Championship Qualifier #2 Results

We had a great turnout for this past weekend’s second qualifier for the backgammon championship tournament – 18 players total showed up to compete. We had 14 entries in the men’s tournament, and 4 in the women’s, matching exactly the player mix from the first event back in March, but without me having to reassign any players.

For me, the tournament was short – JB knocked me out in the first match. I’m not claiming I played at my very best, but I will say, having recorded the match and transcribed it, that GnuBG described my luck level as “Go to bed!” I’ll pull out a position or two for analysis in a bit.

The women’s event resolved more quickly than the men’s, not just because of the smaller field, but also the matches all lasted a reasonable 45-60 minutes. In the men’s event, some of the matches stretched out to 75+ minutes long, which ended up holding up subsequent matches, etc. Anyway: Leah came out on top of the bracket for the second event in a row, meaning she has not only secured her entry into the championship tournament, but a first round bye! Andrea (making her first appearance at any of our events) came in second.

In the men’s event, given that the event was running on and I had been eliminated a long time ago, I decided to not ask for a deciding match to determine 1st/2nd, instead giving both of the players who would go into that match the 1st place payout and giving them both an entry into the championship. And those two players were Tim and Paul!

To recap both qualifiers so far, we have the following people eligible for the championship event:

  1. Leah (secured bye)
  2. Liz
  3. Andrea
  4. Molly
  5. Kyle
  6. Tim
  7. Paul

There will be two more opportunities to qualify – the next one is scheduled for August 27th, and the final will be scheduled for late October/early November, date TBD. The purse for the championship is already over $400, and I am planning on it being a trophy event as well, so you definitely want to try to get into it at one of the remaining qualifiers! I know I’m hoping to do better next time…

Speaking of doing better, here’s one of the positions where I struggled from my match with JB:

Screenshot 2023-06-07 7.30.28 PM

Now, earlier in this game, it was also a blunder for me to have accepted that cube, but I’m holding it now, and I am maybe in a position where I can turn it around. Not with this roll, of course – I needed maybe a 6-2 instead of a 6-4. But we have to play what we roll. With the 6, I have a choice between hitting another blot with 13/7*, or escaping one of the trapped back checkers with 24/18. With the 4… well, there are three legal and not foolish moves: 18/14, 13/9, and 5/1. Also 6/2, but that one I could immediately rule out. I decided that I preferred to pull one of the trapped back checkers out over hitting another blot, and given that I was aiming to start moving forward, I went ahead and lifted with the 4, 5/1. Huge mistake! Hitting the blot is the better use of the 6, and having done that, bringing another covering roll down with 13/9 is the obvious corollary. This is one of those “great if it works out” situations – yes, I might get hit back on the next roll, but if he dances, I am able to redouble on my next turn. That’s a turnaround! Lifting looks safe, but it takes that checker out of play, and I still have a lot of work to do so I need that resource.

Well, it was a good day of backgammon, and as I said, several more opportunities to come. Also, this summer’s Tour of Patios is scheduled – so please RSVP for those as well. Hope to play with you soon!



Chicago Open 2023

I spent Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, for my first appearance at the Chicago Open. I have been wanting to do that tournament for several years now. Back in 2020, when the shutdowns first started, I was initially really bummed because I had intended to do more ABT tournaments that year. But then online ABT came live, and it turned out that I was able to do a massive number of tournaments from the comfort of my own couch. Rory ran many of those tournaments, and used the “More Swiss” format for them, and I really liked that format. Chicago is the one live tournament that I know of using that format (and run by Rory, of course), and now you get the digression.

“More Swiss” works by pairing players at random in round 1, then in round 2 players who won play other players who won, then in round 3 players with a 2-0 record play other players with a 2-0 record (and likewise 1-1 pair with 1-1, 0-2 pair with 0-2), etc. The way it was run each player was guaranteed at least 4 matches in the main event, which is a more forgiving approach than the traditional main/consolation/last chance bracket structure of most tournaments.

