Friday, October 30, 2015

Othelloing all over the world

The World Othello Championship is happening right now in Cambridge (traditional home of British Othello, but it's never been the venue for the WOC before - it was in London the previous times it was held over here). It's a competition that illustrates a lot of things that the world of memory sports would do well to copy. The competition moves from one country to another every year; it's been held in no end of different nations over the 38 years it's been going. The companies who sell othello sets traditionally foot the bill, with the finer details of organising generally being done by the players themselves. The prize of $3000 for the winner is pretty much set in stone as an age-old tradition (and inflation be damned) and is a token thing that nobody really cares about; it's all about winning and having fun.

Qualification tournaments all around the world provide the best three players in each country, which nicely prevents more than the top three places on the leaderboard being taken up by the all-conquering Japanese; players pay for their own travel and accommodation and don't grumble about it. A lot of the players have been at the top level of the game for decades, but a lot of others have more recently started and quickly dominated competitions with new strategies and approaches. It's something people can and do play online on many different sites (which nimbly avoid the trademarked name Othello by calling themselves 'reversi') where you can always be sure of finding an opponent of a similar skill level, however good you are or aren't.

It's thirteen rounds of Swiss-system matches over the first two days, then the top four play in semi-finals and the grand final on day three - as it stands at the moment reigning champion Makoto Suekuni is topping the leaderboard with eight wins out of nine, with three-time winner Yusuke Takanashi, Nicky van den Biggelaar and Takuji Kashiwabara a point behind. Still all to play for - top Briton David Hand is on 6.5, Imre Leader on 5.5 and Steven Robinson on 5. That puts us joint second in the team competition, too.

There's never been a British winner (nine of the last ten have been Japanese, it's not that often that anyone else gets a look-in), though our players have come second a few times (Imre first did it in 1983) and won the team title on occasion, though the last time was 1997. Let's all cheer them on and wave a flag or two!

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