Portlandia Invitational Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a fabulous turnout for this special tournament — 15 players showed up for the High Roller, and 12 for the Low Roller event. The majority of players were from Portland, but we had a good turnout from Seattle, Bellingham, Eugene, and even further beyond.

I got to Lucky Lab about 10 til noon, and found at least a dozen people already waiting for the place to open. Registration took until about 12:15, then we got off to the races. I’m not going to run through the whole brackets, but it was amazing to see basically the whole room taken over by backgammon boards.

The High Roller ended up being dominated by Seattle players, in an ironic reversal of the Seattle Winter Classic, where Dave and I took 1st/2nd. In the Portlandia, the winner was Alex, with Molly taking second. In the consolation bracket, Dave redeemed Portland, keeping Pete from sweeping the prize money for the bracket.

The Low Roller was dominated by locals, but because of the byes, it ended up with a number of people sitting around a long time between matches. Bodger ended up winning the bracket over Julie, who was nonetheless happy after clawing her way back to a 9-7 loss from an 8-1 deficit. In the consolation bracket, Buzz won out over Nathan, playing in extended overtime — I left as they got started a little after 7:00 pm. So it was a very long day of backgammon!

I recorded most of my matches, although the camera randomly died partway through the last one. However, I vividly remember one position from the last game, which did not manage to get recorded. This was my match against Pete in the consolation bracket. I dominated the first few games, and was leading 4-0 in our match to 7. Pete doubled me early in the last game, and I took, and managed to turn it around to get to this really dominant position.

Screenshot 2024-05-25 9.51.12 PM

There are a few things that can go wrong from me here – but 22 out of 36 rolls for me are amazing. 85% of the time, I win from here, 67% of the time I win a gammon. But just in case, I figured I should just go ahead and cash. But Pete took the cube, and threw it back to me on his next turn…

Screenshot 2024-05-25 10.09.45 PM

Obviously, if you take this cube, you’re going to give it back. I should have thought harder about offering it. This was a fun one — the technical analysis of my action was “Too good to redouble – take”. I then rolled a 65, leaving a return shot. Pete recubed me to 8, and I took (properly). Pete then did the critical thing, of rolling a 4. He proceeded to close out his board, and win the game and the match.

All in all, a great day of lots of backgammon – and we’re doing it again in just about a week with the Championship Qualifier #2 on Sunday June 2nd. Hope to see you there!


May 2024 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a great turnout for this month’s regular tournament – 19 players came out to play. It’s an odd number, so there was a little bit of creativity involved in setting the brackets – especially because one person showed up late… But we made it all work!

I arrived a little after noon, to find about a half-dozen people already playing warm-up matches. That’s how it has been going lately – the maniacs show up early to get extra play.

I put 8 people into the “A” bracket, although only 5 of them were in the side pools. Round 1 had Kristina (down from Tacoma) over Bodger, me over Tim (back from Hawaii), Dave over Chris (returning for his first match of the year), and Jeremy (back from about 8 ABT events) over Mir. In the end, (double checks my notes) Dave won the bracket over Jeremy, and I beat out Kristina for the consolation bracket.

I put 10 people into the “B” bracket, because it did not seem reasonable to split into a third bracket. I might have come to regret that… Anyway, in round 1, Bob H (first time at a tournament, but he’s been to a number of the casual meetups) beat out Julie, Leah beat out Matt T (first tournament of the year for him), Steve beat newcomer Stan, Mark A won over Joel, and Matt H beat Noah (another newcomer). After we were underway, Fariba arrived, unfortunately she had been delayed by the construction and/or movie shoot that was in the area. I ended up slotting her into the consolation bracket to help smooth out the bracket. In the end, Leah won the bracket over Bob H, continuing her undefeated streak for the year! The consolation bracket ended up with Joel versus Julie, so at least they understood one another’s game pretty well. Joel won that one.

A small chouette broke out, and lots of post-tournament pick-up games were played. All in all, it was a great afternoon of backgammon, and it was great to see so many new players and welcome back so many people who hadn’t been around for a bit. A lot of excitement was expressed around next weekend’s “Portlandia Invitational” – I am definitely looking forward to it. Check our instagram for a picture of the prize cup for the event!