I got in on Thursday, and played (and lost) a couple of side event matches – the limited jackpot and a “Taki board” tournament. Friday, I re-entered the limited jackpot, and lost again. So I re-entered a third time, and that time it stuck.

It was, naturally, a little discouraging to have lost so many matches before the main event even started. However, I seemed to be playing pretty well. I took pictures of a dozen or so decisions through those first couple of days, and most of them, I made the best decision. Of course, there were a couple of inexplicably bad decisions in there as well. For instance, this position (which came from the second round of the jackpot):

Screenshot 2023-06-03 5.57.49 PM

Here I’m leading 7-6 in a match to 9, and I’ve been offered a cube. My position isn’t bad, and in a money game, or at a score of 0-0, I would not have hesitated. But, I did hesitate. I thought about the downside – if I took and lost, he would suddenly have me in the Crawford game, when I had just taken the lead in the match. Whereas, if I dropped, we would go into double match point immediately (as the cube would be offered early in the next game). Of course, if I took and won, that would be the match. But it felt greedy, and I talked myself out of the take, and it was a huge take.

Anyway – I played until late Friday night, eventually losing in the semi-finals of the jackpot. But, I had broken my losing streak.

Until the next day, when the main event started. Guaranteed 4 rounds, I proceeded to lose 4 in a row. So that was Saturday. Sunday, I got up bright and early to take part in the “Unlucky Dice Last Chance” event, which my opponent proceeded to smoke me in. I asked him how he had gotten into the “Unlucky Dice” contest, given he rolled approximately 80 doubles in our 5-point match. From there, it was down to side events – I entered the “Juniors” event and the DMP (1-point match) event. Those went pretty well, and I was kept busy for the rest of Sunday and through most of the day Monday in those events – reaching the semi-finals in the Juniors and the finals in the DMP.

I had a couple of exciting positions in the Juniors. For instance, here’s a position where I am down 0-5 in a match to 7, on the bar, and considering throwing the cube!

Screenshot 2023-06-03 6.27.00 PM

Cubing from the bar is always good fun. My 0dds of winning the game are not that high, but a lot of times that I win, it’s with a gammon. It’s a pretty big double, and a monster take. However, not only did I go on to win the game, I won with a backgammon, swinging the score to me leading 6-5 Crawford! I hit his checker, he entered and rehit me, I hit that checker, and eventually got him with 5 or 6 checkers back.

A couple of rounds later, I had a troublesome checker play decision. I was down 0-2 in a match to 7, earlier in the game I had taken a cube and then recubed him, so the stakes were pretty high; and the roll – not my best.

Screenshot 2023-06-03 6.34.23 PM

I stared at it for probably 2 full minutes. 24/18 seems mandatory, but then the only 3 is 10/7. Unless… “I’m thinking about the banana split”, I informed my opponent, and he raised one eyebrow. And so I played 24/18, 5/3*, putting him on the bar. He danced, I covered the 5 on the next roll, he danced again, I brought a checker around, he danced a third time, and I was able to close him out. I won a gammon, and thus the match. On the other hand, the correct move was 24/18, 10/7. The banana split was -0.039 in equity; but it worked out.

You can watch me play the final in the DMP! The event was streamed, on the “second stream” for the event (so no commentary) – it’s about the last ten minutes of this video.

When I went to cash out, Arda and I went in together, and after Rory paid us off on the DMP, I said I also had the semi from the Juniors, and he paid me for that, and then I said I also had the semi from the limited jackpot. “You’ve won a lot of backgammon this weekend, my friend”, he said. And that’s true – this was a pretty good showing, even given that I went 0-4 in the main event.

A number of Portland players are heading to Los Angeles in another week or so for the LA Open, and I am having some FOMO. But other obligations do, in fact, make it untenable for me to get to another tournament so soon. But I’ll be watching the streams and hope to see one of them on there…


May 2023 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a fine showing for this month’s tournament – 17 players came out on a cool and breezy afternoon. We played out on Lucky Lab’s patio, because why not? It was a little cooler than I had expected, and I occasionally regretted not having a light jacket or something, but the dice were hot and so that kept me going…

17 players does not, of course, lend itself to a clean bracket structure, so we had an unclean on instead, with 9 players in the “B” bracket, which made the event drag on a bit. This did not go unnoticed, but the alternative was to tell Cam (as the last player to arrive) that he was out of luck, and, well, it all worked out.

