Bray’s Learning Curve: One Checker Back

Money Play. How should Red play 53?

2019 - Intermediates 20

XGID=–a-BCB—A-bBb-Cc-dc-B—:1:1:1:53:0:0:3:0:10

One of backgammon’s more useful adages is this: “Prime an anchor, attack a lone rear checker.”

That instruction has stood the test of time and I have applied it countless times in my backgammon career.

It should be clear that this week’s position cries out for an attack on that rear White checker. Because it is alone it can never anchor so it will be subject to an attack until either it can escape, or the blitz succeeds.

Therefore, Red’s 3 must be played 5/2*. After that Red shouldn’t just safety the blot on the 10-pt with 10/5 but should maximise his coverage of the outer boards by playing 16/11. The halfway play of 10/2* is a blunder but the move played over the board, 16/13, 10/5, demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of one of the fundamental stratagems of backgammon, namely the adage at the head of the article.

How will Red plan to win after 16/13, 10/5? It certainly isn’t clear unless he gets very lucky. Meanwhile, 16/11, 5/2* gives a very clear path to victory and don’t forget Red owns the cube which hopefully he will get to use very efficiently.

So remember: “Prime an anchor, attack a lone rear checker”.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 20 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 October Womens Monthly

Capture

Congratulations to Karen Davis, winner of the October Womens Monthly. Karen defeated Eva Zizkova in the 17 point final. Irina Litzenberger and Cynthia Belonogoff finished 3/4 in the 15 point semi-final round.

The Womens Monthly tournament is open to all USBGF ladies. Entrants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. See the latest online standings at Leader Board.

USBGF Womens Monthly for September

ZizkovaEva 8-12-2013

Congratulations to Eva Zizkova, winner of the September Womens Monthly. Eva defeated Cynthia Belonogoff in the 17 point final. Lynda Clay and Emily Denton finished 3/4 in the 15 point semi-final round.

The Womens Monthly tournament is open to all USBGF ladies. Entrants are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. See the latest online standings at Leader Board.

Bray’s Learning Curve: 3-pt Holding Game

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

2019 - Beginners 20

XGID=–CbBBC-B–A——beB-bbb-:0:0:1:00:0:0:1:0:10

 There is well-known saying in backgammon that all 3-pt holding games are takes.

This is not quite true, but it is an excellent guiding principle. Normally the player of the 3-pt holding game has both racing and hitting chances and is rarely primed to the point where he/she has to drop. Obviously, the player of the 3-pt game cannot be too far behind in the race so that catching up is nigh on impossible.

What about this week’s position? White leads by a small amount in the race but Red has nearly total control of the outer boards.  It is easy to foresee White’s position deteriorating quickly and a gammon being lost when he has to run off red’s 3-pt.

However, it hasn’t happened yet and for the moment White’s home board is as strong as Red’s. Red is certainly the favourite, but he doesn’t have any clear-cut threats and very few market-losing sequences.

Over the board Red doubled but in fact he is not strong enough to double and he should wait. If you put the two checkers on White’s bar-point out of play on his 1-pt although White gains 10 pips in the race his position is far weaker and Red now has a clear double.

Once again, the relative lack of volatility in the 3-pt game has been demonstrated. Red should bide his time and wait for his position to improve before doubling. Doubling here is actually a blunder and of course, White has a trivial take.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 20 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: Early Strategy

Money Play. How should Red play 63?

Basic Begiiners 10

XGID=-b–B-D-B—cE—c-e–b-B-:0:0:1:63:0:0:3:0:10

Red started the game by rolling 42, making his 4-pt. White responded with 55, making his 3-pt. How should Red now play 63?

I frequently see this type of position misplayed. White’s 55 has given him a lead in the race but a slightly overextended structure. The one thing that Red should not do is to split his rear checkers. This gives White attacking options that he doesn’t deserve. Red should (at least for now) play a priming game.

The best move is 13/10, 13/7. Only very slightly weaker is 13/4 which is safer but does less to develop Red’s position.

The two really bad moves are 24/15 and 24/18, 13/10 because they are anti-thematic, allowing White an attack.

This position is but one example of the strategy of playing a priming game when your opponent has rolled an early double fives. It is a strategy that is worth remembering.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 10

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 LXIX

Karl Sours IntDiv 2019

Congratulations to Karl Sours, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LXIX. Karl defeated Richard Casten in the 13-point final. Ira Gardner and Ed Corey finished 3/4 in the 11-point semi-final. The Intermediate Divisional requires players to have a Circuit Elo rating of 1500.00 and lower at the time of registration.

See the current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard. For more information or to register for other tourneys go to the USBGF Online Circuit Tournament Calendar.

USBGF Advanced Divisional LXXVI

MartinStemberkaAdv Div

Congratulations to Martin Stemberka, winner of the Advanced Divisional LXXVI. Martin defeated Mehdi Showkati in the 17-point final. Dennis Lutz and Ben Yam 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 Board of Directors Election — Now Open for Voting

The USBGF Board of Directors election is now underway. All members are eligible to vote. Members may vote anytime starting now up until 11:59 p.m. EST, Monday, December 2, 2019. Each member may submit only one ballot. A member must be logged into the USBGF website to be able to vote.

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

Five candidates, including four incumbents, are vying for five seats up for election. The five candidates are Karen Davis (incumbent), Ben Friesen, Neil Kazaross (incumbent), Richard Munitz (incumbent), and John Pirner (incumbent). The Board of Directors wishes to thank Dennis Culpepper, who has decided not to stand for re-election, for his service on the Board for the last three years, especially for his role as liaison to the USBGF Tournament Directors Advisory Committee. In addition to the candidates listed above, the Board received nominations of four other highly qualified candidates, who were all approached, but chose not to run for the Board at this time.

The left side of the voting page contains a ballot with the five 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 five seats up for election. A member may vote for a minimum of one to a maximum of five candidates. A candidate may not receive more than one vote from a member. A member should select every candidate for whom they are voting before hitting the submit button.

The five 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 five vote recipients are not named on at least 50% of the ballots, a vacancy on the Board will remain until the next election.

The Board of Directors is excited by the opportunity provided 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.

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

Results will be announced on Tuesday, December 3, 2019.

Thank you.

USBGF Intermediate Divisional LXVIII

Ira Gardner_Int Div

Congratulations to Ira Gardner, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LXVIII. Ira defeated Luiz Rocha in the 13-point final. Konstantin Keresteliev and Richard Casten finished 3/4 in the 11-point semi-final. The Intermediate Divisional requires players to have a Circuit Elo rating of 1500.00 and lower at the time of registration. See current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard. For more information or to register for other tourneys go to the USBGF Online Circuit Tournament Calendar at http://usbgf.org/trny/.

Bray’s Learning Curve: Triple Shot

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

Match Play. 0-1 to 3. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

2019 - Experts 19

XGID=-BBB–CA—-A—-aBacbcBe-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

This position came up at a tournament at the Hurlingham Club. I was White and had just rolled a very unfortunate 61, played 14/8, 6/5.

My opponent enthusiastically doubled, no doubt with a vision of a gammon in his mind. Although you will get some passes in positions like this it is still virtually a blunder to double. Red has too much work still to do, always assuming he hits at least one blot on his first roll. With two open home-board points and a lot of freight to shift (checkers to move) around the board Red should hold the cube.

Even if he closes out both White checkers he will only win a gammon 40% of the time. And, of course, he only has 27 hits initially. On the nine misses he will nearly certainly lose the game and the match. Red does much better to hold the cube and double when White has a much more difficult decision.

If Red hits one checker and White fans that is the time to double. Even then White will still have a comfortable take.

