July 21 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a good showing for today’s tournament – 11 players in total. That is, if you were unclear on such things, an odd number, which always makes the logistics a little trickier. I had been trying to balance things such that winning players only play against winning players until we got down to only one undefeated player in our prior Swiss tournaments, and I did so again this time, but with the realization that anyone who has lost a match in the first two is pretty much out of the money. So I did not enforce pairings for third matches, letting people pick their own opponent or just wander off, or whatever. I did not, however, communicate that clearly, so some people are still at the bar waiting for their third match, potentially.

Anyway. Tina came with her whole family in tow, although only three of them played. Tom came up again from Albany, Dirk was on time, and newcomers Brad and Steve added to the mix. By random draw, Tim got Tom in the first round, and I set him against Tina in the second – if he had played a third match I would have insisted it be against Tony for purposes of alliteration.

I drew Brad in the first match, who claimed to not understand or use the cube, but somehow managed to use it multiple times on his way to victory. Brad then beat Tony in his second match. In the meantime, Steve had worked his way through Dirk and Tom, and was playing Billy, our other undefeated player at that point. Steve ended up beating Billy, and I set the two newcomers against one another for the championship. Steve ended up taking it all, leaving Brad and Billy tied for second.

After the tournament, or rather while Steve and Brad were duking it out, Martin, Tim, and I started a chouette, during which the following position came up.

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I’m onlyI’m the lighter colored checkers, bearing off to the lower left, and I doubled them both from this position. Tim dropped immediately, and Martin thought about it for a minute, then also dropped. I took a position because it seemed to me that it must be a close thing, given that Martin struggled on the question. But according to XG, it’s not even a double! 4’s are the obvious scary number, but 5 and 6 are also good, and the pair on the midpoint give you something to do with 1, 2, or 3. But I’m only 63% to win, and give up -0.131 equity by doubling. Of course, if you scare the opponent off, it’s not a blunder.

Here’s the updated top players list for 2019 tournaments:

Player Games Played Games Won
Mark W 17 10
Tim 13 2
Nate 12 6
Ed 10 6
Bryan 10 6
Michael 9 6
Chris 8 6
Billy 6 4
Joel 6 3
Martin 6 2
Kris 6 1

May 25, 2019 Chouette Results

We had a modest but sufficient turnout for the last-minute-rescheduled chouette. I owe an apology to Tim and James, who both showed up on the original date, although not at the same time, leading to a distinctly unsatisfactory situation for each of them. I shouldn’t have let my work life get in the way of backgammon – at the LA tournament this past weekend, I saw a t-shirt that read “Quit your job & play backgammon” – solid advice to be sure.

There were a number of interesting positions that came up over the afternoon. This first one is a checker play decision. In running some of my matches through XG, it’s clear that playing doubles is a “problem spot” – the excess of options sometimes leads to me having trouble…

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If you can’t read it on the screen, that’s double 4’s, and the cubes are in the center, none have been offered or taken. Now, obviously, one good thing to do would be to play 24/20(2), set up the advanced anchor, and be well positioned for the rest of the game. And I thought about doing that. If I were to do that, then what do I do with the next two 4’s? I could run the back checkers all the way out to the 16 point, I could cover the 4 point, I could bring one checker from the 13 to the 5… Lots of good options. One not so ideal option would be to play 24/20(2), 5/1*(2), putting a checker on the bar, and arguably accomplishing something on both sides of the board. But, I figured, if I play 5/1*(2), it makes more sense as part of a blitzing strategy, and so it should be half of a 5/1*(2), 8/4(2) play, hitting and making 4 points on my board. Ultimately, that’s what I did. It’s only a 0.397 blunder.

The best play is 24/16(2). However, that’s such a good move that I’m still a favorite after this enormous blunder! The rest of the game was interesting. Mark F entered with a 2,3 or something that left him with a blot on the 5 point – I didn’t take a picture so maybe one of the back checkers is off: something like this:

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At this point, it’s clear why it was a mistake to leave the back checkers alone – I don’t even have a double! But then I rolled a 6,1 played 11/5*, 6/5. At which point, Mark F fanned, and it was a double/pass. So, all’s well that ends well? Or more likely, even a fool gets lucky sometimes.

