Brays Learning Curve: Risk and Reward

Money Play. How should Red play 61?

2018 - Beginners 7

XGID=-aB-CCC-B—bB—–cbcb-b-:1:-1:1:61:0:0:3:0:10

Red stands well in this position but has not yet won the game. The question is whether he should play this 61 relatively safely with something like 8/2, 5/4 or whether he should play boldly with 13/7, 8/7.

With the cube in the middle you can win the game either by making a well-timed double or by utilising your checkers efficiently. Once you have doubled only the latter option is available to you, so you need to optimise the placement of your checkers.

Beginners have a hatred of leaving unnecessary shots when they think they have already won the game, but the harsh reality is that your opponent will nearly always have winning chances – you must do your best to limit those chances. Everything in backgammon is risk and reward so it is a question of weighing one against the other.

In this position the race is close so White can win by rolling a couple of big numbers. If Red makes the bar that option is largely denied to White but 13/7, 8/7 leaves 13 hitting numbers for White (all 1’s plus 52). Is the risk worth the reward. The answer is yes, Red does better to make the bar than play relatively safely (the safe plays leaves 4 shots).

One key point is that if White hits the blot on Red’s mid-point he won’t be strong enough to redouble unless he has rolled precisely 12 or 21. That is because Red’s broken prime is a still a fearsome barrier that White has to leap with a 2 and then a 5 or a 6.

Learning when to take a calculated risk is key to winning at backgammon. Too often I see beginners shy away from risk because they only look at the negative aspects of a play. They improve when they learn to see the positives, but I admit that it does take time to learn how to think

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 7 Rollout

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray

 

 

USBGF Advanced Divisional LVIII

Congratulations to Bonnie Rogoff, winner of the Advanced Divisional LVIII. Bonnie defeated Jason Karns in the 17-point final. Fabian Melnik and Manny Olszynko finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final.

The Advanced Divisional requires players have a Circuit Elo rating between 1500.01 – 1649.99 at the time of registration. See current online standings: Leader Board.

Congratulations to Marty Storer, Tara Mendicino, Jeb Horton, and Frank Talbot on Election to the USBGF Board of Directors

The U. S. Backgammon Federation (USBGF) Board of Directors is pleased to announce the results of the Board of Directors election. Congratulations to Marty Storer, Tara Mendicino, Jeb Horton, and Frank Talbot on election to the Board. Jeb Horton returns to the Board, having previously served as a Founding board member from 2009-2014. Tara has served on the Board of Directors since 2013; Marty Storer and Frank Talbot have served since 2016. In accordance with the By-Laws, they will serve on the Board for three-year terms from 2018-2020. They join Art Benjamin, Dennis Culpepper, Karen Davis, Jack Edelson, Julius High, Neil Kazaross, Richard Munitz, Matt Reklaitis and Joe Russell to comprise the USBGF Board of Directors.

Marty Storer serves as Managing Editor of the PrimeTime Backgammon magazine, is a member of the USBGF Executive Committee and Technology Committee. Tara Mendicino serves as Vice President of USBGF and Production Editor of PrimeTime Backgammon. She serves on the Membership and Marketing Committee, Technology Committee, and Tournament Directors Advisory Committee, and serves as Board Secretary. Jeb Horton will join the Executive Committee and Technology Committee. bringing his professional expertise facilitating communication between technology developers and customer users. He has chaired the USBGF Tournament Directors Advisory Committee since its formation in 2017. Frank Talbot chairs the Education Committee and serves on the Rules and Ethics Committee.

The Board is pleased that 228 members participated in the election. The results are:
Marty Storer 159 votes 70% of those voting
Tara Mendicino 151 votes 66% of those voting
Jeb Horton 140 votes 61% of those voting
Frank Talbot 140 votes 61% of those voting
Carter Mattig 114 votes 50% of those voting
Bill Riles 107 votes 47% of those voting

We thank retiring Board member Bill Riles for his years of valuable service to the USBGF. He served on the Board from 2013-2018, including a three-year stint as President/Executive Committee from 2013-2016 and service as Treasurer from 2017-2018. He was the impetus behind the creation of the American Backgammon Hall of Fame and chaired the Hall of Fame Committee. We look forward to continuing to seek his wisdom and expertise.

We appreciate the willingness to serve the USBGF demonstrated by all of the candidates. Each of them has the skills and the desire to serve which are valuable to the USBGF. We look forward to engaging their talent and energy in the work of the USBGF.

Brays Learning Curve: DMP Problem

Match Play. Double Match point. How should Red play 11?

 

2018 - Experts 6

XGID=baaaBBBbBB-aABA–b-c-Ab—:0:0:1:11:4:4:0:5:10

Firstly, this is DMP so Red wants to make the move that wins the most games. Gammons are irrelevant. Secondly, double aces normally give you a very wide range of choices and this position is no exception. I rolled out ten moves in depth, but it could have been double that number.

The key is that Red must have a plan and not just shuffle the checkers. At the moment White looks as if he is going to get some sort of playable back game and that is precisely what Red must stop from happening. For that reason, moving the checkers in the outer boards is not the right idea. Red should also not worry too much about safety, White’s home board is largely irrelevant at this point.

When I first evaluated this position XG came up with the somewhat exotic 12/11*, 4/3*/2*/1*. That certainly stops White anchoring any time soon! When I performed a rollout sampling 2592 games that play came second! I venture that no human player would find it over the board and even if he/she found it they wouldn’t play it and yet it is entirely thematic with Red’s objectives.

The somewhat more prosaic 4/3(2)*, 3/2(2)* is actually the best play. For the moment that tries to restrict White to an ace-point game at best and Red may do better than that.

