Thrilling finish in Lake District backgammon championship

A 16 year old Dallam schoolgirl reached the semi-final of the inaugural Lake District backgammon championship, in her first ever competition.

Kate Watton, from Grange over Sands, was stopped from reaching the final by the reigning Midlands open champion Ian Hesketh, from Edinburgh, in the contest at Windermere’s Cedar Manor Hotel. Hesketh then lost in a close and thrilling final to Newcastle’s Graeme Turner.

Turner, a commercial banker who took up serious competition only a year ago, had knocked out current British open champion Martin Barkwill in an earlier round. He carried off £100 in prize money, a free weekend at the Cedar Manor, and a signed copy of The Wind of Change, by backgammon journalist Chris Bray.

Kate, an A level student who hopes to study English Literature at Durham University, defeated her father, John, in an earlier round. He said later: “We play three games a day over breakfast.”

Her semi-final opponent Hesketh, a learning technologist, said: “She should be very proud to do so well in her first tournament. She was in a field that included players who travel the world competing.”

Also reaching the semi-finals was Samantha Wilkinson, an academic scientific researcher from Edinburgh who has won two contests in Scotland.

In another family affair, Staveley’s Robbie Altinyollar reached round two while his father, Farit, was beaten by Ian Hesketh in the opening round.

The contest was organised by Cedar Manor owner Jonathan Kaye, who was knocked out in the first round by Kate.

He said: “It was great to see so many players coming into the Lakes for this event. It was a very enjoyable day, and the start of things to come. People were making new friends, and arranging to meet and play again, or even form clubs in the area. Backgammon is very popular on the internet and it is really good to see people enjoying the game in the real world.”

The contest was supported by the UK Backgammon Federation, and was promoted by journalist Chris Bray who is the backgammon correspondent for The Independent and has been playing and studying the game for more than 30 years.

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