I was asked what the standing is for the Player of the Year cup. If you are not familiar, this is a trophy that goes to the person with the highest tournament wins minus losses count for the year. I picked that metric because it rewards both consistently showing up and playing well, and also showing up less frequently but really dominating when you do. At the moment, there is a tie for the race, showing both strategies — Dave has made to every event so far, with a 68% win rate for a net 8 wins, while Leah has only made it to 3 events, but has 100% win rate for also a net 8 wins! We’ll see how the rest of the year develops – lots of room for others to catch up!

Here’s a position that came up in my match against Jeremy, in our first game (so 0-0 in match to 5). A few moves before, I had (correctly) doubled him, and he had (correctly) taken. Then he rolled a double 6, radically changing the situation. Another sequence or two, and he offered me a 4 cube.

Screenshot 2024-05-19 9.08.58 PM

I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about this one. For doubling situations, I like to use the Keith Count, a method for adjusting for gaps and wastage. According to the Keith Count, this is a small-ish pass – if there was just 1 pip less of a gap in the race it would be a take. But I talked myself into taking it anyway. This was not a small mistake – it was a -0.188 double blunder! The Keith Count is best when you’re talking about money games, and I did not make the necessary adjustments for this being a match. Not that I understand those adjustments well – but roughly: if Jeremy wins, we go on to play the Crawford game. That’s almost as good as just winning the match. I still have almost 25% chance of winning this game, but if I do turn it around (say he rolls something that only gets off 1 checker, and I roll double 5, and then he again rolls poorly), I can recube him to 8 but he will still have a take. So mostly, he gets to the Crawford game, and when he doesn’t, he gets to a position where he can take my recube to 8, meaning he still has good odds of winning the match. That’s a pretty weak position for me. If it was a longer match, I would have a take; but as is…

Hope to see many of you again this coming Saturday at noon for the Portlandia!


April 2024 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a fabulous showing for this month’s tournament – 17 players came out on a sunny and almost warm afternoon to play some gammon. Well, technically 18 players came out, but newcomer Molly was, alas, almost an hour late, and I could not fit her into the brackets. Next time! She did get to play some pick-up with people waiting for their tournament matches to start, so not a total loss.

Joel generously brought his collection of backgammon books to the meetup, and gave them all away! I personally grabbed a copy of a Magriel book that I hadn’t seen before. The pile disappeared very quickly, people were excited about it for sure. Thanks, Joel, for your generosity!

Anyway, 17 made for two 8 person brackets, plus one extra. In the “B” bracket, I had Cam wait for a match to finish as the “play-in”, and took it from there. It all worked out. The first round matches were newcomer Fred (a/k/a Jeremy A’s dad) against Larry C, Bodger against Steve, Jeremy A against Nathan, and Julie against newcomer Luke. In each listing, the first player won the match. Bodger and Steve were the first to finish, and so were punished by being the play-in round. Fred and Jeremy did have to face off at one point as well, much to their mutual consternation. Truly this is the cruelest game. Ultimately Cam won the bracket, over Jeremy, with Luke taking the consolation bracket in a rematch against Julie.

In the “A” bracket, round 1 had Ed against Matt H, Buzz against Dave, Neil against Joel, and me against Mir. Again, the first listed player won that round. In the end, Buzz won the bracket over Ed, with Mir taking the consolation bracket.

This is a position that came up in my second round match against Ed. It’s the second game, only a handful of moves in, and as you can see, it has gotten messy.

Screenshot 2024-04-21 9.16.47 PM

I found myself overwhelmed by the number of options on this one. With the exchange of hits, I was down in the race – at the time I assumed I was down even more than this. Obviously the 2 could be used to cover the blot on my 4 point, but then the 6 wasn’t clear to me. Alternatively, I considered making Ed’s bar point with 24/18 20/18 or making Ed’s 5 point with 22/20 and again being unclear on the 6. Ultimately I went with making Ed’s bar point. Big mistake! Covering the blot on the 4, and then moving any of the back checkers, was the right move according to the bots. The reason I was confused about the 6 was that it didn’t much matter – best was 22/16, worst was 20/14, but 6/4 20/14 is only -0.015 equity lost. Sometimes when you’re confused about what move is best, it’s because there isn’t a lot of difference!

Anyway, it was a fun afternoon, in spite of the gradually dropping temperatures, and we all had a lot of fun. Hope to see you all again at the next one!