Once you have a plan the play is easy to find and extremely logical but without a plan Red may not find the move. So, remember, plan first, play later!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 6 Rollout

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray

 

 

Art Benjamin: USBGF Board of Directors and TED Talk Mathemagician

By Karen Davis

Art Benjamin, a member of the USBGF Board of Directors since 2011, has made a video called Counting Magic: Handy Mental Shortcuts to Improve your Game. This lecture was originally presented at the 2018 Michigan Summer Championships and then taped at the 2018 Silicon Valley Open. It provides simple math tricks for counting, memorizing, and calculating that will markedly improve your game. Once you see the way that Art calculates with his fingers, you’ll appreciate the “Handy” in the video’s title! Be sure to view the Silicon Valley Open presentation.

Video – Counting Magic: Handy Mental Shortcuts to Improve your Game

Besides being a fine backgammon player and a lucid and entertaining teacher, Art has made many contributions to backgammon over the course of an interesting career.

Professional Career

Art grew up in Cleveland, where he attended public high school, going on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in applied mathematics and statistics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1983. He received his Ph.D. in mathematical sciences in 1989 from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he met the love of his life, his wife Deena. Back then, Art was a frequent participant in the Beltway Backgammon Club weekly tournaments in nearby Washington, D.C., and began to study backgammon more seriously. He devoured Danny Kleinman’s and Bill Robertie’s books and became a strong intermediate player.

He joined the mathematics faculty at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, CA, in 1989, where he has taught ever since. Known as a “mathemagician,” he has demonstrated and explained his mental arithmetic techniques to audiences throughout the world. Reader’s Digest calls him “America’s Best Math Whiz.” His book, Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician’s Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks, is one of the most popular math books for the general public, with over 300,000 copies sold worldwide. It has been translated into a dozen languages. His most recent book, which was a New York Times bestseller, has the fun title The Magic of Math: Solving for x and Figuring Out Why.

He has produced five math courses for the video series The Great Courses. These are: Secrets of Mental Math; Joy of Mathematics; The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles: From Cards to Suduko; Discrete Mathematics; and his newest course, Math and Magic. The Great Courses has produced a successful course called How to Play Chess, and Art is hoping to convince them to do a course on backgammon too.

Art has given three TED Talks (Mental Math, Statistics vs. Calculus, and Fibonacci Numbers) which have been viewed over 20 million times.

He makes presentations to 50-60 groups a year around the country, including colleges, high schools, teacher organizations, managers, home schoolers, TED-like conferences (including one recently in Mexico), and science groups.

He spent 2012 and 2013 on sabbatical at Oxford University, where he participated in the London backgammon scene, meeting community leaders like Raj Jansari and Peter Bennet.

Service to the USBGF and the Backgammon Community

We were thrilled when Art accepted our invitation to serve on the USBGF Board of Directors. He has a passion for stimulating interest in the game and for educating young people. He has served as the chairman of the USBGF Education Committee, and currently chairs the USBGF Governance and Nominating Committee. As reflected in his Platinum Founding Sponsor status, he has been a generous financial donor to the organization as well.

Having been an integral part of the USBGF since its inception, Art takes pride in its progress and permanence. All the issues that have been worked through in the early years will, he believes, be taken for granted ten years from now—moving to a democratic membership-elected Board of Directors; refining bylaws; establish- ing a ratings and statistics system; promulgating tournament rules; and mounting a sophisticated communication outreach including a top-notch quarterly magazine (PrimeTime Backgammon) and the use of social media. A lot is happening, and it is an exciting time to be part of the organization.

Art is currently turning his talent to writing a feature column called “Math Overboard” for PrimeTime Backgammon, featuring bite-size techniques for backgammon counting, memorizing, and calculating.

Collegiate Backgammon

As a member of the USBGF Board of Directors, Art has assisted with efforts to interest college students in backgammon. In 2011 the USBGF reached out to college students across the U.S., stressing that the game would help them acquire valuable skills in math, statistics, and decision analysis. Under the leadership of Joe Russell, current chairman of the USBGF Board of Directors, and Phil Simborg, USBGF Education Adviser, the USBGF provided webinars, loans of backgammon boards, and qualified USBGF coaches. As a result, backgammon groups were formed at a dozen colleges and universities across the U.S., and online collegiate tournaments were held from 2011 through 2013.

Art formed a Harvey Mudd team. It was one of eight teams in the 2011 event, won by the University of California, Los Angeles, whose team was captained by Joe Roth and coached by Joe Russell. In 2012 Harvey Mudd won the tournament, defeating UCLA in the final. Its team consisted of Nathan Hall, Louis Ryan, and Jonathan Schwartz, who split the $690 scholarship first prize. Joe Russell noted, “I was truly impressed by the high quality of play. Harvey Mudd entered a strong team.”

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Art coached the Harvey Mudd backgammon team consisting of (left to right) Jonathan Schwartz, Nathan Hall, and Louis Ryan which won the 2012 USBGF Collegiate Backgammon Championship.

The collegiate initiative ended in 2013, but a number of the players, including David Presser (Northwestern University), Ben Friesen (University of Michigan-Flint), and Michael Zakrajsek (University of Texas at Austin), have continued to be active, winning awards and contributing to the growth of the game.