Clearly, a fool does get lucky sometimes, as in the following position:

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Here, red has been forced to leave a double shot by an unfortunate 5,6 roll. The question is, does that leave white too good to double? I ultimately decided that no, it’s “only” 20 shots that turn it around, so it’s a double. And it’s also a drop for red.

All in all, it was a lot of fun, and I promise to schedule only one time for the chouette for June. The tournament, on the other hand, I also screwed up, and originally sent for the 9th, when I was in LA for the ABT tournament. Apparently about 3 people showed up for that, although I moved it on meetup within a half-hour… Sigh…

-Mark

May 2019 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a good turnout for today’s tournament – 10 players, plus a couple of guys who showed up too late to enter the tournament, but who stuck around to play. Lots of new faces, too – Sima & Bijan, recent arrivals from LA, Bodger, recent arrival from NY (I think?), Marty, recent arrival from — uh, I don’t know. Anyway – lots of recent arrivals, including Dirk, who didn’t make it into the tournament.

Sima and Bijan were obvious ringers, tearing up the field, with what Sima claimed was “beginner’s luck”. Both of them went up 2-0 in the time it took me to finish my first match against Tony. I took on Sima for her third match, my second, and we finished in one game with the cube at 8! It was a close one. In the meantime, I had set Bijan and Nate playing, but I had them stop mid-match because at that point, Bijan and I were the only two undefeated after two matches. Nate took his third match against Chris instead, and I got a series of lucky rolls that brought me to my first tournament win since… well, I actually can’t remember the last time I won one of these.

Sima took second place, based on the number of games she won – Bryan, Chris, and Bijan all tied in terms of matches.

Here’s the updated top of the scoresheet for the year.

Player Games Played Games Won
Mark W 12 9
Nate 12 6
Tim 11 2
Ed 10 6
Michael 9 6
Chris 8 6
Bryan 7 5

April 2019 Backgammon Tournament Results

April showers bring backgammon players to… ah, never mind. We had a good showing for today’s tournament, 8 players, including newcomer Tom. Eight isn’t a great turnout for us, but it’s great for running the tournament. First round, I played Michael, who seems to have cursed dice. Tim and Chris faced off, and had the *longest* match of the day. They weren’t playing slow, it was just a slug-fest. I forced some people to sit around waiting for the round 1 matches to finish before they could play their second matches, and that in turn forced some people to wait for their third matches. But by the end, basically all the matches ended around the same time.

This position came up in my second match, against Tom. I’m ahead 2-0 in the match, and he’s holding the cube at 4. I rolled a 4-3. Coming off the bar, I’m pretty confident in the 4, but how to play the 3?

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Clearly an excellent roll. I considered 6-3, or 21-18, or I could cover the blot on the 13… There are a few other 3’s of course, but those seemed like the best ideas. And they are, according to XG. I went with covering the blot on the 13, which worked out when Tom rolled a 2-6! Theory met practice, the best play worked out for me.

Of course, I’m not always so smart. Consider this cube that Chris offered me in our first game of our match:

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What to do? It’s a good cube, clearly, as he has a 4 point board, and is strongly favored to cover the blot on the ace point. But, even if he covers that, I could pop right out with a 5-something, and the race isn’t too bad. If I hit, I would have good gammon chances. So, I figured it was a take. Nope! -0.053 error, which is (for me) not that bad an error.

Chris went on to win that game, then the next one, then the match, and thus the tournament. Nate, Michael, and I were all tied in terms of number of games and matches won, so I declared a three-way tie for second. Tim, Chris, and I stayed to play a small chouette for a while after, and they relieved me of my second place prize money there.