Women’s World of Backgammon Mixed Doubles Tournament

I was pleased to be invited by Leah to be her partner in the 3rd annual WWB Mixed Doubles Tournament. We had our first (and final) match today, after an extended delay trying to coordinate a match against our opponents, who were from Romania, which is 9 hours time zone difference. The original schedule was to play on the first Tuesday night of the month, 7:00 pm Eastern, 4:00 pm Pacific, 1:00 am Romania. They (understandably) did not want to play at 1:00 am, and so we were going to find another, more mutually agreeable time; but as the month went on, deadline pressure meant we ended up playing on the last Tuesday night of the month, 7:00 pm Eastern, 4:00 pm Pacific, 1:00 am Romania.

After resolving some technical difficulties, we got underway. Game 1 started off rough. 4 of our first 8 rolls were a 21, the smallest possible roll. It wasn’t much easier for the Romanians – 3 of their first 8 rolls were also a 21. So, nothing was moving quickly. We did ok, getting a 4 point board, keeping one of their checkers trapped. But then they had two lucky rolls in a row, double 1’s and double 4’s, both in positions which were relatively easy to play, and so we were on the bar with a 31 to play.

Screenshot 2024-03-26 8.19.29 PM

We debated on this one for a while – it seemed clear to come in with the 3, because we didn’t want to have three checkers trapped on their ace point. But the 1 was harder – either 24/23 or something else. We could not reconcile ourselves to that, so instead we offered up 13/12, exposing a second blot. 24/23 was correct, and 13/12 was MASSIVELY wrong. They correctly doubled us.

Screenshot 2024-03-26 8.31.50 PM

It does not look good. We get hit by a lot of numbers, and when hit we lose a lot of gammons. We dropped, but with 33.5% wins, this was still a take! So between the checker blunder and the cube blunder, our error rate was very high for the game.

Game 2 was a short one, both teams running back checkers out pretty easily, and they had a couple of big doubles that put them up 28 pips in the race, 92 to 120, and they doubled us out.

Game 3, we had a double 5 blitz out the gate, and we offered an early cube:

Screenshot 2024-03-26 8.41.21 PM

This is actually a small no double and an easy take, I take full responsibility for this one, but I figured being down in the match score it was justifiable. For the next few moves, things were going pretty well for us, we kept hitting them, moving towards a close-out. On move 6, we had this 63 to play.

Screenshot 2024-03-26 8.52.05 PM

We spent a lot of time on this one. 13/7 is clear, we need more checkers down to cover the blot on the 2 point. The 3 is harder. We talked about 13/10, getting a third builder into the outfield, but that does not immediately help as we already have a checker on the 10 point. We talked about making the bar, 10/7, but that reduces the number of covering numbers for the 4 point. We ended up going with “the clever play”, 5/2, covering the blot but in a way that gives us two covering numbers for the new blot! And this is correct! 13/10 is also pretty good, but making the bar would have been pretty bad; so I am proud of us for finding this one.

But ultimately, we were not able to close them out, and had a bunch of blots spread around the board. Several of those got hit, and we ended up having to try to get 5 checkers back around after they escaped their back checkers. However, we had a lot of assets – we had a 5 point board, versus their 1 point board, and all it would take to get back into a dominant position was one hit. We did not get the hitting roll, but we felt pretty good about this double 4:

Screenshot 2024-03-26 9.14.01 PM

This was a tricky one. We were looking at two options, 20/16(2) 18/14(2), or 24/16 20/16(2). One of those is much better than the other. We went with moving everything to the 16 point, on the theory that we were up in the race, and so we should break contact. But the win is more likely to come from a hit, given our strong board! So we should have left the checker back on the 24 point for contact. From there, we did in fact break contact, but they rolled double 5’s followed by double 6’s, and there went our racing lead. They doubled us out, and now we were down 4-0.

In game 4, it took a little longer before I suggested throwing out the early cube – being even further down in match score making even a slight edge worth throwing it out.

Screenshot 2024-03-26 9.26.42 PM

We have three checkers back, they have one checker on the bar. We have a two point board, and high likelihood of making a third this roll. The race is very close. But the positional advantage and threats of closing them out does make this a good cube! It is also a big take, and they took easily.

A couple of rolls later, they had entered both their checkers, and we had an unfortunate 65 to play:

Screenshot 2024-03-26 9.44.08 PM

We saw and considered the correct move, 8/3* 8/2*, putting two back on the roof, and giving us a chance to finish the close out. But that felt like a big play, and it has the potential to backfire. But so does the play we went with, 11/6 8/2*! That was a -0.178 double blunder!

A bit further down the road of this game, things had resolved in the Romanian’s advantage. We had two checkers trapped on their deuce point, and a roll that did not help with that at all.