In the “A” bracket, I started off with a game against Rick, newcomer Edan took on Steven, Dave challenged Bodger, and Max tackled Tim (not literally). In each pairing, the first listed player advanced to the next round. After a fairly long road, with a number of long matches, Edan took out Dave in the championship bracket, and Bodger won the consolation bracket.

In the “B” bracket, newcomer Chaz took on first timer Adam (for the right to face off against Leah, who got the first round bye), newcomer Elisabeth faced off against Ian, Mark A drew Cam (who may have been the latecomer but he had RSVP’d), and Jeremy took on Joel. Again, in each pairing, the first player (eventually) won that match. After a protracted and complex bracket, Leah took first place over Elisabeth, and Mark A took the consolation bracket.

The new toy for me at this one was I brought an overhead tripod kind of setup and a small camera, to record my matches! This was the first time putting it into full production, and I learned some lessons:

  1. Lighting. The lighting at the table I was at was… not great. The videos are a little hard to follow, as shadows on the board make distinguishing the colors a challenge.
  2. Check your shot before recording. One little knob of the camera mount is partially blocking the view of the board, covering over about one checker’s worth of that point, and making it not possible to read the die if it happens to end up there.
  3. This camera… I need an upgrade already. It’s probably fine, but the camera does break the recording up into 15 minute segments, so the two matches I recorded ended up being 5 different files.
  4. Bring a bigger battery – I had partially used up the battery testing it all out at home earlier, and so the battery died after my first match. Fortunately I had a back-up, but I now know why people at tournaments always have their cameras wired up to a bigger battery pack.
  5. Transcription ain’t trivial. The app I used to transcribe is a little slow, and so I had to pause/rewind a lot to get the transcription done. But I did get it done!

The upside of all that is, I have a lot more than a few random photos of positions I thought were tricky at the time, and can see how I did overall on those two matches! And the answer to that is: not great! I’m a little disappointed in my PR from them. But then, it’s not my most conducive environment either – I do get interrupted in most games to record results, or direct people to their next opponent, etc. Not really an excuse, and it’s not like my PR was massively worse than when I play online (where, for instance, the pip count is just given to me). So, this is reality.

Here’s a position where I made a massive blunder in my match against Rick. This is our second game, and I’m leading 2-0 in the match to 5. Rick had me on the bar and was beginning to bear in, when an unlucky sequence forced him to leave a shot, which I was lucky enough to hit, and get him trapped behind a 5-prime, cube him, etc. And then this, where I rolled a double 4.

Screenshot 2023-05-22 9.19.53 PM

I have noticed that doubles get me into trouble a lot – like it’s a lot easier for me to make a check play blunder off a double. Here what struck me was that I could hit him off the mid-point, 13/1*, then go ahead and cover that blot with 5/1. Seems so solid – put him on the roof, I still have 3 builders to make the 3 point… what could go wrong?

Well, he could roll 3-5 or 3-6, and escape (possibly hitting), and turn this around on me. Now, he didn’t – but good luck isn’t the same as good play. The computer suggests hitting off the 5 point, 5/1*, but then making the 3 point now with 7/3(2), then bringing the last builder into range with 13/9. If he rolls a 1, it’s a little painful, and 1-6 becomes a super joker. But having him on a 1 keeps him contained a lot more than having him on the 3. I need to probably study this one to really get it – the computer’s move feels super loose to me, but it claims a much higher win rate than what I did.

Here’s a massive blunder I made in my match against Bodger, and I don’t even have the excuse that doubles are hard!

Screenshot 2023-05-22 9.31.00 PM

This is from the Crawford game (Bodger is winning 2-0 in a match to 3). I was thinking it was important to get his back checker off my ace point, and so I started out with 6/1*, then came down with the 4, 13/9. Except: he has a 5 point board, hits with any 1 plus with 3-6 (and a super joker with 1-6). So I have given him a lot of potential returns with that play. Better by far would be to make the much quieter play of 13/4, giving him no return shots, and just trusting that since I’m way up in the race that it will probably work out.

