hirsute that before the filming of the final (yes, at last I've managed to capture another on video!) he combed his hair and beard - but forgot to do his arms! Stuart, on the other hand is the complete opposite of Steve, with a head as bare as a babies bum - which caused problems with glare with the overhead camera each time he leaned over the board!
The matched ebbed back and forth with each player cashing in with the cube until the score was at four all when Steve offered a re-cube to four in the following position:

11 point match, Score 4 - 4
Hallett (W) on roll, Cube action?

Everyone watching was 100% behind the re-cube; and nearly all of them thought it a drop. Steve offered it over and then went for a break as Stuart contemplated to take or drop. Finally Steve returned and Stuart took; which proved costly as he then lost four points. According to JellyFish Stuart made the correct decision:

wins g/bg eqty
Hallett  76.6 0.3 0.529
Mann  23.4 0.6
Vol: 0.451

Quite a high volatility here which probably accounts for the double/take decision. So, if Stuart was correct there he was most certainly incorrect here on his next roll. . 

11 point match, Score 4 - 4
Mann (B) to play 51

Steve had just rolled 54 and jumped over Stuart's checker, Stuart then rolled 51. There was a intake of breath so great that Steve's beard was drawn towards the kibitzers choking three of them who were sat near the front as Stuart moved the back man out all the way thus denying himself any chance of a hit should Steve roll a 65 on his next roll. JellyFish rated it 3rd out of five:

6/1 5/4 - 0.784
6/1 2/1 - 0.789
20/14 - 0.819

As it was Steve rolled a six but with a two and wouldn't have left a shot anyway - but Stuart didn't know that was going to happen! The score then moved to 8-4 to Steve. Stuart really never recovered from this loss; Steve took the score to 9-4 and gammoned Stuart in the next game. So, congratulations to Steve Hallett the new British Open Champion and hard luck to Stuart Mann.
Harry Bhatia went home before he learned the good news that he'd won the Top Intermediate prize of £200 . . . Sorry, Harry, but as you weren't there to receive your prize you have lost it. Only joking; a cheque is in the post; honestly!

Consolation (110)
Running Progressive Consolations is very taxing but I'm sure that if I stopped doing them I'd be lynched. The trouble is they take longer than a straight entry knockout because of waiting for the progressive side to catch up. Mind you, Irishman, Dave Coyne wasn't complaining (not that he ever does) as he entered from the Main last 16 and played his way into the final. His opponent, John Slattery emerged from the Consolation proper beating Stavros Elia in the semi-final. In the final, Dave took first place: Ireland 1, Scotland 0. John's choice of waistcoat was a little conservative this time; in fact I'd go so far as to say boring, it being the plainest one I've seen him wear.

Last Chance (74)
Mike Wignall and Brendan Gasparro gave it their best shot but they each lost, respectively, in the semi-finals to David Nathan and Rebecca Bell. David was determined to take home the £100 prize money (sorry, I meant trophy), and he did just that leaving Rebecca with second place and £50; but she seemed happy enough with that.

Sad Losers (64)
For a long time Andrew Sarjeant has referred to what is usually called the 'Suicide!' as the 'Sad Losers', not in any derogatory sense, you understand (he's been there often enough himself), but in the sense that they all look so sad to have ended up in the final element of the weekend having been knocked out of everything else - or so he says! Mind you, this time with prize money of £70, £40 and £20 each for 3rd and 4th, everyone was a lot less sad. Especially Kevin Stebbing who went home £100 richer and Daphne Smith who went home £40 richer and Jeff Ellis and Albert Tinker who each went home £20 richer.

Friday Knockout (47)
I don't keep records of the entry on Friday nights but this was a big one - in fact the Friday night entry alone was bigger than twenty 'full' Biba tournaments including all three Scottish Opens. Of course a consequence of this was a very late (or very early finish, according to your point of view) was that because of the time of finishing the two finalists decided to share the position of winner and it was split between Paul Lamford and Michael Brereton. Alan Farrell and Martin Hemming were the losing semi-finalists.

Doubles (32)
Quite a few new ones here: 'The Belly Babies' and 'Double Bellies' (what's with this belly thing?), 'Mick Listens To Reet' (no he doesn't), 'Sarah For The Open' (which never materialised), and a radical entry, 'Three's a Crowd' who had their own personal dice roller so that they could concentrate upon checker and cube play which took them as far as the semis and no further. 'Fatman & Her' (yes, he is fat) made it to the final but they just couldn't beat 'Tale of Two Cities' (I prefer, Sale of Two Titties; but then I would!), who emerged tired but happy as the winners; and off they went to bed at 3:30am.
This British Open was one of the best tournaments we've ever had, a great success and without any directing problems whatsoever. I'd like to thank Andrew Sarjaent of Amico Drinks for his sponsorship; I am convinced his generosity was responsible for such a great turnout. I'd also like to say thanks to Wai Mun Yoon for the use of his tripod (no sniggering, there!) in recording the final match. Without it perched above the players, sellotaped to the television it would have been impossible to have recorded it. Neither Steve nor Stuart realised that the entire ensemble was held together in such a Heath Robinson way; if they had they might have moved to a safer location to play it out.
Finally, on a sad note, sometime during the late afternoon, Steve Hallett had his Biba backgammon board taken by mistake (stolen might be a bit strong, but then again it might not be). If it was a mistake then the person who picked it up failed to notice Steve's tag on the handle (hard not to notice that). If you did pick it up by mistake then please let me know and I'll reunite Steve with his board; if you stole it I'd recommend that you keep very quiet about it and tell no-one because if I ever find out who you are . . . .