November 2021 Tournament Results

We had another fine showing of 16 players for this month’s tournaments – not bad given the sunny skies and unseasonably warm weather. It was mostly the usual cast of characters, with a couple of new people (Jesse and Margaret),and Kyle’s “+1”, Bob. Bob was highly entertained to be called Kyle’s “+1”, by the way. “I’ve been called a lot worse,” he quiped.

I brought along Martin’s board to play on this time, it was nice to put it back in action. If you didn’t notice it during the tournament, there’s a couple of pictures below from some positions that stumped me (I played them both incorrectly!) – don’t forget to register for the Martin Memorial tournament if you want a chance to win the board!

I split the group into two brackets. As we were getting settled, Joel surprised me by asking for everyone’s attention, and he said some very kind words thanking me for organizing the event and keeping the group running. I want to reiterate, if there was any doubt, it’s a labor of love – I might not be the best player in town, but I’m probably the biggest maniac for the game! Joel went on to throw some money at me to help offset the cost of running the group, and encouraged everyone else to do the same – and many of you did! I was overwhelmed and touched by the generosity of the group. With the donations offered and the rake off the brackets, the group is down to a deficit of $247.95, almost down to where we were pre-pandemic. At least, until the next meetup fees come due in mid December… Ah well! The rake is catching up on the fees, and most of the entry fees from the  Martin Memorial tournament (did I mention that’s coming up?) will go to paying it down as well. I expect to get “caught up” in the next year or two – not a problem in the meantime. But it means a lot to me that people see the value of the group – it really is the community of players that makes the events so much fun!

Anyway, on to results! In the “A” bracket, Tim took round 1 over Max, Bodger beat out Kyle, Carlos (very quickly) defeated Killion, and I showed my thanks to Joel by beating him. A few rounds later, Bodger and I faced off in the final, which wasn’t even close – Bodger wiped the floor with me. In the consolation bracket, Carlos took the other second place over Tim.

In the “B” bracket, Jesse beat out Richard in round 1, Julie defeated Stephanie (a match punctuated by a chorus of “Oh my god!” from them both as Julie got a magical double 5 in the last game), Nathan got past Nitan, and Bob got past Margaret. Bob and Nathan went on to face off in the championship match, which Nathan took. Margaret and Jesse fought their ways to the final of the consolation bracket, which Jesse managed to win.

My match against Bodger had me face a couple of plays that I found challenging. Here’s the first:


Here I’m white, bearing off towards the bottom right. It’s a little hard to see the dice in the picture, but I have a double 2 to play. My trouble lay in the fact that I really wanted to use one of them to play 6/4, but I couldn’t see a way to do that without also playing 24/22, and then what would the other two moves be? I finally settled on 24/22 (2), 3/1 (2), which is a blunder. The correct move, per roll-out, is 24/22 (2), 13/11 (2). I was thinking that keeping the mid-point was long term better as a landing spot once I pull a checker out of Bodger’s home board, but by the time I do that, I am probably aiming for a blot anyway, so getting more material to my own home board is a higher priority.

The other position that threw me came in our second game. Here I had taken a cube and then immediately thrown it back, so this was both the second and the final game for the match…


This time I have a 6-2 to play. The 6 is forced, 22/16. Then the question is, should I keep going, with 22/16/14? Or do something else?

I went with “do something else”, the very cool looking, but also very wrong 22/16, 22/20. My thought is, the only way I win is to get a shot and hit it, so diversifying my back checkers will give me more opportunities to get that hit. That probably would work out if I knew that Bodger was about to roll double 6’s, but I did not know that, and in fact he didn’t. Well, it was only a -0.041 error, per roll-out, so I’ve certainly done worse.

There was a good amount of hanging around and playing post tournament, and we managed to wrap up the formal event by about 3:00, so I think this was a success. Thanks again to everyone who came out, and congrats to Bodger (second month in a row to win a bracket!) and Nathan (first time to win a bracket!)

See you all next time!


October 2021 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had another excellent turnout for today’s event – 24 players showed up for a very sociable and lively afternoon of backgammon! For 6 of them, it was their first tournament, and several others it was their first appearance for quite a while, as in since I took over running the group! Several people asked why we seem to be having higher and higher attendance each month, and my answer is: beats me. I think a lot of people are just eager to come and do something live, face-to-face again. Plus, the events have each been a lot of fun, so people leave with a good impression and come back again – for which thanks to all of you who attend!

Given the size of the field, I broke us into 3 brackets of 8 people each. The way I decided on brackets is, I put all of the people who signed up for one or both side pools into one bracket, then randomly assigned people into one of the other two (more or less every other person, but not exactly, because I initially thought I could get away with just two brackets, so I had to resplit things…)

For the second time, I used a more structured approach to the double-elimination format. The first 4 pairings are based on random numbers I generate on the sign-up sheet. The winners advance to round 2, the losers play round 1 of the consolation bracket. Losers in round 2 of the top bracket play winners of the round 1 in the consolation, but I swap it so the round 2 consolation players come from different tiers of the main bracket so there’s no chance of a repeat match that early. Then the winners of round 2 in the consolation play, and I had the winner from that play the loser of the final in the main for second place.

