USBGF Intermediate Divisional LXIII

Keith Remels 2019 Int

Congratulations to Keith Remels, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LXIII. Keith defeated Kai Demler in the 13-point final. Vera Holley and Max McCauley 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.

Bray’s Learning Curve: Prime versus Prime

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

2019 - Experts 16

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

 There is a well-known backgammon saying that all Prime Versus prime Positions are doubles and takes. Could this be the one that breaks the rule?

The position occurred in the Battersea chouette and when Red (the box) redoubled all the team members bar one dropped. That hardy soul went on to win the game by hitting a shot in the bear-off. But was his take correct?

The answer is yes and by a long way. It is much more the redouble that is in question here, rather than the take. Dropping this redouble is worse than a double blunder. The team members visualised Red rolling a six and subsequently building a full prime to contain the White rear checker.

That is certainly one scenario but more likely is Red will not roll a six next turn. If White then rolls an immediate ace (30% chance) he is right back in the game and can mount an attack on the Red checker on White’s ace-point. If Red continues to fail to escape that rear checker then White can even win by Red crashing his home board.

As you can see from the rollout White will win 25% of the time and with a good percentage of gammons. Remember also that White will own the doubling cube and may well get the chance to use it to very good effect.

The team were far too pessimistic in their assessment of their position, only looking at the negative aspects of the position. It is crucial in all doubling cube evaluations to look at how you can win the game and not just look at how badly you can lose it.

Technically this only just a redouble as Red, but it is a very strong practical redouble as you will get a lot of drops, as evidenced by what happened in the chouette.

This skill, the ability to take a dispassionate view of a position, separates true experts from intermediates

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 16 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 LXXI

Jesse Anderson-Lehman

Congratulations to Jesse Anderson-Lehman, winner of the Advanced Divisional LXXI. Jesse defeated Giancarlo Ratto in the 17-point final. Frank Costello and Jeff Schwarz finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final.

The Advanced Divisional requires players to 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: Connectivity

Money Play. How should Red play 44?

2019 - Intermediates 16

XGID=—-AbDBB—cC—bBcba-bA-:0:0:1:44:0:0:3:0:10

Always remember that backgammon is a representation of war. An essential element of warfare is communication, the soldiers need to be able to speak to each other. Bearing that idea in mind, how should Red play his double fours?

Certainly not 18/10(2) which completely strands the rear checker and Red would be racing when trailing in the race. 7/3(2), 6/2(2) creates a stripped structure with gaps, very poor for communication and future development.

8/4(2), 7/3(2) is much better, creating a compact structure with some spares for future rolls. Best by a very short distance is 13/9(3), 6/2. This creates a four-point prime, again with some spares to cope with future rolls. Meanwhile Red needs to escape his rear checker to give himself another spare. That will give him options for racing or priming as his future game plans.

Flexibility and communication are the key factors in the decision-making process here.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 16 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

 

John Pirner, USBGF Board of Directors

John Pirner official photo_sm

The U.S. Backgammon Federation (USBGF) is pleased to announce that John Pirner has joined the Board of Directors and will serve as Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer. He lives in Minnesota and plays with the Twin Cities Backgammon Club.

He founded Gammon Stuff in 2016 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.

Besides Gammon Stuff, John is an owner and serves on the board of directors of a Midwest-based distributor that sells applied automation and power transmission products to machine builders and manufacturers. John has also served on the board of directors, the executive committee and as president of the Association for High Technology Distribution, a nonprofit trade organization that supports independent, high tech distributors in North America.

USBGF Advanced Divisional LXX

Yusuf Adenwala 2018

Congratulations to Yusuf Adenwala, winner of the Advanced Divisional LXX. Yusuf defeated Lynda Clay in the 17-point final. Kat Denison and Peter Swartwout finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final.

The Advanced Divisional requires players to 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: When in Doubt

Money Play. How should Red play 42?

2019 - Beginners 16

XGID=—B–DbC—dC-a-Bbd–b-A-:0:0:1:42:0:0:3:0:10

The age-old saying in backgammon is, “when in doubt, hit”. This position is a classic demonstration of that principle. Over the board Red played the very passive 8/4, 6/4 but that leaves an equal position.  What will Red do next turn after the passive play.

Having decided to hit which is the correct play?

