Andy Plater (GBR) vs Frederick Andrieu (FRA)
The Maths professor against the fashion photographer. Andrieu gives Plater a multitude of free kicks in the first before finally cashing the dominant position. Andrieu off to another good start in the second. Plater drowning in anti-jokers and FA plays on too good, but no gammon.
Andy bosses the next commandingly but has one final point to clear against FA’s golden anchor. He leaves the shot, and is duly hit. A dazzling piece of drama follows. With AP shut-out and instinctively pressing his clock, FA opens up the 6-point and AP (by mistake) just presses the clock again and doesn’t roll. FA doesn’t notice, and is odd at the top. THERE’S the 65 to leave the shot off the roof! Plater HITS!! He goes 40% in the race, but FA is straight in on the 5-point board and AP can never find the double he needs to get back into the race. 3-0 Andrieu.
Rida Hassan (EGY) vs Lars Trabolt (DEN)
Finally, after a quite sensational sequence of results at the WSOB, which saw him easily win the points race, Hassan’s luck ran out here in grisly fashion. After a violent non-doubled gammon for Trabbi in the first, the next was equally severe, although Hassan HIT the shot from his desperate deuce point game. His 5-point was open but Trabbi kept fanning. Rida slotted the bar point with the last man to bring home. Trabbi screaming for a 55, or better, a 52 for the hit. THERE’s the 52! Hassan enters on Trabbi’s crunched 2-point board and hits Trabbi again coming round. Trabbi once again finds the 5 and in a very close race prevails, and the dream is over for the likeable Rida. His WSOB record was roughly 22-6. 3-0 Trabolt.
Bob Koca (US) vs Jacob Simonsen (DEN)
Another spectacular demolition job by the unstoppable Koca. Like the last match he wins three turgid games with no accepted cubes. The last was an exciting 110-115 race but Bob powered through the gears to win it by a country mile. Bob has a new nickname: “The Dane-killer.” 3-0 Koca.
Karsten Bredahl (DEN) vs Falafel (ISR)
A mesmerizing encounter. Almost impossible to see Bredahl losing such is his hot form, and yet one can never ever discount Falafel’s fighting qualities. The two players basically cancel each other out, there is simply nothing to choose between them. In a tense holding game first up, KB’s 33 is enough to break the deadlock and cash. Falafel hits back in the next with minimum fuss and surprise, surprise we’re at dmp.
Both hold the 4 point anchor and it’s KB who has to give up the first shot. But Falafel misses the ace. After half an hour’s play there is literally nothing to separate them as they both have their 10 points to bear in against their opponent’s defensive anchors six pips away on the 4 point. Eyeball to eyeball, blinking not recommended. FALAFEL BLINKS! And has to give KB the 6 shot for the win (plus 42 51 33). Uncharacteristically KB MISSES, but next rolls fires in a gorgeous 2 iron into the heart of the green, in the shape of a 44. The pip count is almost identical, but wheras Falafel can peel three checkers with a 11, KB’s 11 next roll limps badly in the outfield. It boils down to the last couple of rolls before Falafel’s 55 seals it. Error rates: 2.5 Bredahl, 3.7 Falafel. Bredahl was 52% favourite, which will cheer him up not at all. 3-1 Falafel.
Andrieu vs Trabolt
A 60,000 euro swing on these semi-finals, as the loser gets 10,000, and the winner is guaranteed 40,000 with a shot at a 100. There won’t be a hedge in sight from Trabbi. “Split not available,” as he likes to say.
What a bizarre and incredible little match this was.
Trabbi drops a big take in the first, perhaps afraid of losing the gammon to the weaker player. “Trabbi wants this match to last as long as possible and show the TV cameras his artistry,” suggests John Clark in the commentary box. In the next, Andrieu has the bar point, and Trabbi does not have a point in board, and it’s an even race. And TRABBI CUBES! What the…?! Everyone is mystified. To say it’s a surprising bluff double is an understatement. “I don’t think Trabold gave his opponent a chance to make a mistake on this,” says Gus Hansen summing up the feelings of everyone.