It’s easier than it sounds. One critical feature of this, though, is that it’s a lot easier to win first than to win second. First place, just win 3 matches in a row. Second place, in some cases, can take winning 5 out of 6 matches, which happened in one of the brackets today!

For next time, I am thinking I will tweak it again, so that each bracket has two second-place winners – the loser of the final in the main and the winner of the consolation bracket. So, where this time, I paid $50 to first and $20 to second, I would pay $40 to first, and $15 each to the two second place winners. As with most of the tweaks I have been making, the hope is to get the formal event done a little more quickly, as we again went past 5:30 before the event finished today.

And as long as I’m four pages into the update without giving you any idea how each event went, I’ll go ahead and explain why there’s $70 in prize money in each bracket as well. I take a $10 rake per bracket to offset the costs of running the group. Those costs are mostly for meetup (about $200/year), as well as for this blog (about $25/year). The group has been running in the red for most of the time I have been organizing events – I inherited a $120 surplus from Rob when I first took over, but did not start taking a rake for the first 6 months or so while I was trying to figure out what I was doing, and then of course during the pandemic I wasn’t collecting anything. At this point, the group is $417.95 in the hole, which is an improvement. Not anything to worry about, just an FYI on how the financials of the group run.

On to results: The “A” bracket was mostly a “usual suspects” group – Max brought his parents along again, plus Aaron and Tim, plus returning player Dirk and newcomer Sofia (who got jammed in after showing up late, because otherwise Tim would have had a first round bye). Because of the late start on the Tim/Sofia game, this bracket ended up taking the longest of any to resolve for second place. Additionally, because this was the bracket with all the side pool players, it got a bit confusing for the payouts as well. Anyway – I ended up winning the overall – beating out Dirk in round 1, Tim in round 2, and Aaron in the final. Max had a rough day of it, losing first to his father, then to his mother. Tim and Dirk revenged Max, eliminating Evan and Elisa in the consolation bracket, allowing the three of them to finally head out. At this point, I got thrown, because Tim and Dirk were playing in the consolation and both of them had entered only 1 of the two side pools, so I chased them down to give Evan the 2nd place in the second side pool. Later I realized that, oops, Aaron was also in the second side pool, so he should be the winner of that! I texted Max and he returned the money via venmo, Aaron got paid out, and then he and Tim sat down to play the last match of the tournament. I headed out, but Tim later called to report that they had agreed to settle when the score was 2-2, as dear lord, it was already after 6:00 by that point.

In the “B” bracket, Bodger had another very strong showing, winning 3 in a row to take 1st place! Combined with his results from last month, he now has an impressive 5-2 record in our tournaments. Also impressive is Matt’s record of 5-1, set entirely in today’s tournament, as he fought his way to the second place win! That’s what I was talking about as maybe this structure makes it a little too hard to win second place… Newcomers Richard and Paola had a rough time of it, but seemed to have a good time, and returning players Nitan, Leah, Julie, and Killion had mixed results. Julie came close to repeating a second place win, and definitely gets the “best behaved dog” award.

Finally, the “C” bracket was dominated by newcomers, with the 1st place going to Gary and second place going to AJ. We always like to have newcomers do well so they’re more eager to come back, but having watched parts of their matches I think these are both pretty strong players, certainly ones to watch out for! Chatting with AJ after, he expressed appreciation about Gary as being the kind of player who will give you some pointers about where you went astray, even as he wipes the table with you – which made me hope to get a chance to play him next time.

Speaking of next time, I will be getting something on the calendar in the next couple of days. Figuring out where makes sense against the holidays is always a challenge, which also reminds me: thank you to whoever thought to go in and ask them to turn on the heaters, it was far more pleasant once that happened. Until next time!


September Backgammon Tournament Results

First of all, I should have split us into two brackets. Don’t know what I was thinking – we started out with 12 players, which is enough to have two brackets (although a 6 person bracket is not ideal) – but then 3 more people showed up late, making 15 total, which is almost 16, which really ought to be two brackets, not one. Because with a single bracket, it’s just going to take a lot longer to get done… Which it did. The final match of the day didn’t end until almost 6:00, 5 full hours after we started! Not even the final two players were that interested in still being there… though I (naturally) was eager to see how it turned out.

Anyway – I’ll remember the lesson for next time.

We had three players for whom this was the first time they came to one of our events – Lor, Kilion, and Nitan; plus for Carlos it was his first tournament (although he came to the chouette last week, so in that sense he’s a seasoned pro).

