Results: 2nd GOLDEN GATE BACKGAMMON OPEN (South San Francisco, Cal., August 16-19, 2012)

Winner Ted Chee with Tobias Hellwag Photo by Phil Simborg

The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to all winners showcased below and on the Chicago Point website. Special congratulations go to Jeremy Bagai, the 2012 USBGF East vs. West Grand Champion!

CHAMPIONSHIP (24): 1Ted Chee (CA), 2-Mark Andrus (NV), 3/4-Gus Contos (CA) / Ed O’Laughlin (VA); 1LC: Ray Fogerlund (NV).  INTERMEDIATE (24): 1-Mark James (CA), 2-Cheryl Andersen (CA), 3/4-Comet (CA) / Hideo Tateno (CA); 1LC-Azzam Masarani (CA).  BEGINNER (4): 1-Ghada Ashoo (CA), 2-Larry Andersen (CA).  MASTERS JACKPOT (14+2): Semifinals:  Nick Maffeo (CA) vs Ken Bame (CA), Ed O’Laughlin (VA) vs Ray Fogerlund (NV).  LIMITED JACKPOT (12): 1-Nash Jost (CA), 2-Christian Stoddard (CA).  CHOUETTE TOURNAMENT (16): 1-Tami Jones (ID), 2-Nick Maffeo (CA), 3-Kit Woolsey (CA).  DMP-KNOCKOUT: 1-Patrick Gibson (CA).  MICRO-BLITZ: 1-Ernest Ho (CA).  PRO/AM DOUBLES (8 teams): 1-Kit Woolsey (CA) & Tami Jones (ID), 2-Neil Kazaross (IL) & Abby Biss (New Zealand).  JAPAN OPEN QUALIFIER (16): 1- Ed O’Laughlin (VA), 2-Carter Mattib (IL).  USBGF 2012 GRAND CHAMPIONSHIP (EAST VS. WEST): 1-Jeremy Bagai (CA), 2-Ed O’Laughlin (VA)

Results: 10th ANNUAL WISCONSIN STATE BACKGAMMON CHAMPIONSHIPS, (Madison, Wisconsin, August 10-12,2012)

John O’Hagan, Wisconsin Championship winner

The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to all winners listed below and on the Chicago Point website.

CHAMPIONSHIP (29): 1-John O’Hagan (IN), 2-Michael Flohr (IL); 1C-Tak Morioka (IL), 1C-Steve Klesker (IL); 1LC-Jesse Eaton (MN).  ADVANCED (28): 1-Sal Chehayeb (MI), 2-William Womack (WI); 1C-Stan Livingston (WI), 2C-Alex Owen (IL); 1LC-Alan Epstein (GA).  BEGINNER (3): 1-Amber McLean (IL).  BADGER CLASSIC (8): 1-Bill Riles (TX), 2-Neil Kazaross (IL).  AMATEUR JACKPOT (16): 1-Kurt Peterson (MN), 2-Eric Hiner (MN).  EARLY BIRD JACKPOT (16): 1-Rod Cazlen (NY), 2-Alex Gerding (FL).  DOUBLES (16): 1-Alex Owen (IL) & Oleg Raygorodsky (IL), 2-Steve Klesker (IL) & Ken Meng (IL).  CANCELGAMMON (8): 1-Jeff Nitschke (MN).  BLITZ (44): 1-Ed Bennett (NM), 2-Rod Cazlen (NY).  2-POINT QUICKIES (16): 1-Carol Joy Cole (MI).  $50 JACKPOT (8): 1/2-Petko Kostadinov (SC) / Bruce Russell (WI).

Results: 7th MINNESOTA OPEN BACKGAMMON CHAMPIONSHIPS, (Bloomington, Minnesota, July 20-22, 2012)

Open Winner Keene Marin with Director David Minikus
(Photo courtesy of the ABT)

The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to all winners listed below and  on the Chicago Point website.

OPEN (16): 1-Keene Marin (WI), 2-Bob Schumacher (MN); 1C-Yury Millman (MN), 2C-Ed O’Laughlin (VA); 1LC-Bruce Russell (WI).  INTERMEDIATE (18): 1-Kevin Ahtou (MN), 2-Steve Binenstock (MN); 1C-Hugh Morris (MN), 2-John Zimdars (MN); 1LC-Kyle Wagner (MN).  MASTERS JACKPOT (4): 1-Steve Brown (MN), 2-Harvey Gillis (WA).  DOUBLES (16 teams): 1-Harvey Gillis (WA) & Ed O’Laughlin (VA), 2-Keene Marin (WI) & Vadim Nuniyants (WI).  BLITZ (16): 1-Harvey Gillis (WA), 2-Ralph Stowell (MN).

Results: MICHIGAN SUMMER BACKGAMMON CHAMPIONSHIPS, (Novi, Michigan, July 5-8, 2012)

Open Winner Phil Simborg
with Carol Joy Cole
Photo by Karen Davis

The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to all winners listed below. Complete results are available on the Chicago Point website. OPEN (75): 1-Phil Simborg (IL), 2-Mike Senkiewicz (NY), 3-John Klein (MD), 4/5-Victor Ashkenazi (NJ) / Dennis Culpepper (VA); 1C-Carter Mattig (IL), 2C-Gary Margosian (MI), 3C/4C-Bob Koca (MD) / Ed O’Laughlin (VA).  INTERMEDIATE (64): 1-Steve Sherbel (MI), 2-Alex Owen (IL), 3-Prince Barlow (MI); 1C-Michael Margosian (MI), 2C-Sal Chehayeb (MI), 3C/4C-Oleg Raygorodsky (IL) / Alvin Reed (MI).  NOVICE (16): 1-Blaine McClendon (PA), 2-Gordon Miller (IL); 1C-Mike Clapsadle (MI); 1LC-Michael Corman (MI).  MICHIGAN MASTERS (32): 1-Nick Mourtos (Canada), 2-Karen Davis (OH), 3/4-Dmitriy Obukhov (MI) / Mike Senkiewicz (NY).  EXTREME FREEZE-OUT (32): 1-Herb Roman (IL), 2-Scott Gusba (Canada).  SANDY KAPLAN’S SENIOR SPECIAL (32): 1-Phil Simborg (IL), 2-Eden Windish (Canada), 3/4-Garry Kallos (Canada) / Dave Pink (MI).  OPEN DOUBLES (32 teams): 1-Emil Mortuk (MI) & Akemi Ota (MI), 2-Sean Garber (IN) & Barry Miller (IL), 3/4-Mary Hickey (OH) & Claude Landry (Canada) / Justin Nunez (CA) & Phil Simborg (IL).

