Cyprus Backgammon Open 2010


By Robert Wachtel

(Continued from: Back to the cradle of Backgammon in the 2010 Cyprus Open)

By Robert Wachtel

(Continued from: Back to the cradle of Backgammon in the 2010 Cyprus Open)

2010 Cyprus Backgammon Open tournament was held at the Golden Tulip Hotel, in the northern half of the divided city of Nicosia, on the Turkish half of the island. Because Turkish Cyprus is not recognized by any country in the world but Turkey, an airline visitor can only fly directly into it from Istanbul. The alternative is to fly into the southern (Greek) half of the island and then take a long taxi ride across the border. I chose the first route; and after a day-long journey from Los Angeles to Frankfurt to Istanbul to Nicosia, I was rather the worse for wear.

Free Drinks & Smoky Clouds

But once I had settled into one of the hotel’s tastefully decorated mini-suites, my worries were over. The Golden Tulip offers the kind of hospitality to gamblers that has not existed in the States since the early days of Vegas, if indeed it existed then. Included in the very modest (70 euros per night) price of the room were lavish breakfast and dinner buffets in a separate dining hall; and within the casino to which the hotel is attached, drinks – alcoholic and not, including coffees or every sort – were unlimited and free, not just to players but to anyone and everyone. Add to this the presence of another buffet within the casino (always open and free) and the spreads of canapes and Turkish pastries that were set out regularly, and it will come as no surprise that many of the players, myself included, spent not a dime on food or beverage throughout the entire backgammon tournament!

Backgammon tournament location
“ of the hotel’s tastefully decorated mini-suites”

The only cloud in this otherwise perfect sky was a smoke cloud: Cyprus casinos allow the patrons to smoke, and in some cases give them all the free cigarettes they can consume. The backgammon playing area, though itself a non-smoking zone, was located on an indoor terrace just one story above the casino floor. The air got pretty dense up there on the weekends, when the casino was crowded.
On the Border
I did take one afternoon off from the food and gaming to do some sightseeing. Leaving the hotel on foot, I followed a friend’s directions, walking a couple of miles until I came to a district rich in shops, museums, and millennium-old architecture. Following the flow of the crowd along a narrow street lined with tourist attractions, I was suddenly stopped by a soldier. “You need to show a passport to enter,” he said, in English at least. Enter? I was just walking down the street, not trying to enter anything. Since I never carry my passport on routine expeditions like this one (afraid of losing it), I told him I did not need to “enter,” and turned around. He looked at me suspiciously, but let me go. However, I had not walked twenty feet back in the direction from which I’d come when another soldier, clad in a different uniform, stopped me. “You need to show your passport to enter,” he said, in English at least. “I don’t have a passport with me,” I replied, “I just came from back this way,” pointing towards my hotel, by now several miles away.

I was caught in no-man’s land. Unaware of the local politics and geography, I had been walking along the famous Ledra Street, where according to Wikipedia, “In March 2008, a wall that for decades had stood at the boundary between the Greek Cypriot controlled side and the UN buffer zone was demolished. The wall had cut across Ledra Street in the heart of Nicosia and was seen as a strong symbol of the island’s 32-year division.” The only problem was that now there was no warning that one was crossing a boundary. The Greeks (or U.N., I never found out) told me I could not enter, but when I turned around, the Turks thought I was trying to enter their territory from the Greek side!

Lefkosa border

Lefkosa border The Lefkosa border (credit: Anjadora)

My Turkish border guard had apparently heard of the Golden Tulip; but he still seemed incredulous. What, he wanted to know, was I doing walking around in a border zone with no passport? Eventually, shaking his head at my stupidity, he let me return to a simpler world of pips and primes.
Back to the Pips & Primes World
Back in that world, Fuat Erdag was not able to pull off a trifecta; but the tournament proved to be an all-Turkish affair nonetheless. Michy, Mochy, Falafel, Jurgen Orlowski, Eli Roymi and a host of Danish and German luminaries all hit the skids, and in the end it was Haluk Oral, a 53-year old mathematics professor at Koc University in Istanbul, who (after dispatching Mochy in the previous round) bested his countryman Oguz User in the final. Mr. Oral, one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, had been quite despondent when we became acquainted earlier in the year at the Mallorca backgammon challenge. “I haven’t won a single match here,” he told me. “I lost first round of the main, the consolation, the last chance, and three jackpot side events.” But Haluk, whose specialty is combinatorics and coding theory, must have had a mathematician’s faith that his luck could run the other way as well, as it did in this event.

Next: Cyprus Backgammon Open positions from the Main quarterfinals

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