Backgammon at Joint Math Meetings

Art has leveraged his status as a leading member of the professional mathematics community to introduce thousands of math professors and graduate students to backgammon. His efforts began in August 2011, when over 1000 mathematicians gathered in Lexington, Kentucky, for MathFest 2011, the annual meeting of the Mathematical Association of America. At Art’s initiative, the meeting featured “Backgammon Night,” a free social event offering group lessons, a quiz designed especially for top-level mathematicians, and a tournament to test their newly acquired skills. Art prepared the quiz and, along with Jennifer Quinn, math professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma, presented analysis of the problems afterward. Phil Simborg, USBGF Education Adviser; Chuck Bower, winner of the 2011 Chicago Open; and Frank Frigo, former world champion of backgammon, gave quick lessons on basics and answered questions throughout the tournament. Karen Davis, chairman of the USBGF Board of Directors, handled registration and USBGF enrollment. The quiz was won by David Nacin, an assistant professor of mathematics at William Paterson University in New Jersey. Nacin stated that the quiz questions would be appropriate for his combinatorics class. Art has also enlisted fellow players and math professors Bob Koca (Howard Community College) and Jason Lee (USBGF Online Match Series Editor) to provide mini-courses and lectures on backgammon, puzzles, and games at summer mathematics meet- ings in Hartford, CT, and Washington, D.C. One Boston session was covered on National Public Radio.

In the last few years, Art has arranged an evening of social backgammon at the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) of mathematical societies that take place each January in cities around the U.S. For example, at the 2014 JMM in Baltimore, Art, Bob Koca, and Jason Lee teamed up with D.C.-area players including Karen Davis, Ed O’Laughlin, Bill Finneran, and Eva Mitter (now Eva Koca) to work with professors and graduate students of different skill levels. The workshop was designed to highlight the math aspects of backgammon and recruit more college students and professors to the game. Conference attendee Matt Lehman (University of Massachusetts, Boston) had this to say. “It was a lot of fun. I got to play a lot of people at my skill level. Backgammon is a fun, social game. The games are fast and you can talk. Especially enjoyable at the end of a long conference.”

A similar format has been followed for JMM ever since. The 2019 JMM will take place in Baltimore, where Art will host another evening backgammon session on Friday night, January 18, with the help of Bill Finneran, Ken Indart, Lew Webber, Jason Lee, and other local players.

ABT Tournament Record and Backgammon Career

An accomplished player, Art is #10 on the All-time American Backgammon Tour with a total of nearly 201 points. He had a lot of early success playing in southern California. Propelled by winning the 1993 Autumn Grand Prix Tournament in La Jolla, California, he placed second to Marty Storer in the first ABT in 1993. He then went on a fantastic winning streak, placing in seven tournaments from 1993 through 1997, finishing third in the ABT in 1996 and winning in 1997. In 1997 he won the Michigan tournament, his first major tournament win outside of California. He finished second in Pittsburgh in 1998.

Art’s life and priorities changed with the birth of his daughters Laurel in 1998 and Ariel in 2002. He no longer played in any out-of-town tournaments and focused on being a dad as well as a math professor and lecturer. Over the years Art has been a highly sought-after doubles partner—probably, he jokes, because he counts pips quickly. He won doubles with Trish Hegland at a Los Angeles tournament in 1990 and parlayed that into winning the 1990 Caesars Tahoe doubles event in Nevada.His involve- ment with the USBGF has brought him back into backgammon. He was late to computer analysis, in part because he owns a Mac which requires Parallels to run XG. Now that his kids are older, he has more time to devote to the game. He’s been taking lessons over the last two years from David Presser and is beginning to compete again in ABT tournaments. He has resumed his success in Doubles events. With Christian Briggs, he won the Doubles at the Nevada State Championships in November 2017, and in the May 2018 Tournament of Stars, again with Christian, he split first place with the team of Joe Russell and Chris Trencher. He and Chuck Bower were Open Doubles runners-up at the 2018 Michigan Summer Championships. He’s placed in the money in several recent ABT events, including winning the Seniors event at the 2017 California State Championship; 2nd Consolation at the 2014 California State Championship; tied for 3rd Consolation in the 2016 Los Angeles Open; tied for 8th in the 2017 Silicon Valley Open; and tied for 2nd in the 2018 Silicon Valley Open.

On the USBGF Online Tournament Circuit, he has an Elo rating of 1850, which puts him 12th on the USBGF Online Leaderboard. In June 2017, he won the Masters Divisional XLVII, defeating Karen Davis in the 21-point final match. Art finds both online and live play appealing. He knows he must spend more time on study if he wants to improve his game, but considers playing—with humans, not bots—to be more fun. And he loves, loves, loves importing his matches into XG and seeing his mistakes.

Backgammon Masters Awarding Body

Art participates in the Backgammon Masters Awarding Body (BMAB) qualification process. He has a 4.91 PR and is ranked as a BMAB Master, Class 3, with Class 2 award pending. His goal is to get to a 4.0 PR and a Grandmaster ranking. He plans to have his matches at future ABT tournaments recorded and submitted to BMAB for PR analysis.

When playing in a BMAB event, he is not thinking about winning or losing; he’s just trying to achieve a low PR. He aims for simple positions. He doesn’t care about the prize pool. He’s done well in BMAB events, but when he plays in Masters Jackpots or the Open division, he cares more about the win. His teacher and coach, David Presser, urges him just to play his best game, and not to change his play based on his opponent.

Looking Toward the Future

In Art’s opinion, backgammon is the best game for the mathematically inclined. It can also be a great tool for learning mathematics. He hopes to build even more connections between the USBGF and the collegiate mathematics community. In a very short amount of time, he has seen the USBGF put out a fantastic magazine and website, offering useful information for both new and experienced players. In the coming years, he sees the USBGF offering more tools and resources for tournament directors and a rating system that should attract international recognition. He is proud to be a USBGF Founding Sponsor. In the future, he would like to see the USBGF continue to: retain members, produce a high-quality magazine, support tournament directors, and support novices. He looks forward to seeing improvements on the USBGF website and rating system, and hopes a good backgammon server can be developed on which all members can play.

