July 8, 2018 Tournament Results

In spite of my fairly last minute announcement of the meetup, we had a pretty good turnout – 10 players total! Last time we went to Occidental, I got griped at by management for having so many people show up without advance warning. This time I got off with a “it would have helped if you called ahead”, to which I could honestly say “I did!” Of course, I ignored the request from when I called ahead to email someone else and I can’t find that piece of paper anymore, but anyway.

Any of you old timers remember Charlie, he’s back – he crushed me in the first round 7-0, and went on to take second in the tournament. Jarom is turning into the man to beat – he took first this time after coming in second last month. It was a good mix of some of the regulars and a few faces we haven’t seen in a while, or ever.

Swiss format is still striking me as a great approach – everyone got at least 3 matches and some people got 4, and we were pretty much out of there by 4:30. See you in a few weeks at the next Patio Series!


June 10, 2018 Tournament Results

We had an excellent turnout for today’s tournament – 14 players! There were actually 3 other people who showed up late, but never more than one at a time… First guy, I said “sorry, we’re all paired up, don’t think you’ll get to play in.”, and he said “no problem, maybe next time”, and left. Not 5 minutes later, a second guy showed up. I said “crud, you just missed a guy, maybe he’s still here…” but he wasn’t. Second guy gave me his cell number and said “text me if he comes back.” About 20 minutes later, third guy shows up… I text the second guy, who doesn’t see the text until hours later. So moral of the story: be on time! Of course, we had three people show up while I was setting the first pairings, so it was a close thing…

We tried a “Swiss Format” this time, and I think it worked very well! I used dice to randomize people into 7 pairs, plus a bit of “yeah, uh, play that guy who just walked in”. But once the pairs were set, I don’t think anyone had to wait involuntarily more than about 5 minutes for their next match (although a couple of breaks were longer than that for nicotine or food…)

My first match was against Tim E., who has a grudge against my new board. It’s a beauty – a tournament sized Crisloid that my wife got me for my birthday this year. So far I’ve been very lucky on it, especially against Tim. Here’s one position that came up in our first game:


Here I’m black, and just rolled a 4-2. There were two options I was considering. First, 7/1*; second 8/6, 7/3. According to both GnuBG and XG, these are the right two options to consider, but it’s not especially close. It took me a minute or two over the board, though. 7/1* has about 39.4% wins, about 8% gammons; the more passive but safer looking 8/6, 7/3 is a blunder (-0.092 according to GnuBG, -0.137 according to XG). As usual, it doesn’t look that big of a difference to me. But I guess the difference comes not with red’s next roll, but black’s roll after that. With 4 men back, I’m in trouble on the next roll if red re-enters, or hits. As it happened, Tim danced, and I was able to pull this one off.

After Tim, I had a final match with Lee, who is moving back to Vegas this month. He’s been a fun addition to the group, but says he’ll be back for visits from time to time, and of course we can look for him when in Vegas (although we won’t be able to talk about it…) I gave him one of my bar boards as a parting gift.

I then made the tactical mistake of agreeing to play Martin on his own board, and got crushed. I wish I had taken a picture of the position that cost me most of the match – I had a choice of hitting loose on my home board (leaving two blots) or covering a blot on Martin’s home board, and went with the chicken move, which was probably wrong by a lot.

By a bit before 4, Jarom and Martin were the only two undefeated players, and so they played for the championship. It was a good match, and Martin got the top spot for today, winning the final game with some very timely double 4’s.

I’ll be posting a summer schedule soon – my thought is to do a “tour of patios” series, hitting two or three places we can play in the sun over the summer. Stay tuned for that!


Portlandia Postscript

The final accounting is in. I shouldn’t have bought the candy.

