Saturday, June 24, 2017

Area 51

I'm currently in room 53 of the Red Lion hotel, in Salisbury. It's one of those strange hotels where the corridors are like a winding maze, with a door to a room here and there, but no apparent pattern or sense to the building layout. MC Escher would like it. The strange thing about this particular stretch of twisty-turny corridor is that the rooms go 49, 50, 52, 53... and I'm confused by the seeming total lack of a room 51. Is it hidden in some alternate alien dimension?

Anyway, the reason I'm so far away from my normal stamping-ground is that the Red Lion is also the venue of this year's British Othello Championship, and despite my having only played six games of othello, all of which I lost, in 2017 so far, I decided to come along and see how I got on. Which turned out surprisingly well.

We've got eight competitors, and since the nationals are supposed to be a nine-round tournament followed by a one-game final between the top two, it took a bit of debate and an Official Committee Vote (Roy's here) to agree that the format this year would be a seven-round all-play-all, followed by semi-finals and then a final.

So random pairings, no need for complicated Swiss-system calculations, and my first game was against Roy, who beat me twice at Cambridge the last time I ventured to an othello tournament. This time, though, it all went very well for me and I ended up with a comfortable win. Then I was up against David Hand, and somehow or other, after a really fascinating and exciting game, I came out the 33-31 winner. I think that's the first time I've beaten him.

I then beat Ken Stephenson without much difficulty, and then Bruce Kyte with a fair bit of difficulty and quite possibly coming very close to messing it up in the end. But they all count, and so now I'm on four wins out of four after day one!

Full scores go like this:
  1:   4 pts [171]   LEADER Imre (79) {GBR}
             [169]   PRIDMORE Ben (4019) {GBR}
  3:   3 pts [152]   BARRASS Iain (2047) {GBR}
             [151]   ARNOLD Roy (2006) {GBR}
  5:   2 pts [165]   HAND David (2357) {GBR}
  6:   0 pt   [87]   KYTE Bruce (2078) {GBR}
              [68]   DEXTER Helen (100002) {GBR}
              [61]   STEPHENSON Ken (2001) {GBR}

So, tomorrow I've got to play Imre, Iain and Helen, but even if I lose all three I think I'm safely in the semi-finals and achieving my top-half-of-the-table aim that I always set myself at these things. It's unexpected.

Bruce, incidentally, is an old-timer in the othello world, but not somebody I've ever met before. I met Imre outside the hotel and we came in together, which led Bruce to assume I'm Imre's brother. There's a resemblance, apparently, though I don't really see it myself. I do hope he was thinking 'younger brother', because I forget what the age gap between the two of us is, exactly, but it's quite significant.

After the tournament we went to the Haunch of Venison, one of the coolest pub-names I've ever heard, and then to Nando's, with the usual wide-ranging and weird subjects of conversation. Othello is great, I'm definitely going to play more in future!