He concludes: “Why do I love backgammon? I can think of no better game where a little bit of math goes such a long way.”

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of PrimeTime magazine. USBGF Premium and Founding Sponsor members enjoy access to valuable content designed to help improve your game.  Join or renew today to get insight from backgammon pros, keep up-to-date with tournament news, read player profiles, and more.

USBGF Advanced Divisional LIX

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Congratulations to GL Harvie, winner of the Advanced Divisional LIX. GL defeated Long Nguyen in the 17-point final. H.B. Drake and Kevin Jones finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final.
The Advanced Divisional requires players have a Circuit Elo rating between 1500.01 – 1649.99 at the time of registration. See latest Online standings: Leader Board.

USBGF September Online Circuit

Preferred KD headshot 2006 190px

Congratulations to Karen Davis, winner of the USBGF 2018 September Monthly Circuit. Karen won this single elimination tournament by defeating Cynthia Belonogoff in the 17-point final match. Jack LeProwse and Scott Ward finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final match. See the Online Circuit Leader Board posting here.

Bray’s Learning Curve: Bray’s Law

Match Play. Double Match Point. How should Red play 43?

 

2018 - Intermediates 6

XGID=-BCBBBB—–b——–gBcc-:0:0:1:43:4:4:0:5:10

This position occurred in a London League match this week and provides a classic demonstration of Bray’s Law.

That law states that when hoping to hit a late shot to win a game you should only break up your home board  upon pain of death or because there is no other legal play.

The reason for the law is that after hitting a late shot you need to contain the hit blot and you cannot do that easily if your home board is compromised.

That means that in this position 6/3, 6/2 and 5/2, 5/1 should be discounted as candidate plays. Red must advance one or both of his rear checkers while maintaining his perfect home board. Having solved half the problem (maintaining the home board) we are left with two choices; (a) 22/15 and (b) 22/19, 22/18.

Logic says that you want to keep one checker on the 22-pt for later shots if the initial shots are missed. Logic also says that White is very likely to have to separate his two checkers on his mid-point and ideally Red will want to put pressure on both blots. So far this points to 22/15 as the right play. Is there any merit in play (a)? Not really. It makes most of White’s sixes good for him and allows the possibility of one checker reaching the sanctuary of White’s home board.

This simple analysis shows that 22/15 is clearly correct and the rollouts agree with it. Play (b) is an error and any move that breaks the home board is a blunder.

Bray’s Law has helped me to make the correct decision time after time, so I suggest you commit it to memory and use it whenever appropriate.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 6 rollout

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray

 

 

USBGF Board of Directors Election — Please Vote

If you have’t yet voted in the USBGF Board of Directors Election, please do so. The link to the voting page is: USBGF Board of Directors Ballot. All members are eligible to vote. The poll will close at 11:59 p.m. EST, Monday, December 3, 2018. Each member may submit only one ballot. A member must be logged onto the USBGF website to be able to vote.

Six candidates, including four incumbents, are vying for four seats up for election. The six candidates are: Jeb Horton, Carter Mattig, Tara Mendicino (incumbent), Bill Riles (incumbent), Marty Storer (incumbent), and Frank Talbot (incumbent). The left side of the voting page contains a ballot with the six candidate names in random order. The right side of the voting page contains an alphabetical accordion listing of the candidates. By clicking on a candidate name on the accordion file, a member may see a photograph of the candidate and an informational/biographical statement submitted by the candidate.

There are four seats up for election. A member may vote for a minimum of one to a maximum of four candidates. A candidate may not receive more than one vote from a member. A member should select every candidate for whom they are voting prior to hitting the submit button.

The four candidates receiving the most votes will be elected, provided they are named on at least 50% of the ballots. If one or more of the top four vote recipients are not named on at least 50% of the ballots, a run-off election will be held including twice the number of candidates as the number of unfilled seats. As an example, if #4 and #5 (in terms of votes received) are not named on at least 50% of the ballots then #4 and #5 will appear on the runoff ballot. There will be only one runoff. The top vote recipient will fill the remaining seat provided he/she is named on at least 50% of the ballots. If, in the runoff, a ‘winning’ candidate is not named on at least 50% of the ballots cast, the corresponding Board seat will remain vacant until the next election.

The Board of Directors is excited by the opportunity provided all members to participate in the Board selection process. This voting process embodies our desire for an open, transparent, democratic, and participatory membership organization. We hope all members take the time to exercise their voting rights and carefully consider each candidate.

USBGF members and members of the Board of Directors may, as individuals, make any comments they wish, in any manner, related to the election and to the candidates. However, we request no comments be made by anyone that imply endorsement or opinion of the USBGF.

Should you have any difficulties in voting or have any questions regarding the voting process, please submit an e-mail to nominations@usbgf.org.

Results will be announced Tuesday, December 4, 2018.

New Women’s Online Circuit Series!

We’ve launched a new online series for women backgammon players. This 32-player single elimination tournament starts with 13-point matches, building to a 17-point final. Register by clicking here. Compete for recognition as the leading woman on the USBGF Circuit!

For additional tournaments in registration, including FTH Blitzes, Masters, Advanced, and Intermediate Divisional events, Monthly Circuit, and Membership Blitz events, please see our Online Circuit tournament calendar.

Winners of all online tournaments in 2018 will compete in a Tournament of Champions in 2019!

