USBGF October Monthly Circuit

Ted Chee LA2018_pg

Congratulations to Ted Chee, winner of the USBGF 2018 October Monthly Circuit. Ted won this single elimination tournament by defeating Manny Olszynko in the 17-point final match. Jerry Unger and Kat Denison finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final match. See the Online Circuit Leader Board posting here.

Brays Learning Curve: Count the Ways

 

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

2018 - Beginners 10

XGID=–DF-aCB———–bdbbbb-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

This type of position is fairly common so it is best to know how to deal with it.

First, it should be clear that Red should double. With a 15-pip lead in the race and multiple market-losing sequences not doubling here would be a double blunder.

The interesting question is whether or not can White can take. His thinking should go along these lines:

Red will leave me a shot with 62, 26, 44, 55 and 66. I will hit that 30% of the time so that is 1.5 wins out of 36.

What about the race? Red is nominally 15 pips ahead but that is not a true count. He has six checkers on his 3-pt and four checkers on his 2-pt. that will add approximately 6 pips to his adjusted pip count. In addition, he will have empty 4- and 5-pts in the bear-off so that will create further inefficiencies for him. On the down side he has only two crossovers and two pips to get his checkers home while I have 4 crossovers and 15 pips to roll before I can begin to bear-off.

In the 31 games where he doesn’t leave me a shot, can I win 7.5 of them to bring me up to the nine games I need to win to accept the double? To answer that question requires both experience and judgment but it can be made a lot easier if you have a reference document. Luckily, you will find “Backgammon Races” in the download section of my website: www.chrisbraybackgammon.com

The answer in this particular case is that White can take with relative comfort. The key to learning is then to adjust the position to find out what happens when things change. Move the spare on White’s 4-pt to his 5-pt and he can still take the double but move it to his 6-pt and the position becomes a drop.

In the initial position if we move one of the spare checkers on Red’s 3-pt to his 6-pt the position becomes double/drop because 44,55 and 66 now play safely. So small differences in the position can make a big difference to the cube action – tricky game backgammon.

 

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 10 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 December Monthly Circuit

2017_AlfredMamlet_Silicon V

Congratulations to Alfred Mamlet, winner of the USBGF 2018 December Monthly Circuit. Alfred won this single elimination tournament by defeating Rich Sweetman in the 17-point final match. Ray Bills and John Graas finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final match. See the Online Circuit Leader Board posting here.

Brays Learning Curve: Match Play Problem

Match Play. Score 4-4 to 7. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

 

2018 - Experts 9

XGID=—B-aDBBB—B–aAbbbc-bb-:0:0:1:63:4:6:1:7:10

Once again, the match score dominates the doubling decision.

For money this would be a very premature redouble as White has all his checkers in play and,  owning the cube, he would be in a powerful position to redouble Red if the game turned around.

However, at this match score the cube is valueless to White and so it is merely a question of whether Red is a sufficient enough favourite to redouble now.

White’s point of last take is 25% (the match-winning chances he would have if he dropped the redouble). Is Red close enough to 75% winning chances to redouble? As ever that is a matter of using experience to make the judgement and an exact percentage estimate is impossible.

However, Red has a five-point prime, a five-point home board and White is on the bar. He is certainly a strong favourite. Over the board I redoubled this position and my opponent dropped.

White should have taken as you can see from the rollout below. Red is near the top of his doubling window but not above it. Therefore, the answer is that Red should redouble and White should take.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 9 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: Good Numbers and Bad Numbers

Money Play. How should Red play 43?

2018 - Intermediates 9

XGID=-BbC-BB-D——–bbcd–bB-:0:0:1:43:0:0:3:0:10

This is not a very difficult problem but Red went astray over the board by playing 24/21, 8/4, which is an unnecessary overplay. White replied with 64, played 7/1*, 5/1 and after Red fanned, White won with cube.

Red should observe that White has 13 checkers in the attack zone and that should flag up an immediate warning. Those extra checkers on the 6- and 5-pts are just itching to join the battle. At the moment White’s sixes and some of his fours play badly but not after 24/21, 8/4.

Equally well Red cannot afford the luxury of the ‘safe’ play which puts a third useless checker on his ace-point and does nothing to help his position.

The correct play is 8/5, 8/4 which puts the checkers where Red wants and just as importantly does not allow White an attack. There is also some duplication of twos.

White is a strong favourite irrespective of which play Red chooses but anything other than 8/5, 8/4 is a bad blunder.

They key is that Red must stop all those checkers in White’s home board coming into play.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 9 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: Blitz

Money Play. How should Red play 31?