And here’s another blunder from my match with Bodger (I made a lot of them…). We’re at double match point (DMP), and I do have the excuse that doubles are hard, in fact it’s double 4’s again…

Screenshot 2023-05-22 9.37.58 PM

Here I happened to make the second best move, 11/3*(2), which happens to be a double blunder at -0.16 equity… The correct move is 13/9(2), 11/7(2), putting a 5 prime in front of his 3 back checkers. From there, my life is easy – I just have to get that last checker out and around before he escapes, and he probably further crunches his board. By hitting, I let him keep his 4 prime in front of me for longer – potentially making my life harder. In fact he got in right away, I escaped on the next roll, and it came down to who could roll more doubles in the bear-off (Bodger could). So if I hadn’t recorded the whole match, I never would have suspected that I screwed this particular move up so badly!

Anyway – it was loads of fun, and I hope you all will join me at the next one – which will be the June 4th Championship Satellite events. See you there!



April 2023 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a fine showing for today’s tournament – 17 players came out on a cool and cloudy afternoon, including 3 new players. Nobody came out for the pre-tournament lesson, however. Bodger was there almost as early as me, though, so we played a couple of rounds of speed gammon – playing with a clock with 2 minutes of time bank for a 5 point match. Bodger took the first one, I won the second (with the cube at 8 – single game match). It was a lot of fun, and got us both into a nice little frantic mood for the actual tournament.

17 players doesn’t divide evenly into nice brackets, and I was hoping/expecting that one more person would show up a little late. So I divided us into 3 brackets, one with 5 players and two with 6 players each. Because the brackets were smaller, I went with a modified system where the loser from the last round of the main played the winner of the consolation to determine 2nd place, and just paid out 1st/2nd. As usual, I put all the players who entered into the side pools into one bracket, and as I did last month, I made that bracket play out 5 point matches, while the rest of the brackets stayed at 3 point matches.

In the “A” bracket, round 1, Ed got steamrolled by Dave, Bodger got knocked out by Max, and I got a bye because this was the 5 person bracket. Max and Bodger had the fastest match of the day, finishing in about 15 minutes. So then Max and I faced off, and had a relatively quick match as well. I eventually pulled off the win, but Ed and Dave were still going on their first match! I did not want to put Max against Bodger a second time in the consolation, and so Max got the consolation round bye. Dave then stomped me in the final. Bodger took Ed the rest of the way out of the tournament, then Max, and then we faced off for 2nd place. It was a good match, and I have a position to review from it later on in the post. Sadly, I could not pull it off, and so Bodger took second.

In the “B” bracket, we had 2 of the 3 newcomers. Ian started off against Nathan, Leah against Kyle, and Julie against Sanam; with the second named player from each pair winning the round. Sanam got the second round bye, and won the bracket! Always good when we can have a first-timer win, keeps them coming back for more… Nathan eventually won the 2nd place slot, in a close fought match with Leah.

In the “C” bracket, first timer Jon faced off against Joel, Rick took on Jeremy, and Steve challenged JB; with the second named player from each pair winning the round again. Rick ditched after that first game, on some implausible excuse – something about “wife” and “supportive”. Anyway – eventually JB came out on top, with Jeremy taking 2nd over Joel.

We had a lively post-tournament chouette that went until almost 5:00, giving me (and a few others) the opportunity to lose a little more money. Dave and Leah were the big winners there – Dave holding the box for a good long run while Bodger and I were playing the final match of the tournament, and Leah having a solid run until we had to break up for the day.