For money it should be clear that if Red doubles, White should beaver. Doubling would be a truly horrendous blunder. Red gives up nearly a full point of equity by doubling!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Money

Experts 19 Rollout - Money

Match

Experts 19 Rollout - Match

 

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 LXXV

kara_schultz_AdvDiv

Congratulations to Kara Schultz, winner of the Advanced Divisional LXXV. Kara defeated Jasper Watertor in the 17-point final. Patricia Johnson and Frank Costello 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.

Bray’s Learning Curve: Time for a Plan

Money Play. How should Red play 41?

2019 - Intermediates 19

XGID=–aB–DCB—bB—bde-B-a–:0:0:1:41:0:0:3:0:10

 Just making moves is never a good idea. You should always have a game plan. That plan is subject to change according to the vagaries of the dice, but any plan is better than no plan.

This is an apparently simple position and many would follow the known tactic in such positions of attacking the lone checker by playing 7/2*. Alternatively, Red could try to prime that rear White checker by playing 13/9, 6/5 although some may consider that too bold.

However, most of Red’s checkers are well-placed and that suggests a third game plan. That plan is to leave with one of the rear checkers despite being behind in the race by moving 21/16.

This play keeps all the other checkers doing good work. In addition, White has a blot in his home board which gives Red tactical opportunities. Finally, 21/16 creates meaningful duplication of White’s fours.

Is all that enough to make running the right game plan? Not quite. It turns out that both running and priming are valid game plans while hitting is not. It is not unusual in the middle game to have two valid plans.

The key here is to consider all three game plans and then choose between them. Sometimes you will make the wrong choice, but backgammon is too difficult to be right all the time. But has often been said before – if you don’t even see a move as a viable alternative then you will never play it!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 19 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: Weighing Anchors 2

Money Play. How should Red play 54?

2019 - Beginners 19

XGID=-B-B-CBbB—-B–bbbbBcaa–:0:0:1:54:0:0:3:0:10

Over the years I have learnt to be very circumspect about giving up anchors. The conditions have to be right to give up such a strong asset. However, there are times when giving up the anchor is correct. Let us look at this week’s position.

Red has the choice between (a) 8/4, 8/3 (b) 20/11 (c) 13/4 and (d) 13/9, 13/8. Red is stripped on all his outer board points and something has to give. (a) is the wrong idea – it takes checkers beyond where they want to go and Red may have even worse problems next turn.

If Red is going to give up his mid-point it seems logical to leave minimum shots and so 13/9, 13/8 must be better than 13/4. But, should Red risk departing from the anchor with (b)? He will have only a marginal lead in the race after the play so that argues for staying. White has two blots in his home board while Red has a four-point home board so that argues for going. Staying will also strand those rear checkers. Finally (b) creates meaningful duplication of White’s fours.

It is hard to balance these conflicting priorities without a lot of experience but in this position the positives for leaving the anchor outweigh the negatives and Red should play 20/11. I got this right over the board, but my opponent rolled 33. Backgammon can be a cruel game.

The lesson is that conditions have to be just right to give up an anchor. In this position those conditions exist but I’ve seen many an anchor given up prematurely. Take care!

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 19 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

Opening Concepts and Endgame Technique

Opening concepts & endgame technique

Reviewed by John O’Hagan

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Japan’s Michihito (Michy) Kageyama and England’s Roland Herrera are the co-authors of two new backgammon books. Opening Concepts and Endgame Technique are books one and two in what they call the Backgammon Odyssey series. Both books feature the cartoon character “Nono.” There are lots of drawings in each book, each showing Nono saying or doing something related to the subject matter at hand. Both books are 200+ pages with plenty of good advice for those wanting to sharpen their checker play in the opening or endgame.

Playing the early game well is obviously important since every backgammon game you’ll ever play will have an opening phase. If you frequently make small or medium-sized errors in the opening, the cumulative effect will be quite large. How to improve your early-game play? Opening Concepts will certainly help. Michy and Roland identify 21 general principles that they call “proverbs.” Apply the appropriate proverbs to a particular position, and you’ll usually find a good checker play.

They group the first 12 proverbs as the beginner level, the next six as intermediate, and the last three as advanced. Don’t let those beginner and intermediate labels fool you, though. I’ve seen lots of championship-level players (myself included!) make poor moves in the opening by failing to apply some of these beginner and intermediate-level proverbs. Of course, intermediates and novice players make even more misplays in the opening.

I won’t list all 12 beginner-level proverbs from Opening Concepts, but here are some of them:

» The most important points are the two 5-points.
» Fight for a good point.
» Attacking with 8 checkers in the zone is weak.
» Attacking with 10 checkers in the zone is strong.
» Split your back checkers against a stripped 8-point. » Never split when facing a blitzing structure.

The logic behind all 12 proverbs is explained, along with an example or two where the proverb applies. Of course the proverbs won’t always point toward the same kind of play. Sometimes they’ll conflict and you’ll have to decide which is the most important.

Chapter 2 then tests the reader on applying the 12 beginner-level proverbs. There are 38 positions in this chapter where you’re sup- posed to find the suitable proverbs and then the best play.

Next we move on to the six intermediate-level proverbs. These include:

» Making a point is better than hitting loose.

» Avoid stacked points.

» Counter an advanced anchor with an advanced anchor of your own.

As before, the authors explain why these are good principles to follow and include positions where they apply. The next chapter then tests the reader with positions where some of the beginner and intermediate-level proverbs are most relevant.

Last we move on to the advanced level with the final three proverbs. These are:

  • »  A builder cannot make a point with only one die.
  • »  Do you feel good about your priming structure?
  • »  Double Tiger Play.The first one refers to the fact that you need both dice to make a point with your builders (excepting doubles of course). If the opponent hits you to take away half your roll, you won’t be able to make a point using your builders. When you have many ways to make an important point, it’s often correct for the opponent to hit loose and take away half of your roll. That’s not always true, though, and in this part of the book you’ll find lots of examples of each case.

The question about your priming structure refers to positions where you have to decide between splitting your back checkers or bringing down another builder from the midpoint. If you have a better blockade than the opponent, it’s usually better to bring down another builder. If not, you’re better off splitting the back checkers. Here’s a “split or build” example from the book:

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 10.19.18 AM

Two of the proverbs suggest splitting the back checkers here: The opponent has just eight checkers in the zone (defined as the number of checkers in the inner board or bearing on the inner board), and her 8-point is stripped. But there are also reasons not to split: 1) Splitting invites a blot-hitting contest when your opponent has a 2-to-1 advantage in inner-board points. 2) Your back checkers aren’t in much danger of being primed. 3) Playing two down from the midpoint (13/9 13/10) gives you many point-making rolls if the opponent fails to hit one of your blots. 4) The opponent will have a difficult time filling in the gaps between her 2 and 6-points. Two down from the midpoint is the correct play.

Double Tiger plays are those that hit two checkers in your inner board while leaving blots on each point. Sometimes they’re correct, other times not. Examples of each case are given.

Was there anything missing from their list of proverbs? Here are a couple: 1) Don’t split your back checkers under the gun of three or more builders. There are exceptions, of course, but often the potential gain from such a play isn’t worth the risk of being pointed on. 2) The side with the stronger board is favored in a blot-hitting contest and should therefore hit loose more often. Other than these minor additions, I think their list of proverbs covers about all you need to know about early game play.

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MICHIHITO KAGEYAMA Michy, #2 Giant of Backgammon, is a popular ambassador of the game. His two recent books are accessible to everyone and have been well received. He is shown playing in Chicago this year.

There’s also a glossary in the back of the book for those who are unfamiliar with backgammon terminology.

