Monday, 22 December 2003

And finally...

"And the last item on tonight's sports bulletin is on the final of the Inter Bowdidge Backgammon Challenge 2003 - over to our reporter Omar Sharriff

"Thank you Tony. Yes, what a day for Backgammon lovers throughout the world. Once again this year's deciding match was between Paul 'the old Master' of Clanfield, England and Justin 'the young pup' of Arakawa fame. And what a match it was!

"As ever it was played out over a first to 21 points format and once again they had us on the edge of their seats. But if only that were true of the start. Yes, as so often happens, the old master's mastery of the lucky dice was at its most potent in the early rounds, rushing quickly to a 12-1 lead after only a handful of games. The wails of anguish could be heard all over Eastern Asia as time and again the old timer pounded the youngster with dice of such ferocious jamminess that the umpire at one stage held a brief stewards inquiry over whether the old master had somehow hacked into the Yahoo Games driver and fiddled with the random dice generator.

"A lesser man may have crumbled in the face of this fortuitous onslaught. Indeed going back to the Clanfield Cup in October and last year's Inter Bowdidge Challenge, the youngster did just this, capitulating in a manner only professional English Cricketers are usually capable of.

"But not today. It started with the odd one or two games won here and the. Cat and mouse stuff through 15-6 scoreline in favour of the old master until the young pup unleashed a game of spontaneous brilliance that the old timer could only stop and stare. No lucky dice here, 'play what's in front of you' was the order of the day and the youngster did just this. But this was no blasting of his opponent into submission. This was finesse. A blur of swift movement, an eye on the now but, uncannily, seeing the gaps a dozen moves ahead to leave the old timer out flanked, out manoeurvered and out of time. 15-14 in a single throw of the dice - obviously all that private work on wrist flexibility and strength in his bedroom came to fruition.

"But as the 8 time Clanfield Grand Master with Bar, the old master was not going to take this lying down. Back came the back game and forward came the second bottle of cotes-du-rhone. Nip and tuck. Dodge and weave. Easy on the doubling dice that earlier in the contest had been accepted with gay abandon. A game to the old master. One back to the young pup.

"But what's this? The scores locked at 18-18 and a crucial double halfway through the game from the youngster! But why? The tension rose. It could go either way. The youngster must be mad to do it, he's only a couple ahead on the board. Surely the old master will accept, double him straight back and win the game and the championship?

"He refused! That was the crack that the youngster needed. With it he realised that the old master was beaten.

"With the score at 18-19 it was all over. The old timer, perspiration dripping from his brow and inspiration seeping from his toes, was through. The final games were played out in an almost perfunctory manner. The young pup milking the applause of the crowd, though not forgetting to console the deposed champion. A quiet word and a brave handshake over the ether showed the measure of the victor.

"And with that 18-21 final scoreline, the Inter Bowdidge Backgammon Challenge Cup returned to Asia for the first time since the young pup's decampment to Japan in 2002. It has been a long wait for the people of this island nation, but I can tell you there was dancing in the streets on Tokyo last night, much of it lasting well after closing time.

"But what of that double, the double that had broken his opponent? Was it a plan? More likely a gamble of enormous proportions, that only a true grandmaster of the game could make? "Actually I pressed the wrong button..." was the somewhat sheepish answer of the young pup. Well I think we can all se a little bit of gamesmanship in that one. A nice thing to say to a vanquished foe, but all who were there to witness it will long remember the steely look in the young pup's eye as he lent over to take another swig of his wine. An accident? Not a bit of it.

"This has been Omar Sherriff in Kawaguchi at what can only be descibed as an historic victory.