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!

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