Now to the other book, Endgame Technique. As its name implies, the book gives advice on how to play the checkers to maximize your winning chances in several common types of endgame posi- tions. Michy wrote an earlier version of this book in Japanese, which has now been translated into English by Ayako Odate. The American player David Klausa also assisted Michy in his English writing. With only a few exceptions, the translation is pretty good.

This book focuses exclusively on checker plays, by the way. There are no cube-action questions. This isn’t a big problem, however, since in these positions the opponent will usually own the cube, or would have a clear pass if you decided to double.

What types of common endgame positions do Michy and Roland evaluate? They start with bearing in and off safely when you’ve closed out one checker. These are simple positions that most of us handle fairly well. You need to play more aggressively if you have decent gammon chances, and Michy and Roland show you when and when not to get greedy for a gammon.

A big chunk of the book covers how to play the checkers when bearing off against an opponent’s 1, 2, or 3-point game (meaning that your opponent has an anchor on your 1, 2, or 3-point). These sections are really valuable since low anchor games come up so often and frequently the correct play is not obvious. Do you take extra checkers off or clear a rear point? Do you leave a gap in your board, or should you strip your two highest points? What is the ideal position to have against each type of game? Do you play the checkers the same way against all three of these anchors, or not? If not, what are the differences? The authors answer all of these questions and more.

What rules should you follow when bearing off against a well-timed 1-point game (also known as an acepoint game)? They give one “fundamental rule” and four proverbs for the player bearing off. The fundamental rule is Clear from the rear, and the proverbs are Make a mountain structure; Don’t create an inner gap; Prepare to clear a point; and Do not pile up the deucepoint.

Clearing from the rear is generally better than taking two checkers off. A mountain structure is one where you have two checkers each on your 6 and 2-points with spares on your 5-4-3 points. An inner gap is a stripped point between two points with spares on them. Prepare to clear a point means stripping your rear point so that you can clear it on your next roll. Don’t pile up the deucepoint, because checkers there can never move forward – you can only bear them off with a 2, so your flexibility suffers. Follow these rules and you’ll do well against an acepoint game.

However, please realize that you’ll still get hit quite often. The authors claim that you’ll get hit 48% of the time from this position!

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 10.26.50 AM

Of course these rules don’t apply if you’re bearing off against a poorly timed acepoint game. The right approach in that situation is to bear off checkers aggressively to maximize your gammon chances.

How about bearing off against a well-timed 2-point (or deucepoint) game? The deucepoint game requires quite different treatment than the acepoint game. Long-term safety is more important than short-term safety against an acepoint game, but the opposite is true against a deucepoint game. If play A leaves 4 fewer blotting numbers than Play B, the authors say you should always choose play A against a deucepoint game. Another difference is that against a deucepoint game, clearing from the rear becomes roughly equal to taking two checkers off. These are some of the five proverbs for bearing off against a deucepoint game.

You don’t get hit as often when playing against a deucepoint game. Michy and Roland estimate that you’ll get hit 30.7% of the time from here.

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 10.28.35 AM

Next is the 3-point game. The key here is to clear the 6-point as soon as possible. It’s also O.K. to leave a gap if you have no blotting numbers on your next shake.

The authors estimate that you’ll win 80% against a well-timed acepoint game, 84% against a deucepoint game, and 90% against a 3-point game. If you have a perfect bearoff structure, your winning chances will be higher in all three cases. However, your structure will almost always be less than ideal, so these figures seem about right to me.

Other chapters cover bearing in from the outfield against an acepoint game, how to play a holding game, and various other advanced ideas. For example, one chapter deals with the “post-acepoint game”: that is, a game where you held your opponent’s ace point, hit while he was bearing off, contained the hit checker, closed your board, and started bearing off yourself. Here’s a position from the book. Should you play the safe 6/0 6/1 or the bold 6/0 5/0?

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 10.29.31 AM

Michy and Roland give you a formula to use in deciding these safe-vs.-bold plays in post-acepoint game positions. The formula is easy enough to remember and to use over the board.

I think these are two good books for nearly any player. It will definitely help novice and intermediate players, and virtually all championship-level players will learn at least something – I know I did! (And so did I. –Ed.)

– JOHN O’HAGAN

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 10.30.29 AM

Bray’s Learning Curve: Extended Jeopardy

Money Play. How should Red play 41?

Basic Begiiners 9

XGID=aBCCBBB———aa-bcbbba-:1:-1:1:41:0:0:3:0:10

What could be easier than a simple bear-off? However, while there is still contact, there will always be an opportunity to make an error. I have seen many players get this position wrong.

Red has three choices: (a) 6/5, 6/2 (b) 5/4, 5/1 (c) 4/off, 4/3

Given this position as a problem many players choose (c) because then Red has only two bad numbers on his next turn, 62 and 26. (a) leaves nine bad numbers (66, 55, 44, 65, 56, 64, 46, 54, 45) and (b) leaves seven bad numbers (66, 55, 44, 61, 16, 51, 15). Thus, it would seem that (c) must be correct but that is not the case, because of the concept of extended jeopardy.

After 6/5, 6/2 if White enters with a six any jeopardy disappears. And Red’s problems are over. After either of the other plays the gap that is created by those plays may live for quite some time and, even if White enters into the gap from the bar, the point(s) above the gap must still subsequently be cleared. This is called extended jeopardy.

How does one weigh extended jeopardy against immediate jeopardy? The answer for most players is one of experience. I have seen this type of position many times and so I “know” the answer. The other answer is to use computers that can calculate this position exactly.

As you will see from the rollout (a) is correct. The extended jeopardy from the other two plays outweighs the immediate jeopardy of the extra shots. Note also that (a) wins more gammons because Red is able to keep a stronger home board for longer. The three plays are close in terms of equity, but it pays to get this type of position correct as it will reoccur frequently.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 9

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

 

 

2019 Monte Carlo World Championship

2019 Monte Carlo World Championship

By Wilcox Snellings


The American star Wilcox Snellings has returned to the circuit after an illustrious backgammon career in the 1980s and 1990s, during which he split the 1995 Monte Carlo Super Jackpot with Paul Magriel and beat Nack Ballard in the 1997 Las Vegas Masters for his 20th-century U.S. tournament finale. Besides competing this year at Monte Carlo (the 44th World Championship there and the 51st overall), he provided live commentary, along with Marc Olsen (Denmark), on the two final matches between 2019 World Champion Eli Roymi (Israel) and Petko Kostadinov (Bulgaria and USA). He also commented live on one match of the Ultimate Backgammon Challenge between Mochy Mochizuki (Japan) and Sander Lylloff (Denmark), so it’s apparent that his knowl- edge and communication skills are in high demand! Wilcox shows his stuff in this article, reporting on the tournament and analyzing nine interesting positions from the exciting first final match between Eli and Petko. Readers are encouraged to view the exciting final matches streamed with live commentary.


As much as I would have liked to compete in the July 4th Novi tournament instead of being captive in my tissue strewn hotel room, it was great to return to ritzy Monte Carlo and its fine backgammon events. I was last there in 1995 with my wife Viria, whom I was to marry in 1997. It was then held in the Loews Hotel and Casino, which later became the Fairmont and has continued the hosting tradition. The Fairmont is well situated, right on the Mediterranean and near the famous Monte Carlo Casino. Incredible yachts blanket the harbor, and beautiful people and cars are everywhere. Some gawk and capture as much as they can with their ever-ready cell phones and cameras, while others roll their eyes, even though they’re there For Some Reason.

This time, I came with Viria, our two children, and their spouses. My brother and his wife joined us from Louisiana, where most of my U.S. family live and where I was born.

