Double The Fun At Backgammon Festival Aachen 10-16 August!

   By Kaz Wellington

Have you ever thought of putting on an international backgammon championship in your home city? The idea might seem ambitious, but long-time member of the international backgammon community Marcus Reinhard is giving it a shot with the 1st Backgammon Festival Aachen and WBGF Doubles World Championship.

This will be an unmissable, one-of-a-kind event held over the week of August 10 to 16 2024 at the Stadtpalais (“City Palace”) Aachen in the heart of the historic city of Aachen, Germany. At this gorgeous castle-like venue, Reinhard and Co-Producer Jürgen Schettler are bringing to life the concept of a “Backgammon Festival” that will bring people together in a similar fashion to a music festival.

Within the cool, comfortable and atmospheric Stadtpalais, the Backgammon Festival Aachen will open up the sport of backgammon to new as well as experienced players. In addition to the very first official World Backgammon Federation (WBGF) Doubles World Championship, there will be a main individual category “Charlemagne Open” and a variety of side events including Speed, Pro/Am Doubles, Jackpots, workshops, a cultural excursion, gala dinner and more.

The Backgammon Festival is part of fulfilling Reinhard’s mission to get more people playing backgammon globally and locally in his town of Aachen. Reinhard believes many people would be better off if they would only turn off their TV and take up a skill game like backgammon: “In a few minutes, you are part of the community. You don’t sit alone watching TV. You find people. Interesting people who are helpful, unique and have a passion.”

Games are a huge part of Reinhard’s life. When asked what he gets up to when not playing backgammon, he replies “other skill games” such as chess and bridge. He considers these games of skill to be a far better option than wasting time on other things such as television. And it’s addictive! “When it comes to backgammon, there’s no way out! Only a way to go in a bit deeper,” he laughs.

For the past 20-30 years, Reinhard has loved being part of the global backgammon community. He is now well known on Galaxy, Gridgammon and Studio Heroes as Hirnakrobat (“Brain Artist”). However, over time he has noticed that most of his peers at tournaments seem to be a similar age to him, without many fresh faces coming in. So three years ago he started organising regular monthly tournaments in his area, especially in Cologne, which now attracts about 30 players a month.

One day Reinhard was talking with one of his best-friends: co-organiser Juergen Schettler. Schettler is also a passionate backgammon player, sports supporter and Chairman of the DBGV Board (German Backgammon Federation). “We were dreaming about whether we were strong enough for a bigger tournament. The question to ourselves was ‘can we do it another way?’,” says Reinhard.

Even though organising a world championship is a mammoth task, Reinhard and Schettler decided to go ahead. They soon realised how much was involved, and brought on extra support to help bring their concept to life. Now they have a whole team behind them to create a world-class event. The highly experienced and professional Arda Findikoglu was brought on as Tournament Director. Tobias Hellwag, Dirk Schiemann and Mate Feher will organise video-streaming. Seminars will be put on by Michihito Kageyama and Torsten Lux, beginner tournaments presented by Paulus van Rooijen, and social media managed by Bogidar Iliev. In addition, Bernhard Mayr (President of the WBGF and WBIF and CEO of the BMAB) has provided much support. “I have the ideas, but alone it’s impossible,” says Reinhard. “My big honour is that all of these people are coming to help make these ideas happen”.

The Aachen Backgammon Festival and Doubles World Championship is set to attract the best of the best. In addition to Michy, some of the big names on the VIP list include: Masayuki “Mochy” Mochizuki, Dirk Schiemann, Oliver Squire, Jörgen Granstedt, Michael “Mik” Larsen, Patrick Gabeili and more. What an amazing opportunity to see some of the world’s best players come together to compete at this epic celebration of backgammon.

The Doubles Championship component of the festival is a new idea that will enable more social connection. Playing with a partner opens up new opportunities to learn something new. “I always love the doubles concept,” says Reinhard. “You discuss, you talk a lot. It’s like a lesson. You are not thinking to yourself silently. You are in a conversation. I have had so many great experiences with players I didn’t know. You can make new friends. It’s a great experience”. 

Interested in joining the Doubles Championship but don’t have a partner to sign up with? No problem. “If someone signs up solo, they are put on a list and will be assigned a partner who will be a good fit for them”, says Reinhard. 

An extra special feature of the Doubles Championship will be a “mixed” tournament where the teams will be changed-up so the two players in each doubles team are of differing abilities. An intermediate player could have the opportunity to be teamed up with an advanced player, and so on. You could even have the chance to play in a doubles team with a pro-level player like Michihito (Michy) Kageyama. The World Backgammon Internet Federation (WBIF) is holding an online qualifier: the winner will receive free entry and Michy as a playing partner. Deadline for this tourney is 1 July, so hurry to register at WBIF!

As a big fan of music, Reinhard has also planned music performances throughout the festival to add an extra level of entertainment. The Stadtpalais, being in the heart of the city, is surrounded by restaurants and bars to explore. With all this and more, the Backgammon Festival in Aachen is sure to delight both experienced backgammon players and visitors alike.

For Reinhard and Schettler, the festival concept has always been part of a long term strategy to attract more people into the world of backgammon. “Our concept is to invite the city, ” says Reinhard, “to invite our local community in Aachen to bring in new faces and new players”. Curious members of the public will be welcome to join some of the festivities and observe game play. In order to broaden the reach of the festival even further, there will be media coverage and some events will be streamed. In addition, a school project is in the works to bring in more young people into the game. 

“All of these aspects do take time, but there is no pressure, only chances: chances we are willing to take,” says Reinhard. “The festival is part of a bigger project that will continue for years to come,” he says.  “There is a lot of space to make mistakes and it will happen. But we are here now, learning and improving for upcoming events”. 

For now, with the Backgammon Festival Aachen, they just want to make a big event that is “enjoyable for everybody”. “The countdown is on, and time is running very fast these days, but we are excited and proud,” he says. 

Backgammon Festival Aachen hosts Jürgen Schettler and Marcus Reinhard are sure to show you a good time in Germany August 10-16.
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