The weakest hit is 17/15*, 17/13 which isolates the rear checker and gives White good threes, a number that doesn’t enter from the bar. Better is 17/15*/11 which nicely duplicates White’s fours and fives.

The best hit is 24/20, 17/5*. Crucially this connects all the rear checkers so that, if White does enter and hit, Red will have a lot of return shots the following roll.

Aggression normally pays dividends in backgammon and this position ably supports that principle. Backgammon is a game of risk and reward. Here there is certainly some risk but that is nicely counterbalanced by the potential reward.

“When in doubt, HIT”.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 16 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: Simple Bear-Off

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

Basic Begiiners 6

 XGID=-DD——————–ec-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

When we learn about doubling in backgammon we start with bear-off positions because we can calculate exactly each player’s winning chances and so we can be certain about the correct doubling positions.

So we “know” that a pure (neither player can fail to take off two checkers with each roll) three roll position is a double and drop, a four roll position is a double and a take and five roll position is a double (but not a redouble) and a take.

The next stage in our education is to introduce slight variations to the know positions to see if that makes any difference. This position is the standard four roll position but one of White’s checkers has been moved from his 1-pt to his 2-pt. Can this possibly change the doubling decisions?

Surprisingly, it can. Red should clearly still double but now White has to drop the double!

Why is this? Two reasons: White’s double ones no longer takes off four checkers thus saving him a roll; White might roll four successive aces in which case on his last roll he will only take off one checker.

These two possibilities combine to push White into drop territory although I have seen many players erroneously take this position when playing the White checkers.

So we learn the basics and then we vary things a little and gain more knowledge. Quite simply, basic education applied to backgammon.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 6

 

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

 

Inteview with Karen Davis

INTERVIEW WITH KAREN DAVIS

By Robert Stoller

Karen Davis has served as President/Executive Director of the U.S. Backgammon Federation since January 2017, having previously served as Chairman of the Board of Directors since 2010. With the approach of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the USBGF in December 2009, we asked USBGF historian Robert Stoller to interview Karen, focusing upon her experience with USBGF and her personal journey as a backgammon player. –Ed

Robert Stoller: To my surprise when I Googled “Karen Davis— health care professional”, I discovered that you have your own Wikipedia page! I had recalled from our luncheon conversation at Novi a few years ago that you had advised the Clinton White House, but I had not known that you worked in the Carter Administration as well! Could you tell us about your professional career?

Karen Davis: As an undergraduate I attended Rice University in Houston, with a double major in math and economics. I did my graduate work at Rice as well. I was awarded a doctorate in economics, and then taught for a few years as an Assistant Professor. In 1970 I moved to Washington, D.C. as a Brookings Institution Economic Policy Fellow, working for a year at the Social Security Administration in the Medicare Research office. That was followed by a six-year stint at Brookings as a Senior Fellow, writing books and articles on health economics and health financing. I spent 1974-1975 at Harvard University as a visiting lecturer in health economics.

During his presidential campaign, Jimmy Carter read my Brookings book on National Health Insurance. Once he had been elected, he invited me (in 1977) to serve as his head of health policy at the Department of Health and Human Services, and then as the director of a Public Health Service agency. The responsibilities that these jobs entailed—advising on programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program that affected the lives of millions of elderly people, children, and low-income populations in need of health care—were significant, and more gratifying than my work outside the public sector.

At the end of the Carter Administration, I took a position at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health as a Professor of Economics, chairing the Department of Health Policy and Management. In 1992, I moved to New York City—where, for the next 20 years, I headed a $700 million philanthropy, The Commonwealth Fund, devoted to financing research on improving the performance of health systems. We pioneered international surveys of health-system performance and developed innovations in the U.S. to improve the payment, quality, and delivery of health services.

Robert Stoller: When did you first learn about backgammon? What were the circumstances?

Karen Davis: I started playing in 1981 when I left the Carter Administration. I was writing a book on Medicare, and would get stir crazy from sitting at the typewriter all day and go out in the evening to play backgammon. It was the height of the backgammon craze, and the Georgetown bars in D.C. had regular backgammon tournaments. I discovered the Dupont Circle Backgammon Club, with Kent Goulding, Kit Woolsey, Ed O’Laughlin, John Klein, and other excellent players in attendance. We had frequent visitors from New York, Pittsburgh, and Richmond, including the Zaltash brothers, Dennis Culpepper, and Mike Senkiewicz. Whenever I traveled for work, I would find backgammon clubs in New York, Boston, Chicago. It was a heady time, with Goulding publishing Backgammon with the Champions and Inside Backgammon, and Woolsey writing some of his early books and articles. I learned mostly from watching and listening to chouette discussions and reading everything I could get my hands on, especially works by Woolsey, Goulding, and Robertie. I took some lessons from Goulding, and when I moved to New York, from Paul Magriel.