Speaking of Bodger and I playing the final match of the tournament – here is a position that came up in our 3rd game. I am leading 2-1 in a match to 5, and sitting behind a full 6-prime after Bodger turned the game around on me – I had been on the road to a gammon, and already have 4 checkers off the board…

Screenshot 2023-04-23 9.26.04 PM

This one did give me pause. It was tempting to give it up, and just go into the next game even with him, 2-2. On the other hand, since I have checkers off the board, I cannot lose a gammon, so my worst case scenario is I go into the next game down 2-3. My best case is he rolls something awkward and I win the game to go into Crawford, 4-1. My implausible dream case is I somehow still gammon him and just win the match! Ultimately I decided being down 2-3 wasn’t terrible and took – which is very correct, as Bodger does not quite have a double here! I have 25.2% winning chances for the game, making it not even a double for money play. It would be close if I were massively ahead in a long match score (a little trial and error said the position would be a borderline double if I were leading 9-1 in a match to 13), but I found the take. Thank goodness, because it would have been a triple blunder to pass. If I remember it correctly, I did pull out the win, taking us to the Crawford game, but then Bodger fought his way back to ultimately take me out. As he does…

Anyway, it was a great afternoon, I had a blast, I overheard the scrabble people talking about how many backgammon players were always there, and a good time was had by (almost) all. Hope to see you at the next one!


March Tournament Results

It wasn’t quite as wet and rainy as I expected as I headed down for this month’s tournament. I was a bit worried about turnout because we had fewer RSVPs than usual, and a non-raining weekend day means lots of options for other activities. And of course, I hadn’t thought about spring break, which I think took a few people out of their regular routines.

We had 3 people turn up for the pre-tournament lesson, which was nice  – often I have had no people turn up for that. One of them even stayed for the tournament, and did pretty well!

Ultimately, there was a fair turnout for the backgammon tournament – 16 players, which made for an easy two-bracket event. To be honest, it got a little confusing, because as I started things off we only had 14, and so I was going to have the “A” bracket play 5 point matches, since I knew everyone in there was capable of playing a bit faster than average; but a couple of stragglers came in and joined, which led to it being a mix of 3 and 5 point matches (and then one pair in the “B” bracket heard me say 5, and played a 5, which meant they took twice as long as everyone else in the “B” bracket…) Tournament directing – it ain’t always easy!

In the “A” bracket, I started off against Bodger, Dave played Ed, Jeremy played Tim, and Sande played Matt. Dave romped on to ultimately take first place, with Jeremy taking second. Bodger and I had a rematch in the final of the consolation, where I managed to squeak out a win.

In the “B” bracket, Cam played Richard, Ryan played Sheila, Kyle played Greg, and Mark A played Rick. Mark went on to win the bracket, with Kyle taking second, and Richard won the consolation.

Jeremy, Dave, and I stayed to play a chouette for a while post tournament, where Dave won yet more. As I left, Bodger and Kyle were playing an extra match, and Sande and Richard were enjoying a drink. All in all, it was a fun afternoon.



Championship Satellite #1 Results

We had a fine turnout for the first Women’s/Men’s Championship tournament. 18 players came out, 5 women and 13 men. That, unfortunately, makes for two uneven brackets, and so the gender distinctions (which are, as noted in the announcement, a social construct) began breaking down immediately. Molly and Pete had come down from Seattle for the event, and Molly agreed that, for the purposes of the event, she was man enough. So we proceeded with a 4-person and a 14-person bracket.

In the Women’s event, we had two newcomers (Liz & Jackie), and two seasoned pros (Sande & Leah). Fortunately, the draw did not put the newcomers head-to-head, and so the pros were able to help explain the ropes of tournament play. Evidently Sande is better at explaining than Leah, because Sande’s opponent, Liz, was able to advance to the next round. Leah beat out Jackie in round 1, but fun was still had by all. In the championship round, Leah triumphed again, making her the front runner for the championship match in December! But Liz seemed like she held her own, and she is also qualified for the December championship match. It should be noted that Ceci did show up for the tournament as well, although she had misjudged traffic, and so arrived well after the start of the event. We discussed having her play in somehow, but she was content to just play some pick-up games with Jackie after the first round ended. After all, there are three more Satellites to come, so plenty of time to get into the championship later.