USBGF ADVANCED DIVISIONAL LVII

ehom_headshot (1)

Congratulations to Erwin Hom, winner of the Advanced Divisional LVII. Erwin defeated David Parks in the 17-point final. Michael Riahi and William Dugan finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final.

The Advanced Divisional requires players have a Circuit Elo rating between 1500.01 – 1649.99 at the time of registration. See latest online standings:
Leader Board.

USBGF ADVANCED DIVISIONAL LVI

WallerSteven-2015

Congratulations to Steven Waller, winner of the Advanced Divisional LVI. Steve defeated Kat Denison in the 17-point final. Zarrir Abede Jr. and Tom Courts finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final.

The Advanced Divisional requires players have a Circuit Elo rating between 1500.01 – 1649.99 at the time of registration. See latest standings:
Leader Board.

Second Founding Sponsor Jackpot Now Open for Registration!

We’re delighted by the response to the new Founding Sponsor Jackpot Series. The first field of 16 filled quickly so we’re pleased to announce that registration for Founding Sponsor Jackpot #2 is now open. Just click here to register.

The series is designed to express our appreciation to Founding Sponsors who have provided core support for the U.S. Backgammon Federation All Founding Sponsors — Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond may participate. First place prize is a free entry for the Founding Sponsor and partner in the 2019 Tournament of Stars doubles event to be held at the Cherry Blossom Backgammon Championship in the Washington DC area May 9-12 (value $200). Or the winner may elect to receive a $200 credit toward a Founding Sponsor level upgrade. In addition, both the winner and losing finalist will receive one free entry into the next available FTH Board Blitz tournament.

The tournament format will consist of single-elimination, 16-player brackets. All rounds will be 11 points in length. Match logs will be required at the time of reporting. The tournament will start as soon as the 16-player bracket has been filled.

If you would like information on becoming a USBGF Founding Sponsor, see our website or contact me at: Karen Davis.

The tournament is directed by Tara Mendicino Tara Mendicino and Jeff Proctor Jeff Proctor.

New Online Tournament for Founding Sponsors!

To express our appreciation to Founding Sponsors who have provided core support for the U.S. Backgammon Federation, we are pleased to announce a new free online tournament series for our Founding Sponsors. All Founding Sponsors — Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond may participate. First place prize is a free entry for the Founding Sponsor and partner in the 2019 Tournament of Stars doubles event to be held at the Cherry Blossom Backgammon Championship in the Washington DC area May 9-12 (value $200). Or the winner may elect to receive a $200 credit toward a Founding Sponsor level upgrade. In addition, both the winner and losing finalist will receive one free entry into the next available FTH Board Blitz tournament.

The tournament format will consist of single-elimination, 16-player brackets. All rounds will be 11 points in length. Match logs will be required at the time of reporting. The tournament will start as soon as the 16-player bracket has been filled.

If you would like information on becoming a USBGF Founding Sponsor, see our website or contact me at: Karen Davis.

The tournament is directed by Tara Mendicino Tara Mendicino and Jeff Proctor Jeff Proctor.

For additional tournaments in registration, including FTH Blitzes, Masters, Advanced, and Intermediate Divisional events, Monthly Circuit, Women’s Circuit, and Membership Blitz events, please see our Online Circuit tournament calendar.

Bray’s Learning Curve: Basic Blitz

 

Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

2018 - Beginners 6

XGID=aB-Ba-C-A—dEa–c-e—-B-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

White opened with 32 which was played, 24/21, 13/11. Red rolled 55 which he played 8/3(2), 6/1(2)*. White then fanned and Red has to decide whether to double.

Before the bots came along everybody knew that if you opened 6x which was played 24/18, 13/x and your opponent rolled 55, played 8/3(2), 6/1(2)*, and you fanned you had to drop your opponent’s double because you lose too many gammons.

But there are lots of other early 55 blitzes and ideally you need to know what to do as either side in such situations. With the bots came knowledge and Kit Woolsey was kind enough to document much of that knowledge in his “The Backgammon Encyclopedia – Volume 1”. If you look in there then you will find this position is a double (just) and an easy take. If the White blot were on Red’s 2-pt then Red would not even have a double because White’s blot is further removed from Red’s attacking force.

Kit documented many other early blitz positions in his book. The only problem is that the book is currently out of print because the proofs were lost. Hopefully he will recreate it in the not too distant future. The second volume “The Backgammon Encyclopedia- Volume 2” is in print. Meanwhile if you come across a second-hand copy of Volume 1 my advice is to snap it up quickly.

It is easy to learn these basic reference blitz positions and then use them effectively in live play. Knowing the correct action in such situations saves both time and mental energy and, given how difficult backgammon can be, you need to make use of reference positions as often as you can.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 6 Rollout

 

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray

 

 

 

USBGF Board of Directors Election — Now Open for Voting

The USBGF Board of Directors election is now under way. All members are eligible to vote. Members may vote anytime starting now up until 11:59 p.m. EST, Monday, December 3, 2018. Each member may submit only one ballot. A member must be logged onto the USBGF website to be able to vote.

The link to the voting page is: USBGF Board of Directors Ballot.

Six candidates, including four incumbents, are vying for four seats up for election. The six candidates are: Jeb Horton, Carter Mattig, Tara Mendicino (incumbent), Bill Riles (incumbent), Marty Storer (incumbent), and Frank Talbot (incumbent). The left side of the voting page contains a ballot with the six candidate names in random order. The right side of the voting page contains an alphabetical accordion listing of the candidates. By clicking on a candidate name on the accordion file, a member may see a photograph of the candidate and an informational/biographical statement submitted by the candidate.