2018 - Beginners 9

XGID=aBBAa-B-BA–cCA–e-e—-A-:1:-1:1:31:0:0:3:0:10

This position is used to highlight a very common error amongst beginners, intermediates and sometimes even experts.

Red has doubled and embarked on a blitz. Sadly, he has thrown a poor number. Many players now think that they must give up on the blitz and tighten things up.

I would expect to see 13/9 played quite often and the even weaker 14/13, 9/6 will have quite a few supporters.

The basic strategy for such positions is to keep blitzing until it is no longer possible. This means that in this position the correct play is 8/4*. There is a huge difference between having two rather than one opposing checker on the bar. One bad roll from White, particularly staying on the bar, could see him quickly lose a gammon.

The game-winning percentage for all three of the plays discussed is very similar but 8/4* wins 10% more gammons and that is the big difference.

8/4* leaves five Red blots and that puts many players off making the correct play. Yes, Red will lose some games, and even gammons, when things go badly, but there are very few certainties in backgammon and Red can only play what the dice give him.

Any play other than 8/4* is bad blunder. So remember, have the courage of your convictions, and blitz aggressively until that plan is no longer viable.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 9 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: Complexity

Match Play. Red trails 4-6 to 7 (Crawford). How should Red play 63?

2018 - Experts 8

XGID=—B-aDBBB—B–aAbbbc-bb-:0:0:1:63:4:6:1:7:10

This position was originally posted on Facebook by Phil Simborg. In terms of degree of difficulty this is a very high tariff problem.

If this was a money game with Red holding the cube on 2 then the answer would be the simple 17/8. Every other play loses too many gammons.

However, this is the Crawford Game and Red must win it in order to continue the match. Gammons are irrelevant and so Red just needs to make the play that wins the most often.

I think a lot of players would elect to play 17/14, 13/7, leaving no direct shots but whenever White rolls a 5 or a 6 Red will very likely be in trouble and what does Red plan to do on his next roll even if White rolls small numbers? That is the key to the problem.

The more direct approach is 17/11, 8/5*, employing the standard backgammon theory of attacking a lone blot. Red may be able to execute a blitz or possibly create a prime.

The one move nobody looks at 17/11, 13/10!! A passive move exposing two blots to direct shots!

Whenever White rolls a 5 or a 6 Red will be in big trouble, although he will have a small amount of residual equity. The big gains come on the 16 rolls when White doesn’t roll a 5 or a 6. Now Red is ideally placed to attack/prime White’s rear checker.

The difference between 17/11, 8/5* and 17/11, 13/10 is small but small differences count for a lot in backgammon. Not one in a hundred players would find and, more importantly, play 17/11, 13/10 over the board demonstrating just how difficult the game can be. Even analysing in the calm of one’s study it is hard to find the right play.

The key is that having once seen the solution you can now take this type of thinking and apply it to future problems even though such a problem may not occur again for quite some time.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 8 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 LXIII

Kevin Jones 2017

Congratulations to Kevin Jones, winner of the Advanced Divisional LXIII. Kevin defeated Lynda Clay in the 17-point final. Andrew Hunter and Brian Cohen 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.

USBGF Intermediate Divisional LIV

genna_cowan

Congratulations to Genna Cowan, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LIV. Genna defeated Marcela Pelagatti in the 13-point final. Curt Wilhelmsen and Marti Leal 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 Advanced Divisional LXI

Dan Wittkopp 2019

Congratulations to Dan Wittkopp, winner of the Advanced Divisional LXI. Dan defeated Michael Flohr in the 17-point final. Vinson Blanton and HB Drake 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.

USBGF Advanced Divisional LXII

SwartwoutPeter-web-2017

Congratulations to Peter Swartwout, winner of the Advanced Divisional LXII. Peter defeated Fabian Melnik in the 17-point final. Mary Morse and William Porter 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.

Brays Learning Curve: Run or Prime?

Money Play. How should Red play 63?

2018 - Intermediates 8

XGID=-a-BBCCBA———ccbbcBa-:1:1:1:63:0:0:3:0:10

 The age-old question: should you build the full prime with 8/2, 5/2 and perhaps crack it as soon as next turn, or use that precious 6 to run with either 23/14 or 22/17, 8/5?

When I had this position as White, I knew what I wanted my opponent to do and that was to run. He very kindly obliged and after a couple of good rolls I was actually able to play on for, and win, a gammon.

The correct play by quite some way 8/2, 5/2 – see the rollout below. The keys to the position are:

  • A full prime is much stronger than a five-point prime and even if Red cannot escape a checker next turn, he will still probably have a five-point prime, so he will be no worse off and, if he rolls a six, he is nearly home free.
  • Crucially, White must play before Red rolls again and facing a full prime he will have to move on his side of the board. Big numbers like 64, 65, 55, 54 etc now severely damage his position, giving Red gammon opportunities.

