Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Vacation time

Just to follow up on that post about tennis players of the 1980s and 1990s generations, the main draw at Wimbledon this year featured 52 players born in the 80s and 74 born in the 90s, plus one from the 2000s (the aforementioned Félix Auger-Aliassime) and one from the 1970s (Ivo Karlović, forty years old, seven feet tall and possibly some kind of mythical long-lived tennis-playing giant species to which the laws of human aging don't apply). After the first round, the remaining 64 players are those two outliers, 30 of the 1980s team and 32 of the 1990s. The old men are still teaching the young ones a lesson or two.

But now there's no time for more unnecessary analysis of tennis players, because I'm going on holiday! Jetting off to America today to see the sights and the fireworks of Pittsburgh! Remember when I did that ten years ago exactly? I barely do, but you know what my memory's like. No more work for a week! Woo!

Monday, July 01, 2019

Roll of Honour

The British Othello Championships are basically the same age as me, so compared to memory competitions (which only date back to 1991), it's very cool to be part of such a long-established tradition. I really must get back into the habit of playing online, and go to more real-life competitions too, and come somewhere closer to winning the thing one of these days. I'd quite like to see my name on this list, and a little shield on the trophy...

1977Alan Woch
1978Geoff Davidson
1979Alan Woch
1980Neil Cogle
1981John Parker
1982David Stephenson
1983Imre Leader
1984David Sharman
1985Neil Stephenson
1986Imre Leader
1987Peter Bhagat
1988Graham Brightwell
1989Joel Feinstein
1990Imre Leader
1991Joel Feinstein
1992Joel Feinstein
1993Joel Feinstein
1994Imre Leader
1995Graham Brightwell
1996Joel Feinstein
1997Joel Feinstein
1998Graham Brightwell
1999Imre Leader
2000Graham Brightwell
2001Imre Leader
2002Garry Edmead
2003Garry Edmead
2004Imre Leader
2005Imre Leader
2006Graham Brightwell
2007Imre Leader
2008David Hand
2009Michael Handel
2010Imre Leader
2011Guy Plowman
2012Borja Moreno
2013David Hand
2014Guy Plowman
2015Imre Leader
2016Imre Leader
2017Imre Leader
2018Imre Leader
2019Imre Leader

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Being for the benefit of Mr Kyte

The 43rd British Othello Championship happened this weekend in the familiar surroundings of the Junior Parlour in Cambridge. The weather was nice and sunny when I left Redditch on Saturday morning, but after nearly four hours in pleasantly air-conditioned trains, I stepped onto the platform in Cambridge to find myself well and truly roasted alive by the hottest day in the history of the universe (or whatever it was; it's just possible that some of my readers wouldn't consider 30 degrees to be particularly warm). The Junior Parlour was also baking hot, with the windows being positioned just right to get the full blast of the afternoon sun, but we all survived the day, more or less.

Incidentally, did you know the big ancient wooden doors to Whewell's Court that let you into the bit of the college with the Junior Parlour in it have got an electronic contactless card-scanning thing disguised as an ancient bit of metal, and open automatically? This was news to me, but I asked one of the bowler-hatted porters who lurk around the university doing portery things, and he said it's been like that since he started in the job eight years ago, so obviously I just hadn't noticed. I assumed there was a huge, ancient iron key.

Anyway, our competitors included me, Imre Leader, Bruce Kyte, Iain Barrass, David Hand, Helen Dexter, Roy Arnold, recently-returned old-time player Graham Chappell, and Guy Plowman with even more children than usual - all five who belong to him (four of them playing, the other revising for her exams), plus brand-newcomer-with-a-cool-name Ben Smith, boyfriend of the non-playing Plowman who was nonetheless playing himself. So 14 players in total; the perfect number for a 13-round EGP tournament, if slightly imperfect for the 9-round nationals.

As well as the excessive heat, there was the usual sounds of the street outside the windows - as well as a huge amount of tour groups seeing the city and being told about what goes on at the university (some kind of story about ghosts, I think, though I didn't pay too much attention), there was a graduation or something like that which required students to walk around in black cloaks with fur hoods in the staggeringly hot weather, and our musical accompaniment for the first couple of hours of the tournament was an unceasing performance on a sitar by a busker. The tune kept nearly but not quite turning into Within You Without You while I was playing Bruce, which made me think of the blog title above, if you were wondering. The sitar player was replaced by a folk singer with a banjo later in the afternoon - altogether, I'm not sure how much revision Jessie got done with that going on, the stifling heat, and her siblings and boyfriend running around to distract her, but maybe that's how she likes to study.

After the traditional Indian meal that no othello tournament would be complete without on the Saturday night, we returned on Sunday to much more moderate temperatures to finish the remaining four games. My own performance in the tournament was what you might expect after about a year of not playing at all - I won four out of nine, which doesn't sound so terrible, but was always down at the bottom of the draw and didn't put up any kind of a fight against the top players who I came up against. David beat everybody, winning nine out of nine despite being confused (youthful internet-generation player that he is) by the analogue clocks being used on two of the boards - how do you know how many seconds you've got left? You don't. You just have to guess how long that little flag is going to take to fall. Behind him was a close race for second, coming down to Imre (who was as wildly enthusiastic about the concept of analogue clocks as he is about everything else connected with Othello) and Guy, equal in points going into the final round, and very close on Brightwell Quotient tiebreaker.

Those two therefore needed to maximise the amount of discs they got in their final games, and Imre ended up playing me. I put up a valiant performance to the best of my extremely limited ability, and the game finished on a score of 62-2 in Imre's favour. I don't think I need to feel particularly guilty about cutting Guy out of the final by means of my ineptitude, though - he'd ruthlessly wiped out his own small son Mark 64-0 in their game at the table next to us, which clearly isn't the kind of parenting that we should condone.

Those results meant that Imre got to contest the grand final against David, who had been saying all weekend that he always ends up in the final against Imre and losing. And although I had to leave at that point to get the train home, if is to be believed Imre has just won the final 42-22! Which is hard on David, who was really awesome all weekend, but congratulations once again to Imre! I think this might be his 15th Nationals win, and it's certainly his fifth in a row, unless I was lying in my blog last year that said it was his fourth. A great weekend's othelloing for everybody!