The Nordic Open is played yearly in Copenhagen around the Easter weekend. It is currently the biggest backgammon tournament in the world, reflecting the popularity and the level of the game in Denmark. Besides the main tournament, there are many side tournaments: doubles, speed, ladies, jackpots, etc.
The main tournament is divided into several flights, according to the entry fee: Championship (700 €), Advanced (170 €), Intermediate (33 €) and Beginner (0 €). Tournament format is a double elimination: if you lose once, you get a second chance in the fighter’s bracket. Four players from the main bracket and four players from the fighter’s bracket together make up the final eight, who play quarter finals, semi-finals, and the final. The full results for all flights and brackets can be found on GammonManager.
Michel Lamote and Luc Palmans registered for the Championship flight, and Walter Meuwis and myself registered for the Advanced flight. It was Walter who put Belgium on the backgammon map by winning the Advanced flight. Congratulations, Walter! He first won two consecutive 15-point matches in the main bracket but lost the third one and ended up in the fighter’s bracket. There he survived four 11-point matches to find himself in the final eight. He prolonged his winning streak in the quarter final (15-point match), semi-final (17-point match), and the final (19-point match) against Aref Alipour. In the decisive game in the final, Walter was trailing 15-16. He offered an early cube, sensing a blitz was in the air. His intuition was right, and with a marvellous shifting manoeuvre he denied his opponent a chance to anchor. When his opponent finally managed to enter his two checkers from the bar, the gammon was a certainty and the match was over. Great job!
The other Belgians were less fortunate. Most unlucky was Michel, who lost among others a freak backgammon on a 4-cube. As for myself, I lost twice in fairly close matches in the Advanced. Our Dutch friends Paulus van Rooijen and Paul van Dijke, both in the Advanced level too, did not make it very far either. Still, Paulus van Rooijen reached the semi-finals of the speed gammon tournament (5-point matches, Bronstein, 2 minutes for the match plus 10 seconds per move), offering the spectators some exciting matches to watch.
The tournament was excellently organised, offering a total backgammon experience. There were many interesting matches between top players to watch. The Japanese professional Mochizuki Masayuki organised a backgammon proficiency test and gave a highly interesting seminar. All in all, it’s been a wonderful backgammon weekend in beautiful and sunny Copenhagen!