Over the weekend of April 16-18, approximately 100 persons milled around at Strawberry Hill for a game, newly-recognized by some Jamaicans, but a point of social contact for many others.
It was the fifth annual Strawberry Hill High Stakes Backgammon Tournament, organized by Alastair Macbeath, which welcomed 26 entrants vying for their share of 2 million dollars in prizes.
One female, Lisa Gabor from NYC, along with 25 male competitors such as William Mahfood, Ruddy Armstrong, Mike Hirst, Balsam Vaswani, Dwight Sangster, Andrew Issa who had been playing at various spots, at times on their computers, entered the battle of skill, strategy and risk. Others supporting included Damian P Daley and Patrick Ewbank.
Chris Blackwell, owner of Strawberry Hill, tournament’s title sponsor, played host, and an exemplary host he was. He with the support of sponsors such as Wray & Nephew (Chivas Regal & Appleton), Wisynco (Ocean Spray & Haagen Daz), ensured that nobody was left wanting. Property manager Nicholas Lynch, and his smiling team kept everyone fed, and warm. For added warmth, there was a cosy fireplace, and, Joe Adduci had his brand cigars for those who smoked.
The weekend started with a cocktail party on Friday evening, and a one-night knockout Sniper Tournament with 16 entrants vying for Dickie Jobson (deceased member) Memorial Award. Aaron Johnston copped this award along with $50,000.
That Friday evening, after an informative welcome address by organizer Alastair Macbeath, all specially invited guests and players feasted on a Jamaican meal starting with pumpkin soup as appetiser. This was energy for the sniper tournament which was to last until almost 3am Saturday morning.
Saturday was relaxing, with a round robin segment, and ending in a night of rain watching and memory collecting. Planned entertainment by Gramps Morgan was put off by the after effects of the erupting volcano in Iceland, which had rippling effects on the artiste schedule in London, but there were Latin music beats to soothe all weekend long.
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The nailbiting final challenge of the weekend was held Sunday. Then the 26 contestants were reduced to 16, and the final showdown of the main plight was played to 15 points, between Mike Hirst (Prism Communications) and Andrew Issa. No more than 2 hours passed and at 4:42p.m., Hirst won 15-12, over Issa.
Hirst won $455,000 in cash plus round trip tickets for 2 to London courtesy of Virgin Atlantic; a weekend for two at Strawberry Hill courtesy of Island Outpost; a humidor courtesy of Adduci Jamaican cigars; a Sony Ericsson Phone courtesy of Digicel; and a beautiful Chivas Regal display unit courtesy of Wray and Nephew.
As runner up, Andrew Issa received $260,000, plus a weekend for two at Jakes courtesy of Island outpost and other sponsored prizes. Scotia DBG investments also gave each player a special gift bag.
The observers were modest with their emotions, interrupted only by excited shouts by the animated Montegonian Ruddy Armstrong, especially during his game against Johhny Todd. He won 3rd place and was given $104,000 with small gift, while Todd claimed $78,000 at 4th place.
Dwight Sangster who came fifth, earned $52,000. The sixth spot is to be decided at a further date.
Winner, Mike Hirst said the game is 90 per cent risk, and 10 per cent skill, and a great pastime. He also added that the game which is popular among men and women in Jamaica has a lot to do with mathematics. Organiser Alastair Macbeth calling it
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