We sat down for a chat with the UK’s lovely Cecilia.
Your early life?
I was born in a small village called Burwash in East Sussex, UK. After spending the past 20 years in the west of the UK in Bristol, I moved to the countryside to a small town called Chippenham. The best part of my childhood was having three brothers. We would play in the fields surrounding our house and we spent a lot of time outdoors in nature. We’d camp in the woods, have mud fights and drive our parents crazy. Music also played a large part in my childhood, my parents listened to a lot of classical music and I played the piano and the harp. I studied music at school and later at university and spent a lot of my spare time singing with and accompanying friends. Our school choir joined forces with a local choir and put on concerts of all the big choral works: Bach B minor mass, Mozart Requiem, etc. I was so fortunate to be introduced to that world as a young teenager and I still remember the excitement before concerts and the buzz afterwards. We sang in a village church and during the Hosanna of the B minor mass, a thunderstorm erupted outside with full-on thunder and lightning – the drama of the music inside the church and the storm outside the church was electrifying.
Who is the most influential person in your life?
I suppose my Dad was the most influential person in shaping who I am today. Sadly, he passed earlier this year. He started his spread betting company, City Index, back in the 80s, and that world of risk versus reward, gambling, unique and colourful people was a big part of my upbringing. We would watch the racing together every weekend and would go to the big race meetings throughout the year. We played strategy games – mastermind, bridge and backgammon – and I’m sure that I would never have enjoyed or appreciated the world of backgammon as much as I do if it weren’t for him.
In more recent years I’ve read a lot of mindfulness philosophy, in particular Ekart Tolle, and that mindfulness way of thinking has had a big impact on my life. I also love Taylor Swift!
How about your worklife?
I’m an Executive Assistant to the CTO for a software company. I’ve never been particularly career focussed, but I enjoy my job as I love organising and planning things.
Other than backgammon, what are your passions and hobbies?
I used to love cycling until I sustained a neck injury. I’d jump on my bike after work and cycle around the country lanes. I also love hiking and getting into the mountains. I enjoy cooking and experimenting with flavours. I also love music. I’ve sung in a choir for most of my life and plan to join a local choir near our new home. I’ve not had a proper garden until we moved to our new house, so I’m enjoying learning about plants and filling our garden with interesting flora.
What was the happiest time of your life?
My wedding day, when I married my wonderful husband Chris Rogers, a fellow backgammon player. I also loved my 30s when I was cycling everywhere, heading to the hills at weekends and living the good life in Bristol. I was independent and adventurous … and I’d just discovered the backgammon club in Bristol which has become a big part of my life.
Tell me about a time when you didn’t know if you would make it.
A few years ago I walked Hadrian’s Wall in the UK; it’s a national walking route that starts on the west coast and ends on the east coast, approx 90 miles in total. I was walking with a friend, averaging about 18 miles per day on mostly strenuous terrain. On day three we had an argument (stress related as she had blisters and it was raining) and we became separated. The whole challenge felt overwhelming and undoable. But we reunited, hugged it out and kept on going. The rain that had been forecast to continue for the entire day stopped at lunchtime, and that afternoon, as we walked in sunshine and finally made it to our destination, I felt a big sense of accomplishment and that we’d overcome the hardest part of the task. We went on to finish the route in 6 days.
I’m very happily married to Chris Rogers. We met later in life and neither of us has children. I spend time with my youngest brother’s two nieces as they live relatively close to me. My middle brother lives in Italy with his family and my eldest brother lives in the UK with his family.
How long have you been playing backgammon and when did you start?
I’ve been playing backgammon since I was a teenager, so about 35 years. My father taught me and we’d play frequently at home. He also taught me to play bridge. I took my board to University in Edinburgh and played with my best friend Marisa. We found a bar called Negotiants where several others played and we’d often skip lectures to go and play there. Incidentally, it is where I first met US backgammon stalwart Albert Steg. We didn’t spend much time together then, but it was a fun moment when I met him again about 25 years later at the Cyprus tournament.
How did you reach such a competitive level in backgammon?
I moved to Bristol when I was 30 and a couple of years later discovered the Bristol backgammon club, that is where I really started to learn the game properly. I joined the same year as Gaz Owen and watched him rise fast to become the legend that he is today. I read books, discussed positions with the top players at the club and competed in local and national tournaments. When I finally made it to the premier league at the club I decided I’d better up my game to ensure I stay there. I invested in XG and started to analyse all my matches, as I had started to also play a fair bit online on Gridgammon. It was around that time that I also met my husband, Chris Rogers. Chris played in the sadly now deceased Battersea chouette, and I learnt loads from attending and playing in that. All of those super sharp gamblers asserting their opinions and I would absorb everything. Chris and I started to play in international tournaments where I met all the interesting, charismatic and entertaining players that frequent that scene. I’d learn from all the post match discussions and analysis of plays or cubes. It was a much bigger backgammon world with so many more people to be influenced by.
I play in the league at the Bristol Backgammon club and in their weekly online tournaments. I also play in the UKBGF league online and the UK women’s team. I play in the WBIF tournaments and occasional UK tour tournaments. I play live less frequently post covid, but try and make it to at least one international tournament per year.
Your hopes for the future?
To sustain and improve good physical health. To meditate more. To get a dog that I can take on country walks and cuddle with on the sofa when Chris is abroad competing in tournaments. To improve at my new-found hobby, upholstering. To join a choir and sing again and meet new people local to me. To keep studying and improving at backgammon. To work on our garden and make it colourful and exotic, and a haven to spend time in.
What do you value most and why?
My physical and mental health – having struggled with both recently I am conscious of how important it is to nurture and protect them for good quality of life. My gorgeous husband who loves and supports me. Our lovely new home and the beautiful countryside that is on our doorstep; the fact that I can walk in fields and woods every day without having to get in a car is such a blessing. My family, Chris’ family and all my friends – the people who I care about most and who care about me. The backgammon world and all the wonderful people I’ve been lucky enough to meet through it.
UK’S backgammon power couple Chris and Cecilia Rogers.