Last I wrote about this, I mentioned the event was going to be borderline break-even, depending on the final coffee bill. That bill arrived today, and so I can definitively say: I lost money on the event. Not much, in the grand scheme of things, but here we are. Here’s the books:

31 Hospitality Fees $620.00
17 Intermediate Entries Rake $255.00
15 Championship Entries Rake $450.00
Minis/Jackpots Rake $64.00
Tips $20.00
Printing & Office Supplies $229.60
Trophy Plaques $100.02
Pens & Score Cards $209.86
Spare boards, clocks, door prizes $196.79
Candy $44.91
PayPal Fees $7.78
Hotel set-up, coffee $663.34
Profit/(Loss) -$43.30

We had 32 attendees. Why 31 hospitality fees? “Things happen.” I had one registrant who didn’t pay this fee, and I didn’t realize until slightly later, and I let it go rather than further agitate him. The “Tip” I will call out publically: thank you, Kevin, it was a classy gesture.

On the expense side, there are a number of items that will not recur for the next event – most of the office supplies I should be able to still find, there are left-over pens and score cards, the spare boards and clocks shouldn’t mold, etc. The candy (and the bright pink rabbit head felt bucket to dispense said candy) was a last minute whimsy purchase. I think most of us were glad it was there, but it conspicuously close to the net loss for the event. As my beloved wife and registration expert, Jen, said “we ate our profit!”

The PayPal fee is from the couple of people I allowed to pay entry fees electronically, which I’m seriously considering making the default for next time. The transaction fees associated is the main drawback to that approach, but it removes the case of registrations arriving after the event (which did happen!)

Originally the hotel was going to charge me for 4 gallons of coffee on Sunday, but I protested there was no way the size of a group we had left at that point could really have gone through that much, and they relented and dropped it to their minimum 2. I will say the Sheraton was super easy to work with, start to finish, and I agree with the people who did my post-event survey that it was an excellent venue, even if parking Saturday night got a little tight. I had several people suggest I move it to downtown for the next event, but I am not sure I will be able to swing the increase in rent that would entail. Any other tournament directors who happen to read this are going to be shocked and amazed that the hotel fee was so low, and again, most of that was consumables: coffee, at $59/gallon + 23% gratuity. Many people expressed their appreciation for it being there, but my goodness! And don’t get me started about the whiteboard fee!

I also have three books for door prizes which didn’t get handed out. I might see if anyone wants to buy them off me, or return them, instead of saving them to next time, and recoup the loss that way. I just philosophically am bothered that, in effect, I spent $43.30 to watch other people play backgammon. The whole reason for running the club is it gives me a lot more opportunity to play – organizing this event gave me a lot of opportunity to do a lot of other things besides playing. But, it’s good for the community, and it kept me out of other trouble for a good stretch, so no problems.



Planning the Portlandia Backgammon Classic (Part Last)

Whew – it’s over!

Not quite – I have emailed results out to the participants, and to Chicago Point, but I have not yet updated the event page on this site. Wanted to get some thoughts out of my head first…

First lesson learned: just in time beats preparation. I used index cards, shuffled, to establish the initial order of match-ups. I had pre-written the cards for people who paid in advance, but a spilled cup of tea led to us having to re-do most of those as people registered. In the confusion, one (dry) card too many made it into the intermediate pile, leading me to be confused as to how many players I had. I should have had only one “play in” game in that bracket, but I set up two, and then had to balance it with a first round bye elsewhere! Major goof and my biggest regret from the event.

Second lesson learned: you need to be very clear with people. Had a couple of completely preventable issues that arose due to poorly explained clock controls (2 points/game in the match means 22 minutes on the clock at the start of the 11 point match, not to reset the clock to 2 minutes each game… although that’d be an interesting variation…) If the player says “I’ll be back between X and X+1”, say “be back at X or else”, not “try for X”. Confusion leads to hurt feelings. I don’t mind hurting feelings, but I don’t want to do it unnecessarily.

Third lesson learned: get buy-in. I had over 10 no-shows, only two of which gave me the courtesy of a note in advance. I had a few short of the walk-ins that I expected. So my mood was depressed by the swing from expected. I had told locals that they could just RSVP via meetup and pay day of, but that meant people were registering as a “yeah, I’ll maybe go do that” rather than really committing to the event. I’m still grumpy about that.

Still, once we got rolling, it did go pretty smoothly.