Trabbi soon has a checker caught and is up in the air. He hurls in a 11 to enter and ‘put bite into his board.’ Trabbi requires a 52 or 53 to snake through the 5 prime and hit a checker. 53!! Andrieu in trouble and then fans! But next try Andrieu enters on the ace and hits with a 5 in the outfield. That was a huge shot. Trabbi back in real trouble here, AND ANDRIEU MAKES THE SIX PRIME. Trabolt goes quietly and the local hero is into the final. He outplayed the world champ with an error rate of 5 to Trab’s 5.9. But most surprisingly of all, the Trabolt premature cube is CORRECT. Behind in the match, activating gammons, it was ok after all. Way too complicated for most to understand but all credit to Trabbi for having a grasp on the concept. 3-0 Andrieu.
Falafel vs Koca
The only match of the championship that was over in a single game.
Falafel blitzed angrily with one man back and his ace and four points made. The blitz gathers steam when he fills in his three-point. Koca fans on the four point board with the 5-point slotted. A covering three from the 8-point. FALAFEL CUBES at 58.5% with 31.3% gammons! It’s a fantastic cube and although initial computer readings suggest a slim no-double, further roll-outs suggest a fine cube, and ALSO remember that Koca could be duped into passing. He has, after all, shown himself to be a bit of a passer.
Koca thinks. And thinks. And thinks a little more. He’s going to pass this. Koca is many things but he hates these dangerous situations – he’s a lover, not a fighter. A little light goes off in Koca’s head. What is it that Walter Trice says? It’s easy to take a blitz when your opponent has 3 men back. It’s enough to tip the balance. KOCA TAKES! A brilliant find, the result of countless hours of study, and surely the best take of his career.
Falafel MISSES the cover with a very awkward 54 and calls in the cavalry for his next shake, leaving FIVE blots scattered about the place. Koca FANS again and Falafel covers. Koca living on borrowed time here, he MUST find the entering deuce. IT’S THERE! He lunges at Falafel who misses the blot in board from the roof. Then Koca gives aces and sixes to hit, missing a play which gave two blots but was aces everywhere. Falafel finds another ghastly 54 for the miss. It turns into a holding game with Falafel out on Koca’s 9 point defending. He has another checker back on Koca’s 4 point that could get attacked. Koca eyes up the cube and FIRES IT IN at 77.6%. Initial computer feed is a small pass, but after extensive analysis all the world’s best players have it as a take, which Falafel boldly does.
Falafel misses a key shot from the roof and has no say in the subsequent race thereafter as Koca slowly but surely rolls it home. Koca played the match of his life here, and his cube action was spot on. Error rates: 4.7 Koca, 6.7 Falafel. 4-0 Koca.
Koca vs Andrieu
The final kicked off at 3:02am, but the large crowd were wide awake and transfixed by the drama and the jeopardy. With Koca on FA’s 4 point and FA on Koca’s bar point, Fred ships in what Hansen calls a spicy cube. Take. Koca has to crunch. The prime in front of his back men shrinks to three, which encourages Koca to tentatively step into the outfield. He is violently attacked. After a bad fan he is closed out and huge favourite to get gammoned. But FA can’t pick up the second blot and a late, late 66 from Koca saves gammon and match.
Breath-taking punch and counter-punching in the next before FA starts fanning and Koca safely brings home the Crawford.
One game of backgammon then, 60,000 euros riding on it. Both players fight to secure the golden anchor and both succeed. Who will be squeezed off first? It is Koca. FA hits with a beauty of a 44 for the 5-point board with four-point slotted. Koca misses, FA lifts the blot. Koca enters. FA can hit him but has to leave the blot there. He chooses to leave Koca alone as FA is bossing the race. FA has two on his 5 point, two on his 6 point, and 3 on the bar. HE ROLLS 65 to leave Koca the match-winning 3-shot! Koca takes a deep breath – and flunks with a 51. It turns into an excruciating race. Koca is only a roll behind. Where’s the big double for King Koca the Dane-Killer? It’s not there and Frederick Andrieu is WSOB Champion 2008! He roars once, twice, three times like an angry gorilla. He qualified for the final-table 16 in a live super-satellite, and has played with real nerve and poise all day. And it’s been a long day. Error rates for the final: 3.9 Andrieu, 3.8 Koca.
Copyright World Series of Backgammon Enterprises Limited/ Will Cockerell 2008