The attraction to me was the mathematics of backgammon. It was second nature for me to calculate probabilities, and I learned counting techniques from Jack Kissane and Kit Woolsey.

Robert Stoller: In your President’s Column in the Summer 2018 issue of PTB [Neil Kazaross cover photo], you mention taking lessons with Paul Magriel during the period 1994-1995.

How did this come about?

When, where and how did you first meet Paul?

How did the lessons proceed?

Did Professor Magriel task you with any homework assignments? If so, what can you remember about them?

Karen Davis: I moved to New York City in 1992 for professional reasons and would play at the Coterie on Madison Avenue: an exclusive club run by Louise Goldsmith. Its members included both the older generation of players like Gino Scalamandre and the young Turks like Paul Magriel, Mike Senkiewicz, Billy Horan, Jason Lester, Phil Laak, Falafel, Katie Wright, Lynn Goldsmith, and Fran Goldfarb. In addition, top European players would always visit when they came to the U.S.: for example, Gus Hansen (a Danish professional poker player and Giant of Backgammon) and Mads Andersen (also from Denmark and Backgammon World Champion in 2002)
.
I took lessons from Paul Magriel for two years. He was a great teacher. He was infinitely curious, and wanted records of all his matches. So in the pre-bot era some of us learned how to quickly record matches as they were played, and Magriel would give me free lessons in exchange for that work. He would keep index cards of the positions that interested him then and ask 15-20 top players what they would do and why. He kept records of how they “voted” and came to understand all the different aspects of—and arguments for—alternative plays.

We would meet for an hour on Sunday mornings at my Upper East Side apartment for lessons. He didn’t prepare in advance. We would just start playing and he would comment. I took copious notes, and at the end of our two years organized his instruction into the various beginning game, mid-game, end-game, gameplan categories, and gave him the material hoping he would turn it into another book!

Robert Stoller: On page 18 of that issue of PTB, there is a cropped photograph of Paul playing a match. The caption identifies the circumstance as having occurred during the 1984 Invitational Cup tournament directed by Kent Goulding and Bill Robertie. Sitting to Paul’s left is a young woman identified as you (the image has been cropped to reveal only the right half of your face) and the caption states that you were recording the match in exchange for a free lesson from Paul. What, if anything, can you remember about that event? What was Paul’s “standard” hourly rate or per-lesson fee at that time, to the best of your recollection? Did you have other occasions when you recorded matches for him? Did you record matches for anyone else?

Karen Davis: Paul charged $100 an hour for lessons, and as I said some were complimentary in exchange for recording. After every match he had recorded, Paul would set up and go through his match to catch any error in my recording while the rolls and plays were fresh in his mind. I remember once recording a match of his against Wilcox Snellings in Costa Rica. When we went through it afterwards, Wilcox flagged a particular alternative play of double 3s, and I was shocked to realize Paul hadn’t really considered it since he, of course, normally saw all reasonable moves. So I learned a lot by recording him, and loved doing it although it took enormous concentration to anticipate moves and be ready to record the instant they were made to keep up with the flow of the game.

Robert Stoller: What was your first tournament?

What prompted you to enter it?

Were you apprehensive at all prior to commencing your first match? If so, how did you deal with your nerves?

What do you remember most vividly about that first tournament experience—both positive and negative?

How did you do in that event?

Karen Davis: Yes, my first tournament experience hooked me on going to tournaments. Several D.C. players were going to the North American Backgammon Championship on Paradise Island in the Bahamas in 1984 so I decided to join them. It was still the glamorous jet-setting era in backgammon. I lost to a Spanish countess wearing a white silk suit! She made quite an impression on me. I finished second in the Intermediate consolation. The trophy prize was a bottle of Courvoisier resting on a carriage. I still have it!

A Washington Post reporter Rudy Maxa covered the tournament, capturing the mix of jet-setting wealthy players and the emerging mathematical students of the game.