Updated scoreboard for the year – Chris has the best win/loss ratio of anyone with 5+ games after today:

Player Games Played Games Won
Ed 10 6
Mark W 9 6
Michael 9 6
Nate 9 5
Tim 9 2
Joel 6 3
Kris 6 1
Chris 5 4

I’ll get the next one scheduled soon. See you then!

-Mark

March 2019 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a decent showing today for the tournament, in spite of the sunshine. 10 people showed up to play, and we had a pretty good time.

I got to play three matches, which most of us did. First against Tony, who returned after an extended hiatus, and who is another Vancouverite. We need to get a few things going North of the Columbia… Second was against Nate, who brought his shiny new board – another Crisloid. That brand is becoming the local favorite, between Nate, me, Michael, Julie… and I think I’m missing a few. A couple of photos in a second of that board… And third, against Mark F, who defeated me to take his third tournament win in three appearances. We’re lucky he doesn’t show up more often!

Just kidding, I always learn something playing Mr. F, and today was not an exception. In my first game against him, I got lucky early and was able to double him out, taking a commanding 1-0 lead. In the next game, I got to the following position, and had to decide whether or not to double him again.

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I’m the cream-colored checkers, aiming for the bottom left, and this is Nate’s new board. More importantly, it’s a correct double, and a take. It would have been a -0.047 error to not double in this position. When I first put it into XG, I somehow entered it with the blot on the 12 as already off the board, and teased Mark that it was a drop. He reckoned that I needed about 4 more in the race for it to be a drop, but XG says I only need 3. Move the blot from the 12 to the 9, and it says this is a double/drop. Still, shows how exact Mark F’s instincts are for this kind of thing.

Same game, a bit later, he had the opportunity to return the cube to me.

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I have three off, he has four off, so we’re both (kind of) 6 rolls to go. He’s up 34 to 43 in the race, but with extras on the two point and a gap, the Keith count is closer. And most critically to my mind, I’m up 1-0. Double 4 or better and I’ve got the match. I took. Big blunder! XG says he’s 82.8% to win, and this is a monster pass.

Now, obviously, this is a pass for money. Obviously, this is a pass when I’m not 4 away from skunking him. But it’s not obvious to me that it’s not a take given the match score, even now, hours later, with the benefit of XG pointing out that I’m an idiot. To get it to a take, I have to put one of his checkers back on the board, on the three point or further back. Or, move a couple of checkers from the two point to the six point. Basically, I’m nowhere near a take. But I was so confident, that I bet him $5 that it was a take, and so I lost to him on that too.

Well, it’s good to have more to learn, I guess.

Mark F also encouraged me to bring back the annual rankings, like I had a couple of years ago. I’ve already recycled the score page from January, and the Elo score calculation is too much work, so I’m going with a simpler metric – total games played and won for the year. That’ll give three possible “player of the year” definitions – most games played, most games won, and best winning percentage. Since I, by definition, am there every time, I’ve got a good shot at the most games played portion, but currently Ed is in the lead on two metrics…

Player Games Played Games Won
Ed 7 5
Mark W 6 4
Michael 6 4
Bryan 4 3
Joel 6 3
Mark F 3 3
Nate 6 3

We’ll do it again next month – see you then!

-Mark

February 2019 Chouette

We had pretty much the usual crew for this month’s chouette, plus Edmund, who hasn’t played with the cube before, and so was relegated to spectator status. But we enjoyed meeting him and may have started him further on the path.

We experienced two new technical difficulties through the afternoon. First was a game between Tim and me, I was the box, but somehow got confused about that and when I was ready to cube, I interrupted Mark F and Bryan’s argument about a position from the prior game to ask them if they wanted to join me. They did, and about six moves later, we realized that wait, they shouldn’t cube against their captain. We settled that by basically putting them out of the game, and Tim and I just played it out. Second was a game between Bryan and me, he was the box, and about halfway through we were in a position when we both wanted to count. At which point, we noticed that one of my checkers hadn’t ever made it onto the board. I was in favor of restarting the game, but Mark F said we should play on, and that checker wouldn’t count towards gammons. We settled on letting Bryan choose, and he went with playing on.