I tried a somewhat different approach to the bracket this time, and I think I’m onto something there – inspired by the brackets they used in the Minneapolis tournament I went to earlier this month, I did a more structured “top bracket/bottom bracket” approach after the first round, so rather than put any two random players with 1 win/1 loss against each other, I tried to match people who went win-lose against people who went lose-win, to try to prevent the kind of situation we had last month where it took Stephanie 5 matches to win an 8 person bracket… The approach I took meant that the first place would be decided definitively with 4 matches – and it was! For second place, I had two places – the loser of the finalist match, and also the winner of everyone who had lost a match before, which I think took 5 matches to resolve. Like I said, should have been two brackets, and then it would have been 3 matches/4 matches to resolve, and should have taken an hour or so less time…

So to the results: Max was this month’s big winner, taking down first Brad, then me, then Leah, then Lor in the finals. Lor, who you’ll recall was a first timer, thus walked off with the first of the second place wins. Oh, and Max also won the side pool (which was fairly small this time around, but still…) With that, Max also shoots to the top of this year’s consolidated scores, having 10 wins out of 13 matches in tournament play, an impressive 77% rate! I didn’t get to watch their match, but report is that Max took the first game, then doubled Lor in the second game. Lor took, and proceeded to almost immediately hand the cube back to Max, making the second game the deciding one for the match! That’s a fun little thing you can do when you’re down 3-away/2-away – if it’s a take, then it’s an automatic redouble. Didn’t work out for Lor, but it’s the right strategy!

To cut the suspense, I’ll just tell you the other second place came down to a match between Julie and Leah. Julie entered the lower bracket early, losing her first match to Stacey. From there, she proceeded to redeem herself with wins over first Stephanie (one of last month’s winners, recall) and then me before facing Leah. Leah took a little longer to get there, beating Marge and Bo before losing to Max, then beating Brad to get to the final. And their match followed a similar pattern to the one between Max and Lor: Julie took the first game, then doubled Leah in the second game. Leah held the cube for a little while before offering it back, by which point Julie was tempted to drop due to the game having turned against her. But, based on a desire to wrap it up and get home to her long suffering pets, Julie took. Leah proceeded to make good on her turnaround, although not without leaving a couple of shots that could easily have turned the game around again in Julie’s favor.

Thanks everyone for coming out today – we’ll all hope for better pandemic conditions and maybe an inside meetup for next month – today started to get a little chilly once the rain started up, and that’s not going to get better over the next couple of months. Stay safe and healthy, and see you at the next one!


Adventures in Minneapolis

I went to Minneapolis for the labor day weekend Viking Classic, not without some trepidation and mixed feelings due to the whole pandemic situation. But, Minneapolis is doing better than Vancouver/Portland in terms of vaccination rates, case rates, etc., and there was a strict vaccination requirement, so I went ahead anyway. Just for an extra precaution, I did stay masked for 99% of the event – I did remove the mask for the trophy pictures (spoiler alert!)

It was an early flight out on Friday, but it got me in with time to grab lunch before sitting down for the first event I signed up for: the Friday Frigga, a 7 point match. This is a mixed level event, so I was up against Open players. First match had me down 0-6 after two games, but I survived the Crawford game and came back to win. My second match was much shorter, ending after game 1 with an 0-8 loss to the famous CJC. Here’s the position where I lost the match:

Screenshot 2021-09-06 at 9.13.42 PM

Looking at this, my thinking was, she only has 5’s to cover, then needs a 1 or a 3 to set up for the escape, so all even numbers are problems. Even if she rolled the perfect 5-3, a small next roll starts to crunch her board and so I have decent winning chances. So when she offered me the 4 cube, I took it! After taking a picture, of course. She then expressed shock that I had taken the cube, and I knew I was in trouble.

I do, in fact, have decent winning chances – about 32% wins. She, on the other hand, has about 50% gammons. And she got one of them, knocking me out of the event. Ah, well. It was a good lesson to think about the downside of taking the cube as well – CJC pointed out how many gammon wins she had, and how that was missing from my thinking.

The next day, the main event started. I had a pretty good run, getting a first round bye, so a very smooth start to the day. Rounds 2 and 3 were a little harder. Round 4, I had one of those experiences that makes you wonder why we play this cursed game. It’s a 9 point match, and I’m trailing 3-4. Conscious of the blunder of the day before, when offered the cube I correctly recognized that my downside if I were to lose a gammon in the following position would take us into the Crawford game – a bad outcome, but not as bad as losing the match. So here’s the position:

Screenshot 2021-09-06 at 9.30.47 PM

Here’s my thinking: she’s got no direct cover for her 3 point, and 3 checkers back on my homeboard. I should have 2 or 3 rolls to get a 3, anchor up, and then I’m right back in it. And again, I am about 32% wins, she’s got fewer gammons than that first position at 45% or so… And it’s still a huge pass. To cap it off, her next roll was 5-5, hitting and covering on her 3 point, followed by a 4-6 picking up the third checker. I kept waiting for her board to crunch, and did get a couple of shots at blots once she started bearing off – all of which I missed. Lost by a backgammon, putting that match to a sudden end.