In the Men’s event, round one had Tim beating out Dave, Molly defeating newcomer Dan, Chris over Pete, Bodger over Ed, Jesse over Paul, Kyle over Clay, and I beat out Rick. Matches lasted between about 30 minutes and over an hour, which made tournament flow a little uneven. We may have to enforce the use of clocks next time to prevent things from running quite so long. Everyone really appreciated the longer match length, however. Dave and I played some heads up while waiting for the next round, and I think that consoled him since he beat me up by 18 games in about 30 minutes… Anyway, after a bit, for the quarterfinals, we had Molly playing Chris and Kyle playing me. By this point, Leah had finished winning the Women’s, and she and Chris were dramatically overdue for a couple of other things they had planned for the weekend. Kyle finished me off in a very timely manner, and so we got to watch much of the other game. After a drawn out battle, Molly eventually came out on top, putting her and Kyle into the final. But by that point, it was like 5:30, and the place was a zoo as the staff prepared for their “Worst Day of the Year” bike ride event the next day. Kyle and Molly agreed to just chop the prize money and both get a spot in the Men’s championship event for December!

The next satellite event is scheduled for June 6th, although I have not yet sent the announcement about it. Hope to see most of you there again then!


February 2023 Tournament Results

We had a decent showing for today’s tournament – 19 players came out for a pleasant afternoon of backgammon, braving the rain and snow. Lucky Lab was crowded, with both a Go and Scrabble group, plus the usual smattering of other game groups. But the backgammon boards outnumbered all the other groups combined, I believe!

We broke into 3 brackets, which is clearly not an even number per bracket. In the “A” bracket, I had four players who had signed up for the side pool(s), and we played 5 point matches to make up for the smaller bracket size. It worked out as I hoped – we finished roughly at the same time as the larger brackets. First round, I smashed over Dave C to an easy victory. Tim and Jeremy had a much longer first match, playing for easily 20 minutes longer than Dave and me. Jeremy eventually won that one, and at Dave’s request, he smashed me in the second round to take the winner’s mantel. Tim beat out Dave and then also me in the consolation bracket to win 2nd place.

In the “B” bracket, round 1 had returning player Marty beating out Bodger, first timer David S defeating Joel, Nathan over Mark A, and Richard over Ed. Nathan eventually went on to win this bracket, with Richard coming in second. Marty and David  went on to battle it out in the consolation bracket, with Marty coming out on top.

In the “C” bracket, round 1 had Cam defeating Sande, Dawn over Julie, JB beating Stephen, and in a hard-fought final, Kyle defeating the Bye. JB and Cam went on to meet in the final, with JB taking the title. In the consolation bracket, Dawn and Julie faced off again, with Dawn ultimately winning again. Julie let out a cry during their last game which made some of the Scrabble players jump as one roll went particularly against her…

All in all, it was quite a smooth tournament, I had a great time, and I like to think everyone else did as well. Between now and the next regular tournament, we will be having the first “Championship Satellite” event – I intend to schedule 4 total of these “Satellite” tournaments this year, with the top two players from each getting an entry into a Championship tournament in December. Past couple of years, I have given a trophy for “Player of the Year”, and this year I hope to give out 3 trophies – “Player of the Year” using more or less the same format I did for 2022, and a “Men’s Champion” and “Women’s Champion” trophy for the winners of the December tournament. Participation in each event counts towards the “Player of the Year” event as well, so if you want to maximize your chances of getting a trophy this year – sign up!


High Equity Tournament Results

We had an excessive turnout for the first “High Equity” tournament of 2023 – I limited the entries to 8, which made the 9th person to show up justifiably upset. For the next one, I am thinking about using a Swiss tournament system instead, or maybe just starting it earlier in the day so that we can absorb an extra round without cutting into the evening. We shall see what I come up with.

Molly and Pete made the trek down from Seattle, and Mark S made a return appearance, coming up from Salem, so we were relatively geographically diverse as well. Most players were there early, and I did the initial bracket draw at a quarter to 2 so that people would not just be sitting around idle.