There are four seats up for election. A member may vote for a minimum of one to a maximum of four candidates. A candidate may not receive more than one vote from a member. A member should select every candidate for whom they are voting prior to hitting the submit button.

The four candidates receiving the most votes will be elected, provided they are named on at least 50% of the ballots. If one or more of the top four vote recipients are not named on at least 50% of the ballots, a run-off election will be held including twice the number of candidates as the number of unfilled seats. As an example, if #4 and #5 (in terms of votes received) are not named on at least 50% of the ballots then #4 and #5 will appear on the runoff ballot. There will be only one runoff. The top vote recipient will fill the remaining seat provided he/she is named on at least 50% of the ballots. If, in the runoff, a ‘winning’ candidate is not named on at least 50% of the ballots cast, the corresponding Board seat will remain vacant until the next election.

The Board of Directors is excited by the opportunity provided all members to participate in the Board selection process. This voting process embodies our desire for an open, transparent, democratic, and participatory membership organization. We hope all members take the time to exercise their voting rights and carefully consider each candidate.

USBGF members and members of the Board of Directors may, as individuals, make any comments they wish, in any manner, related to the election and to the candidates. However, we request no comments be made by anyone that imply endorsement or opinion of the USBGF.

Should you have any difficulties in voting or have any questions regarding the voting process, please submit an e-mail to nominations@usbgf.org

Notice of Annual USBGF Board of Directors Election

This is to provide notice of our upcoming annual Board of Directors election which will be held this year, via our e-voting system, with a voting window beginning at 12:01 a.m. EST Monday, November 21, 2018 and ending at 11:59 p.m. EST, Monday, December 3, 2018. Nominations have now closed, and the Governance and Nominations is verifying nominated candidates’ willingness to serve and compiling brief statements from the candidates. An e-mail including specific voting instructions, with links to the ballot and to candidate information, will be forwarded to members immediately prior to the beginning of the voting period.

Our by-laws state: “Elections shall be scheduled and overseen by the Governance and Nominations Committee with the assistance of the Executive Director and other officers as needed. Members shall be entitled to cast up to one vote for each vacancy. However, no Member may cast more than one vote for any candidate on his/her ballot. The Board shall provide reasonable notice of the date range for voting, at least fourteen (14) calendar days in advance, through publication on the Federation’s internet website and, to the extent practicable, through other methods reasonably calculated to provide notice to the Federation’s Members. There shall be a period of at least seven (7) days for voting. Candidates receiving the greatest number of votes, up to the number of vacancies, and named on at least 50% of the ballots cast will be elected. The seat numbers listed as being up for election on the ballot shall be in descending order of the time remaining on their respective terms and will be sequentially assigned to elected candidates in descending order of the number of votes received. If not all the seats are filled in the initial round of elections, then there will be a runoff between the “x” number of candidates receiving the most votes (but not elected), where “x” is equal to twice the number of remaining seats on the Board to be filled in the election, provided that a candidate must have received votes from at least 5% of the ballots cast in the initial round to be eligible for the runoff. In the event of ties for the last remaining slot(s) on a runoff ballot, each of the candidates in the tie will be placed on the runoff ballot. Candidates receiving the greatest number of votes, up to the remaining number of vacancies, and named on at least 50% of the ballots cast will be elected.”

We thank all who have nominated an excellent slate of candidates for the four positions that are up for election, and encourage all members to participate in the Board of Directors election.

Best regards,
Karen Davis
President and Executive Director

Advanced Divisional LV

SteveWaller_ADV_ Div6

Congratulations to Steven Waller, winner of the Advanced Divisional LV. Steve defeated John Antaki in the 17-point final. Martin Stemberka and David Parks finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final. The Advanced Divisional requires players have a Circuit Elo rating between 1500.01 – 1649.99 at the time of registration.

See latest online standings at Leader Board.

USBGF August Monthly Circuit

2018 Ted Chee LA

Congratulations to Ted Chee, winner of the USBGF 2018 August Monthly Circuit. Ted won this single elimination tournament by defeating Eusebio Blasco in the 17-point final match. Cynthia Belonogoff and John Gamalieson finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final match. See the Online Circuit Leader Board posting here.

Complex Endgame


Match Play. Red trails 2-5 to 7. How should Red play 21?

2018 - Experts 5

XGID=-aCC-A——a——-a-ddd-:1:-1:1:12:2:5:0:7:10

This position occurred at the recent Cyprus tournament. Red played the rather dull and prosaic 5/2.

After playing his 21, Red will have either six or seven crossovers left to bear off his remaining checkers. White will have to make six crossovers (don’t forget the one to bear off a checker) to save the gammon. White will also need to roll a minimum of 26 pips to save the gammon. All this implies the race to save the gammon will be close and so Red must play aggressively. There is a huge difference between leading 6-5 (Crawford) and trailing 4-5. Note also that Red will hardly ever lose from this position (see rollout details).

Therefore, Red must take the extra crossover this roll if he can, despite any risks. Having six crossovers left rather than seven may save him a whole roll.

3/1*, 2/1 puts White on the bar but doesn’t get that vital extra crossover. 3/1*/off is the correct play by some way. Red gets a bonus if White rolls 22, 33 or 32 but the key point is the extra crossover. 5/4, 2/off is the same idea but in this variation White is not on the bar and that may be crucial. Despite the few extra shots Red should put White on the bar. Note also, that if White does hit from the bar, he may not be able to safety the blot on his own 5-pt. That will add to Red’s gammon percentage.

This is not the time for timidity (it rarely is in backgammon). 3/1*/off is the play.