My reckon is that at this point, I’ve probably now seen everything that can possibly go wrong with a chouette. I also reckon I’m tempting fate by saying so.

This is a position that came up in a different game with Bryan. I’m the box, on the bar, and have just been handed 4 cubes, turned up to 4… We had put them back to the side before I took the picture though, so spoiler alert, I dropped:

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Slightly dark picture, sorry. Bryan has 3 numbers to cover the 4 point, or 4 numbers to hit and cover, plus a direct shot at my blot in the outfield. I have a modest race advantage, but with the spare on the 3 point, I felt like even if I survived the next roll, I’m starting to crash. Plus I’ve lost my midpoint. So I dropped. Correctly, as it turns out! It’s -0.031 to take, so pretty borderline decision. And in fact, XG says if my spare was on the 6 instead of the 3, it would be a take. Interestingly, if my blot on his home board was on the 1 instead of the 2, it would also be a take – 3 numbers to hit and cover versus 4 numbers to hit and cover is a big difference.

We’ll do the next chouette on March 16th, squeaking in before NCAA March madness makes it impossible to find a table at Claudia’s.

-Mark

San Antonio 2019

I spent last weekend at the ABT tournament in San Antonio. I feel like I played well, but I definitely didn’t do well – made back about $5 on chouettes though, so there’s that. But one thing I did achieve was I took more photos of positions and took better notes than I’ve done in prior tournaments. I got it down to where I was pretty consistent about recording the match score, what I was doing, and what I decided to go with. This gives me a load of material to examine my blunders of the weekend!

Here’s the first:

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This is from Friday night, my first draw was Candace, who is the producer of the LA tournaments. We had an excellent match overall, and a long one – went almost 2 1/2 hours! Anyway – this is game 1, and my first cube of the tournament. I had gone in with the mantra of “don’t be greedy” – trying to break my habit of going for a gammon and instead losing by one. This seemed like a perfect example. But no, the double is a 0.113 blunder! I’m too good, at 85% wins/28% gammons. She correctly dropped, and I congratulated myself on a strong start to the event.

Of course, I didn’t only make blunders with cube decisions. I occasionally blew a checker play as well, as in this example:

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Here I’m playing CJ, part of a fairly large group of Brits who had come over for the event, thus the UKBGF board. I’m heading to the bottom left, and have double fives. I agonized over whether or not to run the checker off the 23 point to the 13. Eventually I decided against that, and played 13/3, 8/3(2). Only a -0.085 error! Of course, the 23/13, 8/3(2) that I was weighing that against is also slightly inferior to 23/18, 13/3, 8/3. But at least the play I passed over wasn’t the very best play.

That was not, incidentally, my only blunder off a double against a British opponent. The next morning, in my first match of the last chance, against Steve, I rolled double fours in the following position:

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I got the first one right – bar/21. I even got the second one right, 9/5*. But then I got stuck. I eventually took 13/5 to cover the blot. But I should have done 9/5*(2), and then slotted! My play is -0.124 compared to slotting the 2 point. Ah, well.

Not every play I made was wrong, however. For example, in this position, I’m playing Peggy (who, it happens, had knocked me out of the last chance in Vegas in 2017), and I’m up 3-0 in the 5 point match. IMG_20190203_135558

Clearly, I’m a monster favorite, the question is, am I too good to double? I spent a good amount of time thinking about it, recounted at least once, and ultimately decided to play on. Barely correct, but correct! No double is the +1.016 equity play, meaning I’m accurate within 1.6%. Super sharp decision maker!

Or not. My next match, I had an early blitz position to play, double 5’s put Roman on the bar, and he danced, leaving us here:

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I doubled, he dropped. It was too good, +1.026, I should have played on. But – this was my main learning moment for the weekend. In two prior matches, I had been the one on the bar in the comparable position, and had taken both times, and had been gammoned for 4. So, I had reason to believe that someone might take this one, and as Phil Simborg says, your opponent can’t make a cube error if you don’t offer it.