In round 1, David faced off against Molly, Mark S against Jesse, Pete against Tim, and I drew Bodger. In each of those pairings, I have listed the winner first. Second round in the main, David beat Mark S, and I steamrolled Pete, my dice smoking behind me. I squeaked out a win against David, winning the first post-Crawford game. In the Consolation bracket, Pete and Tim faced off again, but Tim sadly did not get his revenge, and Pete won again.

I do not normally post positions based on my opponent’s mistakes, because I make so many of my own that I don’t need the extra material – but this one was an interesting one that came up in my match against Bodger. Here he is leading 5-3 in our match to 7, in other words, he is 2 points away from winning and I am 4 points away from winning, a situation called 2 away 4 away or even 2A4A in the backgammon books. It is typically harder to find a good moment to double when you are leading in the match, but it is especially hard to do at 2A4A. Once the cube is offered as the leader, the opponent, if they take, should immediately recube on the next move, even as the underdog, because the leader wins the match from a win regardless, and so as the trailer you want the same should you manage to turn it around. That is exactly what happened in this case – Bodger offered the cube, and I gave it back to him at the start of my turn.

Screenshot 2023-02-19 4.40.40 PM

I have already given it away, but this was a huge no double for him, and it would have been an even bigger blunder for me to drop. It is far from a comfortable position for me – I have two checkers trapped back on his home board, my board is in messy condition with a big stack on the 6 point and a blot, it is going to take a good amount of luck for me to make a solid board instead of just crunching, and who knows if I will even get a shot? On the other hand, the race is pretty even, and so even if I don’t get a shot, I could win by just racing. I reckoned it was probably a good double for money, but not for this match score. It turns out to be a borderline no double for money as well – if you think about it from the “Position, Race, and Threat” viewpoint, he gets credit for a better position for sure, but as mentioned the race is even or biased towards me, and there are no checkers of mine that he can hit.

Similar story but from the other side, here is a position where I offered the cube to Dave, in spite of being ahead in the match score.

Screenshot 2023-02-19 4.58.55 PM

I am up 5-4, so 2A3A, which is not quite as sensitive as 2A4A but still pretty tricky. For money, this is an obvious immediate drop, and my guess is that it was a money drop for two or three moves prior to this position as well, but I was holding off because of the score. If I had a better log of the game, it would probably show me missing the double two or three times in a row, in other words.

Anyway, if those kinds of positions interest you, I recommend Nick Blasier’s new book, Adjusting to Match Play.

Back to the format question for a minute – one of the challenges in running tournaments is that people RSVP who don’t end up showing up, and people who don’t RSVP do end up showing up – as a result you don’t really know what you are getting into until the cutoff time for an event. When we had the “Road to Vegas” event back in November, I dealt with having more than 8 players by having a couple of “anti-bye” positions, that is, some players who had one more round between them and the cashing positions than other players. That is, obviously, unfair to the players with the anti-bye and to anyone who has to wait around for an opponent as a result of the round mismatches this creates. This time, I dealt with it by being more strict about limiting to 8 players, which ideally I would do by setting the registration limit, but as mentioned, online RSVPs are not equivalent to who actually shows. That is, obviously, unfair to the players who had more traffic getting to the event. The Swiss format solution is that you run the event as an incomplete round-robin instead of a bracket. That has challenges as well, in that you need all of the first round events to finish before you can draw the second round, etc., plus it can require more rounds than a simple bracket to determine the winner. That can be unfair to people with time constraints, who might have to forfeit a match late in the tournament. There is no perfect system, unfortunately.  I do my best, and I do take any feedback about it all seriously.

January 2023 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a great start to our 2023 tournament series. 24 players showed up to play. Well, 25, but I had to tell one person that they were too late. Hate to do it, and I hoped that some additional people would show to allow a 4th bracket, but that was very optimistic, and it did not happen – this time.

We divided into 3 brackets. In the A bracket, I ended up winning the undefeated part, beating out Jeremy, which I am very proud of. Kyle (who I squeaked past in round 1) ended up taking the Consolation bracket.

In the B bracket, first-timer Howard beat out Leah for 1st place. Sam, another first-timer, won the Consolation.