Results: Los Angeles Open and USBGF National Championships West, (Los Angeles, California, June 8-10, 2012)

The U.S. Backgammon Federation extends hearty congratulations to all winners  presented below, as reported  on the Chicago Point website.  OPEN (62): 1-Howard Markowitz (NV), 2-Bob Glass (CA), 3-Steve Sax (CA); 1C-Mark Andrus (NV), 2C-Gary Bauer (NJ), 3C/4C-Alfred Mamlet (MD) / Peter Zacks (CA).  ADVANCED (44): 1-David Rennie (CA), 2-Joe Roth (CA); 1C-Doug DeWitt (CA), 2C-David Taniguchi (CA), 3C/4C-Michelle Andersen (CA) / Damon Singer (NV).  LIMITED (15): 1-Maria Heiner (CA), 2-Shawn Cary (CA); 1C-George Steele (CA).  SUPER-40 (40): 1-Howard Markowitz (NV), 2-Matt Cohn-Geier (NV), 3/4-Mark Antranikian (CA) / Ray Fogerlund (NV), 5-Joe Russell (CA).  PAUL DINGWELL AMATEUR JACKPOT (32): 1-Damon Singer ( NV), 2-Ethan Nissani (NM), 3/4-Alberto Marti (MEX) / Peter Zacks (CA).  DOUBLES #1 (8 teams): 1-Ed & Penina Rosenblum (NM), 2-Carol Joy Cole (MI) & Ernest Ho (CA).  DOUBLES #2 (4 teams): 1-Ken Bame (CA) & Ted Chee (CA).  2-POINT QUICKIES (64): 1-Phil Simborg (IL), 2-Larry Buzin (CA).  USBGF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS – WEST (122): 1-Jeremy Bagai (CA), 2-Ed O’Laughlin (VA).

Results: the 32nd Chicago Open Backgammon Tournament, (Rosemont, Illinois, May 24-28, 2012)

The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to all winners listed below Complete results can be viewed on the Chicago Point website.  OPEN (64): 1-Bill Davis (IL), 2/8-Victor Ashkenazi (NJ) / Gary Bauer (NJ) / Steve Brown (MN) / Matt Cohn-Geier (NV) / Alfred Mamlet (MD) / Justin Nunez (CA) / Bill Phipps (NY)  UNLUCKY DICE LAST CHANCE (12): 1-Akiko Yazawa (Japan)  INTERMEDIATE (33): 1-Jesse Eaton (MN), 2-Cengiz Yakut (PA), 3/4-Judy Field (MI) / Don Marek (IL); 1C-Sandra Sha (FL), 2C-Cheryl Andersen (CA); 1LC-Cliff Mayoh (IL) NOVICE (8): 1-Harry Glinos (IL), 2-Larry Andersen (CA); 1C-Steven O’Connor (IL)  1ST WORLD TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS INVITATIONAL (30): 1-Jeremy Bagai (CA), 2-Matt Cohn-Geier (NV), 3/4-Stepan Nuniyants (WA) / Kazuhiko Yotsushika (Japan)  MARKOWITZ MASTERS (32): 1-Justin Nunez (CA), 2-Bill Phipps (NY), 3/4-Jeremy Bagai (CA) / Ray Fogerlund (NV).  SENIORS (32): 1-Michael Edge (SC), 2-Karen Davis (OH) $250 JACKPOT (4): 1-Stepan Nuniyants (WA)  $100 JACKPOT #1 (8): 1/2-Ray Fogerlund (NV) / Howard Markowitz (NV)  $100 JACKPOT #2 (8): 1/2-Eric Hiner (MN) / Jason Lee (MD)


Results: FLORIDA BACKGAMMON CHAMPIONSHIP, (Fort Lauderdale, Florida, May 11-13, 2012)

The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to all winners listed below.  Complete results can be viewed on the Chicago Point website.

(L)TD Chiva Tafazzoli w/Winner Neil Kazaross

CHAMPIONSHIP (16): 1-Neil Kazaross (IL), 2-Perry Gartner (FL), 3/4-Mike Corbett (FL), Alex Gerding (FL); 1LC-Gregg Cattanach (GA).  INTERMEDIATE (5): 1-Dan Gruby (FL).  BEGINNER (4): 1-Dimitur Alipiev, 2-Doreen Saccardo (FL), 3-Sonia Delima (FL).  FLORIDA MASTERS (8): 1-Mike Corbett (FL), 2-Gregg Cattanach (GA).MICROBLITZ: 1-Neil Rosensweig (FL) 
DMP TOURNAMENT: 1-Phil Simborg(IL) GARTNER-SIMBORG QUIZ: Stuart Katz (NY), Open winner; Brian Sooy (FL), Intermediate winner.


QUESTION 8:  From Dan Pelton

I understand how a position could be a clear double/take for money;  what I don’t understand is how to use the MET to determine whether this is a take at various scores.


Dear Dan:

Rather than get specific about the single position that you sent me, in order to make double and take decisions properly at different match scores we must know the take points, price of gammons, and doubling windows for each score.