Not all of my matches ended by me taking a bad cube and getting gammoned. Some of them ended by me taking a good cube and getting out-rolled. The main event was a double elimination, so it was in the 7-pointer part of the bracket that I got eliminated after taking a recube from the following position:

Screenshot 2021-09-06 at 9.41.27 PM

I was very careful counting this position out – triple checking. I’m 8 pips down, which is close to the break-even point for a pass/take in a money game. But here, if I drop, we’re in Crawford and my match winning chances are in the low teens. So this is a very easy take, and the computer says it’s a huge blunder for him to have offered the cube. But then, 27% winning chances is no guarantee. I had trouble finding any numbers higher than a 4 on the dice for the next 10+ rolls. I didn’t throw the cube back to him until 2 or 3 rolls later, at which point I was well under 27% winning chances, but he had some lousy rolls those next few as well. Fortunately, since this was the game before one of us guaranteed to cash, I had set up a hedge with him beforehand, so I got part of my entry fee back at least.

Oh, right – I mentioned a trophy! I did win the “Advanced Valhalla”, a jackpot event for once you were knocked out of the main, and got to bring home a lovely goblet trophy. Coming home with a trophy was one of my main goals for the event, as April and Michael really go over the top in terms of trophies for their event. It was only an 8 person bracket, so it’s a bit much to have gotten a trophy for, but I’m happy about it! It was a nice way to end the tournament. Technically it was the penultimate match of my trip – I had the same guy for both the championship for Valhalla and the first round of the consolation bracket for the main, and lost out of the consolation right after winning the Valhalla. Still: trophy.

Overall, it was a great time, and got me thinking anew about the possibility of doing a bigger event again in Portland. So much work goes into an event like that, I cannot commit to making it happen at this point. But gosh is it a good time to attend one! Over 4 days, I played well over 30 hours of backgammon, most of my opponents were very nice (everyone was gracious in victory – in defeat was a little spottier…) and it was a just a great time. I hope to go again next year.



August 2021 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had an amazing turnout today, 20 people showed up to play! And 1 showed up to watch! There was a fair showing of the usual suspects, but quite a few newcomers as well. Aaron, Randy’s son, made the record books as our youngest ever  full participant in the tournament. Max brought along his parents, for their second ever appearance. Charles got the “long haul” award, driving down from Seattle for the event. Philip, fresh off his strong showing at the last chouette, came by to see if he could beat us all in tournament play as well (spoiler alert: he could). And that’s far from everyone…

7 people entered one or more side pool, and I put us into the “A” bracket, along with Charles, on the grounds that he said he was taking lessons from Marc Olsen, and so he’s probably pretty strong. So that was an 8 person bracket for the higher stakes, mostly. The other 12 people I put into the “B” bracket. To keep the two brackets in some kind of sync, I made the “A” bracket 5 point matches and the “B” bracket 3 point matches. The logic there is that the winner of the “A” bracket would win 3 5-point matches, 15 total, versus the winner of the “B” bracket out to win 4 3-point matches, 12 total, so relatively close in total length. Naturally, that did not work out at all.

“A” bracket first. I started off with a “grudge match” against Elisa (Max’s mom), who was still mad that I beat her a few years ago when they were last in town visiting. She was even madder after I beat her 5-0 in our match. Aaron lost out to Charles, Philip beat Tim, and Max cruelly beat his own father to round out the first round. In round 2, I sat down against Charles, and Max took on Philip. Tim vs. Evan and Elisa vs. Aaron played on in the consolation rounds.

Against Charles, I won a doubled gammon in the first game, taking us immediately to the Crawford game. Charles squarely beat me in the Crawford, and after I won the opening with a 6-5, he immediately doubled me in game 3. Now, game theory, if you’re up 4-1 in a match to 5, win the opening roll, and get immediately doubled: a lot of the time it’s a drop. But I figured this case was probably a take – making the lover’s leap is a solid start, puts me up in the race, and no threats. So, I took. We played on and eventually got to this rather challenging position:

There are limited good options here. I narrowed it down to 10/3 (duplicating 6’s for Charles) or 8/2, 7/6 (playing it “safe for now”). And, tragically, I failed to write down what I actually did. What do you think? The duplication of 6’s is relatively weak protection, but the position after the other move is pretty dubious. According to the computer, 10/3 is correct. I’m pretty sure that’s not what I went with. It didn’t matter which I chose, because I had the opportunity to do the other on my next roll, when I rolled 6-1 again! All of which is fine, sure, but the roll after that, when I rolled 6-1 for a third time, Charles quit playing around and finally hit my blot on his bar point. From there he went on to win a gammon. Oh, backgammon, indeed the cruelest game.

Meanwhile, Philip beat out Max, and so the two of them faced off for 1st/2nd. But note, Charles was not in the side pools! So figuring out the payout got complicated. After some calculations and some negotiations, I ended up facing off Elisa again for the 2nd side pool (winner take all). Tim and Max played for 2nd place in the 1st side pool, as I had determined that Philip was the winner of 1st in the 1st side pool…

Elisa was having no more of my nonsense. I won the first game, but she took the next 3, including one where I had foolishly doubled her right before she rolled an escaping/taking the race lead 6-6. I survived Crawford by the skin of my teeth, and soon we were at 4-4 double match point. After some back and forth, we got into a race, which Elisa proceeded to smoke me out with multiple double 5’s! Meanwhile, Max was offering Tim a narrow take of a cube when they were 3-3, putting the whole match on the line with his 58 to 62 pip count lead. And Max proceeded, like his mother before him, to roll multiple doubles to win it.