In the C bracket, Jesse came out undefeated, beating yet another first-timer, Clay. Julie won the Consolation.

After the tournament wrapped up, a few of us ended up playing a chouette until around 5:30, which allowed me to lose all of the prize money I had won, plus a bit more. So that’s how it goes. Anyway, at the chouette, the following position came up. Here, Paul was in the box and also on the bar, and got the roll the other side wanted with a 6-2.

Screenshot 2023-01-22 9.27.51 PM

Obviously, the 6 is used to come in, and then he had to pick a 2 to play. Coming out 19/17 is terrible, as it moves his checker into direct range of our blot on the 12. Sure, it duplicates 4’s that we otherwise want to use to move the checker on his ace point, but that is not enough protection, and I don’t think he even considered it. He played 3/1* fairly quickly, hitting our remaining blot, and I said that I thought 6/4 was likely to be better, thinking that the chance of us hitting his new blot on his ace point was something he would want to avoid.

In fact, 3/1* is better than 6/4… by about 0.003. Playing 6/4 wins more games, by about 2%. But playing 3/1* wins more gammons, by about 5%. In a cash game, or in a normal score match game, a gammon is worth half as much as a win – that is, you normally need to win twice as many gammons as you lose games to make the more gammonish play worthwhile. And that is the case here. In discussion after, Paul pointed out that, since he did manage to get one checker off already, he could win a gammon but not lose a gammon, and that played into his thinking. Anyway, I thought it was a fun position.

See you next month for the next one!

2022 Backgammon Wrap

We had a lovely tournament this afternoon, with an even dozen players braving the cold to try their luck one more time. We split into two brackets and got rolling.

Not to drag out the wait, David won the 2022 Player of the Year award! Both David and Paul won their first round matches (over Max and me, respectively), then they sat down to face off. It was a fraught moment – if Paul had won, they would technically have the same number of wins minus losses, and we would have had to cut the trophy in half. Fortunately, David pulled it off and was crowned the champion for the year – congrats!


(photo credit: Max Lock)

In the second bracket, Joel pushed his winning percentage for the year back over 50% by sweeping the bracket, and Bodger got himself back up to exactly 50% by winning the consolation bracket. Joel, Rich A, and Bodger all also won door prizes from the random draw – congrats, guys, enjoy the books and/or stickers!

People had a high degree of interest in the full year standings, and so I’m publishing the table for everyone who attended at least 4 tournaments here.

Tournaments Attended Player Matches Played Won Wins-Losses Win %
15 Mark Wyld 49 32 15 65.31%
14 David Cohen 41 26 11 63.41%
13 Bodger Millerd 38 19 0 50.00%
12 Tim Emineth 35 16 -3 45.71%
11 Mark Arel 32 18 4 56.25%
11 Kyle Petersen 29 16 3 55.17%
9 Joel 29 15 1 51.72%
9 Max 23 9 -5 39.13%
8 Mir 25 9 -7 36.00%
8 Julie 21 10 -1 47.62%
8 Paul Swain 18 13 8 72.22%
8 Steve Hoffman 16 7 -2 43.75%
7 Nathan Alter 20 11 2 55.00%
6 Rick Davis 19 13 7 68.42%
6 Jeremy Krieger 19 12 5 63.16%
6 JB Groh 17 8 -1 47.06%
6 Richard Driscoll 16 6 -4 37.50%
6 Matt Hogan 16 4 -8 25.00%
5 Jesse Gerber 15 9 3 60.00%
5 Cameron 13 9 5 69.23%
5 Sandee Flynn 12 6 0 50.00%
4 Bob Hudlow 11 8 5 72.73%
4 Leah Nash 11 8 5 72.73%
4 Terry 6 2 -2 33.33%

A number of people thanked me for running the club, and I said what I always say – it’s really selfish of me, as it means I can attend every event since I control the calendar. What I want to add is that it’s really all of you who come out to play that make the club what it is. I appreciate getting to play with all of you! 79 people attended at least one event in 2022 – I hope whether you came to one event or fifteen that we will see you even more often in 2023. Happy holidays everyone!