Let’s take a simple racing position with no gammons, and let’s say that your winning chances are 24%.  First, how do you know when you have 24%?  There are several approaches, and depending on the position you can estimate this from reference positions, experience, or by using Trice, Keith, Kleinman, or EPC to help you.

But assuming you now have an estimate of your winning chances, all you need to know is your take point.  At 2away/2away your take point is 32 percent–it would be a big drop.  At 3away/3away, with several rolls left, you would take with 25 percent…so it would be a small drop.  At 7away/7away your take point is around 21.5 (same as money or unlimited), so you would take.

Giving the cube is easy if it’s a drop or if it’s close…just double.  But if it’s a take, then your major consideration is “market losers.”

The same concept is true for positions that have contact and possible gammons, except that it is complicated by the gammon estimates and the varying value of gammons.

So this is the short answer to your question.  The longer answer is you truly need to know and learn all your take points and gammon values, or you need to learn how to calculate take points from match equity based on risks and rewards, and then you have to make intelligent guesses and estimates of wins and gammons.

This is why match play is so much more complex and challenging than money play.  And this is why we must put in a lot of time and study to play matches well.

Thanks for the question!

4th ATLANTA SPRING CLASSIC Backgammon Tournament (Atlanta, Georgia, April 27-29, 2012)


2012 Atlanta Champion Stacy Turner with Brian Ross

2012 Atlanta Champion Stacy Turner with Brian Ross

The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to all the winners named below, as published by the Chicago Point.  Complete results can be viewed on the Chicago Point website.  CHAMPIONSHIP (22): 1-Stacy Turner (FL); 2-Lee Genud (FL); 1C-Stuart Thomson (GA), 2C-Barry Silliman; 1LC-Bill Riles (TX).  ADVANCED (27): 1-Alan Epstein (GA), 2-Ben Elliott; 1C-Sandra Sha, 2C-LEW Webber; 1LC-Craig Anderson  NOVICE (2): 1-Katherine Hochberg (GA)  GEORGIA MASTERS (11): 1-Stuart Thomson (GA), 2-Bill Robertie (MA)  ATLANTA CUP JACKPOT (11): 1-Joe Nolan (TN), 2-Marv Porten (CA)  DOUBLES (15 teams): 1-Jerry Godsey (GA) & Harry Georgio, 2-Carol Joy Cole (MI) & Lee Genud (FL)  MINI-MATCH (64): Finals: Neal Weiner (FL) vs. Craig Anderson  THURSDAY WARM-UP (20): 1-Ed O’Laughlin (VA), 2-Tim Brown; 1C-LEW Webber

Results: NEVADA STATE BACKGAMMON TOURNAMENT (Las Vegas, Nevada, April 18-22, 2012)

Neil Kazaross

The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to all the winners below. Complete   results can be viewed on the ChicagoPoint website.  CHAMPIONSHIP (45+13 rebuys): 1-Neil Kazaross (IL), 2-Gary Bauer (NJ), 3/4-Carter Mattig (IL) / Tom Zarrinnam (CA); 1C-Justin Nunez (CA), 2C-Dorn Bishop; 1LC-Ed O’Laughlin, 2LC-Larry Liebster. INTERMEDIATE (45+19 rebuys): 1-David Escoffery (CA). 2-Richard Weaver (TX); 3/4-Claudia Imatt (CA) / David Presser (IL); 1C-Robert Tansi (MA), 2C-Larry Arnold (MN); 1LC-Abby Biss, 2LC-Patty Geoffroy.  BEGINNER (5): 1-Max Crosner (CA), 2-Erwin Hom (CA).  SUPER JACKPOT (13 at $2000): 1-Paul Weaver (AL), 2-Drew Giovanis (NV).  LIMITED JACKPOT (9 at $1000): 1-Art Moore (CA), 2-Damon Singer (NV).  SENIORS TOURNAMENT (64): 1-Neil Kazaross (IL), 2-Tristan Bettencourt (CA).  DOUBLES TOURNAMENT (8 teams): 1-Todd Crosner (AZ) & Harvey Gillis (WA), 2-Bob Glass (CA) & Alan Grunwald (NJ).


Results: 18th Annual OHIO STATE BACKGAMMON CHAMPIONSHIPS (Cleveland, Ohio, March 23-25, 2012)

The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to the following winners, as published on the Chicago Point website.

Ohio State Champion Stick Rice

OPEN: (24): 1-Stick Rice (OH), 2-Dmitriy Obukhov (MI); 1C-Emil Mortuk (MI), 2C-Carol Joy Cole (MI)  ADVANCED: (280: 1-Chen-Fu Yu (MD), 2-Robert Lessard (Canada); 1C-Lorenzo Morales (MI), 2C-Steve Grund (PA)  NOVICE: (6): 1-Brian DiMatt (OH), 2-Stephen Collins (OH)  OHIO MASTERS: (4): 1-Dmitriy Obukhov (MI)  AMATEUR JACKPOT: (16): 1-Prince Barlow (MI), 2-Ben Friesen (MI)   DOUBLES: (15 teams): 1-Mary Hickey (OH) & Stick Rice (OH), 2-Dale Berlin (OH) & Mike Rezai (OH)  2-POINT QUICKIES: (16): 1-Carol Joy Cole (MI), 2-Cengiz Yakut (PA)  MINI-BLITZ: (8): 1-Mike Rezai (OH)

Results: CENTRAL STATES INVITATIONAL (Rosemont, Illinois, March 9-11, 2012)

Jeb Horton CSI Championship winner with Bill Davis, tourney Director. (Photo courtesy of the ABT)