The excitement and glamour of the event hooked me. I decided
to move up immediately to the Open division, preferring to learn by playing the best.

Robert Stoller: The U.S. Backgammon Federation:

What prompted you to become involved with the USBGF?

It appears that you have served on the USBGF Board of Directors in one capacity or another continuously since the inception of the USBGF.

Karen Davis: When the USBGF was formed in December 2009, Perry Gartner asked me if I would be willing to serve on the Board and I readily agreed. So, yes, I was a Founding Board member, initially serving as Treasurer—given my training in economics and nonprofit management (and willingness to do the work!). In September 2010, after a rocky start for the organization, I stepped up to serve as Chairman and Treasurer, with Perry as President and Executive Director. We launched the online membership system in September 2010 and were off and running.

I love backgammon, and was eager to see the game grow and thrive. I’m also a big believer in the nonprofit sector where the goal is doing what’s best for the community while being fiscally responsible and breaking even over the long haul. I had served as Chair of the Board of a nonprofit professional membership organization with 2500 members and knew how important it was to deliver valuable benefits to members in exchange for their dues in order to grow and thrive. I knew that it would take a few years to get to a breakeven position, and recognized the importance of raising seed capital from Founding Sponsors.

Robert Stoller: Relatedly, it strongly appears that you have served as a major contributor to each and every issue of PrimeTime Backgammon since the first issue appeared in the autumn of 2010. (Volume 1, Number 1 is the September-October 2010 issue.) You served as the Managing Editor from 2010-2017 and as the Chair of the Editorial Advisory Board for each and every issue. You have also contributed numerous interviews, player profiles, tournament reports, and reports on team events (e.g. Ohio vs Michigan; Maryland-Virginia-D.C. team competitions). Do you, yourself, happen to know how many articles you have penned for PTB? In addition, you have been credited with numerous photographs, and for the past several issues you have been listed on the masthead as one of four principal “staff” photographers (along with Bill Riles, Tara Mendicino and Candace Mayeron).

Karen Davis: Yes, the PrimeTime Backgammon magazine has been a labor of love since its onset. In the early months the Board of Directors of the USBGF held long monthly conference calls where we discussed the mission and goals of the organization. I’m action-oriented and after one lengthy call, I decided that we needed to do less talking and more doing. As an academic, I had authored a half dozen books and hundreds of professional journal articles. So it seemed to be an easy task to create a magazine, plan issues, ask leading backgammon authors to contribute articles, write content, engage a top-flight editor, have the magazine laid out by a production editor, post on our website, and send out notices to the membership that it was available. So I put together the inaugural September-October 2010 issue to coincide with the launch of our membership system. Matt Cohn-Geier served as Founding Editor with Bob Wachtel quickly becoming our major editor, both contributing articles and editing material from other authors. Gus Contos was our production editor using the Publisher software. As you note, I wrote most of the news and profile articles. It was laid out in “newsletter” format, with each issue about 30 pages long. Initially we issued it every two months, but switched to quarterly issues in 2016.

I also began taking photos at tournaments since they really increase the appeal of a magazine—the old “a picture is worth a thousand words” adage.

The magazine was offered as a benefit to Premium members and was instrumental in bringing the organization into the black after five years. We increased the Premium membership dues to $60 in September 2013 and the Basic to $35 with the main difference being electronic access to the magazine. Many thought it would be the death of the organization, but the magazine was appealing enough to attract Premium members, including many international members. And we haven’t had a dues increase since, while we’ve continued to add benefits such as a popular online tournament system!

We substantially enhanced the magazine’s content, expanding to about 120 pages per issue, and worked with Tara Mendicino to do the layout using Adobe InDesign professional software. She and Bill Riles also oversee the printing and distribution of the print issues.

I’m so appreciative for all the donated articles by top-flight authors who do so without compensation. We’ve had contributions from nearly all leading U.S. backgammon experts, making it a must-read for those serious about improving their game.

Marty Storer took over as Managing Editor in January 2017 when I stepped up as President/Executive Director of the organization. His amazing analytic insight (now the top-PR U.S. Grandmaster rated by the Backgammon Masters Awarding Body), as well as writing and editing skills, help make it the premier backgammon magazine today. It’s just gotten better and better over time!