Screenshot 2024-03-26 10.01.49 PM

We felt like it was important to get the blot off the 13 point. But the bot disagrees – with the blot they have on their ace point, it is hard for them to hit. Our move, 18/15(2) 13/7, was a -0.107 blunder.

Fortunately, our next roll was a major bit of luck, double 5’s, which let us escape the back checkers and equalized the race. We were rolling towards a close finish, which ended with this position:

Screenshot 2024-03-26 10.17.02 PM

We were well positioned – I know the reference that if you have a checker on the 2 and a checker on the 5, you have just over 50% to get both off next roll. But 32, was not enough. We got one off, and the Romanians spent a fair amount of time thinking about whether or not to recube us, which gave us plenty of time to figure that once they realized they should double, we were going to drop. Which we (correctly) did.

From there, however, we started to really roar back. In the Crawford game we did not make any serious mistakes, and in spite of slightly worse luck than our opponents, we got our first win. In game 6, we doubled right away and they (correctly) dropped. In game 7, we also doubled right away, and they (correctly) took. We played another game without any serious mistakes, and now were only down 4-6.

In game 8, we once more doubled right away, and they (correctly) took. Things then immediately got kind of rocky for us, and we ended up making a couple of pretty serious blunders. First was this double 5 from the bar

Screenshot 2024-03-26 10.38.48 PM

The race is basically tied after this roll, and we went with Bar/5. But an even game is not enough for us, as we’re trailing in the match. We need something with some gammon potential, and breaking contact does the opposite. Bar/5 wins more often than the top move (Bar/20 13/3 8/3 or Bar/20 13/8 6/1(2) depending on which bot you believe), but the top moves win a lot more gammons, and gammons win us the match.

Luckily, the next move gave us the chance to head back into gammon territory with a double 3 to play:

Screenshot 2024-03-26 10.43.57 PM

13/10*(2) to start, for sure. Then Leah wanted to play 6/3(2), making another point on our home board. I wanted to play 10/7(2), making a small prime in front of the re-entering checker. My play wins more games, but Leah’s play wins more gammons; but for some reason she agreed to let me play the priming move, and so we had two major blunders in a row!

Fortunately, our next move after that was only an error, not a blunder. We didn’t make another blunder until the second move after that, when we had this 42 to play:

Screenshot 2024-03-26 10.47.03 PM

The alternatives we considered were 13/7, or 7/3* 5/3. There’s a bit of a running theme here – 13/7 wins more games, 7/3* 5/3 wins more gammons. Ah, well. We did, at least, win the game.

Which brought us to a tie score! 6-6 in a match to 7, here comes DMP! We were, by the way, at this point down to 42 seconds (!!!) in our time bank, and so we had to make a lot of pretty quick decisions. Nevertheless, our play in the final game was very good, no serious errors. Not to discount the Romanians, who also played that game near flawlessly! But they severely outrolled us – it turned into a one-sided double anchor holding game with us hoping for a shot as they bore their checkers in. And then an ace point game with us hoping for a shot as they bore their checkers off… And we did eventually get a shot! But we missed it.

Screenshot 2024-03-26 10.54.30 PM

That last position kind of summarizes the emotional feel of the whole match.

The Romanians took it back at the end, but it was closely fought. Their PR was better than ours, but I think they also had fewer tough decisions than we did, and our PR was nothing to be ashamed of. So all in all, I feel pretty content with the experience. I hope Leah invites me to join her again next year, and maybe we’ll have better luck (and opponents in a less challenging time zone). Thanks to Leah for dragging me into this, thanks to Karen & Nano from WWB for organizing, congrats to Dana & her confusingly named partner for a well played match, and thanks to you for reading all this!


March 2024 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a fine showing for our March tournament – 15 players showed up on the first really warm Saturday of the year, foregoing the sunshine and refreshing breeze to instead play backgammon. Naturally, we moved out onto the patio, so we still were able to enjoy the warm air and the sound of passing motorcycles, etc.

15, as you might know, is an odd number, so it doesn’t lead to a perfect bracket. It gets slightly worse than that, because a couple of them had the wrong start time in mind, and didn’t show up until 2:00 or 2:30 (that was Steve “I’ll be about 30 minutes late” E…) So I had 13 as I did the bracket draw. Gene got the first round bye, but since he had somewhere else to go as an alternative, he just headed out, and so we were down to 12 players in the tournament, in two 6-person brackets.