Financially, it looks like it’ll be close to a break-even, which met my expectations based on the numbers we had. We had 32 players, I figured break-even would be 30-35. I’m still waiting for the final bill from the hotel for coffee and set-up, but ball-park figuring those, we had $1400 in revenue from the event (hospitality fees + rakes from the various tourneys), and expenses of $1300 or so. I hope. If the bill includes two more gallons of coffee than I expect, expenses will exceed revenue! But some of those expenses are non-recurring for next year (spare boards, extra clocks) or for materials I can save to next year (still have about a third of the pens and about half the score pages). So even if the coffee bill puts me in the red for the event this year, I can think about amortizing those expenses over several years and claim a win. I was hoping to do a little better than that, as the club has been running in the red so far, but still… not a failed venture, not a home-run.

I know some of what I want to do differently next year, and I plan to do a survey of the people who came to see what they want different as well. And in another 3-6 months, hopefully, I will have the energy to start planning again.


March 17, 2018 Chouette Results

We had a great turnout for the chouette today – 12 players over the afternoon, although no more than 10 at any one time. Newcomers Oggie, Oliver, and Nate had not done a chouette before, and so we set up a beginner’s table for $1/point, and the main table went for their usual $5-10/point.

It occurred to me that a sport’s bar is really a perfect spot for the chouette, because they had about 7 different events on various screens, and it was totally not out of place for a table to suddenly erupt in a cry of joy and/or despair. We had a lot of those for the backgammon games too, and more than once I found myself saying “all I need is a double <insert number here> or better…”, either to win or to save the gammon. I think I got my roll each time, too!

This position came up in one game where Oliver was the captain, and we spent a solid 2 minutes debating.


The debate was: 7/3(2) or 24/20(2). Turns out, we went with the wrong answer. Extreme gammon says it’s 7/3(2), and by going with 24/20(2), we made a -0.004 error. Which is to say, you couldn’t really go wrong with either of those plays.  +0.934 equity or +0.930 equity – I guess one is slightly higher.

I have a couple of other positions from my table where there was a doubling decision, but running them through Extreme gammon shows the answer we arrived at was not only right, but kind of obvious.

Mark F sent me a couple of positions from the other table that were interesting. Brown was the box in our chouette yesterday, with white on roll. There were four 4-cubes on White’s side of the board. What is the cube action here? Note that brown has 8 checkers left on the one-point.


In the actual chouette, all four team members doubled to 8. The box took all 4 eight cubes. The box lost, and questioned his take. But it was a very easy take, and in fact, it would be a huge blunder to drop. In fact, it was not a proper double, and white’s error was .045 by doubling (a fairly small error).

Note that white will be very disappointed they doubled after white rolls a non-double and brown rolls any double. Also, if white rolls a 1 or a 2 (other than double-2), black still has a take next roll.


Later in the afternoon, another bearoff cube action came up:

After learning about the previous position through XG mobile shortly after that game, brown was reluctant to redouble. And he didn’t double. But actually, it is a clear double. And a double-blunder not to double! Here, brown can be off in 3 shakes without rolling a double, whereas white needs four rolls unless he rolls a double. That’s a huge factor. White barely has a take. The cube equity after white taking is .961, so it would only be a small error for White to pass.

Lots of excitement was expressed about next weekend’s Portlandia Backgammon Classic, and I’m super pumped for it. Hope to see you there!


February 18, 2018 Tournament Results

We had a tremendous turnout for today’s event – 16 people showed up to play, and a couple of others showed up to either watch or just to register for next month’s “big show” (hint, hint, go to http://pdxbg.club/2018-portlandia-open/ to register!). I decided to split us into two brackets in order to make sure we got done in reasonable time, and we played from 1:00 until a bit before 4:00.

We had 7 first timers, although only 6 if you count the time James came to a chouette. Ok, so 6 first timers, although I’m not positive that maybe Joel came to one last summer. There were definitely at least 5 first timers.