I played in the Monte Carlo Open, which ran Sunday through Monday, as well as the Main event, the Super Jackpot, and the Doubles with my son John. It was John’s sudden interest in backgammon which hooked me back to the game I essentially ceased playing in 1997. I hit a Pause button for several reasons, principally family responsibilities, but little did I know the break would run for nearly two decades.

I began my week with just one win in my first six matches. Fortunately, I felt I was playing close to the top of my game (under 3 PR, no doubt –Ed.), and stayed mindful of how fickle results can be. This was followed by a terrific run, as I won six straight in the Main via the 2nd chance (Fighters) bracket, while John and I won three straight after re-entering the Doubles. Poised for something special, I raced to good leads against my next opponent, Rolf Vetsch from Switzerland. Very late in the match, up 2-away/3-away and owning the cube, I achieved a position with roughly 96% winning chances and around 1 chance in 250 of being gammoned. Well, the nightmare scenario arrived and Rolf won a gammon, having 4 seconds left on his match clock vs. my 8 minutes or so. The next game (or two) might have been quite interesting; I would have tried for extra complications in order to put him under maximum time pressure.

My son and I lost in the Doubles later that night, to the very nice Japanese team of Kenji Shimodaira and champion of the Juniors Tournament, Takayuki Moriuchi.

Regardless of losses, which are nearly inevitable, I had a great time. Beyond the live board action, I reunited with many long- time friends and met quite a few new ones. I did manage to spend some time with my family amid all the excitement, and they had a blast. All the same, I was really up for the big backgammon occasion, and was happy to comment, alongside my friend Marc Olsen (author of the books Backgammon: From Basics to Badass, and Backgammon: Pure Strategy –Ed.), both for Match 5 of the Mochy-Sander Challenge and the Main event finals between Eli Roymi and Petko Kostadinov.

While I can’t easily forecast my future tournament schedule, it’s nice to be back! Great thanks to Tournament Organizer Patti Donner-Rubin, Directors James Ballie and Arda Fındıkoğlu, as well as many fine staff members from around the world. They all collaborated to put on another outstanding backgammon event in one of the world’s most posh locations.

The Main event was double elimination, and Eli Roymi went into the finals undefeated. Petko Kostadinov had lost once, so he needed to win two matches in order to take the title, a single win being sufficient for Eli. Petko won the first match (19 points), but Eli put on a burst of good dice and outstanding skill to take the second (13 points) and become the 2019 Backgammon World Champion. The following positions are all from the first match, in which Eli opened a big lead and Petko came back to win.

Petko and Eli are among the faster backgammon players, and continued their preferred pace in the finals. In my commentary I often mentioned the value of slo-o-owing down, mentioning psychological benefits as well as nuances of specific positions and scores. I feel sure both players could have benefited from gear-switching out of 5th or Turbo, but certainly the viewers were kept wide awake!

Eli plays a very pure game, meaning he seeks to make the major offensive points and rarely puts checkers out of play for blocking. He does this beautifully for the most part, but as with any prefer- ence it can reach points of excess, and that happened at times.

I feel that Petko is more eclectic in his game, working to find the best play in general, rather than seeking to force game types.

The following analysis draws on eXtreme Gammon (XG) rollouts, done using 3-ply checker play and XGR cube decisions, with enough trials to exceed 95% confidence in the repeatability of results, in particular the top-ranked checker moves and cube actions.

The first game of Match 1 turned into a backgame with Eli holding three points in Petko’s board. Petko had to leave a triple shot against the triple backgame, but with a mere three-and-a-half-pointboard and seven checkers back, Eli did not double. He rolled a perfect-looking 63.

Annotation 2019-10-21 112004

 

Instead of hitting and covering, Eli covered without hitting, 21/15 6/3. This was a great play! Though the hit-cover is super-efficient, preserving a 3-4 backgame as a fallback position while gaining real chances to contain Petko’s checker, going forward is wrong, both because Eli will have too hard a time bringing checkers out of Petko’s board to cover the outfield, and because he figures to have plenty of hitting chances later. I would not have hit with a non-covering roll of 61, 62, 64, or 65, but with 63 I would have succumbed to temptation and committed a major blunder. So often it’s right to be patient in backgames, forgoing a hit so that you don’t risk great timing in return for a largely phantom forward- going chance. This is another cautionary tale from that category.

After Eli’s excellent move, Petko rolled double 4 to clear his 9 point but repeat the triple shot. Eli had a cube decision.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 4.59.56 PM

 

Eli capped his excellent understanding of this position with a hugely correct cube, whose value is augmented by the possibility of an incorrect response from Petko. Many such scary positions are takes, but this isn’t your garden variety. If White is hit, he must tread a super-delicate path to enter, come home safely, and get to an efficient recube. Meanwhile he may be forced to expose one or more blots with a gammon downside and slim hopes to win. If Black misses, at least half of White’s rolls fail to improve things, and with so many men on the ace (both now and possibly accumulating), White’s recube efficiency remains poor since it will be hard to bear off enough checkers to survive a later hit. Thus

XG tells us the position is a big pass.

Commenting live, I said that if Petko thought the position to be a relatively small pass, say -1.05, he might take in hopes of mak- ing Eli more hesitant to double throughout the rest of the long match. Marc Olsen noted that another factor increasing Petko’s take equity is the fact that all of the difficult decisions for the rest of the game will be Eli’s.

Petko did take. Marc and I observed that few players have memorized reference positions for the rare triple backgame! Eli rolled 61.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 12.32.20 PM

This time Eli hit. After 23/17*, the best ace is 15/14, which Eli found. But he should have played 15/8, refusing the hit a second time! I think that most of us, apparently much more so than World Champion Eli, need to work on both sides of our backgame play. The trouble is that backgames occur so rarely these days that our backgame muscles, notwithstanding the example of gym rat / backgame guru Jim Pasko, have become puny through lack of exercise! Again, I would have blundered on here as I did while commenting. But let’s start from Eli’s wise refusal to hit with his prior 63, and try to understand the current position as best we can.

Not all early hits in a triple backgame are wrong, not even in this example. The key is that a hit with 61 forces us to break our rearmost backgame point. If instead of the 23 point we must break the 22 in order to hit, the plays are very close – and it’s a huge blunder not to hit from the 21 point. In that case the fallback defensive posi- tion will be a deep backgame with excellent prospects, so hitting becomes mandatory. But with 61, Eli should maintain his triple backgame, retaining good chances for at least a triple shot next turn.

After Eli hit, Petko entered with an excellent double deuce, safely clearing his 7 point. Eli had 65 to play.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 12.33.29 PM

Eli should not move from the 23 point, where his checker is well placed for short- and long-term pressure against Petko’s soft three- point board. This checker may enable Eli to hit a second blot and win a gammon, or to stave off a recube in unfortunate scenarios. He played 21/15 17/12, but this was a blunder. Eli can get maximum long-term coverage with the correct play of 21/15 21/16. Outfield control is critical, so he must move forward without giving too many fly shots or separating checkers. With the compact position

of one assassin lurking on each of the 17 through 14 points, and three still in Petko’s board, Eli would be well placed to hit either a fleeing checker or any new blot that may appear.

Petko lost that game, but saved the gammon. In the second game, with Eli leading 2-0, Petko had the edge against Eli’s holding game. He had a 22-pip lead in the race, but his position looked awkward. Should he double even so?