This Summer 2019 issue is the 47th issue of PTB. A typical issue now has over a dozen articles, including 1-2 articles analyzing matches or some particular aspect of backgammon, columns by experts like Art Benjamin and Richard Munitz (and formerly Mary Hickey), and news, profile articles, and columns. Seventy backgammon experts have authored articles for the magazine over the decade. I’ve probably contributed close to 200 articles—but I’ve never taken the time to count!

Robert Stoller: What prompted you to launch the Cherry Blossom and the Sunny Florida ABT tournaments?

For the benefit of more recent tournament organizers and directors as well as for those members of the United States backgammon community who are thinking about possibly organizing their own tournament(s), do you have any thoughts you would care to share regarding what you have found to be “best practices” as well as “unsuccessful practices to be avoided if at all possible”?

Karen Davis: I lived in the Washington, D.C. area from 1970-1992, and then again from 2013-2017. It’s a powerhouse of a backgammon community with three clubs and many top-rated players. In the Spring of 2016, I spent six months in Vermont helping my younger grandson finish up boarding school. I got a call that the D.C. Capital Classic ABT tournament wasn’t going well and needed a new organizer. (See Ray Fogerlund, “Nation’s Capital 2016” in PTB Fall 2016). It seemed a shame that the nation’s capital wouldn’t have a first-rate tournament so I agreed to organize the 2017 Cherry Blossom Backgammon Championship. I’m a big believer in doing what I know I can do well, and recruiting others to do what I’m not good at! So I recruited Bill Riles as tournament director, and convinced local club director Barry Silliman to come back to help run it along with Jason Lee. After a year Barry was ready to step back into the TD role in 2018 and 2019, assisted by Ben Friesen, Kent Goulding, and others. Ben is ready to take over the lead role in another year.

It has also been an important venue for the USBGF—hosting the USBGF Tournament of Stars and the USBGF National Championship East. So it became part of the USBGF fund-raising strategy, attracting new Founding Sponsors to be part of the Tournament of Stars.

It’s been a joy to watch the attendance climb to 146 this year, one of the five largest on the ABT in just three short years. Organizing a tournament has a lot of moving parts that have to be done well— hotel contract, putting together a top-flight staff, using modern communication and marketing techniques, attractive website with online registration system, setting and hitting a budget, overseeing an operational plan for ensuring that everything goes smoothly, as well as the actual running of the tournament. I keep intending to draft an ABT Directors Handbook to have a repository of tournament director suggestions and practices to make it easier for new directors and organizers. So that’s still on the To Do list!

Similarly, when I retired from a full-time position at Johns Hopkins at the end of 2017 and moved to my South Florida condo, I decided to rebuild an active backgammon tournament community in South Florida. There had been successful ABT tournaments there a decade earlier under director Elayne Feinstein. Kathy Weiner had taken over, but was moving to Vegas and was unable to continue. So it seemed natural to try a new approach, building on the appeal of Florida as a sunny, vacation destination.

Robert Stoller: I had not realized until I started cataloging every time your name appears in the current issue of PTB that you have also energized the South Florida Backgammon Club as a “Prime Club”. According to the data compiled at page 98 of the Spring 2019 issue, yours is the third-largest Prime Club in the nation (behind Beltway Backgammon and Backgammon-By-The-Bay, but ahead of a whole host of long-standing, well-established clubs, including Gammon Associates (Patrick Gibson), Flint Area (Carol Joy Cole), NYC (Richard Munitz), Chicago Bar Point (Amy Trudeau), and New England (Albert Steg and Alex Zamanian).

My questions are, how did you decide to pursue that initiative, and to what do you attribute your resounding success?

Karen Davis: I’m a big believer that local clubs are the bedrock of a successful, thriving backgammon community. I started the D.C. Metro Backgammon Club in Washington, D.C. and used social media including MeetUp, Facebook, and bulk e-mails to area players. It’s a long-term investment, but attracts one or two new players at each gathering. Vinson Blanton took over as director of D.C. Metro when I moved to Florida, but I continue to pay for the MeetUp site and play at the club when I am in D.C.. We also experimented with a USBGF MeetUp site which sent out notices of local D.C. club events as well as ABT events. Those efforts have been successful in attracting anywhere from 15-25 players at weekly or bi-weekly D.C.-area tournaments. I also started a backgammon interest group at the Cosmos Club, a private social club where I stay when I am in D.C.