Charles beat out Philip for the main, winning the overall bracket; but Philip took home more cash as the 2nd main/1st 1st side pool winner. So overall half the bracket walked home with some cash from it.

Phew. So what about the “B” bracket?

First round had Brad vs. Brian, Sande vs. Randy, Robert vs. Nathan, Dillon vs. Aaron, Stephanie vs. Paul, and Kyle vs. Bo. So that’s eight (8!) new players out of twelve (12!). I juggled it so the winner of each first match was listed first there, too. Brad vs. Brian and Kyle vs. Bo ended up being especially long matches too, so we were quickly to a point of it being hard to track. But people were in good spirits about it all, happy to play a pick-up game or two while waiting for their next formal match to start.

Stephanie had a good start, going on from her match against Paul to also beat Dillon and then Robert. At that point, being 3-0, it SHOULD have been the case that we were just waiting on one other person to get to 3-0 so we could go into the championship match. However, because of the timing issues, we ended up with Brad getting to 3-0 at the same time Kyle was emerging 2-0. So, I had 3 undefeated players. I told Brad and Stephanie to roll-off to see who had to go through Kyle first, to get to the championship match. Stephanie got unlucky in having to take the extra match, but then lucky in that she beat Kyle in a very short match. Stephanie then went on to beat Brad as well, making her this month’s most undefeated player, with a 5-0 showing!

It was a really terrific afternoon of backgammon, and I hope everyone had as much fun as I did. We’ll get another on the calendar fairly soon – see you then!


July 2021 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a respectable 10 person field show up to play in today’s tournament. Many of the players from last month came back again, although apologies to Rob who was thrown off by the time shift and so did not get in to actually play. Likewise Pamela and her friend (sorry, I have lost the name) showed up late, but kind of on purpose as they did not want to play in the tournament, but were excited to play each other near other matches going on… Anyway, 7 people from last month, the return of Steve, and two newcomers (Leah and Stephanie) made for a reasonably even playing field. Not enough to break into two brackets, but sort of too many for a single bracket – we made do.

I determined that we needed to do 3 point matches instead of 5 point matches, in order to end timely. This was not without controversy. Several people let me know that they would have preferred to stick with 5 point matches, and Steve even went so far as to pull out of the side pools over it. Keep that in mind, I’m not pointing it out from pettiness, rather it is dramatic foreshadowing. Tim also gave me a rather hard time about it, if I recall correctly.

I drew Max in the first round, in a repeat of last month. I think he’s going to get suspicious if it happens again next month (which I will get on the calendar pretty soon – aiming for a weekend that Max’s parents will be visiting, as he said he will drag them along). Brad faced off against Steve, Jeremy took on Tim, Leah and Stephanie had a novice tie-breaker, and Julie played Aaron to round us out.

Max and I had some pretty significant back and forth. He took the first game relatively quickly, doubling me out after an early blitz. I returned the favor in the next game, and he commented that he probably would have taken the cube in a match to 5 – I think exactly correctly. It was a good take in a match to 5, a good drop in a match to 3; the dynamics of a short match are very accelerated. I cubed him out again in the third game, and we went into Crawford in a match that seemed to take about 20 minutes. Eventually I squeaked out the win.

In the second round, I played Aaron. It was again an intense match – the dice made it difficult for both of us at different points. We ended up attracting a crowd watching for a bit, as people were waiting for Tim and Jeremy to finish their first match so that more second round matches could start. Aaron took pictures of a couple of positions where he wasn’t sure what to do; I don’t think he took records of what he actually did, which pro tip: I’ve regretted that in the past. “Oh look at this picture of a backgammon position on my phone! I wonder what I actually did…” Anyway, I again got lucky and came out on top.

In the meantime, Steve had beat out Brad and then Leah, Max was closing in on a win over Julie in the second round, Stephanie lost out to Brad, and about now I started getting confused about who should play whom. I originally was taking on Jeremy, in what I thought was going to be about the championship match, when Steve and Brad came asking who they should play, and I started to set them against each other. “Oh, again?” they asked. No – no repeat opponents ought to appear in the match. Jeremy and I scraped the game, and I set Brad against Jeremy, and took on Steve myself.

From time to time, someone asks how I manage to keep it all straight while also playing myself. As this example shows, I don’t, at least not always. 🙂

Steve at this point was 2-0, and I informed him that he was in the running to win the tournament. He asked if he could get back into the side pools, which I did not allow. We had a good, if short, match. He won the first game, doubling me out pretty early. I offered the cube early in the second game, and he took, which I think might have been a mistake, but he made it work out for him. Meantime, Jeremy beat Brad, and so I set Jeremy and Steve at each other.