The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to all winners!  These  results are from the Chicago Point.  Complete results can be found at the  Chicago Point website. CHAMPIONSHIP: (49): 1-Jeb Horton (NC), 2-Bill Calton (MI), 3/4-Matt Cohn-Geier (NV) / Keene Marin (WI); 1C-Carter Mattig (IL), 2C-Rachel Rhodes (England); 1LC-Tobias Hellwag (Germany)  ADVANCED (43): 1-Oleg Raygorodsky (IL), 2-Rob Farmer (IL), 3/4-Dan Cramer (MN) / Sue Will (IL); 1C-Vadim Nuniyants (WI), 2C-Jim Opre (IL); 1LC-Don Marek (IL) LIMITED (10): 1-Steven O’Connor (IL), 2-Rich Hallbeck (IL); 1LC-Ken Brown (MO)  GRAND CRYSTAL BEAVER XIV (16): 1-Carter Mattig (IL), 2-Harvey Gillis (WA) ADVANCED JACKPOT (10): 1-Prince Barlow (MI), 2-Ed Zell (IL) 11th BATTLE OF THE SEXES: (32 Men & 8 Women): 1-Steve Hast (PA), 2-Claudia Brown (TX), 3/4-Nora Luna Righter (IL) / Jim Opre (IL) MICROBLITZ (32): 1-Steve Brown (MN) LIAR’S DICE: 1-Ray Fogerlund (NV) DIRECTOR’S TROPHY FOR BEST-DRESSED WOMAN: Nora Luna Righter (IL) DIRECTOR’S TROPHY FOR BEST-DRESSED MAN: Steve Blanchard (IL) MIKE WEINBERGER BOARD FUNDRAISER (8): 1-Don Marek (IL)  TAKI BAKELITE BOARD FUNDRAISER (16): 1-Efim Liberman (IL), 2-Nora Luna Righter (IL).

**$2,000 was raised for the Anti-Cruelty Society of Chicago! **

MARCH 2012 lecture is now available!

This month USBGF teaching pro Phil Simborg provides some excellent tips on bearing your checkers into your inner board.  Click the title link to play the WebEx recording of the lecture:

Excellent tips on bearing checkers into your inner board 

This month’s lecture can also be accessed by clicking on the LEARN tab on the homepage, then scroll down and click on Monthly Lecture Series.

Results: 34th Pittsburgh Backgammon Championships, (Pittsburgh, Pa, February 16-19, 2012)

Photo courtesy of the ABT

The USBGF extends congratulations to all winners listed in these partial preliminary results from the Chicago Point. Complete results can be found on the Chicago Point website.

OPEN (49): 1-Grant Schneider (VA) 2-Ed O’Laughlin (VA), 3/4-Steve Hast (PA) / Matvey “Falafel” Natanzon (Israel/USA), 5/8-Paul Berg (MI) / Matt Cohn-Geier (NV) / Tim Mabee (IL) / Mark Gordon (MD), 9/12-Victor Ashkenazi (NJ) / Ray Fogerlund (NV) / Donny Lomuto (NY) / Alfred Mamlet (MD).  ADVANCED (44): 1-Phyllis Shapiro (MO), 2-Neal Weiner (FL), 3/4-Richard Catalano (PA) / Arthur Sutton (NJ); 1C-LEW Webber (VA), 2C-Cengiz Yakut (PA), 3C/4C-Marcy Kossar (CT) /David Settles; 1LC-Roger Abbey (NY).  NOVICE (10): 1-Pam Dodsworth (PA), 2-Stephen Collins (OH); 1C-Joe Davidson (PA), 2C-Robert Hartley (PA).  PITTSBURGH MASTERS (18): 1-Matvey “Falafel” Natanzon (Israel/USA), 2-Ray Fogerlund (NV), 3/4-Harvey Gillis (WA) / Bob Koca (MD).  ADVANCED JACKPOT (10): 1-Jason Lee (MD), 2-Arthur Sutton (NJ), 3/4-Farhad Forudi (OH) / Peggy Neubig (NJ).  THURSDAY 500 (8): 1-Victor Ashkenazi (NJ), 2-Ray Fogerlund (NV).


The USBGF extends hearty congratulations to all winners! These partial results are from the Chicago Point.  Complete results can be found at the  Chicago Point website.    OPEN (29): 1-Frank Talbot (MI), 2-Alfred Mamlet (MD); 1C-Neil Kazaross (IL), 2C-Mike Senkiewicz (NY); 1LC-Chuck Bower (IN).

ADVANCED (20): 1-Judy Field (MI), 2-Lawrence Wilson (CO); 1C-Abby Biss (New Zealand), 2C-Eric Hiner (MN); 1LC–Jonathan Leusden (UT).

NOVICE (22): 1-Dan Burke (NM), 2-Erik Sawyer (NM); 1C-Gina Hartwick (NM), 2C-Andrew Wice (NM); 1LC–Daniel Roybal (NM).

SANTA FE MASTERS JACKPOT (16): 1-Kit Woolsey (CA), 2-Matvey “Falafel” Natanzon (Israel/USA), 3/4-Mike Senkiewicz (NY)/Neil Kazaross (IL)

ROADRUNNER ADVANCED JACKPOT (16): 1/2-James Bray (TX)/Greg Kurrell (CO).

DOUBLES (16): 1-Frank Talbot (MI) & Phyllis Wieland (NM), 2-Jack Lewin (NY) & Leonard Fink (NY).

CENTENNIAL JACKPOT (8): 1-Fran Goldfarb (NY), 2-David Wilshin (AZ)

Results: 4th US BACKGAMMON OPEN, (South San Francisco, California, January 13-16, 2012)

Ted Chee with Tournament Director Chiva Tafazzoli

Ted Chee and Tournament Director Chiva Tafazzoli, Photo by Ken Bame

 The USBGF extends congratulations to all winners listed in these partial results from the Chicago Point. Complete results can be found on the Chicago Point website.