In bracket one, Brian ended up winning the main flight, with possibly first timer Joel taking second. Jarom (who arrived a bit late but got us to the perfect bracket numbers) took the consolation bracket. In bracket two, absolutely for sure first timer Stephen beat me out for first, and Dick took the consolation bracket.

Here’s a position that came up in my second round match against Justin. I am up in the match 2-0, but had been in some trouble and aiming for a backgame. My previous roll, however, was a double-6, pulling all my checkers off the ace point and leaving me with this weird position. Justin stared at it for a while, and offered me the cube (I’m red in the picture below). What would you have done?


According to GnuBG, black is only 54.6% to win here, with 33.2% gammons. At a score of 0-0 or 1-0, this is a no double/take. But at 2-0, this is a double/take!

Extreme Gammon disagrees – putting black at 59.75% to win, with 42.4% gammons. According to Extreme Gammon, this is a double/take at scores of 0-0 and 1-0, but a double/pass at 2-0!

So one way or another, the match score is critical to the cube action right here. I’m going to go with Extreme Gammon, because after all it’s supposed to be the stronger program, and also because over the board I did in fact drop.

We have our monthly chouette next Saturday, and possibly (possibly) another chouette in early/mid March, but the next tournament event will be the Portlandia Classic. Registration is starting to pick up, and I’m hoping we’ll have 60+ players. See you there! (hint, hint, go to http://pdxbg.club/2018-portlandia-open/ to register!)


Planning the Portlandia Backgammon Classic (Part 2 of ???)

We are just over a month away, and things are falling into place. I still have only one registration form sent in, but there are a half-dozen pre-registrations through meetup, and I got an email from one out-of-town attendee asking me for the hotel registration code, so I still trust that people will come. I was at the San Antonio tournament earlier this month, and talking to Bill and April, both assured me that most of the registrations will come in the last few weeks leading up to the event.

San Antonio, by the way, was a fantastic event at which I played very poorly. But it was super nice being right by the river walk. The other thing I talked to Bill about was he strongly recommended picking a venue that people would want to bring their partners or friends along, and San Antonio delivered on that regard. My partner came and helped run the desk for a while to get a sense for what to do, and I think that will help as well. Also, I brought about 3 dozen fliers to the event and I think they all got picked up, so maybe a few more registrations will come from that direction.

I have a good start on the various props we will need – the trophies are in my possession. Well, we’re doing plaques actually. I did not go big on the trophies, but I think they’re pretty nice. Earlier this afternoon, I finished paper-cutting the score cards that the print shop only cut into 3rds, when I wanted 6ths. Loads of fun!

The big concern on my mind now is planning for the brackets. I need a game plan for anywhere from 12 to 64 players in terms of tournament design, and I need to be able to run people down into not just a consolation bracket, but a last chance. The checklist of other items to bring I got from USBGF is also intimidating – it’s based off the LA event, and says bring 12 spare boards. I have 4. It says bring 32 clocks. I have 2, on loan from a co-worker who is big into chess. We’re not going to be as big as LA, and I’m going to have to let some stuff slide.


January 21, 2018 Tournament Results

Running this group is a constant emotional rollercoaster, let me tell you. I normally send a reminder email, but I didn’t this month. Then I got sad as I saw our numbers drop from 9 people RSVP’d to 4 as the weekend approached and some people realized there would also be a football game on TV at the same time. Then, as I drove over to Lucky Lab, three last minute RSVP’s hit my phone. Then, a couple of people who hadn’t RSVP’d at all were there waiting. So we had 9 players after all!

You probably know that 9 isn’t a power of 2, and so doesn’t fit easily into a bracket, but we made due with one first round bye and one second round bye. First round, I took down Kevin in a ruthless series of 3 games. Kevin went on to win the consolation bracket, so don’t feel too bad for him. Newcomer Jake drew Martin, and showed himself to be no slacker, taking that match. Bryan faced off with but couldn’t defeat Tim. And Nathan and Lee got their money’s worth out of the match, playing an extended series of back games that meant that the timing of the whole bracket was at risk. Sharon, in the meantime, drew the first round bye, and had to just sit around waiting. But don’t feel too bad for her either, because she went on to win the main flight, taking out Tim in a high spirited match.