We had the same experience in South Florida using MeetUp, the Sunny Florida Facebook site, and a bulk e-mail service. I’ve now built up a South Florida mailing list of about 200 backgammon players (450 in all of Florida) and send out notices of meetings. I also get out the results and statistics including Player of the Year points using backgames.org, typically reporting results the evening after the tournament (no matter how exhausted I am at that point!). We post photos on the Sunny Florida Facebook page. Players love the instant feedback—and it lets visitors to our MeetUp and Sunny Florida Facebook page know that we have an active, thriving community.

We now draw 16-25 players at our twice-monthly events—one in Aventura between Miami and Fort Lauderdale and one in Boca Raton between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. Gary Koscielny and Rick Wolf have been great, running the tournaments when I’m traveling. We also plan activities with the Palm Beach chapter (run by Jason Briggs), and I attend the weekly Miami Club tournament in Coral Gables (run by Leo Bueno) when I’m in town. We make sure to promote all the South Florida backgammon events regularly.

That kind of backgammon community base has been instrumental in building attendance at our annual regional South Florida tournaments (part of the USBGF Local Club Initiative) as well as the Sunny Florida ABT event.

I believe that this type of sustained long-term activity by local clubs has been instrumental in increasing our Novice division turnout at Cherry Blossom and Sunny Florida. We had 23 Novices in the 2017 Cherry Blossom, which grew to 32 Novices/Advanced Novices in the 2018 Cherry Blossom and 42 Novices/Intermediates at the 2019 Cherry Blossom—the second largest after NY Metro in the ABT (NY Metro also uses MeetUp to grow its player base). We had 16 Novices at our 2018 Sunny Florida tournament.

We still need to experiment with attracting and retaining Novice players, and with helping them to stay engaged and become tournament players. Too often they show up at weekly or monthly tournaments, lose, and feel that they aren’t of a caliber of other players so drop out. Recently we received a suggestion to try an Mentor/Novice doubles tournament—with the Novice playing and Mentor advising on moves. That seems a keen way to help Novices learn, win some of the time, and enjoy both the social and competitive nature of the game. So that’s also on the To Do list!

Robert Stoller: Team Competitions—Ohio vs Michigan; Maryland-Virginia-D.C.

How did these events come about?

To what extent, if at all, have any of these events brought new players into ABT competitions, either live tournaments or on-line events?

Karen Davis: Regional team competitions are a great way for players to get to know other players in their area and socialize. There’s a natural competitive spirit between geographic regions. I have a home in Toledo, Ohio, which is accessible to both Michigan and Ohio players. That prompted me to start the Ohio-Michigan Team Challenge eight years ago. It uses a round-robin format of 8 players per team. The local club director serves as team captain (Carol Joy Cole for Michigan and Joe Miller for Ohio). I provide hospitality and the playing venue at my home. The Ohio players tend to come in Saturday evening for dinner and a warm-up tournament plus chouette play. The Michigan players come in on Sunday morning for brunch and the team tournament, with lots of food on hand—chili, sandwiches, fruit, vegetables.

Michigan won the first five years, but Ohio has won the last three. The 2018 Ohio-Michigan Team Challenge was a cliff-hanger. After the 8-player round robin 7-point matches, the teams were tied at 32-32. A 3-point playoff between Chris Yep (director of the Columbus OH club) and Dmitriy Obukhov (MI) decided the outcome. Dmitriy left a 1:17 shot in the bear-off of the last game, Chris hit, contained Dmitriy’s checker and won—making history. The Ohio team included Joe Miller, captain, John Baron, Ray Cifani, Karen Davis, Farhad Forudi, Mary Hickey, Mike Vasilatos, Chris Yep. The Michigan team was Carol Joy Cole (captain), Bill Calton, Paul Farah, Faris Gabbara, Ricky Griggs, Dmitriy Obukhov, John Quinn, and Jim Slomkoski.

It’s a fun day both teams look forward to each year. Socializing at my home with lots of good food creates a very different atmosphere than most tournaments. It fosters friendships, and lots of camaraderie that is good for the game.

I also supported a Maryland-Virginia-D.C. event held at the restaurant where the Beltway monthly tournaments were held. It ended when the restaurant closed and the club switched venues. As I had hoped, it was also a fun event, forging great relationships among area clubs and players.