In the “A” bracket, I faced off against Buzz in round 1, Tim E took on Leah, and Tim T drew Dave. In each pairing, the second person won the first match. In round 2, Leah got the bye, and Buzz rolled over Dave. Leah and Buzz faced off in the final, and in spite of some immediately regretted cube action, Leah took the prize! That makes Leah undefeated in all appearances this year, if you’re keeping track. Tim E went on to win the consolation bracket over Dave.

In the “B” bracket, Steve H played newcomer Tammy A (and they spent a lot of time talking strategy, since she’s a newer player and he’s a nice guy), Larry (in his first in person visit) played Ed, and Tim A (related to Tammy A, and so also a first-timer) played Cam. In each pairing, the first player listed ended up winning. In round 2, Steve got the bye and Larry beat out Tim A. In the final, Steve came out on top. Ed went on to win the consolation bracket over Tim A.

You’ll notice that 3 of our 12 players were named Tim, making this the most Tim-intensive backgammon tournament in the US for the weekend, I am pretty sure.

After my quick defeat, I got to play a pick-up match against Steve E and some heads up against Dave, so in spite of the poor showing in the tournament I still got a lot of backgammon in. As Dave and I were getting close to wrapping up, a lady leaving the bar let us know that we had been playing for hours, a very accurate description of the situation I have to say.

Thanks everyone who came out, and I hope to see you all again at our next tournament, scheduled for April 21st at (take note, JB and Steve E, and I guess the rest of you as well) 1:00 pm!


2024 Qualifier #1 Results

We had a terrific turnout for this year’s first Championship Qualifier – 18 players came out for an afternoon of backgammon! We had 16 entries for the Men’s Championship but only 2 for the Women’s Championship. So congrats to both Julie and Paola for qualifying! But rather than having them just play a 21 point match to determine 1st/2nd, we just did it all as one jumbo bracket. This caused some concern about what would happen if one of them won, especially as Julie made it to the semi-final! Alas, or fortunately, or just as it happens, the two finalists were both people who identify as male, so we have two qualifiers for the Men’s Championship as well! But I’ll get to that.

With 18 players, we had to have a play-in match, so I punished Dave and Nathan for finishing their round 1 matches so quickly by making them the winners of the anti-buy. From there, we had an easy to manage 16 person bracket. Things moved along fairly well, although a couple of the first round matches ended up taking 2+ hours. I punished the winners of those matches by making them play a 5-point match in the next round in order to help catch up to the rest of the field. That worked, and we ended up with the final around 5:00, 4 hours into the day…

Most of the field were regulars (or at least semi-regulars), with 2 new players. First was Paola, one of our Women’s Championship qualifiers. In the first round, she faced off against Steve H, in one of the brutally long 2+ hour first round matches. When I went over to check on them, the score was 5-4, and it ended up going to 6-6, pretty much all single games, before she finally clenched it in the DMP game. The second new player was Gary, who (spoiler alert) is one of our Men’s Championship qualifiers. In the first round, he faced off against Ed, then he took on Dave in the second round (third round for Dave). I noticed Dave and Gary then talking for about the next hour while he waited for his next match.

For myself, I faced Bodger in the first round. We had an… interesting match. Our PRs suffered. Here’s a position that came up in our second game.

Screenshot 2024-03-03 10.05.51 AM

I did not count the race at this point, but clearly I am ahead. I was starting to worry about that. I can enter with the 6 and give Bodger a tenth checker back, or I can enter with the 2 and do something else. I decided that sending back the tenth checker was suspect, and instead played Bar/23 13/7, slotting a point I hoped to make next roll. Big mistake! The top 5 possible moves all include Bar/19*. After that, there are better and worse uses for the 2, but even the worst of those is better than my -0.191 mega-blunder.

I did go on to what was looking like a pretty good outcome, forcing Bodger off points on my homeboard and clearing from the rear, until I got to this unfortunate situation:

Screenshot 2024-03-03 10.20.43 AM

It took me a minute to play this one, as I told Bodger, not because it’s hard to see the move (there’s only one legal option), but because I needed to mourn. After 4/off 4/2*, Bodger responded with a 41, hitting both my blots, and then doubled me out. He then went on to win all the rest of the games, as part of his march towards the finals.

So I already mentioned that Gary made it to the finals, and now you know that Bodger did too. Bodger ended up winning, so congratulations!

