Thursday, July 20, 2006

Letter from Monte Carlo

Hello, and belated thank-you's to all who wished me well after an amazing week (in the middle of an amazing trip)!

Some highlights that didn't make it into the standard tournament results reporting:

By chance, the film crew doing the four-hour television and dvd documentary on the 2006 Monte Carlo World Championships happened to be set up near my assigned table for the first round of the main. By chance, my first round match went to Double Match Point for maximum drama. They started filming the final game. By chance, it was a game with amazing turnarounds (I was in a well timed ace-point game, hit his 13th checker, closed out his 13-15th checkers, got hit in my bearoff, and finally won a scramble with a well-timed set of doubles). The crew went wild "That's exactly the kind of drama we need for our video!" and asked for an extended follow-up interview.

So we did that, and they really liked the result. Then they asked if I could do some sort of backgammon lessons directly toward the camera, which they could use throughout the four hours. Sure, I said, and went home that night to come up with a few illustrative positions of various degrees of complexity, and some patter to go with them. The next morning we filmed me in their studio . . . and again, they loved the result. I said, "Look, I understand a little about show business and how nothing is ever guaranteed. Even if you don't end up using this material, I'd really like to get a copy of it just for myself." They started laughing . . . "Trust us, we will use it."

Then they started covering all my matches (I was one of their "horses" that they had interviewed early on, so they wanted me to go far in the tournament. Kind of fun to have a full crew rooting for you. Alas, I lost (again at DMP) in the third round. But I kept winning in the Super.

By the middle of the week they approached me again . . . and asked if would be willing to do the voice over narration for the whole video. Of course they would fly me out to Stockholm and put me up in a hotel . . . and pay me. And why yes, of course they would fly out my girlfriend and her daughter as well. So. Although I still caution myself not to believe anything in show-biz before the check is cashed, we have now changed our return flights such that the production company can have us for an extra week in Europe, and are flying us to Stockholm. Fun. (This means I will return back to the states some five days before leaving for Burning Man.)

Then came the day of the finals in the main event (I'm already knocked out of the main, but am in the semis of the Super and trying to find my opponent). As soon as we arrive in the playing area, we hear the scuttlebut that Paul Magriel has vanished and will not be doing the play-by-play commentary on the finals that he signed up for. The directors are looking for someone to replace him. Hmmm. Trying to be as self-effacing and non-pushy as possible while suggesting myself for the job, I suggested myself for the job. The camera crew went wild "That would be an AMAZING tie-in to your voice over!" and they suggested it to the directors, who it turned out were happy to find someone. So . . . it turned out that Falafel (a famed and quirky player) and I both did live commentary in front of a crowd of a few hundred . . . and it was great fun and by all reports a success. Our speaking and thinking styles are different enough that we had some nice contrast, and lots of good humor.

In the middle of the match, my semi-final opponent was ready, so I excused myself and played what tuned out to be a very fast paced match. When I returned, I successfully restrained myself from saying "I'm back, and ten-thousand dollars richer." (And of course I wasn't really 10k richer, because I only had a quarter of my own action in the Super -- I had backers who paid the $1500 entry fee in exchange for 75% of my winnings.)

So the Finals ended, there was a new World Champion, there was a nice party where I had exactly 1/2 a glass of champaign, and then I played the finals of the Super where I rolled over my opponent 13-4. The prize money was 40k, of which I took home 10k, which meant for the first time I could actually afford to be on this trip.

Add to that three separate nights of after-hours nude-swimming on the beach (with friendly drunken Norwegians, with my girlfriend, with friendly drunken Norwegians *and* my girlfriend) and you begin to understand that this was a special week.

The rest of the trip has been grand as well -- great times with friends in Paris and Zurich. (We go to see the World Cup finals from a bistro in Paris -- the streets were packed.) Crazy adventures in Amsterdam. Fun driving in the Camper Van. All in all, an amazing trip.

More to come,


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