All in all, I had a good time, played probably better than I did in Vegas last fall, and I can’t say I have regrets. I’m going to aim for two more ABT events this year – if you haven’t played in one before, it’s a good way to get a lot of time over the board with a wide variety of opponents. Away from the boards, everyone is very friendly and fun. Over the boards, of course, even more so.

-Mark

January 13, 2019 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a good showing for our first tournament of the year – 13 people in the tournament! Three additional people showed up too late to get in, but were able to pick up some side games and/or get tips on what backgammon apps to download (hint: Extreme Gammon). Tim D. made it in from the coast, and dragged along Dick, whose daughter Jill made her first appearance. David (who hasn’t made it to one since the big Portlandia event last year) came along, bringing his friend Nate for the first time. And Paige made her first appearance at the meetup as well.

I set up the initial draws, and settled down to play first Jill, and then Bryan. By the end of that second match, the scorecard was getting complicated – Dick and Nate were still playing their first match, as were Tim E. and Justin (who we hadn’t seen in a while as well…) David had gotten a bye but was now playing Martin. Suffice to say I need a better way to keep track of everyone once it gets going – I was assigning people matches but not writing down the pairings until later, and it was quite distracting. I’ll blame the pressure for how Bryan was able to skunk me 5-0 in our match…

This position came up in my match against Justin, and left me pondering for a minute or so on whether or not to hit.IMG_20190113_144627

Little hard to see depending on your device, my roll is 5-1. Not the roll I was looking for, but what can you do. The 6/5* seems both obvious and possibly unnecessary. I’m a strong favorite already, why risk the hit? Best I recall, I eventually went with the 15/10, 6/5* to get the most covering numbers, and then Justin rolled 5-5. Oh, well! I came back from it to win eventually.

My fourth and final match was against Martin. In this position, I’m down 2-0 in the match, and am generously (?) offered the cube:

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My thought is, I’m about to get buried. Sure, he’s on the bar, but I’ve got no board, three blots, and let’s not forget it took me like 5 rolls to get off the bar (which doesn’t matter, but it was weighing on me). So I passed. Blunder! XG says this is a clear take, and I gave up 0.333 equity by dropping! Fear is a killer.

This next position is from the next game against Martin, and put me in one of those “too many choices” reveries…

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Again depending on your device, might be hard to see that’s a 1-1 roll. 24/23(2) seemed automatic. But should it be 24/23(3)? Ultimately I went with 24/23(2), 7/6*, 3/2, aiming to get two points covered for a backgame. Another blunder! Not only is is 24/23(3), the hit is not in the top 5 choices. Needless to say, Martin ended up beating me…

Now a “Swiss” format should always be matching undefeated players with undefeated players until there’s only one left. With 13 players, we should have reached that point after 4 rounds. But somehow, around 4:30, we had Martin and Bryan both with 3-1 records, and Dick with a 3-0. Justin and Tim E. were playing their final match, which was going to end with one of them also a 3-1. And David was playing his third match against Jill, which if he won would put him 2-1 and so I would have set him against Dick to see if they could both end up 3-1. We had, in other words, at least 4 people with 3 wins. Justin ended up winning, David losing, and I had no-one to pit against Dick. So I declared a four-way tie and gave them each equal prize money.

While waiting around for all this to happen, Chris and I played a little at $1/point on Bryan’s newest board – the super big one he built himself. Here’s a cube I offered Chris in one of those money games (and so you can admire the pretty board…)

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An early double, good blitz potential but a lot of work left to do, and Chris does have a two point board. Chris was focused on the blitz potential but I talked him into taking, which is correct! XG says I’m only 63.5% to win here, albeit with 37% gammons. Chris took, and was able to redouble me out many moves later.

All in all, it was a good afternoon of backgammon. I’m glad so many people were able to resist the sunshine to come in and play. Next one will be scheduled soon… See you then!

