Learning from the Young

Ben Friesen

Ben Friesen (photo by Karen Davis)

Stepan Nuniyants

Stepan Nuniyants, winner of the Super-32 in L.A. (photo by Steve Sax)

Youth players, attracted to backgammon during their student years and playing in USBGF online collegiate events, are making their mark on the backgammon scene. Take a Quiz prepared by noted backgammon author, winner, and Indiana University collegiate backgammon coach Chuck Bower in the current July-August issue of PrimeTime Backgammon. The Quiz is constructed from positions that arose in a USBGF online match between Ben Friesen, a student at the University of Michigan-Flint, and Ben Cousins, an undergraduate at Clemson, now studying at Georgia Tech. Chuck shows how tweaking the player’s and opponent’s boards just slightly may alter the choice of play.

Ben Friesen won the first individual USBGF U.S. Collegiate Backgammon Championship this year in an exciting finale against Michael Zakrajsek from the University of Texas-Austin. Northwestern won the team championship with David Presser, Michael Harper, and Daniel Learner. Harvey Mudd College, last year’s team winner, tied for second with the University of South Carolina. A parallel international event for students abroad was won by Agamir Gevorkyan from Russia with Junichi Kieda from Japan placing second. Ben Friesen will be playing an exhibition Youth match with a top Japanese student player at an ABT tournament this fall.

Dmitriy Obukhov, another impressive young player who has catapulted to the top ranks of live and online tournament play, and Paul Weaver probe the intricate relationship between the match score and how best to play an opening 64. Extensive rollouts show when running, splitting, or pointing is best at various match scores.

Two players who got the backgammon bug during their college years, and then set it aside for a decade or so as they focused on family and career, are making headlines in USBGF online events. See player profiles of Bruce Farquhar, a Canadian-Scotsman, who won the USBGF February 2013 online monthly circuit event, and Jim Stutz, who won the 1st Director’s Cup. Learn how they got hooked on the game, and how they have honed their skills in recent years with bots and online tournament play.

But old hands aren’t out of it yet, Steve Sax shows that “experience still rules” at the 2013 L.A. Open. In Michigan, however, many new faces appeared in the winner’s circle, despite an excellent turn-out of Giants of Backgammon, as Karen Davis reports in her article on the tournament, Everyone a Winner!

Check out the latest USBGF Online Leader Board, with the top-ten ranked players by Elo rating, win-loss records, and USBGF online tournaments won. If you haven’t played in an online tourney yet, sign up now for fun and fame. And it’s not too late to enter a three-person team to play in the USBGF Club Team Championship.

We encourage players in live ABT tournaments at every level to check out their ratings and stats on the complete USBGF Player Standings list, and the updated Leader Board prepared by Barry Silliman, USBGF Rankings Editor, with ABT rankings as of July 1, 2013, and USBGF Elo ratings for Open, Advanced, and Novice divisions based on ABT/USBGF tournament play since 2009 through July 1, 2013.

If you’re not yet a member of USBGF, or your membership has expired, sign up now and join the fun. You’ll enhance your playing experience–and enjoy this  70-page action-packed issue of PrimeTime Backgammon.