I also organized a competition between the Cosmos Club backgammon club in Washington, D.C. and the Metropolitan Club this year. The Metropolitan Club has 70 members in its backgammon interest group compared with about a dozen at the Cosmos Club. We put up a valiant effort—but lost! One of the future challenges is getting more private social club players engaged in ABT tournament play. We had several at the 2018 and 2019 Cherry Blossom, so it’s beginning to take form.

Robert Stoller: You’ve enjoyed some success at backgammon in the last few years. As of the end of November 2018, you had earned 26.00 ABT points, raising your lifetime ABT points total to 107.53—thereby moving you up to 49th place on the ABT’s all-time leader-board. Only 45 players had broken the 100-point (lifetime) barrier.

Hall of Fame inductees who were trailing you on the ABT’s all-time leader-board as
of that juncture were:
» CJC—#50/ 103.33 life-time ABT points
» Howard Markowitz—#58/ 93.56
» Bill Robertie—#81/ 68.11
» Joe Sylvester—#110/ 54.23
» X-22—#199/ 32.71
» KG—#230/ 29.19
» Nack—#420/ 17.03

HOFers who exceeded you as of 11-27-2018 were:
» Neil—#1/ 577.14
» Ray—#2/ 555.64
» Ed O’—#3/311.91
» Malcolm—#6/ 264.76 [note—Steve Sax had not yet been inducted] » Kit—#14/ 182.10
» Senk—#18/ 154.66
» Joe Russell—#19/ 154.61
» Walter Trice—#23/ 146.53

My question is: To what do you attribute your recent ABT “breakthrough”?

Karen Davis: I’ve found a little more time to work on my game since retiring from my full-time professional position at the end of 2017. I’ve taken lessons from Marty Storer, and participated in Backgammon Masters Awarding Body events, gradually working my way up to my current Masters Class 2 rating. I’ve enjoyed reading Michy Kageyama’s new books, and have reread some of the classics.

Karen_Davis_Interview

4TH MERIT OPEN MONTENEGRO Karen enjoyed learning ideas for tournament organization from the superbly organized Merit Open Montenegro.

This year it was a particular thrill to be selected as a member of Team USA in the World Team Championships at the 4th Merit Open Montenegro. I certainly wasn’t the strongest member of the team but did pull off the best win-loss record and finished 3rd/4th in the Ladies Tournament in the Merit Open. I had all my matches recorded by Mate Feher, even managing one match with a PR under 2!

2018 was definitely a good year for me across the board. In addition to finishing #9 in ABT points (#49 in All-time ABT Points), I ranked #3 in USBGF National Master Points (#6 in Lifetime), and rank #2 in Lifetime USBGF Online Master Points.

Perhaps the biggest thrill was winning the NY Metropolitan Open Super Jackpot in 2019, playing Sebastian Wilkinson the top-ranked BMAB British payer and Giant #30.

Recent wins include:

2019—1st Super Jackpot, NY Metropolitan Open; 1st Consolation, Ohio; 3rd/4th Ladies Tournament, 4th Merit Open Montenegro Grand Prix International Backgammon Championship; 1st BMABUSA #10 at the Cherry Blossom; 1st (tied) After-tournament tourney, Chicago Open.

2018—2nd ProAm Texas (with Kit Woolsey); 1st Consolation, Texas; Ohio Masters Jackpot 2nd; US Open 3rd Consolation; Atlanta, 1st Consolation; Chicago Open, tied for 4th in Swiss format.

2017—1st in Montreal Open Masters Jackpot; finalist in Masters Jackpot and 2nd in Consolation at Ohio State; 1st Consolation at NY Metro; 2nd in Pro-Am Doubles (with Kit Woolsey) at Texas; 1st in Doubles and 1st Tie in BMAB (with 4.6 PR) at Michigan; 1st in Older & Wiser Senior event at Silicon Valley.

Robert Stoller: Mentoring Stephen Collins

I notice that you won the Michigan doubles in 2017 with your grandson Stephen Collins. Has this effort also encouraged any of Stephen’s friends/schoolmates to get into backgammon?