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 12.34.38 PM

I commented that the holding value of Eli’s 16 point is nearly an illusion, an observation borne out by the mild .03 equity gain for Petko in the variant position where the Eli’s 16-point checkers are moved forward to his midpoint, while Petko gains the same six pips by moving a checker 10/4. The game position is essentially a common type: the midpoint and 8 point vs. the opposing 20 anchor, with the 10 point thrown in for a landing spot but also an extra point to clear. Such positions are nearly all takes, many quite easy. Here, Petko’s 22-pip lead is big, and rolls of 33, 55, 66, and 63 lose his market to varying degrees. His many outside spares rate to give him several rolls to clear his midpoint safely, and he may be able to gain still more time by clearing his 10 point before his midpoint. But Eli’s combination of racing and shot equity gives him a clear take.

Petko correctly doubled and Eli took. Petko increased his edge to become a big favorite, but Eli won 2 points by hitting a late shot, then won a single point in the third game. Trailing 0-5 in Game 4, Petko gained a clear edge and had another cube decision.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 12.38.38 PM

Looking at the position in light of Joe Sylvester’s Position, Race, and Threats (PRaT) criteria, we see that Petko has nice Race and Threats advantages, with a close call on the sometimes-elusive Position comparison. Joe says that a two-of-three PRaT edge is enough for a money double, and this is a strong cube for money. However, a decent match lead decreases recube value, even at the relatively early score of 19-away to 14-away, so the double becomes difficult to take. Indeed XG makes it a pass at the score, –1.063, but says the position is a take at 0-0 to 19, –0.954. Petko did double, and Eli’s pass was excellent and well-motivated.

Fast forward: Petko rallied to even the score at 13 apiece, then scored a coup by redoubling Eli out in a close race. In Game 21, Petko led, 4-away to 6-away! Eli had a welcome double 2 to play going into the middle game.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 12.40.03 PM

When in doubt, Eli will make the purer play, often preferring offensive points and primes, even in return for getting hit more often. Though this approach generally works well enough, he overdoes it at times, and this was one of those instances. With the quiet play, making the 21 and 2 points while bringing a builder to the 11, Eli gives Petko relatively few strong rolls and can double most other replies. Eli’s choice, making the bar and 21 points with 13/11, gives Petko 15 hits plus 42 and 22 to anchor on the 20 point.

The price for the more aesthetic play is too steep.

Petko hit with 62 and Eli fanned; Petko covered his 3 point and Eli fanned again. Petko escaped one checker with a hit, and Eli made a risky-looking pure play, a toss-up as it turns out, leaving blots on his 11 and 2 points in order to avoid blotting on Petko’s 2 point while making his own. Petko had to decide whether to double.Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 12.41.00 PM

Perhaps disliking Eli’s last play of bar/21 13/11, perhaps remembering Eli’s incorrect pass of his redouble in the previous game, and perhaps influenced by a mild momentum euphoria caused by his strong rally in the match, Petko doubled. Whatever the reason, the double was a blunder, the kind that happens to all of us at times. Petko has a nice lead in the race, with double 1 and double 4 as nearly guaranteed market losers, plus 46 followed by a miss from the roof. But a lot of contact remains, which figures to help Eli if Petko misses the immediate shot. Eli’s ongoing cube leverage can be huge. As expected, he scooped up the cube.

Petko hit on his 12 point, and Eli fanned. He fanned a second time as Petko brought two checkers into his board, then Petko hit on Eli’s 2 point and advanced to Eli’s 5. Eli entered one checker and Petko hit on Eli’s 11 point! Petko brought in all his outside check- ers as Eli managed to enter all of his from the bar, and then Petko rolled double 5 to bear off one checker and leave Eli an ace-shot in the following position.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 12.42.10 PM

This is a nice reminder at least to consider redoubling when you are almost certain to lose the match if you fail to hit, but are a solid favorite to win the game, and possibly also the match, if you do hit – especially if the cube is dead for your opponent. Considering that it’s difficult to guesstimate winning chances here, Eli’s redouble was a negligible error. By the way, it would have been a large, 0.1 mistake not to recube if Petko had no checkers off instead of one!

Eli missed, and Petko cashed the match by rolling 62, avoiding the nightmare repeater variation of double 1. The rest was history: Eli locked up the championship by winning the second match 13 – 3, with an XG Performance Rating under 3 and a Luck Factor over 8.

Both players had long stretches of extremely good play – Petko in the first match and Eli in the second. If cube errors are deducted, both contestants played brilliantly. In any event, their performance was quite good for the finals of a big tournament. That final day is a real psychological and energy challenge for all calibers of players. Congratulations to both finalists for their great achievements, and to Eli Roymi, the new World Champion.

– WILCOX SNELLINGS

 

 

Ultimate Backgammon Championship

Ultimate Backgammon Championship

Masayuki Mochizuki (Mochy) just won the Ultimate Backgammon Championship, sponsored by Back- gammon Galaxy, against Sander Lyloff! It was a specially arranged series of matches to determine the best player in the world. Mochy has been regarded as the best player in the world for most of the last 10 years and had nothing to gain and a lot to lose by participating. But, he thought it was a good challenge and would be good for backgammon. I have great respect for him.

r68y-BFw

Masayuki Mochizuki

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Sander Lyloff

Sander was considered the best player in the world prior to Mochy’s arrival and to his devoting time to business and family. It was a very exciting exhibition. Sander played well on day one and looked to be in good shape to dethrone Mochi, but Mochy stormed back on days 2 and 3 and was able to win the match, handily. Both players were able to exhibit their brilliance, but Mochy’s consistency ruled the day!

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– JOSEPH RUSSELL

 

 

Bray’s Learning Curve: Money vs Match

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

(b) Match Play. 0-0 to 7. Should Red redouble? If Redoubled, should White take?


2019 - Experts 18

XGID=aBCBcCD——-a–bbbbbA—:1:1:1:00:0:0:0:7:10

Whenever you face a match play doubling problem you should first consider the correct actions for money to give yourself a base.

In this week’s position I hope it is clear that this is a highly volatile situation. If Red rolls a six he will have lost his market by a huge margin. Red should redouble now.

Equally well, although it is scary because of the gammon losses, White has a very comfortable take because one bad roll by Red (55,44,22) could swing the game immediately and if Red fails to rolls a 6 and White immediately rolls a 4 (which happens 21% of the time), White will be very well placed with a redouble to 8 imminent. In addition, if Red doesn’t roll a 6 within three rolls his position will rapidly deteriorate anyway.

The match play situation is subtly different. If Red redoubles to 4 and wins a gammon, he will have won 8 points, one more than he needs. That is a warning sign that his redouble is not perfectly efficient.

In addition, if White takes and then turns the game round he will be able to give some very efficient redoubles to 8. If Red accepts the cube on 8, he can never subsequently win with another redouble and so the game must be played to the end – the cube will be valueless to Red. These are all indicators that Red should perhaps play on for a gammon with the cube on 2 and, if things go badly, he will probably only lose 2 points.

This is very difficult to judge over the board, but many will err on the side of caution, which turns out to be correct. However, this is a great practical redouble because you will get quite a few erroneous drops. Knowing your opponent is sometimes more valuable than knowing backgammon theory.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Money

Experts 18 rollout money

Match

Experts 18 rollout match

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 LXXIV

Mehdi Showkati 2019

Congratulations to Mehdi Showkati, winner of the Advanced Divisional LXXIV. Mehdi defeated Tom Courts in the 17-point final. Mary Morse and Cynthis Belonogoff 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.

2019 Los Angeles Open

 

2019 Los Angeles Open

 

There is always something special at a Los Angeles tournament, and the 2019 Los Angeles Open was jammed with special events in addition to stellar backgammon. The tournament began with an evening at Hollywood’s iconic Magic Castle, hosted by backgammon’s own Mathemagician Art Benjamin—a professional for over 30 years. (Art is also a renowned TED talker. If you’ve not seen his YouTube videos, search his name and be prepared to be wowed. He’s got over 30 million views!)