We have our next regular tournament in a couple of weeks, on Saturday March 16th – normally we have the monthly tournaments on Sundays, but the 17th is St. Patrick’s day, and I figured it might be a little busier than usual at Lucky Lab that day. Hope to see you all there!


February 2023 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had an excellent turnout for this month’s event – 22 players showed up to compete, including 6 first timers! We really took over the space… as I was getting everyone settled, one guy who was not there for the event commented about it being quite a good show – I invited him to join in, but he had to demur, although he did take one of the fliers and so maybe we’ll get him next time. Also on the outreach theme – there was a couple who came to play with one another who ended up in the corner of the room – again they got a card and who knows, maybe they’ll come in the future. Also, one of the newcomers found us through a means other than Meetup, which is the first sign of our new push for greater social media presence paying off! Granted she came through Facebook instead of Instagram – it’s just a matter of time. I also got a lot of good feedback about the YouTube channel, so our social media game has really gotten strong!

A big thanks to Mark A, for doing a little bit of tournament maintenance at the outset making sure everyone was well set up, until a late arriving first timer took away what would otherwise have been his first round bye.

In the “A” bracket, we started off round 1 with Jeremy K (fresh back from his victories in the San Antonio ABT tournament) overcoming Bodger, me (fresh off my victories in the Seattle Winter Invitational) over Max (visiting from Seattle), Kyle over Dave (fresh off his victories in the Seattle Winter Invitational), and Michael G (exciting to see him in person again!) over Bob H (ditto!). Jeremy and I went on to face off in the final, and I narrowly defeated him. Dave ended up winning the consolation bracket over Bodger.

The “B” bracket ended up being the small one, with just 6 players, 4 of them first timers. This made it impossible for me to completely pair experienced with new, and so we had first-timer Alex playing first-timer Beebe – but that seemed to go alright. Also in round one we had first-timer Kristin (who by the way wins the award for most consistent participant in the recently concluded online study group) over Mir (who was late getting into the study group but made up for it by his track record once in), and Joel over first-timer Bob M. Kristin went on to win the final over Joel, with Mir taking the consolation bracket.

The “C” bracket started off with Cam over first-timer Neil, Ed over first-timer Gene, Tim T (without his daughter this month) over Julie, and first-timer (and later arriver) Jeremy A over Mark A. Ed went on to win the bracket over Cam, with Gene taking the consolation bracket.

So overall – 6 new players, and 2 of them cashed! We like first-timers to cash, makes them more enthusiastic to come back. But I got the sense that a number of them are going to become regulars – I believe it was Bob M telling me that he couldn’t bring his board this month because they hadn’t finished unpacking yet.

Our next event is going to be the first Championship Qualifier for 2024 – go to meetup and RSVP if you haven’t already. And our regular tournament for March will be pushed forward one day, so it falls on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s day instead of on St. Patrick’s day — just in case that impacts space availability. See you there!


January 2024 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a good start to our 2024 tournament series this afternoon. 16 people braved the (falling) rain, (melting) snow, and (also melting) ice to come out to Lucky Lab for the event. 16 makes 2 perfect 8 person brackets, which makes my life so much easier for keeping things running, I greatly appreciate it when we manage to arrive in multiples of 8…

In the “A” bracket, round 1 saw Mir face off against Bodger, Jeremy (fresh back from cashing in the New York ABT tournament) against Dave (2022 and 2023 Player of the Year, remember), me against Tim T (who came to spend time playing with his daughter, but they ended up in different brackets, so their playing together had to wait), and Andres (with a fancy new board he brought back from Peru) against Kyle. First player mentioned won in each pairing, as usual. After some quite serious backgammon, Jeremy won the bracket, with me taking second, and Dave winning the consolation bracket.

In the “B” bracket, round 1 had Buzz (newcomer and apparently a professional pool player?!?) against Mark A, Leah against Sarah T (who came to spend time playing with her father, but they ended up in different brackets, so their playing together had to wait), Tim E against Shayan (our other newcomer, who did quite well in spite of not having used the doubling cube before!), and Julie against Joel. Once again the first mentioned player in each pair won that round. In the final, Leah took it away from Tim E, while Julie went on to win the consolation bracket.

I took a bunch of pictures, in support of our club’s new Instagram account. (Did you know that we now have an Instagram account? We now have an Instagram account.) Including this one, the two bracket champions celebrating their early lead in the race for Player of the Year.


Our next regular tournament is coming up on February 18th, and the first Championship Qualifier is coming up on March 2nd. RSVP through meetup today, and I will see you there, then!