-Mark

More Swiss Adventures

I’m in Geneva this week, visiting my daughter over the Christmas holidays. Naturally, given that there was an opportunity, I found a way to go play some backgammon!

The Geneva Backgammon Association  meets at a local bridge clubhouse. As usual, there was a lot more smoking going on than I’m used to, but it was a friendly and active group. The tournament was supposed to start about 7:30, but when I showed up there was a lot of chouette going on, and things didn’t transition to the tournament until closer to 8:00. They have a more structured approach to the club than I have, with membership dues and so forth. But they let a non-member play for just a slightly higher entry fee. The tournament itself was a standard bracket + consolation, but not progressive consolation, so you were only guaranteed two matches. They play 7 point matches.

My first match was against Guillaume (or William), which drew me a lot of sympathy from the locals. We had an excellent and exciting match, including a couple of interesting positions – possibly a third if he actually hunts me down and sends me the photo. The first is a double that came up early in the match – sorry for the slightly blurry photo:

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The score is either 1-1 or 2-1, something pretty low anyway, where it doesn’t really come into the decision. I’m in pretty good shape, but with one checker still back and another sitting in the outfield, there’s a fair amount of work left. I wasn’t 100% sure this was a take, though, and so offered the cube on Woolsey’s law. Guillaume wasn’t sure either. After a minute or so of thought, he dropped, which XG confirmed. It’s 71.6% to win, but 24.9% gammons, and so actually a small blunder to not double. The take would have been a huge blunder, though.

The second came in our last game. I didn’t take a photo, but he did, and confirmed I got it set correctly in XG.

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I’m down 4-3 and holding the cube. At this roll, I have 20 numbers that hit. If I don’t hit, I’m in pretty bad shape. If I do hit, I’m probably the favorite. I doubled. Guillaume thought fairly hard about it for a while, before correctly coming up with a take. But initially he was confused why I was even doubling. In money play this is a no double, and pretty much it’s only a double because of the match score. If we had been playing to 9, this is again a no double. If we were tied at 3, it’s a no double. But when the alternative is losing into the Crawford game, well, how much more desperate do you need to get?

I didn’t hit him though – rolled a 2-1 and slotted the ace point. He, in turn, rolled a 4-5 and stacked up a bit further. Then I hit him. The rest of the game got crazy – multiple hits on both sides during the bear-off, but in the end I got lucky and won.

My second match was against either Phillipe or Ola, depending on who won their match (Ola had gotten a bye on round 1), so I had a good long wait. I could blame the jet-lag, or I could blame the dice, or I could be a good sport and admit that Ola outplayed me. I took a lot of cubes that were pretty clear takes, but having a clear take doesn’t make you the favorite.

Anyway – after all that, I had tied for the side pool, sadly I have lost the name of the other guy, so we split that, but played a single game for the 5F that wasn’t otherwise easy to split. It was another crazy game – I blitzed him early, got hit in the bear-off, got hit coming back around, hit him coming back around, and generally we had an uproarious time.

So if you’re ever in Geneva, look them up – the group is relatively small but also quite active. They encouraged me to come back for what are apparently every afternoon chouettes, but I probably won’t get the chance – after all I am here first and foremost to see my kid. But it’s fun to get out and play a little too.

-Mark

December 9, 2018 Tournament Results

We had a decent showing for our final meetup of 2018 – 8 players. We played a Swiss format, which should have meant 3 games each, but somehow my matches kept running long and so some people got tired of waiting for their third pairing.

In my first match, Julie got me down 4-2, but I survived the Crawford game to get it up to 4-3, doubled early, and squeaked out a win to come back. My next match was against newcomer Phillip, who gave me a decent run as well. Nate was waiting patiently that entire match to play the winner, but had obviously gone cold from the delay, because I managed to win.

Second place was a tie between Nate and Martin, who both had two matches and 13 games won. Martin likewise had grown tired of hanging around, so I’ll owe him $10 the next time I see him. January we’ll pick back up with a “second Sunday” schedule, I expect. See you then!

-Mark