Tournament Producer Candace Mayeron put together a Super Raffle that was beyond super. Prizes were donated by the backgam- mon community and included a Laura Hoarty bejeweled egg, VIP seats at Dancing with the Stars, a week at a Florida condo (donated by Blake Fleetwood), goodies from Australia (Ralph Burd), an original Jon Vietor painting, and the most highly sought: a custom FTH board in colors so popular that the brand is using them for

its newest line. Fred Chamanara flew in from Chicago, played in the tournament and bought $100 worth of tickets, just to win the Dancing with the Stars prize. He won, too! (Fred used to be a ballroom dancer! Who knew?) Attendees viewed the items all weekend and anxiously awaited the drawing on Sunday. Nevzat Dogan of Denmark won the coveted board!

During the announcements, the attendees learned that there would be a Guest Direc- tor at the California State Championship in December, joining Hall-of-Famer and Executive Director Patrick Gibson and Director Ben Friesen. At the exact moment of revealing the surprise, everyone in the room stood to applaud, and IT hero Friesen opened a two-way patch with TD Arda Fındıkoğlu, live from Istanbul. Fındıkoğlu (he of Monte Carlo, Montenegro, Cyprus and dozens of other tournaments) could see and hear the cheering and the Los Angeles crowd witnessed his expression of delight at being invited to Los Angeles.

THE PINK HAIR MOMENT

About 30 players sprayed their hair (heads?) pink to show appreciation for Candace Mayeron. Do you think she was surprised? Her pink hair is the least vivid in the group!

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.34.22 PM

Carter sporting red hair!

As good as the Los Angeles Open was, the California State Championship, December 5-8, promises to be even better with Arda Fındıkoğlu as Guest Director, working with Patrick Gibson. How many Europeans will show up? I guess we will find out in December.

 

 

 

President’s Column: Continuous Innovation Copy

The hallmark of a thriving organization is its ability to continue to innovate, building on what works and charting new ground. I’m delighted to announce that the U.S. Backgammon Federation (USBGF) will be aided in this quest by the addition of John Pirner, CEO of Gammon Stuff, to our Board of Directors. John is a proven entrepreneur who will bring his organizational ability and extensive experience to the roles of Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer of the USBGF.

John Pirner

JOHN PIRNER
John Pirner joined the USBGF Board of
Directors in July and serves as Chief Operating
Officer and Treasurer. He lives in Minnesota and
plays with the Twin Cities Backgammon Club.
He founded Gammon Stuff (gammonstuff.
com) in 2016 after being disappointed that he
could not buy an FTH Backgammon set from
stock in North America. Gammon Stuff was
organized to import, stock and exclusively
sell the handmade boards and accessories
built by Fazil Terlemez (FTH), a German
craftsman. Begun as a hobby, Gammon Stuff
is now an enthusiastic corporate sponsor
of the USBGF and ABT tournaments. John
is also a Platinum Sponsor of the USBGF.

 

 

Elevating the USBGF National Championship

Through the generosity of a sponsor, the USBGF has established the USBGF National Championship Backgammon Prize Fund. It will provide $10,000 annually in support of the USBGF National Championship.With this support, the USBGF will elevate this signature event to the premier competition on the American Backgammon Tour. The goals of the Fund are to: raise awareness and visibility of the mind-game of backgammon; recognize expert players for their mastery of the game; and support the growth of the U.S. Backgammon Federation.

In 2020 the USBGF National Championship will have $5,000 added money. It will be held on Sunday, May 3, in conjunction with the Cherry Blossom Backgammon Championships. It is a 256-player single elimination event open to USBGF members. The first entry is free; re-entries are $50. The winner will also receive an FTH National Championship backgammon board valued at $950.

Also beginning in 2020, four to eight ABT tournaments around the country will be selected as National Championship Regional Qualifiers. Selection will be made by the U.S. Backgammon Foundation Board of Directors, and will based on ABT tournament director interest, ABT tournament size, increase in ABT attendance, and USBGF member participation. A total of $4000 in prize money will be added to Regional Qualifiers. An additional $1000 will be dedicated to marketing, streaming, trophies, and recognition.


 

“In the coming months, the USBGF plans to undertake online surveys of the backgammon community to learn more about your interests, ideas, and suggestions for improvement. We hope to learn more, particularly, about player tournament experience and how modern tournament management systems can make playing in tournaments more enjoyable and instructive.”

 


 

The USBGF National Championship and Regional Qualifiers will be marketed through USBGF distribution channels including social media, bulk email to over 3000 players, the USBGF PrimeTime Backgammon quarterly magazine, and the USBGF website. Regional winners will compete in the 2021 USBGF National Championship Playoff. Key matches will be streamed. Winners will be recognized in these outlets as well as at an annual USBGF Award Dinner.


 

USBGF Logo
The U.S. Backgammon Federation is pleased to announce that it has a cool new logo! The new logo captures the essence of the backgammon board with pips and checkers, keeping with the U.S. flag colors of our original. We invite backgammon enthusiasts to join in the fun and enjoy the many benefits of membership!

Competing in World Team Championships

Two newly formed organizations are offering world team cham- pionships: 1) the World Backgammon Federation which has an annual World Team Championship in conjunction with a major backgammon tournament; and 2) the World Backgammon Inter- net Federation which has an Internet team championship. Both began as European events, but opened the competitions to other countries, with the U.S. fielding teams in both events in 2019.

In April 2019 Team USA competed for the first time in the World Backgammon Federation World Team Championships. The 2019 Team consisted of Blake Fleetwood (non-playing captain), Nick Blasier, Karen Davis, Roberto Litzenberger, Carter Mattig, and Frank Talbot (see the Summer issue of PrimeTime Backgammon). Team USA acquitted itself respectably, missing the cutoff of the top eight country finalists by one point. In all, 26 national teams including 161 players competed in the event.

Unfortunately, the 2020 WTC to be held in January near Paris conflicts with the NY Metropolitan Open and the U.S. does not plan to mount a WTC team. However, the USBGF plans to field a team again in 2021. The event will take place in Trier, Germany at a tournament directed by Tobias Hellwag. At present the plan is to select a U.S. team of four players and up to four alternates through an online USBGF World Team Championship Qualifier tournament. The online qualifier will have an entry fee, with the proceeds used to help defray the costs of participating (€1000 entry fee, €100 registration fee). We are seeking sponsors for Team USA to help defray travel and other expenses. Please contact karen@usbgf.org if you are interested in being a team sponsor.

In 2019 the US also fielded a team for the first time in the World Backgammon Internet Federation tournament, an online event with 25 countries participating. The U.S. team included: Neil Kazaross, Steve Sax, Joe Russell (Captain), Roberto Litzenberger, and Alfred Mamlet. Taking place over a four-month period, the U.S. finished second in an exciting finish against Norway. Alfred Mamlet had a 10-0 win-loss record to win the individual competition.

The U.S. is participating again in 2020, with a team consisting of: Art Benjamin, Neil Kazaross, Alfred Mamlet, Joe Russell (captain), Steve Sax, and Frank Talbot. Giants of Backgammon, grandmasters, and other leading players were invited to participate, and a best 2-of-3 11-point match qualifier determined seats on the team.

Growing the Grass Roots

Local clubs are the grass-roots foundation of the U.S. backgam- mon community. The USBGF supports the growth of local clubs by listing clubs on our website, providing added money for annual local club events, and providing technical assistance, tools, and support to new club directors.