 CHAMPIONSHIP (39): 1-Ted Chee (CA), 2-Patrick Gibson (CA), 3/4-Odis Chenault (CA) / Matvey “Falafel” Natanzon (Israel/USA); 1LC-Jeremy Bagai (CA).  INTERMEDIATE (29): 1-Marv Porten (CA), 2-Mario Savan (CA), 3/4-Mark James (CA) / Dale Rose (CA); 1LC-Jesse Jestadt (CA).  BEGINNER (6): 1-Erwin Hom (CA), 2-Maria Heiner (Brazil/USA).  US MASTERS JACKPOT (16): 1-Matt Cohn-Geier (NV), 2-Justin Nunez (CA). LIMITED JACKPOT (11): 1-Mario Savan (CA), 2-David Dows (CA).  SPEEDGAMMON (32): 1-Ted Chee (CA), 2-Cathal Murray (CA), 3/4-Bill Davis(IL) / Josh Racko (CA).  DMP-KNOCKOUT (16): 1-Stephen Mead (OR).  WBA-BOARD CHALLENGES: CHALLENGE #1 (8): 1-Alberto Marti(Mexico).  CHALLENGE #2 (8): 1-Christian Stoddard (CA).  CHALLENGE #3 (8): 1-Nicholas Dale (OR).  CHALLENGE #4 (8): 1-Greg Merriman (MI).  DOUBLES PRO/AM (12 teams): 1-Eddie Sant’Ana (Brazil/NJ) & Kit Woolsey (CA), 2-Penina Meisels (NM) & Ed Rosenblum (NM).  SPECIAL PLAYER AWARD: Christian Stoddard (CA).  To view other photos from the tournament, visit Ken Bame’s album here:4th SF US OPEN/. Enjoy!

Visitors and Members! How Do You Stack Up Against The Giants?


By Phil Simborg and analysis by Stick

In recent years, I have heard the argument that high-level backgammon is nowhere near as interesting as it once was, because now that we have bots like eXtremeGammon, GNU and Snowie to clearly show the best plays, “all top players play the same.”

I won’t say that the argument is completely wrong, because most are playing most moves the same–and more importantly, they are making the right move!  (In golf, doesn’t every good putt look the same?)  30 years ago, before the bots were perfected, the top players in the game were still making many of the same moves, but there certainly was more variance in approaches and style, and there were disagreements and debates even about some of the opening moves.  No question that most of those debates have now been settled.

I set out on a mission to PROVE that not all top players play the same.  I went through my files of thousands of positions that I use for examples, quizzes, articles and lectures, and found three that I felt were particularly difficult and hadn’t been published.   I sent those three positions to many of the top players in the world, including most of the Giants and asked them to tell me, as honestly as possible, without considering the “quiz factor,” what play they would make “over the board” in an actual match.  I promised not to name names to make it easier for them to be honest, however I have found that most are extremely honest about their mistakes anyway.   As Stick points out, however, consciously or not, there is always a “quiz factor” when presented with a problem.  Immediately the player knows there must be something about this position that might not be obvious, whereas over the board you don’t get that alert.  So it is probably right to assume that if these positions popped up in the middle of a match, more of them would have been missed or the best play possibly even overlooked completely.

In spite of the possible quiz factor, there were many reports of wrong answers.  From the 34 responses I received, 14 missed problem 1; 5 missed problem 2; and 22 missed problem 3. Further, some responded that problem 1 was very easy for them and they doubted that any Giant would miss it, and they were clearly wrong about that.  Others felt 1 was quite difficult and felt the others were easy.  And of course, there were a few (only 6) that got them all right, and one Giant even admitted that he would have probably gotten them all wrong over the board!   Again, not all of the 34 responses were from Giants, but most of them were, and the remaining ones were from players I know could easily be on the Giants list.

So the point is:  while top players are fairly consistently making the best play on the easier plays, it’s the tough plays that separate them considerably.  It’s also important to note that in these three problems, the difference between the best play and the rest is significant.

So let’s see how you would do with these three tough positions.  I will give you the problems first, and then you can scroll down and see the rollouts and an explanation and analysis by my Backgammon Learning Center partner, Stick (who got them all correct, by the way).







 STICK’S Analysis of PROBLEM 1: 

First let’s take stock of the position.  It’s a prime versus prime position with a close race.  You (the one on roll) are at the edge of prime, the 22pt, and while that would normally be a good thing since the opponent has a gapped prime, it means we are pretty well hemmed in.  The opponent is not at the edge of the prime but he is also currently not as trapped as you are.  Why is that?

It is hard for us to naturally improve our prime since the 8pt is currently stripped and part of our prime anyway.  That leaves us a scant two builders to make the all-important bar point.  If we make the bar point we will have put a choke hold on our opponent since he would not be at the edge of our 5 prime.  If we don’t make the bar, we sit idly by and wait for him to spring with a five and then we’re screwed.  Even when we are able to hit him and send him back he maintains his prime and more flexibility while we try to scrape our prime together. 

Two things I suggest when trying to understand this position.  One, imagine the variant where the opponent is already anchored up on the 22pt, is your play the same?  How has this changed the composition of the position relative to the importance of your bar point?  Two, play it out if you didn’t slot the bar point.  What you will see is that in your upcoming plays you will have the same sort of decisions, slot the bar or not?  And that’s if you are lucky enough to get a roll that even gives you that option.  In some of these situations it will be even more clear that to have adequate counterplay you need to slot the bar point.  A five is already a good roll for your opponent so take advantage of when he doesn’t roll that five and counterprime. 


STICK’s Analysis of PROBLEM 2 : 

This was the easiest of the three problems for me, and obviously from Phil’s survey, it was also the easiest for all.  I understand that the reason Phil included this problem is that he saw one Giant misplay this over the board. 

If we hit 7/1* we certainly increase our gammon wins by a fair amount, slightly increase our gammon losses, but this is far from the DMP play.  That means the gammon wins have to make up a lot of ground to compensate for the single wins I know we’re tossing out the window, and they just don’t do it.