 

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 5 Rollout

 

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray

 

 

 

Brays Learning Curve: Offence or Defence

Money Play. How should Red play 32?

 

2018 - Intermediates 5

XGID=-b—-EBB—eD—b-db—B-:0:0:1:32:0:0:3:0:10

Red has opened with 61 (13/7, 8/7) and White has replied with 31, making his 5-pt. How should Red now play his 32?

The most common plays that I see are 24/21, 13/11 and 24/22, 13/10 but they are both incorrect.

Worse than these two plays is 13/11, 13/10. That play strips the mid-point of spares too early and gives White two tempting targets at a time when he has the better board. 13/8 is the dreadful ‘do nothing’ play. The two hybrid plays mentioned above are better but still wrong.

White has made his best offensive point and the standard tactic against that is to make an advanced anchor somewhere. Red gives himself the best chance to do that with 24/22, 24/21. The idea behind the play is that if White does point on one of the checkers then he will probably have to give up his 8-pt to do so and also Red will have good chances to make the other point that he has started with 24/22, 24/21.

I must reiterate that the time to take risks is in the opening when both players have relatively weak boards.

If Red gets wiped out by White by rolling a double next turn then Red can just drop the subsequent double and move on to the next game. He will still have played correctly and learning to lose is one of the key skills that any backgammon player has to acquire – it happens a lot!

As you can see from the rollout any play other than 24/22, 24/21 is at least an error and some of the plays mentioned above are blunders.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 5 rollout

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray

USBGF Intermediate Divisional XLIX

Gary Fox 2018

Congratulations to Gary Fox, winner of the Intermediate Divisional XLIX. Gary defeated Frank Costello in the 13-point final. Shahrooz Moreh and Ira Gardner finished 3/4 in the 11-point semi-final. The Intermediate Divisional requires players have a Circuit Elo rating of 1500.00 and lower at the time of registration to enter the tournament.

See current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard.

USBGF Intermediate Divisional L

genna_cowan

Congratulations to Genna Cowan, winner of the Intermediate Divisional L. Genna defeated Charles Stearns in the 13-point final. Robin Peterson and Sarah Saltus Sidding finished 3/4 in the 11-point semi-final. The Intermediate Divisional requires players have a Circuit Elo rating of 1500.00 and lower at the time of registration to enter the tournament. See current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard.

USBGF July Monthly Circuit

Roberto Kenny Litzenberger_BLC

Congratulations to Roberto Kenny Litzenberger, winner of the USBGF 2018 July Monthly Circuit. Roberto won this single elimination tournament by defeating Mark Emrich in the 17-point final match. Jason Karns and Ira Gardner finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final match. See the latest Online Circuit Leader Board posting here.

Bray’s Learning Curve: Late Hit

Money Play. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

 

2018 - Beginners 5

XGID=aBBBBBE—————-de-:1:1:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

This type of position occurs frequently – White was happily bearing off and looking forward to two points (or even a freak gammon) when he left a shot and got hit. Therefore, it is best to know how to handle the cube in such situations.

The rule of thumb is that you should redouble when you have borne off five fewer checkers (or ten fewer checkers if your opponent has two checkers on the bar) than your opponent. Your opponent can take in such situations if he cannot miss when his straggler has once again reached his home board. Typically, that happens when Red has hit a shot from the ace-point anchor rather than from the bar. In that case White will have an empty ace-point and will miss with all aces in the bear-off. That turns the take into a drop.

Once you know the basic reference position you can make adjustments for your particular position. In this week’s position Red will leave an immediate shot with 66 and his sixes and big doubles play awkwardly putting him in jeopardy of a later shot. That is enough to make this position a no double.  Red should take a roll to tidy up his position.

To really learn about this position you should move the checkers around and see what difference that makes. Take one spare checker from the 6-pt and put it on the 5-pt and the position is still not quite a double. Take another checker from the 6-pt and put it on the 4-pt so that the spares are on the 4-, 5- and 6-pts (the perfect bear-off position) and White has a take but by the tiniest of margins.

1-pip differences can make a huge difference in backgammon.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 5 Rollout

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray

 

 

2018-2019 LCI USBGF Added Money for Local Club Winner + Free ABT Entry for Inter-Club Champion!

We’re pleased to announce that the U.S Backgammon Federation will
again offer provide added money to an annual backgammon club
tournament sponsored by a USBGF Affiliated Local Club of
$5 per USBGF member (a minimum of 8 USBGF members is required).

This added money can be attached to a currently planned local
club tournament or a new event — with the added money serving
as a sidepool for USBGF members. To be eligible, players must
have an active USBGF membership at the time of registration
in the tournament.

The 2018-2019 USBGF Local Club Initiative event can take
place at a time convenient to the director before February 28, 2019.
The format of the tournament is at the discretion of the director.
Please contact Ray Bills, USBGF Membership Director and
Director of the USBGF Local Club Initiative, raybills@usbgf.org
if your club would like to participate.

The winners of local club annual tournaments will compete in an
online USBGF Online Club Championship event with a great prize
— a free entry to any ABT event!

Last year’s prize was won by Gammon Associates winner Gus Contos,
who applied his prize to the 2018 Las Vegas Open. This online
tournament of winners of the club competitions would begin around
March 1. USBGF memberships would need to be active at the time of
registration in the inter-club online championship.

Check out your local club listing and send us any corrections.
http://usbgf.org/clubs/us-affiliate-backgammon-clubs/
Also let us know if you are willing to assist with a USBGF Local
Club Initiative that will develop ideas for helping local club
directors grow the backgammon community.

