In café De Bengel on the Grote Markt in Antwerp, 12 players gathered to compete for the 2015 Antwerp Master title. In Swiss format, 9 rounds had to be played (matches to 9 points).
Belgium was well represented with 8 players, 5 of whom from the top-10 of the Bigelo-ranking. Four Cubes holders Hasselt seemed most intent on success with 3 of their best players present. The field was completed by Dutch top players Rogier Van Gemert and Misja Alma and two players from the UK, Paul Gilbertson and Mike Wygnal.
Belgian backgammon pioneer Paul Baeyens made sure the players felt welcome and comfortable. Fruit and cake were available all through the two days of play.
Bert Van Kerckhove replaced Nardy Pillards as TD. Sadly, Nardy’s presence was needed at home.
The afternoon session (3 matches played between 1pm and 6pm) provided two leaders : Misja Alma (NL) and Toon Van Herreweghen (Leuven BC) were on top of the leader board with 3 wins each. Surprisingly Rogier Van Gemert and Bigelo-leader Michel Lamote were at the bottom of the field with only 1 win.
After dinner, play continued. Toon made his intentions clear by beating Misja. Also Marc Steyvers (Brugge BC) continued to show good form by beating Michel. Ronnie Connaert (Hasselt) strung two important victories together against Paul Gilbertson and Bert Van Kerckhove (Gent).
The evening session was over at 11 pm and at the end of Day 1, there were 3 leaders : Toon, Marc and Misja (4/5), followed by Bert, Ronnie and Mike.
Play resumed on Sunday at 10:30am. Most matches had barely started when the first result was announced : Toon had lost to Mike… on a 16-cube (!). Bad news for Toon. After a lot of eyebrow raising and headshaking play continued : four more rounds had to be played.
At 4pm, at the end of round 8, the lead was shared by two players : Misja and Marc (6/8). Since Misja had already beaten Marc in Round 6, both players had other opponents in the last round.
Misja was drawn against Walter Meuwis (Hasselt). Walter had only won 2 matches out of 8 but is always a hard nut to crack. This match could as well have been the final. Walter did all he could, but Misja won it.
So Marc had to beat Bert if he wanted to share first prize with Misja. The match went to a thrilling DMP finish (DMP = Double Match Point : the score is 8-8 (9)). In a close bear-off, Marc found his worst rolls of the weekend : needing only to roll 11 pips in two rolls, Marc rolled a 21 and a 41 and so missed a shared first prize by a hair’s breadth.
So Misja is the 2015 Antwerp Master. A strong performance which the sympathetic Dutchman celebrated by treating the whole field of players to a round of drinks. Cheers, Misja!
A special mention goes to Eric Aries (Leuven BC). As an intermediate player he was of course clearly outmatched in this field of players, but as a consolation he won matches against Michel and Walter taking him to 1481 points in the Bigelo-ranking. Well done!
Unfortunately, the Sunday tournament for Intermediate players did not take place. Only 3 players showed up and this was not enough to get something underway.
The final ranking :
1. (7/9) Misja Alma (NL)
2. (6/9) Marc Steyvers (Brugge), Ronnie Conaert (Hasselt), Toon Van Herreweghen (Leuven)
5. (5/9) Paul Gilbertson (UK), Mike Wygnall (UK) , Bert Van Kerckhoven (Gent)
See you soon