If you are keeping track at this point, which I barely was: Steve was 3-0, Jeremy was 2-0, Max and I were both 2-1. So the outcome of the Jeremy/Steve match could have made things complicated. If Steve won, he was the overall champion; if he lost he was 2nd with a 3-1 record. That much was clear. But since he was out of the side pools, if Steve won, we would have three-way tie in the side pools. Fortunately (?), Jeremy did win, and so I could declare him the overall tournament winner and the winner of the side pools. Max and I split 2nd from the side pools, and Steve took second for the overall.

Also meantime, Nick had shown up, and played a bit of head’s up cash game against Aaron and then Tim. When I left, Jeremy and Leah were playing a practice match as well.

So, overall, a great afternoon of backgammon. Thanks everyone for coming out, and we’ll see you again next month!


June 2021 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a great turnout for our first “is it post-pandemic yet?” tournament today – 15 players braved the rain to see what it was like to play live backgammon again.

Lucky Lab is on a limited menu and tap list, and requires a mask indoors. But we took over half of the patio (quite literally), and in spite of questionable lighting, it was pretty comfortable. Well, from a fresh air perspective, anyway – eventually the picnic table seating started getting to my back. We all made do.

5 players elected into the dual side pools, and I put all of them (plus 2 others) into one bracket. 8 players made for a perfect second bracket. Let’s take them in reverse that order…

We had a big cast of new-comers in the bracket: Laura, Hobie, Dana, Kyle, and Karl were all making their first appearance. Kate came with her own cheer squad, and Julie and Rob rounded it out. You remember Rob, right? He used to run the group back around 2015 and prior? He claimed to not remember the Crawford rule. That might have been literally true for some of the other newcomers – Laura at least told me she hadn’t used the doubling cube before. First round had Julie defeating Laura (who then had to depart, dropping the bracket to 7), Kate over Dana, Rob over Hobie, and Karl over Kyle. Kate experienced the full spectrum of backgammon, going from a 5-0 win to a 0-5 loss against Rob in the second round. Julie took out Karl, setting the two most experienced players in the bracket against each other for the championship. After a good amount of back and forth, Rob emerged victorious, one of the two players to have a perfect record for the year in live backgammon play!

Our other bracket had a couple of newcomers as well, plus one complex situation. Dan and Brad were with us for the first time, plus Aaron, who had come to a couple of online events, so I’m not sure I can call him a first-timer, but it was his first time playing with us live. Max, Tim, Jeremy, and I rounded it out. Round 1 I squeaked out a win against Max, Tim beat out Dan, Aaron won a heartbreaker match against Jeremy, and Brad got the lucky bye. In round 2, Brad beat me out 5-4, Aaron handed Tim a loss, and so Brad and Aaron set up to play for first/second. This led to an interesting situation, as they were the two players who were NOT in the side pools. I resolved it by setting Tim versus Max to play for the second place while I took on Jeremy for the first place side pool. Both matches went down to the wire, Jeremy besting me and Max defeating Tim.

Meanwhile, in the final game of the final match (4 to 4, post Crawford) between Aaron and Brad, we got into a hyper-gammon situation. Aaron had 5 or 6 of Brad’s checkers back on his home board as he was going to bear-in, and Brad had a 4 point board plus a loose checker or so in the outfield. Aaron was forced to leave a shot and the game went into overtime, as Brad repeatedly hit Aaron’s checker while bringing the rest of his pieces around. By the end, Aaron had 13 checkers on his 1-point, a blot on his 2-point, and one off, while Brad closed him out. Brad in turn was forced to leave a blot after bearing off 5 checkers, which Aaron hit! At this point, the  race was on. Brad managed to get past Aaron’s checker coming around, and it got down to a question of whether or not Brad would ever miss taking one off on a roll. 5 or 6 frantic shakes later, Brad emerged victorious!

Many people asked about when we will do our next tournament, and/or our next chouette. I’m figuring that out – I think Lucky Lab will remain our home base for the next event or two as they have such a good outdoor space, pending further re-opening to indoor space. Assuming that we didn’t turn out to be a super-spreader event, I will get the next tournament posted within a few days, possibly a chouette as well. It seemed like everyone had a pretty good time, I certainly did. It was great to see people again, and to meet new friends. Until next time!


September 2020 Online Backgammon Tournament Results

We had another full 8-person bracket today, albeit with some last minute twists and turns. We had 10 people sign up, but then one backed out, then another, then a third, then one new person show up at the last minute. As a director, that’s a whirlwind of emotions… Anyway, we ended up at 8, with 3 first timers and 5 returning players.

In the first match, I played Larry, who is one of the newcomers, although he’s also an old timer. We talked about some of the people we’ve played in common, but none apparently in the same decade. Hopefully that will change soon… I had good luck, and won, in spite of him significantly outplaying me.

This position came up in one of our games, and is one of many, many examples I could have picked of checker play blunders. On the bar, rolling a 6-2 is a great piece of luck. Obviously the 2 is B/23*, but I went fast with the 6 and played a blunder as a result.



23/17* just looked obvious from a get-more-pips lead and momentum perspective, but it is worse than 11/5* by -0.083! In retrospect, the potential prime built by slotting the 5 seems kind of obvious, but I played the move in about 2 seconds and didn’t even think of alternatives. 