My rule of thumb in such positions is to take the full prime if it is on offer and that rule has stood me in good stead throughout my playing career. If Red had a 65 to play then 23/27, 8/3 would be correct.

Note that 23/17, 8/5 is much better than 23/14 because it halves the gammon losses. The former is an error, the latter is a blunder. Players often forget to take gammons into account properly when deciding upon a move. 23/14 exposes three blots and that is too many when there is a sensible alternative.

So, remember, hardly ever turn down a full prime!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 8 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: Hit or Point?

Money Play. How should Red play 42?

2018 - Beginners 8

XGID=aa—BD-C—eDa–c-dA—A-:1:-1:1:42:0:0:3:0:10

This is a type of position that I constantly see misplayed by beginners and intermediates.

They nearly always play 20/14*, putting a second checker on the bar. Hopefully not many players would select the craven 24/20, 13/11! Such a passive move is not the way to winning backgammon.

As the great Paul Magriel used to say, “put ‘em where you want ‘em”. This should give you a clue!

The correct play is 8/4, 6/4. This gives Red an excellent long-term asset and considerably reduces White’s chances of counter-play. A quarter of the time he will still be shooting at the White blot on Red’s 14-pt next turn.

8/4, 6/4 wins more games and more gammons than 20/14*. That may surprise many, but that extra home-board point, which is also part of a potential prime, really stifles White’s play.

If you don’t believe this try playing the position a few times. You will soon see that making the 4-pt is much stronger than hitting the extra blot.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 8 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 LIII

BJ_2 Int Div

Congratulations to Elizabeth Liberty, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LIII. Elizabeth defeated Shahrooz Moreh in the 13-point final. Curt Wilhelmsen andTed Cetola 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 the current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard.

USBGF Intermediate Divisional LII

David-Bradley_Cuddles

Congratulations to David Bradley, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LII. David defeated Elizabeth Liberty in the 13-point final. Shahrooz Moreh 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 the current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard.

Brays Learning Curve: Flexible Game Plans

Match Play. Red trails 4-5 to 17. How should Red play 54?

2018 - Experts 7

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

This position occurred in the first match of the final of the recent Cyprus tournament. Red was Aurelien Bonnet and White was Frank Stepler.

Bonnet played the ‘obvious’ 13/9, 7/2 but that move is a blunder. Why is that the case?

It basically resigns Red playing a 3-pt holding game except in a few cases.

Red needs to take advantage of his stronger home board, the fact that White has no anchor and also that White has another exposed blot on his 11-pt.

Red should try to win by going forward. If he can’t do that then he can steer for a well-timed back game and if all else fails, he still has the option of playing a 3-pt game. This gives him multiple possible game plans rather than just one, nearly always a good idea.

The four must be played 7/3*. After that Red needs to release the spare checker on the 21-pt to attack the White blot in the outfield. Thus the 5 is played 21/16. That is much more flexible than 13/8, which in turn is much better than Bonnet’s actual 13/9, 7/2.

As you can see from the rollout 13/9, 7/2 is a blunder. In backgammon it pays to keep your options option and that is precisely what 21/16, 7/3* does.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

 Experts 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

 

Final of EBIF World Team Championship between U.S. and Norway on GridGammon

U.S. Backgammon Federation (USBGF)
Published by Karen Davis · 16 hrs ·

Final of EBIF World Team Championship between U.S. and Norway being played this weekend on GridGammon! Come watch!: EBIF International.
Neil Kazaross won his match with Norway’s Sven Wisloff Nilssen with a 2.32 PR and 8 Luck Factor!

Joe Russell has his match scheduled today, Friday, December 21, at 10:30 pm Pacific time (that’s 1:30 am Saturday Eastern/GGT or 7:30 am Central European Time on Saturday morning.

Alfred Mamlet has his match with Jorn Nesdal scheduled at Noon Eastern/GGT time (18:00 Central European time) on Saturday, December 22.
Steve Sax has his match with Asbjorn Arntzen scheduled at 1 pm Pacific time on Saturday, (4 pm Eastern/GGT and 22:00 Central European time).

Roberto Litzenberger has his match with Hans Marias Eikseth at 1 pm Eastern/GGT (19:00 CET) Sunday, December 23.

Donate to Boards for Kids and Beat the USBGF Teaching Pro!

Make a tax-deductible charitable donation to the U.S. Backgammon Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, to support the Boards for Kids program and play a match against USBGF Teaching Pro Phil Simborg or USBGF Board member and top-ranked player Frank Talbot. Donations may be made to the Foundation’s PayPal account: donations@usbgf.org.