If we hit we give our opponent 20 rolls that I would consider really good for him at this point.  He either hits and sends another man of ours back or anchors up.  If we don’t hit not only have we reduced the great rolls concerning his back checkers significantly, but we have duplicated the numbers he needs most.  He desperately needs aces to anchor and wouldn’t mind escaping with sixes if he doesn’t find that ace.  He needs an ace so bad that I believe with most aces after we play bar/18 he should not hit.  I think he should hit with [61 11] but all other aces anchor up. 




STICK’s Analysis of PROBLEM 3:

It doesn’t surprise me that this play was missed the most, and I am sure, over the board, the number of people who get this wrong is even higher.

Noting the score you should have been thinking aggressively the entire game and disposing of DMP-like plays like 18, 8.  Even at a normal score, by the way, the rollout shows this to still be the best play for both wins and gammons.    If your opponent doesn’t find an immediate deuce or 66 the attack should be easy to finish out given the diversification of your numbers. 

I think this play for some people may have been a “Duuh, I didn’t even consider that play!”  Upon consideration it seems obvious to them.  One question that may still need to be answered is why is lifting the six point better than 12/8 7/2* for example?  Other than the obvious of two blots and twenty shots the key is our checkers on the twelve point.  This creates an unfamiliar position as normally they’re on the midpoint but now that they have advanced to the twelve point they can be part of the attack and in the zone if we make the six point lifting play.  Ask yourself what you would play in the aforementioned variant where the checkers are moved back to the midpoint.  The number of checkers in the zone critical to deciding whether to blitz or whether to prime.

In summation, I have to say that I agree with Phil’s premise and purpose of doing this survey.   If anything, the highly-skilled eXtremeGammon has served to prove just how much we don’t know.  Giants today probably make fewer blunders and are playing at a higher level than before, but so is everybody else we have to face to get to the finals of a major tournament.  The game may be more competitive and more interesting than ever before, and as this quiz illustrates, there are still plenty of differences between even the best players and we still have a lot to learn.

NOTE: This informative article and many others like it are usually available only to Premium and Youth members of the USBGF.  It is brought to you now as a courtesy, to show you just one of the many benefits of membership.  To see all the reasons why you should join the USBGF, and the varied levels of membership available to suite your needs, go to: , and join our growing backgammon community today!

Results: 5th New York Metropolitan Open (Jersey City, New Jersey, January 5-8, 2012)

These partial results are from the Chicago Point.  Complete results can be found at the Chicago Point website.

CHAMPIONSHIP (55+15 rebuys): 1-Victor Ashkenazi, 2-Bill Phipps, 3/4-Arkadiy Tsinis / Antonio Ortega (Costa Rica); 1C-Jeff Acierno, 2C-Mike Senkiewicz, 3C/4C-Donny Lomuto (NY) / Alfred Mamlet (MD); 1LC-Matt Cohn-Geier (NV), 2LC-Petko Kostadinov.  INTERMEDIATE (50+10 rebuys): 1-Arthur Sutton (NJ), 2-Cloyd Laporte (NY), 3/4-Donald Gabbai (VA) / Milton Gonzalez (Costa Rica); 1C-Keith Gershenson (NY), 2C-Ruben Martirosyan (NY), 3C/4C-Branden Macklin (MD) / Jim Ryan (NY); 1LC-Rick Wolf, 2LC-Jim Kennis.  BEGINNER (14): 1-Joan Grunwald (NJ), 2-Julia Sommer (NY); 1C-Nick Retzkin (NY).  USBGF NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (192): , 1-Ed O’Laughlin; Finalist-Arkadiy Tsinis (NV)  LIBERTY CUP MASTERS (25+7 rebuys): 1-Bill Phipps, 2-Dion Hogan (MI).  LIMITED JACKPOT (26+6 rebuys): 1-Rick Wolf (FL), 2-Brandon Macklin (MD), 3/4-Leon Marini (NJ) / Arman Karaminian (NY)  NEW YORK DOUBLES (32 teams): 1- Jeff Acierno (NY) & Steven Keats (NY), 2-Falafel Natanzon (ISR/USA) & Victor Ashkenazi (NJ).  SENIORS TOURNAMENT (32): 1-Brent Cohen (PA), 2-Alex Gerding (FL).  PETER KASTURAS JUNIORS TOURNAMENT (2): 1-Stephen Collins, 2-Jamie Rosen (NY).  The USBGF extends congratulations to all winners!

Results: SUNSHINE STATE BACKGAMMON CLASSIC, (Tarpon Springs, Florida, December 16-18, 2011)

These partial results are from the Chicago Point.  Complete results can be found at the Chicago Point website.  OPEN (13): 1-Bill Davis (IL), 2-Walt Swan (NJ).  ADVANCED (16): 1-Rick Wolf (FL), 2-Marc Grutka (FL).  NOVICE (8): 1-Moty Bernstein (FL), 2-Rosanne Rutnik (FL).  MASTERS (8): 1-Stacy Turner (FL), 2-Jeff Burdsall (FL).  MICROBLITZ (32): 1-Stacy Turner (FL).


Results: CALIFORNIA STATE BACKGAMMON CHAMPIONSHIP, (Los Angeles, California, Dec. 2-4, 2011)

These results are from the Chicago Point.  Complete results can be  found at the Chicago Point website.   OPEN (53): 1-Todd Crosner (AZ), 2-Alfred Mamlet (MD), 3-David Taniguchi (CA); 1C-Petko Kostadinov (Bulgaria/SC), 2C-Ray Fogerlund (NV), 3C/4C-Ed O’Laughlin (VA) / Andranik Safarian (Argentina).   ADVANCED (36): 1-Cheryl Andersen (CA), 2-Alex Eshagian (CA); 1C-Scotty Kelland (CT), 2C-Damon Singer (NV), 3C/4C-Ron Bruns (CA) / Lynn Lusk (CO).  LIMITED (10): 1-Chris Berkman (CA), 2-Kevin Kahl (CA); 1C-Maria Heiner (Brazil/ CA). SUPER-48 (48): 1-Neil Kazaross (IL), 2-Matvey “Falafel” Natanzon (Israel), 3/4-Justin Nunez (CA) / Joe Russell (CA), 5/6-Odis Chenault (CA) / David Taniguchi (CA).  PAUL DINGWELL AMATEUR JACKPOT (32): 1-Carl Blumenstein (CA), 2-Scotty Kelland (CT), 3/4-Larry Liebster (NV) / Elli Nache (CA).