Here’s another position I misplayed, file under “doubles are hard!”:



Similar theme to the last one. 24/21* pops up immediately, but what to do with the other 3 moves? Well, what do I really want here: a gammon. The best way to get that is to keep Larry on my ace point, and use the other 3 moves to play 13/4*. Completely failed to even consider it – instead I let momentum take me 21/18, then looked around for 2 more to play, eventually settling on 17/11. Which looks kind of pretty, accomplished nothing much, and lost me -0.134 in equity!

I didn’t only blow it through bad checker moves though – I also made plenty of cube errors. Here’s a fun one. I’m on the bar, holding the cube, closed board, and a blot to aim at. What’s the cube action?



I figured this to be a no double, as I’m on the bar, and if I don’t roll a 5, I’m throwing away the match with the recube. Indeed, I’m only 36.1% to win here – basically rolling 5’s plus a few later shots if I dance. But it is a recube (and very easy take)! No double is a -0.119 blunder. 

Jesse went on to beat me 7-0 in the match, then faced off against Tim (Tim E, not Tim D) in the final. I watched the match online, and it was a good one. Here are a couple of other cube decisions that came up, which surprised me as they were playing.

First off, in the first game, Jesse (white here) is on roll, and offered a cube. Would you have done the same?



It’s a surprisingly close one. He’s up slightly in the race, but his position isn’t great, with 3 checkers back. But he does have the threat of pointing on the checker on his 5 point, or doing a pick-and-pass. Tim snatched up the cube of course, as it is a narrow no double position: -0.011 error to double here. But I did not recognize how strong Jesse’s position was. Only 59% to win, but 33% to gammon, makes this nearly a double, and probably worth time to think about the take.

Finally, here’s a position where Tim offered the cube. I assume his thinking was that with an even race, it is likely to be a take. But it’s a clear too good situation!



Position, race, and threat. Normal rule of thumb is if you have 2 of the 3, it’s a double/take. Here all Tim has is position, but he has a lot of it! Jesse lacks the timing to keep a strong home board for the eventually return shot, and Tim doesn’t have a lot of gammons, but he’s 88% to win, so there’s no harm in playing on. Well, it worked out for him, as Tim went on to win the match and thus, the tournament. Congratulate him the next time you see him!


Online Backgammon

So, COVID-19 has kept us all from getting together to drink and gamble in person. The Portland Backgammon Club continues on, though – virtually.

Today we had our first online tournament. 8 players showed up to compete. We did it as a single elimination, because I did not want to juggle the logistics of something more complicated. It was a learning experience.

I’ve played in a few online tournaments in the past months, mostly those sponsored by the US Backgammon Club, as well as played some with local members looking for an online game. Most of my activity has been on backgammongalaxy, which allows you to play via your web browser, and so my chromebook is adequate for the task. It also gives you an analysis of your match immediately afterwards, using XG, making it a very effective learning tool as well if you have the patience to look through your blunders while they’re still fresh on your mind.

The other tournaments I have been in have used whatsapp or discord for communication, and some have used a bracket management site called challonge. For our first Portland backgammon tournament, I just set up a group text message to communicate with everyone. The limit of that is Tim E, who is a caveman and still uses a flip phone.

Anyway – first round there was some technical confusion by having both Tim E and Tim D show up to play, something that hasn’t happened in years actually. Michael was supposed to call Tim E, but called Tim D, and before Bryan did. Bryan eventually figured out what happened and asked if he could just play Tim E instead, and we went with that. Paul is still on our mailing list, and he got paired with Steve. I played Bob. We played 5 point matches for the first couple of rounds, and a 7 point final.

In the first round match, I made a blunder on the following position, which is similar to a host of positions that I seem to not be able to get through my head. I’m on the bar, and so have to come in with the 1; but what should I do with the 2?

Screenshot 2020-07-12 at 6.57.06 PM

The choices are limited. There’s 20/18, 13/11, 10/8, and 8/6. 13/11 is obviously wrong – it duplicates 1’s I guess but really, why? 8/6 is also obviously wrong – there’s already 5 checkers on the 6 point, what good is one more besides opening a blot? 10/8 is safe, so that’s clearly good. 20/18 is what I went with, and that’s the category of plays that I find challenging. When do you pop out a blot from the opponent’s home board? Here, I figured, only two checkers aiming at it, there’s a blot on the 21 if I do get hit, and it gives me a chance to anchor outside.

But, in this case, a -0.101 blunder, just as bad as playing 8/6. Why? I do not know. That’s what I’m saying about this kind of position confusing me. Maybe because I’m so far down in the race, I want the extra couple of places of contact? I’m really not sure.

A few rolls later, I was on the bar again, and had another decision to make.