December 2023 Backgammon Tournament Results & Annual Wrap-Up

We had a modest turn-out for our final monthly tournament of the year — 11 players came out on a damp and grey afternoon to play a little backgammon. When I told my wife how I was a little disappointed in the low turnout, she noted that we had just had our largest turnout event of the year the weekend before, and so maybe people were worn out on backgammon. I looked at her with a complete lack of comprehension, as I began packing for the upcoming LA tournament (for my third weekend in a row of backgammon…)

Anyway – I was hoping for a few people who had RSVP’d to show up a little late, and figured we had enough for two brackets, so we ended up with one 5-person bracket, and one 6-person bracket.

In the “A” bracket, the first round had Larry versus Bodger, and David versus Leah. That’s only 4 names, you will notice, because taking a first round bye was yours truly. The David versus Leah match was the most consequential one, if you read my note from the Championship tournament, you will recall that Leah went into the day with a narrow lead in the competition for Player of the Year, having one more net win than David. So if David won, he would end up flipping that – adding one win to his tally and one loss to hers. David took an early lead in the match, but then Leah began fighting her way back. Ultimately they went to 4 each in the match to 5, and it all came down to one game! I watched from a distance, as Leah put Dave on the bar, and started moving her checkers around for the close-out; but then Dave got the miracle hit from off the bar and came back for the win!

In the second round, I played Dave, in a very quick, intense, and not particularly well played match. We both had pretty lousy PRs coming off the one-game match – me from a few bad choices for checker play plus a bit of tricky cube choices, and Dave from a single blunder with the cube that cost him almost as much in equity as I got from 3 separate blunders. I am hoping and planning to put this one on YouTube (have you checked out my YouTube channel yet?), but here’s one of the blunders from my side.

Screenshot 2023-12-06 1.55.07 PM

First game in the match to 5, I am holding the cube, I have Dave nearly closed out, and double 2 is one of my better rolls. I immediately made the switch, playing 3/1*(2), then started looking for what to do with the other two 2’s. And then I noticed that, instead of making the switch, I could make a full prime in front of him with 11/7, 9/7, and throw in 8/6 for good measure. It looked so pretty that I went with that, which is only a -0.124 blunder. There are about 8 better moves, and every single one of them includes 3/1*(2) as part of the action, with the best being to add 18/16(2) so that you don’t end up with (spoiler alert) an awkward 6 on the next roll.

After finishing with me, Dave went on to win his third match in a row, bringing him to the highest net wins of anyone in the club for the year, and making him our Player of the Year for the second year running!


Congratulations, Dave!

That’s a lot about the “A” bracket. Over in the “B” bracket, in round 1, Mir took on Mark A, Ed was paired with Tim, and Matt faced off against Nathan. Mir went on to win the bracket over Matt, and Nathan came back through the consolation bracket to cash there.

For the year in review: golly did we play a lot of backgammon! Adding in the Championship series moved us from 15 events last year to 20 events this year. We had slightly fewer people attend an event in 2023 than in 2022, but much higher engagement from the people who did attend, with the average number of events attended per person moving up from 3.4 last year to 3.9 this year. Bodger gets special mention for being the only person (other than me) to make it to every single tournament – what a maniac!

My (idiosyncratic) way of ranking players is to take the total number of matches won minus the total number of matches lost for the year, and use that to order people. The idea is that it rewards both winning and participation – in other words, someone can be on the list for showing up a handful of times and playing really dominantly (for example, Sanam or Paul), or for showing up very consistently and playing pretty well each time (for example, David or Kyle). With that explanation out of the way, here is the list of the top players and their stats for 2023:

Player Played Won Wins-Losses % Events Attended
David Cohen 46 28 10 60.87% 18
Mark Danburg-Wyld 57 33 9 57.89% 20
Jeremy Krieger 36 22 8 61.11% 12
Sanam V 14 11 8 78.57% 6
Leah Nash 21 14 7 66.67% 9
Paul Swain 17 12 7 70.59% 7
Nathan Alter 23 15 7 65.22% 7
JB Groh 8 7 6 87.50% 3
Mir 8 7 6 87.50% 2
Kyle Petersen 42 23 4 54.76% 14
Pete Anderson 7 5 3 71.43% 3
Howard 3 3 3 100.00% 1
Bodger Andrew millerd 58 30 2 51.72% 20

Thanks everyone for a great 2023, and we’ll start of 2024 soon!