I didn’t take any pictures this time, so no positions to analyze – sorry. But the day was a success – we played up until around 5, lots of pick-up games after the tournament, and I was still home in time for dinner. I think everyone took a flier for the Portlandia Backgammon Classic (see http://pdxbg.club/2018-portlandia-open/ for details and registration form!) and there was a lot of excitement about that upcoming event.

Join us at Lucky Lab again next month for another tournament, last one before the big game!

December 10, 2017 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a decent showing this afternoon – 9 players! Slightly too many for an 8 person bracket, but we made do. I have been reading some on bracket design, and shuffled it so that we didn’t need to have effectively 7 byes on a 16 person bracket… not sure it went perfectly smoothly, but it worked.

We had two newcomers, Scott and Amelia, plus a few players we haven’t seen in a while, plus a couple of us who can’t help but show up every month. A couple of hours in, Tim found out from the barkeep that the place was closing at 5:00, and so suddenly the clock became a consideration. We’d managed to finish up by 4:30 or so last month, and so I wasn’t overly stressed about it. That is, until the finals were starting at 4:10 or so…

At that point, I was playing Scott for the first/second in the main flight, and Lee and Tim were facing off for the consolation. I figured they would be fine, being as it was only a three point match. But a five point match in 50 minutes is… a little tight. Totally doable, but a little tight. As it turned out, we finished the first game in about 12 minutes. In the second, Scott offered me an early-ish cube, which I was able to return to him just after we broke contact. I don’t recall the exact pip count for each of us, but Scott, I think that was a drop. But hey – second place for your first visit is pretty good!

Lee held on to take the consolation bracket, and we all scattered at a few minutes before 5. Well, Julie and Martin were still finishing up a “just for fun” game.

Normally, I conclude these posts with some statistics about each player’s Elo score etc., but this is the last tournament of the year and so instead I have some statistics about the whole year. In 2017, we had 10 official tournaments – 11 if you count September when only Martin showed up. In that time, we had 49 people attend, and played a total of 354 matches! Gold stars for attendance go to Bryan, Julie, and Martin. Special platinum stars for attendance go to Kevin and Sharon, who only made 5 tournaments each, but drove up from Coos Bay for those 5, so they clocked more miles than anyone else. Our winning-est players are: Mark F, who won 11 of the 14 matches he played in 2017; and Lee, the new guy in town who has won 7 of his 8 matches so far. I can’t wait to watch the two of them go head-to-head next year! Which will probably happen at the big Portlandia Backgammon Classic, this coming March 24-25, 2018. Register today! Or tomorrow. No rush.



December 2, 2017 Chouette Results

We actually met at Claudia’s this time, which is a pretty good place to play. The main advantage it has is that Mark F can watch football while playing backgammon, which appears to make him pretty happy. Of course, he was in a good mood anyway, coming off his multiple wins in Las Vegas a few weeks ago…

Modest turnout – Martin, Mark F, Bryan, and me. I rolled into the box and won the first game, then it was steadily downhill for me. Martin took and held the box for about the first half, Mark F for most of the second half, and then when Bryan showed up we had a bit more alteration.

Here’s one position that came up that I thought was interesting. Well, there were several I thought were interesting, but after running them through Extreme Gammon, this is the one that actually is:

Chouette 12-2

Black is on roll, should he double? The risk is the 9 rolls that dance, leaving White the chance to redouble or roll to put another checker on the bar. On the other hand, black has 15 hits that put white facing a four point board. In other words, this is a very gammonish position. Absent the Jacoby rule, this is a no double/take. But with Jacoby, it’s a double – barely. No double is -0.002 equity error.

Now in practice, I was being offered this cube. As I recall, I passed. I was having a rough afternoon, and felt a little gun-shy. Feeling gun-shy is no way to play backgammon though. Fortunately, this particular one was only a very small error for me. Unfortunately, some of the others I made were bigger. Ah well, there’s always next month!