Screenshot 2020-07-12 at 7.04.25 PM

I can come in with either the 1 or the 5. If I come in with the 1, there’s only a couple of options for the 5: 10/5 or 6/1. 6/1 is safe, but leaves me two blots behind his checkers. 10/5 slots the point I want to make next, but then I worried about him having a good chance of making his bar point, leaving me trapped on the ace point. And if I come in with the 5, I can hit with 13/12*, which seems helpful – plus I have two numbers to hit the blot on the bar point which would become much less likely to be covered. So, I played bar/20, 13/12*. Which is a -0.109 blunder.

The correct play is bar/24, 10/5. Why? Again, I don’t know. If I understood the position, maybe I wouldn’t have played it wrong.

First games are rough. Eventually Bob took pity on me and offered the cube so I could drop. He did that again the next game as well, but I rallied after that, managing to come back to win.

In the second match, I faced off against Paul. He and Steve had played a protracted first round match, and by the time they were done, Bryan and Michael had already finished their second round match. But Paul and I made up time with a pretty quick match (which also gave Bryan time to get lunch), so no harm done. In our second game, Paul offered me the following cube:

Screenshot 2020-07-12 at 7.15.10 PM

Should I take or drop? I’ve got 2 checkers back on his 3 point, with a clear shot at freedom, but I am down in the race, his prime can get better on the next roll, I have no home board, and I’m up in the match. I did not fully figure the odds of my coming back to win the game, but it seemed like a pretty clear pass. Nope! Dropping is a -0.095 error! I’m still 22.6% to win the game, according to XG. Apparently that ability to escape with a 6 is worth more than I figured. That evened up the match score. Paul won a doubled game on the next one, then offered me the cube again in game 4, which I accepted and redoubled to make for the match. Then I snuck out a win with a miracle 6-1 roll when I needed it most.

Mind you, these are not all the blunders I made through the day. I was not playing that well, in spite of getting the wins. They are just a few of the ones that stand out. But my biggest blunder of the day came in game 4 against Bryan in the finals. I am up 2-1 and think I have a difficult decision to hand him with this double. What would you do?

Screenshot 2020-07-12 at 7.27.14 PM

Bryan took, and was eventually able to return the cube to me, which I had to drop. This is a big no-double, -0.24 mega-blunder to have offered it! Sure, I’m the favorite here – ahead in the race, he might dance, giving me an opportunity to escape the back checkers or make more points on my board. But, and this is important, he might not dance. And if he comes in, he’s not in such bad shape. I’m only 59.3% to win here, way below an efficient cube level. I had a great roll, filling the 3 point, but Bryan came in with a 4-2 and was able to turn it around on me.

For that game, anyway. I held on to win the match, although it was a tough one!

Next time, I might explore using discord, or challonge, or otherwise up the technological requirements to participate. But everyone seemed to have a good time, it was great to get to interact with others, and we will definitely do it again soon.


March 2020 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a good turnout for this month’s tournament, considering the sunny weather attracting people outside and the coronavirus scaring them into staying home. 8 people showed up to play, plus newcomer Esti, who wanted to observe, having only taken up the game in the last month or so.

Joel showed up early, and we played the first game or two of a warm-up match. But people were showing up and we didn’t get to finish, which was a relief to me as I was down a couple of games. Random draw, however, put me back up against Joel in the first match. Grateful for the fresh start, I went on to lose the match by a considerable margin.

Bryan, Philip, and Joel also won their first round matches, and we shuffled players around. After the second round, Joel and Chris were undefeated. Mark J decided to head off, and Jenny played a match with Esti. Philip, Jenny’s father, noted that he would never have bet that she would end up tutoring someone else on backgammon, so shortly after he finally convinced her to start playing herself.


Here’s a position that came up while Jenny and Esti were playing, which I was watching and talking to both of them a bit about the cube. Here Jenny is the lighter checkers, and offered the cube. Should Esti take?

Definitely not. With any 2, a sixth checker will get sent back, and although they are only behind a 4-prime, Jenny will have perfect freedom to bring the rest of her checkers around. Without a 2, there’s still a good chance that both Jenny’s back checkers escape, and Esti doesn’t have the timing to keep her home board from collapsing.

XG actually says this position is slightly too good to double, it’s about -0.034 to give up the gammon potential. And of course, it’s a huge pass for money.

While all that was going on, Chris was playing Joel for the championship. Chris took an early and commanding lead, but Joel survived the Crawford game, and then won the next game with a doubled gammon to take 1st place! Don’t feel bad for Chris, though – second month in a row that he’s cashed in one of our tournaments…

Joel very kindly donated his winnings (that is, less his entry fee) back to the club to help offset the expenses of running the meetup. That’s actually the third donation I’ve gotten in the last year, I want to acknowledge him and  also say thank you to Dirk and Steve who also both spontaneously gave some back to the club. Meetup has just raised their rates, and it now costs just under $200/year to keep that running – so my $10/month rake is not really cutting it. I’m not complaining, it’s a modest expense, and I’m only out $202.34 for the past 3.25 years that I’ve been running the club. Yes, I am keeping records of that. I don’t know how much money I’ve lost in chouettes over that same time period, but I’m pretty confident it’s more…

Next month I’ve moved the tournament back to the third Sunday of the month, to not conflict with Easter. Hope to see you all there!