2023 Backgammon Championship Tournament

What a day! We had the busiest backgammon tournament of the year this afternoon, by a long shot! In addition to the 12 players who made it into the championship bracket, we had another dozen who came to play in the 5-point blitzes “friends” events. I had a slight panic attack as play was starting that we were not going to have enough boards, since I foolishly did not bring my bag of spares. But some of the later arrivals all brought boards, and Diane’s husband kindly brought in her little travel board, and we somehow squeaked by – at one point every board anyone had brought was in use, though!

For the Women’s Tournament, in the first round both Leah and Sanam had a bye. Julie faced off against Hengameh, under Sanam’s watchful eye, and Julie emerged victorious! Diane (on Kyle’s board, not her own) played with Andrea (Ahn-DREY-ah, not AND-rhea, btw), also coming out with the win!

In the second round, Leah and Julie faced off. Leah took an early lead, winning a single in the first game, and 4 points in the second game! Both of them talked to me about the critical decision moment in that game afterwards: with the following position, Leah recubed Julie, who took:

Screenshot 2023-11-25 10.27.43 PM

For those who are not as used to following this: Leah (playing red) is ahead 1 to 0 in the match to 7, and is holding the cube at 2. With two checkers left to bear off, she offers the cube to Julie at 4. If Julie takes, and Leah rolls a 1, other than double 1’s, the Leah will win 4 points. If Julie drops, Leah will win 2 points. Julie was unsure if she should have taken, but it was absolutely correct! 10 times out of 36, Leah rolls a 1 but not double 1’s, and then Julie wins 4 points. So more than a quarter of the time, she wins. If you can win more than a quarter of the time, and cannot lose a gammon, it’s a big take, and here it is – dropping would be a -0.081 blunder. Of course, failing to double would be an even bigger blunder – if Leah had not offered the cube she would have been giving up -0.475 in equity!

Anyway – Julie clawed her way back from this 5-0 deficit, and they went on to a very even match score at the end; but Leah did manage to come out on top!

Meanwhile, Sanam and Diane were going back and forth over Kyle’s board. I got a lot less play-by-play there, but Sanam did secure the victory, and so she advanced to play Leah in the final!


After a closely fought match, Sanam emerged as the 2023 Portland Backgammon Club’s Women’s Champion!


In the Men’s Tournament, Paul had a first round bye. Due to some miscommunications, Andres unfortunately did not make it, and so forfeited to Molly in round 1. Kyle faced off against Dave (on Dave’s board since he had loaned his to the cause), and came out on top. And Tim played against Jesse, securing a first round victory on his own board, making him the only home board advantage of the day I believe.

In the second round, Paul took out Kyle after a fair amount of back and forth. Tim took an early lead over Molly, securing a 5-0 lead – shades of what happened in the match of Julie against Leah! And just as in that match, Molly began clawing her way back, making it a very tight match by the end – one in which Molly came out on top!

And so we had Molly facing Paul in the final round:


Paul got off to a good start, and soon Molly again found herself in a position of trailing 5-0! I happened to get a photo of a position that came up in that next game, where Molly offered Paul the following cube:

Screenshot 2023-11-25 10.54.28 PM


That is, Molly, here playing white, is offering Paul a cube. If he takes and pulls off the win, he wins the match. With a double anchor on Molly’s home board, his winning chances are not bad – but the deficit in the race is not enough for a back game. If he drops, Molly is on the board, trailing 5-1. Should he take?

It is a very good cube, and a very close one. The difference between the double  and playing on is about -0.02. But it is an enormous pass – about -0.4  blunder to even consider a take. It was a good start for Molly to begin clawing her way back. However, this time she could not quite get all the way to victory, and so Paul came out as the 2023 Portland Backgammon Club’s Men’s Champion!


Congratulations to both our champions!


Meanwhile, while all this was going on, we ran a total of 6 (!) 4-person blitz brackets – congrats also to Pete, Bodger, Jeremy (twice), and Mir (also twice) on winning those events!

So an awful lot of backgammon got played. You may be wondering what that means for the race for Player of the Year. Well, let me tell you: it’s super close right now. Leah is currently leading – by 1 game! Tied for second right behind her are Dave, Jeremy, and Sanam. And Paul trails them by only 1 more! So depending on who can make next week’s monthly tournament and how they do, it could easily go to any of them! Did I mention that JB and Nathan are right behind Paul? I have no idea who is going to get the prize! Come out next Sunday and let’s see!