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International Awale Tournament
Palais des Festival,  22nd - 27th February 2000

3rd International Awale Tournament held in Cannes (South of France)

14th International Games Festival - Cannes

Unlike the Royal Festival Hall in London which has scarcely seen a festival since the one for which it was built, the Palais des Festival in Cannes lives up to its name week after week. February half-term week sees it host the International Festival of Games and for the third year The Oware Society based in London hosted the International Awele Tournament. On Monday February 21st seven of us gathered at Heathrow; Glenda Trew, Seth Bonti, Chenaara Edghill-Peart, Dionne, Faileigh and Nathaniel Cooper, and myself.

Full marks to the Festival organizers who met us at the Nice Airport to transport our huge luggage to the festival hall and accommodation. We traveled by bus and saw the countryside between Nice and Cannes bathed in sunshine. From the Center of Cannes a 15-minute walk along the promenade took us to our apartments. It was just as well we did not plan to spend much time there because there was not much room. Seth said it reminded him of being at University and I suppose anything which makes you feel like a teenager can’t be all bad.

We walked to the Palais des Festival to locate the Awele playing area, which was on the third floor with a wonderful view over the bay. To Nathaniel’s joy it was situated next to a well rigged play area which was staffed throughout the week. By this time we were all in need of a sit ‘down’ and a meal both of which we found in an exceedingly good Thai restaurant in the center of Cannes.

Tuesday was ‘setting-up day’ for the games and Seth and Glenda worked very hard all day. It looked at first as if we had plenty of room but the number of people who actually came and wanted to learn how to play was overwhelming. It seems the French people have a genuine love of games of all sorts and their enthusiasm was encouraging. Meeting players from last years International Tournament was good and their skills certainly had improved.

On Wednesday and Thursday the Junior tournament was played and on Friday the Beginners. The Senior tournament managed to take up all the time available because some people could only play Oware/Awele on certain days and as everybody had to play under the round robin system (where everyone plays each other in a league), Seth did really well to get everyone organized. Two factors helped greatly to reduce tension, which crept into some of the matches; the constant flow of visitors to the arena and the attempts to be understood in a foreign tongue.

Each day was a mixture of hard fought tournament matches, strolling along the beach, window shopping, teaching Oware to beginners or trying our hands at other games in the festival. As a special attraction for Chess fans, there were daily exhibition matches in the auditorium between former World Champions, Anotaly Karpov and local French hero Etienne Bacrot. There was a really good atmosphere in the festival throughout the week and the organizers of the Mind Sports would learn a lot from a visit to the Games Festival in Cannes.

The Awele European Championships produced some memorable matches. This year saw the rise of Junior Under 11’s International Champion Faileigh Cooper, who challenged the seniors and did quite well. She played more matches than anyone else and won nearly all of them. At the end of the tournament she finished with the Junior gold medal and Senior bronze medal. It was no easy task as she had to battle through the psychological war tactics employed against her especially from one particular player from Senegal (Mambaye) who could not believe that a girl so young was giving him a lashing. In the end after Faileigh had regained her composure and broken the camels back he had to concede defeat and as a jester of good will gave her one of his own necklaces as a commemoration of their battles.

Maxence Soumare last years junior Gold medallist the silver position with grace after the shook of losing to Faileigh Cooper. Chenaara Edghill-Peart playing for the first time abroad gained bronze position after much goading from Glenda Trew who threatened to soak her ticket in milk and leave her in Cannes if she did not try her best.

The Senior Gold position went for the third time to Danildo de Cunha. An exceptional player with a flamboyant style and charisma, who entertained us with his traditional Cape Verdean playing style; counting seeds showing you where they were going to land, tossing the seeds into three separate houses simultaneously and gathering his wins gracefully of the board. He may have to work harder next year to contain Xavier Blanvillian who placed second and has improved out of all recognition since his baptism into international tournaments last year.

On the last day Sunday a team event was organized between the UK and Europe/Africa, which we won 3 games to 2. I suppose we will forgive Seth for being beaten by the European Champion Danildo de Cunha. We can only put this down to tiredness, but fortunately Glenda, Faileigh and myself kept the flag flying. It was no walk over and special praise must be given to Danildo da Cunha, Ibra Thiam, Viktor Bautista i Roca, Mambaye Sylla and Jean Marc Chalancon for their valiant effort.

We returned on Monday February 28th to the chill winds of London. Many thanks, to Glenda, for all her hard work and organization. We all have our photographs to remind us of a tremendous week and of course Faileigh has her necklace.

Written by chiefly by Clarissa Caroé, with additions by Glenda Trew. Edited by Seth Bonti.

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