Brays Learning Curve: Three on the Bar

 

Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

 

Experts 4

XGID=cA–BbC-B–BbB—–dAb-Bb-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

 

Three checkers on the bar is normally a recipe for a swift drop, a resetting of the board and the starting of a new the game. This week’s position is relatively unusual and if you have seen nothing like it before you are going to have trouble evaluating it.

White has three checkers on the bar and a disjointed home board. He also trails in the race by 18 pips with his opponent on roll. However, he holds a 5-pt anchor and his opponent only has two and a half home board points. Furthermore, Red has only ten checkers in the attack zone and three of his checkers still in White’s home board. These latter factors should give White hope especially if Red cannot cover the blot on his ace-point next time.

This position occurred in the Battersea chouette where there are more takes than in “normal” backgammon. The box (Red) did double and of course all four opponents took. What do you think of the cube decisions?

White’s 5-pt anchor is the key point on the board. That will keep him in the game forever and because Red has a shortage of checkers in the attack zone, he doesn’t really have many immediate market losing rolls, unless of course, you think he has already lost his market. However, only the big doubles really threaten White immediately.

In fact, the take is trivial for White, he just has too much play and too many ways to win to give this one up. As for the double it is right on the borderline. You can double or not double and you will be correct. Despite appearances, the position is not very volatile, I would only double this position if I thought my opponent would pass and that wouldn’t happen in the Battersea chouette!

In this instance, the takers were rewarded by being able to redouble Red out later on but of course a one game rollout proves nothing!

The key is to file this position in your memory bank and reuse it. The other way to learn is to play around with the position to see how that changes things. For example, if you take the spare checker on Red’s 6-pt and put it on his 1-pt giving him a three-point home board then the borderline decision is the take and not the double!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 4 rollout

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray

 

 

Bray’s Learning Curve: Priorities

Money Play.   How should Red play 22?

2018 - Intermediates 4

XGID=—–bE-CAA-cC–bc-e—-B-:0:0:1:22:0:0:3:0:10

Over the board Red chose 24/22(2), 13/9. Was he correct?  Sadly for him, he was a long way from the best move.

Not moving the back checkers at all is a huge error so they must at least advance 24/22(2). After that, if they remain there, then the best move for the other two twos is 10/8, 6/4, followed by 6/4(2) but both of these moves are blunders as is any move other than the correct one.

One the basic principles of backgammon in the early game is that if your opponent has made an advanced an anchor you should strive to do the same. Here Red has as a glorious opportunity to do just that with 24/20(2)!!

The blots left on the 9- and 10-pt are irrelevant. If hit, they can easily be recycled precisely because Red has his advanced anchor. The advanced anchor also cuts down Red’s gammon losses when thing go badly.

After 24/20(2) White is about a 60/40 favourite but Red is in the game for ever. If Red elects to anchor on the 22-pt his sixes are blocked and he can quickly get into trouble.

The key is to understand that the advanced anchor is far more important than the blots. There are many positions in backgammon where having two exposed blots spells extreme danger – this is not one of them!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

intermediates 4 rollout

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray

 

 

USBG Intermediate Divisional XLVIII

Vinson Blanson 2018_sm

Congratulations to Vinson Blanson, winner of the Intermediate Divisional XLVIII. Vinson defeated Jerry Nussbaum in the 13-point final. Curt Wilhelmsen and Timothy Dugan finished 3/4 in the 11-point semi-final. The Intermediate Divisional requires players have a Circuit Elo rating of 1500.00 and lower at the time of registration to enter the tournament.

See current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard.

Bray’s Learning Curve: Third Move Thoughts

Money Play. How should Red play 62?

2018 - Beginners 4

XGID=-a—-E-D—fD—c-e–A-A-:0:0:1:62:0:0:3:0:10

There are 15 possible opening rolls. Many of these can be played in different ways. In response each of the possible 21 numbers can also be played in a number of different ways. There are approximately 600 opening rolls and responses. Most players will get the majority of these plays correct over the board.

The same is not true of the third move because by now there are too many possibilities for us to remember and we must rely on general principles to guide us most of the time. Those guiding principles are:

  • Make new points
  • Unstack the heavy points
  • Hit an opposing checker
  • Start the rear checkers moving

Over and above these principles I also like to try to maintain flexibility so that I have the ability to adopt different game plans as the game evolves.

This week’s position occurred in a teaching session with two of my students. Red opened with 52 played 24/22, 13/8 and White responded with 65, played 24/13. How should Red now play this 62?As usual we must consider the candidate plays and then make a choice:

  • 24/18, 13/11 too many double hits.
  • 22/14 minimises shots but it will be difficult to improve the position next time.
  • 24/16 leaves the rear checkers connected, but gives White many more hits, some of them double hits.
  • 24/22, 13/7 gives Red a solid anchor and slots a good point and would be the choice of many.
  • 22/16, 13/11 unstacks the mid-point while reducing White’s hitting numbers and keeps some connectivity between the rear checkers.

My students both selected 24/22, 13/7 and I wouldn’t argue with anybody who wanted to make that move in a chouette. However, settling for the 22-pt anchor so early is a little negative and the blot on the bar-point is exposed to 17 shots.

Long experience had me leaning towards the more flexible 22/16, 13/11 but I wasn’t certain by any means. A long rollout proved me to be correct. It turns out that 24/22, 13/7 is too committal so early in the game and technically it is an error. Remember that flexibility is a key element of backgammon and 22/16, 13/11 provides Red with exactly that.

The key here is to remember the solution to this problem and then apply the technique in similar future positions of your own.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 4 Rollout

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray