Sheffield is just far enough away that there isn't a train early enough on Sunday mornings for me to come home half way through a two-day othello tournament, but close enough that I didn't have to get up too early on Saturday morning to get down there, which was nice. Also nice was the fact that a whole three people recognised me from the telly and said hi while I was on my way from Beeston to Sheffield - the woman serving baguettes at the Upper Crust at Derby station, a man on the platform at Derby where I was waiting for my delayed connection, and a boy on the train itself. I'm getting quite a bit of "my kids saw you and thought you were great" lately - surprising though it is that children would want to watch a documentary like Superhuman Genius, maybe we've encouraged a whole new generation to get interested in memory!
Although to be honest, I was more impressed when the aforementioned boy's younger brother, who didn't recognise me from the telly, asked if he could try on my hat. I'd rather inspire a new generation to start wearing hats than to enter memory competitions. Just imagine, a whole country full of hat-wearers, and all thanks to me! Wouldn't that be groovy?
Anyway, I eventually arrived at Sheffield and found my way to the Heeley Institute, where I've been once before, many years ago, and didn't arrive more than fifteen minutes late (which in othello circles counts as being quite early). We had the AGM, which passed without memorable incident, and then launched into the 32nd British Othello Championship.
With Graham Brightwell being somewhere overseas, the chance of a final not contested between him and Imre Leader for a change was significantly improved. And with Joel Feinstein and Garry Edmead being more or less retired these days, Imre was the only representative of the four players who between them had won every British championship for the previous twenty years. Against him were an impressive lineup of fourteen other othelloists, many of them significantly better than me, so my hopes weren't high. But all in all, I played quite well. On the first day I lost to Davids Beck and Hand, but didn't feel like I did anything monumentally stupid. I probably did, but I didn't know about it, and that's the important thing. But I beat Yvette in between David-games, and in the fourth and final game of the day I took my revenge on nine-year-old Tani Turner, wiping her out in a brutal kind of way. I'm not proud of myself here, but it was kind of fun.
Then we went out for the traditional Saturday night meal, at an Indian restaurant where the highlight of the evening was probably Ali's anecdote about being taken to a similar place by an Indian colleague who picked out all the mildest things on the menu because he doesn't like spicy food. To which Tani replied, very loudly and while the waiter was collecting plates "What's the point of being Indian, then?"
Then back to the hotel (on the way, walking through the back streets of Sheffield, Imre asked if anyone knew where he could find a croissant shop), which was very nice - I got a room with three beds for the price of one, a TV that worked if you leaned the severed aerial cable against the socket it was supposed to go in and a skylight in the bathroom (which made me a little worried about passing balloonists ogling me in the shower). And a full English breakfast, which is a must for any hotel I stay at. And we all got back to the Institute in good time for the second day of competition.
I lost to Iain, beat Roy and lost to Guy, again without being under the impression that I was playing badly. Meanwhile, David Hand was beating everyone, Imre was doing exactly the same thing as last year (losing two of his first three games and then winning all the others) and Michael, Other David, Iain, Guy and Geoff were also fighting it out for a place in the final. There was quite a lot of excitement, all in all, and I'd write about it if I could remember who beat whom and how. But I can't, so you'll just have to wait until Geoff posts all the games on the forum, and play through them, and make your own deductions about which were the most interesting.
Anyway, being around the middle of the leaderboard, I got the bye in round eight, leaving me on four points with one game to go. David H had lost one game, to Iain, and was a clear point ahead of Imre and Michael, each on six, then David B and Iain on five. So with the top two going to the final, anything could still happen.
The final round had Michael playing Iain, the Davids each playing someone who wasn't mentioned in the list above, don't ask me who, and Imre against me. "You wouldn't be so nasty as to beat me, would you?" he asked. "That's the thing," I replied, "I was sort of rooting for you to get to the final, but now..."
But even though I have a startlingly good record against Imre, I didn't expect anything amazing. Still, the game started quite well for me, and then he played a move that was so very, extremely, obviously bad that I assumed I had completely missed some subtle point and was in fact about to lose horribly. But no, it turned out after the game that it was just a silly mistake. And then I thought I'd lost after all when he took the diagonal, but I managed to find the rather clever way to make sure I'd be able to cut it, and the rest was simple. 47-17 to me. That makes six times I've beaten Imre in competitions, which is probably a higher proportion of wins to losses than practically anyone.
The Davids both won, and we all crowded around the table where Michael and Iain were still finishing their game. It looked to me like Iain was on top, but either he went wrong somewhere or he'd never been on top after all, because Michael finally won. So Adelaide was spared the headache of working out a four-way tie-break for second place (she refuses to use a computer or even a calculator for this kind of thing, believing that it's more fun to do it by hand - this would doubtless have caused friction when David B and Roy, who both brought laptops with them, calculated the Brightwell Quotients themselves and got different figures) and the final was much more Handy than ever before, David Hand v Michael Handel.
I left before the game in order to memorise the wastage figures for all of Boots's Scottish and Irish stores that'll be coming to the conference on Tuesday, but I hear that David won. Congratulations! A new name on the back of the permanent trophy! (the name of each winner is on a little metal shield stuck to the big wooden shield, and they ran out of room on the front of the trophy in the late eighties. At the present rate, we will also be out of space on the back in another ten years or so)
David also won the third-place play-off - Other David, that is, who beat Imre - and I ended up joint fifth with Roy, Iain, Geoff and Guy. Which is a definitely cool kind of position to end up in. That means the British team for the world championships in Oslo will be David H, Michael and British Grand Prix winner Iain. One of these days, with a few more flukey results going my way, I might end up there too, who knows?
But one world championship I will be going to is the memory one, of course. And, I hear, so will Andi! Fantastic news! Last year's was the first Andi-free WMC since 1994, so it'll be good to see him there again. And if he's shelling out for a trip to Bahrain, it seems to me there's a good chance that he's been practicing and is really going to try to win. Also, Gunther will definitely be there, it seems, so it's going to be a good competition. If only I can find the time for a little bit of training...
One final memory note, hot off the presses (thanks, Dai) - congratulations to Tansel on winning the Australian Memory Championship!