The USBGF is delighted to announce a new Corporate Sponsor, the Grunwald Newcomer Fund, dedicated to help ease the transition of newcomers to competitive play. The Grunwald Fund is encouraging local clubs and/or ABT tournaments to hold Novice-Mentor Doubles events where novices are paired with expert players. A minimum of eight teams is required. Novices will serve as captain of the team, with the mentor providing advice on the captain’s proposed moves and cube deci- sions. The winning team will receive two Belair watches donated by the Fund (for novice and mentor doubles partners), plus the novice will receive a free lesson from a USBGF expert member and one-year USBGF Novice membership. The watches will be engraved with the USBGF logo.

Two years ago, the USBGF launched a Local Club Initiative (LCI) to encourage more USBGF members to play in local club tournaments, and more local club players to join the USBGF. Twenty-two local clubs participated both years. This year the USBGF will again provide added money to an annual LCI event held between November 1, 2019 and February 28, 2020. The formula for adding money has been simplified to $5 for each USBGF mem- ber who designates the local club as their primary or secondary club as of October 1, 2019.

The winners of the local club events compete in an online USBGF Local Club Champi- onship, where the first prize is a free entry to the ABT tournament of the winner’s choice. Carl Sorg of the Atlanta Northside Club won the prize in 2019 and used it to enter the 2019 Michigan Summer Classic.

Gus Contos of Gammon Associates in Los Angeles won the prize in 2018 and applied it to the 2018 California State tournament entry fee.

Jack Edelson, a member of the USBGF Board of Directors, chairs the USBGF Local Club Advisory Committee consisting of Jack, Ray Bills (USBGF Membership Direc- tor), Ted Chee (director of Backgammon by the Bay club in San Francisco area), Ross Gordon (director of the Connecticut Backgammon Club), Joe Miller (director of the Ohio State Backgammon Club), Jeff Proctor (director of the Atlanta Northside Club), and Albert Steg (director of the New England Backgammon Club). The charge to the committee is to provide information and support to potential new local club directors; refine the information packet for directors; advise on website redesign to support local club directors; oversee the Local Club Initiative; advise on the local club master point system; and assist with the annual Local Club Player of Year article for the PrimeTme Backgammon magazine. The Committee provides advice and suggestions on how the USBGF can best nurture and support the growth of local clubs.

Raising Awareness through Streaming and Expert Commentary

The U.S. Backgammon Foundation, a chari- table foundation established by the USBGF as described above, provides over $5,000 annually to help cover the cost of stream- ing staff at ABT tournaments. More than 1400 streamed matches on YouTube have received one million views. An estimated 350 matches are added to the USBGF YouTube archives annually.  The USBGF YouTube channel has over 2,600 subscribers.

The USBGF streaming initiative aims to raise awareness of the mind sport of backgammon and help viewers improve their skill. Specifically, it is intended to:

  • »  Increase interest in playing competitive tournament back- gammon
  • »  Improve the skill level of the backgammon community
  • »  Bring recognition to skilled backgammon players
  • »  Increase attendance at ABT tournaments
  • »  Increase membership in the USBGF
  • »  Attract corporate sponsors and philanthropic donations to the U.S. Backgammon Foundation.A new USBGF Remote Commentary Support Center, headed by USBGF Board member Matt Reklaitis, now provides offsite com- mentary and streaming production support for the final Cham- pionship match of ABT tournaments. Top-flight commentators have provided live commentary from offsite with the local venue providing a webcam feed.

nnovations are ongoing. Increasingly, ABT tournaments post drawsheet information on bgbrackets.com, an electronic bracket system developed by USBGF Board member Matt Reklaitis, so that those unable to attend can follow the action during the tournament and see how friends and fellow players are faring. Some tourna- ments are now arranging large digital display screens for players to view streamed matches. In addition to expert commentary, some matches have simultaneous analysis by the eXtreme Gammon software providing the viewers with instantaneous information on alternative plays or cube decisions.

Looking to the Future

In the coming months, the USBGF plans to undertake online surveys of the backgammon community to learn more about your interests, ideas, and suggestions for improvement. We hope to learn more, particularly, about player tournament experience and how modern tournament management systems can make playing in tournaments more enjoyable and instructive. We hope you will participate and share your thoughts with us.

The USBGF is a member-driven organization. We count on your engagement. Do participate in the upcoming Board of Directors election, as well as nominate worthy candidates for the American Backgammon Hall of Fame.

“Get Into the Game—Become a Member”

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 10.20.23 AM

 

Bray’s Learning Curve: Match Play Thoughts

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

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

2019 - Intermediates 18

XGID=a-BBBBBA-A———-bccbC-:1:1:1:00:4:4:0:7:10

For money this would be a grossly premature redouble. White has already borne off four checkers so he would be close to a take even with his last checker closed out. Additionally, Red still has to escape three checkers from behind a four-point prime (look how 44 plays!). Finally, White will sometimes escape his rear checker and win a gammon – in fact that happens 10% of the time.

At this match score things are very different. If Red redoubles this effectively becomes Double Match Point. Gammons become irrelevant and White can never win the cube. White’s take point for the redouble is exactly 25%. Does that make enough of a difference to make this a redouble?

Yes, it does. The position is highly volatile. If Red escapes a checker and White stays on the bar (and that happen nearly 40% of the time) Red will have lost his market by a huge margin. Not redoubling is a bad blunder. White has an easy take because his winning chances are around 30%.

Never forget just how different match play doubling is compared to money play, especially towards the end of a match.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 18 rollout - money

 

Intermediates 18 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

 

American Backgammon Hall of Fame (HOF)

American Backgammon Hall of Fame (HOF)
Call for Nominations

The American Backgammon Hall of Fame recognizes those individuals who have achieved extraordinary playing results and/or have made extraordinary contributions to the game of backgammon in the United States. Candidates are not limited to those who are American citizens, provided that they have met eligibility requirements.

Use the Hall of Fame Nominations Form to nominate a candidate for this significant honor. All USBGF members with active memberships are invited to nominate candidates for consideration by the USBGF Hall of Fame Committee. You must be logged into the USBGF website to access the form. The Committee will very thoroughly vet the qualifications of all nominees. Please carefully note the qualifications addressed below.

Candidates to the HOF should be individuals who have:

1. A significant body of work over a very substantial period of time, in or for the game of backgammon in the United States, as players, directors, authors, publishers, promoters, teachers, and/or innovators;
2. Realized exceptional accomplishments;

a.Demonstrated remarkable skills through success over the board for decades. And/or…
b.Gained achievements and recognition among the U.S. backgammon community for the majority of a long career.

The period of time suggested above by the phrases ‘very substantial period of time’, ‘over the board for decades’, and ‘for the majority of a long career’ should reflect a relevant backgammon career approaching twenty years or more.

Current members of the American Backgammon Hall of Fame (listed alphabetically):
Nack Ballard, Carol Joy Cole, Barclay Cooke, Bill Davis, Malcolm Davis, Ray Fogerlund, Patrick Gibson, Kent Goulding, Tim Holland, Oswald Jacoby, Neil Kazaross, Danny Kleinman, Paul Magriel, Howard Markowitz, Alexis Obolensky, Bill Robertie, Joe Russell, Steve Sax, Mike Senkiewicz, Mike Svobodny, Joe Sylvester, Walter Trice, and Kit Woolsey.

To nominate a person for consideration to the 2020 Ballot for possible induction into the American Backgammon Hall of Fame, please see the Hall of Fame Nominations Form. You will need to be logged in to access the form.

You will be asked to complete the form with two main sections: (1) Notable awards and accomplishments (wins, publications, produced [events], Giants, ABT…) and (2) WHY do you think s/he should be considered (a paragraph describing the nominee’s significant body of work in or for backgammon in the USA).