Donors will play USBGF Teaching Pro Phil Simborg or Frank Talbot, a Certified Teaching Pro and member of the Board of the U.S. Backgammon Federation, on GammonSite, a backgammon server of GameSite 2000. Phil and Frank will give you a few comments or tips to improve your game during the match or afterwards based on an XG analysis of your play.

If donors are not already subscribed to GammonSite, they may play their match for free. GameSite 2000 is known as the producer of the premier eXtreme Gammon software for analyzing backgammon positions and matches. GameSite 2000 is a corporate sponsor of the U.S. Backgammon Federation. It offers a 20% discount on XG to USBGF Premium members and a 30% discount on its GammonSite backgammon server for all USBGF members ($14 a year compared to $20 a year for non-members).

Donors contributing $25 will play a 3-point match with Phil or Frank; donors contributing $50 will play a 5-point match. All winners of the match with Phil or BLC Teaching Pro will be entered into a GammonSite single elimination blitz. Winners of 3-point matches will receive one entry; winners of 5-point matches two entries. Each 8-player blitz will offer a prize of one year Premium membership in the USBGF (or one-year extension) or a $60 credit for use at the USBGF BG Shop. In addition winners will receive a one-year subscription to GammonSite.

100% of all donations will be used to supply backgammon boards to youth including all youth under age 18 playing in ABT tournaments. Donations will be matched by Phil, Xavier Dufaure de Citres, the CEO of GameSite 2000, and Karen Davis, President/Executive Director of USBGF. Prizes will be donated by USBGF and GameSite 2000.

So act now! Send a donation via PayPal to the account donations@usbgf.org
and receive a tax deduction while supporting growth of the game we all love! The offer will expire January 31, 2019.

Brays Learning Curve: Multiplicity

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

2018 - Intermediates 7

XGID=aB-BBCBA——-c–bccCc—:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

This position is deceptive, and I have included it because it is a type of position that many players consistently get wrong. At first glance you might question White’s ability to take but despite the fact that Red is a big favourite to cover the blot on his 4-pt that is only part of what he needs to do.

Red has 28 numbers that cover the blot on the 4-pt and the numbers that don’t cover (4’s and 5’s) escape his rear checkers. That looks powerful but some of those covering numbers are not ideal – look at 33 and 66.

Not only must Red cover the blot, he must also escape three checkers from behind a broken prime (a non-trivial exercise), all the time hoping that White stays on the bar. As soon as White enters that checker he is only one good roll away from escaping.

For Red to win this position all the steps outlined above must be completed. The odds against all those events happening is the product of the individual events occurring. So, for example, if three events all have a 50% chance of happening then the odds against all of them happening is 50% x 50% x 50% = 12.5%. This concept is known as multiplicity.

Now you can get some idea of just how much work Red has to do to win this position so in fact, doubling in this position is a 2.5 times blunder and White’s take is trivial! Even if Red covers the blot and White fans, he probably won’t have a double next turn!

Despite all that I would still expect some players to drop from the White side because they would take an overly pessimistic view of the situation – a perennial problem for less experienced players!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

 Intermediates 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 Intermediate Divisional LI

Liberty Elizabeth Int Div

Congratulations to Elizabeth Liberty, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LI. Elizabeth defeated Konstantin Keresteliev in the 13-point final. Crista Solovey and Vinson Blanton 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 Advanced Divisional LX

Congratulations to Gary Zelmanovics, winner of the Advanced Divisional LX. Gary defeated Chris Krisilas in the 17-point final. Jason Karns and Andrew Hunter 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.

New Online USBGF Premium ABT Jackpot!

We are pleased to announce a new free online tournament for Premium and Founding Sponsor members, the USBBGF Premium ABT Jackpot #1. First place prize is a free entry to an ABT tournament of the winner’s choice in 2019 or 2020. Second place finalist receives half the entry to an ABT tournament of the finalist’s choice in 2019 or 2020. The entry fee applies to any Main division event (Championship/Open or Advanced/Intermediate). It does not include registration or hospitality fee.

The tournament format will consist of single-elimination, 128-player brackets. All early rounds will be 13 points in length. The semi-final will be 15 points, and the championship final will be 17 points. Match logs will be required at the time of reporting. The tournament will start as soon as the 128-player bracket has been filled.

If you are not currently a USBGF Premium member, take advantage of a special membership promotion of 10% off on one-year and three-year memberships — $54 for one year and $135 for three years. Check out becoming a Founding Sponsor through easy recurring monthly payments.

The USBBGF Premium ABT Jackpot #1 will be played on Backgammon Studio, Backgammon Galaxy, GridGammon, GammonSite, or Safe Harbor Games.

The tournament is directed by Tara Mendicino and Jeff Proctor.

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

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