Results: Las Vegas Backgammon Open (Las Vegas, Nevada, November 9-13, 2011)

These results are from the Chicago Point.  Complete results can be  found at the Chicago Point website.  CHAMPIONSHIP (76 + 24 rebuys): 1-Matt Cohn-Geier (NV), 2-Jeremy Bagai (CA), 3/4-Falafel Natanzon (Israel) / Wayne Jeffcoat (CA); 1C-Motonori Kunishima (Japan), 2C-Gary Bauer (NJ), 3D/4C-Dorn Bishop (CA) / Luiz Torres; 1LC-Charlie Pipkin, 2LC-Mark Antranikian.  INTERMEDIATE (64 + 20 rebuys): 1-Tom Duggan (England), 2-Carsten Muencheberg  (Germany), 3/4-Neal Weiner (FL) / Charlie Raichle (CO); 1C-Josh Racko (CA), 2C-Evan Etter (FL), 3C/4C-Elli Nache (CA) / Charles Toots (CA); 1LC-Al Lunder (WA), 2LC-Patty Geoffroy (MA).  BEGINNER (19 + 3 rebuys): 1-Joe Roth (CA), 2-Susan Lee (AZ); 1C-Michelle Andersen, 2C-Myra Chapman; 1LC-Joseph Toups (FL).  SUPER JACKPOT (16 @ $2,000): 1-Michy Kageyama (Japan), 2-Justin Nunez (CA), 3/4-Falafel Natanzon (Israel) / Gary Bauer (NJ).  LIMITED JACKPOT (16 @ $1,000): 1-Raul Mulanovich (Peru), 2-Greg Cottle (NV), 3/4-John Rockwell (CA) / Daisuke Katagami (Japan)  SENIORS (128): 1-Ricardo Malas, 2-Paul Polatov.  BLITZ (120): 1-Ted Chee (CA), 2-Justin Nunez (CA).  MINI-MATCH (64): 1-Kit Woolsey (CA), 2-Ted Chee (CA).  SATURDAY $100 JACKPOT (24): 1-Ted Chee, 2-Andre Larsen (Norway)  AFTER TOURNAMENT TOURNAMENT (32): 1-Jeff Nitschke (MN), 2-Cheryl Andersen (CA).  USBGF PROFICIENCY EXAM: Open winner—Ray Fogerlund.  Intermediate winner (tie): Garry Kallos / Joe Nolan


Joe & Director Linda Rockwell

These results are from the Chicago Point.  Complete results can be  found at the Chicago Point website.  CHAMPIONSHIP (37): 1-Joe Sylvester (IL), 2-Gerry Tansey (MO); 1C-Neil Kazaross (IL), 2C-John O’Hagan (IN); 1LC-David Rockwell (IL).  INTERMEDIATE (29): 1-Vinton Knarr (IL), 2-Chris Scott (IL); 1C-Ken Tyszko (IL), 2C-Cinda King (IL); 1LC-Jeff Fischer (IL).  NOVICE (7): 1-Mike Drew (IL); 1LC-Casey Sheedy (IN).  LAND OF LINCOLN MASTERS (8): 1-David Rockwell (IL), 2-Malcolm Davis (TX).

PRAIRIE CLASSIC (32): 1-Tony Siegel (CO), 2-David Rockwell (IL); 1C-Carol Joy Cole (MI), 2C-Chris Scott (IL).

RESULTS: COLORADO STATE BACKGAMMON CHAMPIONSHIPS (Aurora, Colorado, September 30 – October 2, 2011)

These results are from the Chicago Point.  Complete results can be  found at the Chicago Point website.  OPEN (16): 1-Alfred Mamlet (MD), 2-Bob Lekse (CO); 1C-Greg Cottle (NV).  ADVANCED (15): 1-Penina Rosenblum (NM), 2-Joe Potts (TX); 1C-Neil Weiner (FL).  NOVICE (4): 1-Kathy Weiner (FL), 2-Caitlyn Christner (CO), 3-Paul Mondani (CO).  CONTINENTAL DIVIDE MASTERS JACKPOT (8): 1-Richard Siebold (CO), 2-Alfred Mamlet (MD).  ROYAL GORGE LIMITED JACKPOT (16): 1-Jonah Seewald (CO), 2-Dennis Leatherman (CO).

RESULTS: 2011 VIETOR CUP (San Diego, California, September 24-25, 2011)

These results are courtesy of Patrick Gibson.  This intense, two-day event was directed by Rynell and Justin Nunez, where twenty-six players required 10 rounds in Swiss format consisting of clocked, 9-point matches, to determine a winner.  VIETOR CUP WINNERS: 1-Ray Fogerlund: 9-1, 2-Mark Andrus: 8-2, 3/4/5th tie: Adrian Costa, David Wells and Norm Wiggins.


These partial results are from the Chicago Point.  Complete results can be found at the ChicagoPoint website.  CHAMPIONSHIP (34): 1-Jeff Nitschke (MN), 2/3/4-Neil Kazaross (IL) / Ed O’Laughlin (VA) / Antoinette-Marie Williams (NY).   ADVANCED (21): 1-Vadim Nuniyants (WI), 2/3/4-Greg Adamavich (WI) / Judy Field (MI) / Jolie Rubin (IL).  BADGER CLASSIC (15+1): 1-Odis Chenault (CA), 2-Ed O’Laughlin (VA).  AMATEUR JACKPOT (8): 1-Steve Reuschlein (WI), 2-Jesse Eaton (MN).  EARLYBIRD JACKPOT (16): 1-David Todd (MO), 2-Steve Brown (MN).  CANCELGAMMON (16): 1-Keene Marin (WI), 2-Linda Rockwell (IL).   BLITZ (24): 1/2-Adam Bennett (WI) / Steve Brown (MN).

RESULTS: 2011 FLORIDA BACKGAMMON CHAMPIONSHIP, (Fort Lauderdale, Florida, August 19-21, 2011)

Malcolm DavisCHAMPIONSHIP (24): 1-Malcolm Davis (TX), 2-Odis Chenault (CA), 3/4-Harry Brown (FL) / Harvey Gillis (WA); 1LC-Bill Robertie (MA).  INTERMEDIATE (24): 1-Juan Rospigliosi (FL), 2-Bob Howayeck (FL), 3/4-Bob Green (FL) / David Simpson (USA/UAE); 1LC-Dan Gruby (FL).  BEGINNER (9): 1-Stephen Collins (OH), 2-Max Gruby (FL), 3-Ken Perro (FL).  FLORIDA MASTERS (6): 1-Malcolm Davis (TX), 2-Gary Bauer (NJ).  LIMITED JACKPOT (8): 1-Susan Randall (FL), 2-Juan Rospigliosi (FL).  MICRO-BLITZ (44): 1-Alex Gerding (FL), 2-Susan Randall (FL).  DMP-KNOCKOUT (64): 1-Alex Gerding (FL).  AFTER TOURNAMENT TOURNAMENT (12): 1-Karen Davis (OH), 2-Russ Lyutik (IL).

RESULTS: 16th MINNESOTA BACKGAMMON OPEN (Bloomington, Minnesota, July 22-24, 2011)

These results are from the Chicago Point.  See complete results at the Chicago Point website.   OPEN (19): 1-Jeff Nitschke (MN), 2-Bill Minser (WI); 1C-Jesse Eaton (MN), 2C-Jerry Kressin (MN); 1LC-Ray Fogerlund (NV).  INTERMEDIATE (13): 1-Jolie Rubin (IL), 2-Lyle Rubin (IL); 1C-Steve Binenstock (MN); 1LC-Eric Hiner (MN).  MASTERS JACKPOT (8): 1-Yuri Millman (MN), 2-Ray Fogerlund (NV).  BLITZ (12): 1-Jeff Nitschke (MN).


Congratulations to Takumitsu Suzuki for winning the World Backgammon Championship! His finals match with Fabio Gullota was Live-streamed by the U.S. Backgammon Federation so that backgammon players around the world could watch. The service was free to USBGF members and $4 to non-members. If you’re interested in a rebroadcast, let us know at

Congratulations as well to USBGF members Paul Weaver and Mochizuki Masayuki who finished 3rd/4th and received rave reviews for the high caliber of their play. And kudos to Lynn Ehrlich, member of the USBGF Board of Directors, for winning the Ladies Championship!

Click here to see a drawsheet with results.





These results are from the Chicago Point. See complete results at the Chicago Point website.

OPEN (76): 1-Ray Fogerlund (NV), 2-Gary Bauer (NJ), 3-Odis Chenault (CA), 4/5-Faddoul Khoury (IL) / Kit Woolsey (CA); 1C-Jason Lee (MD), 2C-Felix Yen (IL), 3C/4C-Bob Koca (MD) / Greg Merriman (MI).  MICHIGAN MASTERS (32): 1-Mike Senkiewicz (NY), 2-David Rockwell (IL), 3/4-Malcolm Davis (TX) / Kit Woolsey (CA);  INTERMEDIATE (60): 1-Garry Kallos (Canada), 2-John Quinn (MI), 3-Leslie Lockett (IL); 1C-Prince Barlow (MI), 2C-Walt Smith (MI), 3C/4C-Ken Braithwaite (MI) / Mike Rezai (OH).  NOVICE (15): 1-Glenn Chee (CA), 2-Blaine McClendon (PA); 1C-Kathy Weiner (FL); 1LC-John Claybourne (MI).    SANDY KAPLAN’S SENIOR SPECIAL (32): 1-Jesse Eaton (MN), 2-Harvey Gillis (WA), 3/4-Herb Roman (IL) / Jim Slomkoski (MI).  SNOWIE FREEZE-OUT (32): 1-Bill Finneran (VA), 2-Brent Cohen (PA).

RESULTS: 1st GOLDEN GATE BACKGAMMON OPEN (South San Francisco, California, May 12-15,2011)

These results are from the Chicago Point. See complete results at the Chicago Point website.  CHAMPIONSHIP (31+1 rebuy): 1-Ralf Jonas (Germany), 2-Neil Kazaross (IL), 3/4-David Levy (CA) / Justin Nunez (CA); 1LC-Odis Chenault (CA).  INTERMEDIATE (28+4 rebuys): 1-Josh Racko (CA), 2-Gus Contos (CA), 3/4-Nicholas Dale (CA) / David Dows (CA); 1LC-Mark Ferrin (OR).  BEGINNER (3): 1-Paul Heidecker (CA), 2-Leon Eskenazi (CA), 3-Carol McGannon (Canada) GOLDEN GATE MASTERS JACKPOT (8 @ $1,000): 1-Steve Sax (CA), 2-Ralf Jonas (Germany).  LIMITED JACKPOT (16 @ $500): 1-Josh Racko (CA), 2-Sasan Taherzadeh (Iran/CA), 3/4-Cheryl Andersen (CA) / David Dows (CA).