Should a member wish to re-nominate someone they have submitted in a prior year, they may do so; however, ALL nominations this year must include a new Nominations Form. If a member wishes to amend a prior submission, they may request a copy if one was not retained (request may be made to info@usbgf.org; however, again, a new Hall of Fame Nominations Form must be submitted this year for each nominee. Nominations from prior years will not automatically be reconsidered.

The open period for 2020 nominations is October 1 through October 31. This opportunity allows USBGF members to submit their candidates for consideration for possible inclusion on the Ballot. The Hall of Fame Committee will review all nominations and submit a recommended Ballot to the USBGF Board of Directors for approval. The Ballot will then go to the HOF electors to vote to determine any new inductees.

Joe Russell
Chairman, Hall of Fame Committee
U.S. Backgammon Federation

Bray’s Learning Curve: Risk and Reward

Money Play. How should Red play 33?

2019 - Beginners 18

XGID=-BbCBBB-B—dA-A-c-e-a—-:1:-1:1:33:0:0:3:0:10

 Over the board Red quickly played 13/1. Sadly, this play doesn’t meet the demands of the position.

Consider these factors:

  • Red has already doubled and so must win with his play of the checkers.
  • White’s position is virtually undeveloped.
  • White will be loth to give up his anchor to hit when he has no home board.
  • If Red leaves blots and is hit he will have a lot of return shots, many of which will lead to gammons.
  • 13/1 puts a checker permanently out of play

All of the above clarify why it is right for Red to take some risk now, rather than wait while White develops his home board.

Red’s real choice is between 13/7, 8/5(2) and 13/4, 8/5. Not surprisingly the move that best distributes Rd’s checkers for return hits and for the bear-off is the winning play.

The correct move is 13/4, 8/5.

The key to the position is in understanding that now is precisely the right time to take a risk. Every move in the game is about risk and reward and learning how to balance those two things is the key to long-term winning backgammon.

 

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

 

Beginners 18 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: Robertie’s Addition Method

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

Basic Begiiners 8

XGID=-C–B——————bd-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

 This is a basic technique for calculating that everybody needs to do. I believe it was first documented by Bill Robertie in his “Advanced Backgammon” and so it is known as Robertie’s Addition Method.

This looks like a three-roll ending which is known to be a double and a pass. White only wins a pure three roll position just under 22% of the time and so must pass. However, small details matter.

Look what happens if Red rolls 32 – he cannot bear off a checker. Red will roll 32 one time in eighteen, which equates to 5.5%. Once we add that 5.5% to the 22% for the basic three-roll ending then we get over 27% winning chances. What was thought to be a pass at first glance turns out to be a very easy take and passing would be a blunder. Often when you add up your ways to win in a position you can pass the 25% figure and find you have a take.

Over the years the Addition Method has helped me to make the correct decision hundreds of times.

Learn it and use it.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

basic Beginners Rollout 8

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

 

 

Nomination of Candidates for 2019 USBGF Board of Directors Election

As prescribed by the By-Laws, the Board of Directors of the U.S. Backgammon Federation announces that members may nominate candidates, including themselves, for election to the Board of Directors. Nominees must be members of the USBGF. The Board asks members to please limit their nominees to candidates who have expressed a willingness to serve and to contribute to the Board. Nominations must be submitted to Nominations@usbgf.org before 12:00 midnight EDT, October 31, 2019.

Five seats will be up for election this year. Four Incumbents shown below plan to stand for re-election to the Board, one seat is vacant:

Seat #1 – Karen Davis (incumbent)
Seat #2 – Richard Munitz (incumbent)
Seat #4 – Neil Kazaross (incumbent)
Seat #5 – Vacant
Seat #14 – John Pirner (incumbent)

After receiving nominations, the USBGF Governance and Nominating Committee will review the slate of candidates, confirm that each will serve if elected, solicit a short statement of qualifications, and may or may not recommend candidates to the membership.

The Board wishes to thank Dennis Culpepper for serving on the Board for the last three years. As the USBGF liaison to ABT directors, he has ensured the smooth implementation of the ABT under USBGF auspices.

The election will take place from November 15 to November 30 by electronic ballot. Each USBGF member may cast a ballot for up to five candidates. All candidates, incumbent or otherwise, run ‘at-large’ (not for specific seats) with the five candidates receiving the most votes being elected — there are certain other qualifications outlined in the By-Laws.

It is always crucial for the continued success of the organization that viable, qualified, willing candidates be nominated by the membership. Fresh ideas, new expertise, and enthusiasm enhance the functioning of the Board.

Cordially,

Karen Davis
President and Executive Director

Anita Marholm wins Womens Monthly for August!

AMarholmCongratulations to Anita Marholm for winning the USBGF Womens Monthly Online Circuit Event for August. Anita defeated Eva Zizkova in the 17-point final match.

Finishing 3/4 in the event was Leyla Zaloutskaya and Kat Denison.

The Women’s Circuit Monthly is a regular event on the USBGF Online Circuit that is open to any female USBGF member regardless of rating.

For more information about this tournament and other online events go to http://usbgf.org/trny/.

Bray’s Learning Curve: Prime versus Prime Part 2

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

2019 - Experts 17

XGID=a-BBBBC—-A—–AAdbdbbA-:1:1:1:00:0:0:1:0:10

 Once more we return to a Prime versus Prime problem. It is often said that all prime versus prime problems are doubles and takes. Is this the one that breaks that rule?

No, it is not, but it is still possible to make some big mistakes here. The position is hugely volatile and if Red rolls a six he will have lost market by a distance. He must redouble now to ensure the cube is on 4 when he wins a gammon (75% of his wins are gammons). It is a double blunder not to redouble here.

Many players of the Red checkers fail to redouble here because they fear crashing their home board. For them the glass is half-empty. In fact, Red will have to open two home board points (assuming White’s checkers remain on the bar) before White can redouble. The optimist, for whom the glass is half-full, redoubles immediately here.

What about the take? This is a very clear take, precisely because Red may crash his board. White will win 40% of the time from here, including 9% gammons. Dropping is nearly a triple blunder.

The key to the position is Red’s spare checker. Here Red has only 8 spare pips until he has to crash his board. If you move that checker around the board then then you get different answers to the doubling question. If you put the checker on the 13-pt then the answer is double/pass but on the 12-pt it is double/take.

Kit Woolsey analyses this type of position in his excellent “Backgammon Encyclopedia Volume 1”. It is currently out of print but if you ever get the chance to obtain a copy, do so without delay.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 17 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

 

 

Team USA to Compete in WBIF

Team USA has been selected to compete in the 2020 World Backgammon Internet Federation (WBIF) tournament. The team includes Art Benjamin, Neil Kazaross, Alfred Mamlet, Joe Russell (captain), Steve Sax, and Frank Talbot. Giants of Backgammon, grandmasters, and other leading players were invited to participate in a best 2-of-3 11-point match qualifier to determine seats on the team.

In 2019 the U.S. fielded a team for the first time in the WBIF online tournament with 25 countries participating. Taking place over a four-month period, the U.S. finished second in an exciting finish against Norway. Alfred Mamlet had a 10-0 win-loss record to win the individual competition.

USBGF Intermediate Divisional LXV

LibertyBJ_3 IntDiv

Congratulations to Elizabeth Liberty, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LXV. Elizabeth defeated Timothy Dugan in the 13-point final. Ali Shamsian and Curt Wilhelmsen finished 3/4 in the 11-point semi-final.
The Intermediate Divisional requires players to have a Circuit Elo rating of 1500.00 and lower at the time of registration. For more information or to register for other tourneys go to the Online Circuit Leaderboard.