Karen Davis: Stephen (21) is a great doubles partner for me. He’s a very spatial-visual player, and I’m more mathematically oriented. So the combination is great. He also came in 2nd in doubles with Tuvya Felt in Carolina in 2014, and we came in second in doubles at Carolina 2015. He’s played off and on at ABT tournaments since he was 13, finishing 1st or 2nd in the Novice or Junior division at 2011 Chicago Open, 2011 Florida, 2012 NY Metro, 2012 Pittsburgh, 2012 Ohio, and 3rd in Charlotte NC in 2013
.
But he’s really more into outdoors active sports—skateboarding is his current love, along with surfing, water skiing, snowboarding.

Backgammon has provided a time for us to travel together, enjoy each other’s company, and have fun. He’s lived with me except when he’s been away to school since his mother (my daughter) passed away from breast cancer in December 2010. His brother David (23) lives with his dad and stepmother and her children at our family home in Toledo where he studies engineering at the University of Toledo. He goes with me to backgammon tournaments in New York and Chicago—but he spends his time exploring big city attractions! When he was a teenager, I took him to Magic the Gathering tournaments and was stunned to see thousands of young men playing the game. It has an Elo system, streamed matches, and many features in common with backgammon—but clearly has found a way to appeal to youth that we’ve yet to unearth in backgammon.

Robert Stoller: Do you have any unrealized goals in backgammon that you still hope to achieve?

Karen Davis: The big one is ensuring the long-term viability of the USBGF and a smooth transition to new leadership. In my view the organization would benefit from someone at the helm who is younger, savvy with the latest technology, and has the time, energy, and enthusiasm to take the organization to a new level of performance.

Robert Stoller: Is there anything else you would like to discuss or comment upon that I have not already asked about?

Karen Davis: It’s been an extraordinary opportunity to have had a leadership role in shaping USBGF policies and ensuring their execution over the last decade. It’s an amazing organization that has benefitted in innumerable ways from the contributions of members, volunteers, staff, directors, and sponsors. Thanks to you for serving as our historian and ensuring we have a record of this remarkable period of our history. We can all share with pride in the record of accomplishment in its first decade. Here’s to an even more exciting future! 

ROBERT STOLLER

Robert_Stoller
ABOUT ROBERT

Robert Stoller is the USBGF historian, a post he has earned through his prodigious knowledge of the history of backgammon. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he served as Assistant Attorney General for the state of Alaska.

He is an enthusiastic and generous supporter of the USBGF with a passion for ensuring that video interviews of inductees in the American Hall of Fame are recorded for posterity. He has overseen video productions of the American Backgammon Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in 2015 and 2016, and interviewed on videotape many of the inductees, using skills honed in his illustrious legal career.

He is a USBGF Diamond Founding Sponsor and Prime Benefactor. He is a co-founder of the Anchorage Backgammon Club, and has recruited fellow members of his Alaska backgammon club to become USBGF members.

Bray’s Learning Curve: More on Match Play Redoubles

Match Play. Red trails 0-2 to 7. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

2019 - Experts 15

XGID=–aCABBB—-AA—-c-Cc-dd-:1:1:1:00:0:2:0:7:10

This continues the theme from last week. When I first started playing backgammon match play doubling was still a very little researched and understood area of the game. With the advent of the bots things changed dramatically and modern players are light years ahead of their counterparts from the 1970s and 1980s.

However, players still wait too long to redouble in certain match plays situations and this week’s problem is one of them. White’s board is a mess and he already has four dead checkers. Red’s position is very sound with the exception of the dilly builder on his 3-pt.

For money and with a fully active cube it would be a blunder to redouble here but at 0-2 to 7 it is a very different story. With the cube on 4 a gammon for White will only gain him one extra point. Secondly, he will be very slow to redouble to 8 because Red will only need about 8% winning chances to accept. These two factors are huge in making the redoubling decision.

The position is highly volatile and by next turn Red may have missed his market and doing that when trailing in a match is nearly a criminal offence! Red must redouble now to make sure White will still accept.

Look, for example, at the sequence 53 for Red played 12/4, followed by 54 for White, played 18/22, 18/23. Red will have missed his market by a huge margin and in fact he will be too good to redouble.

You should always take longer to consider a redouble than an initial double, purely because there will be more at stake.

A lot of players would miss the redouble here because they would be influenced by their “money play thinking”. Winning backgammon matches is largely about good cube handling. Not redoubling this position is a 2.5 blunder.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 15 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

 

President’s Column: Salute to our Sponsors

By Karen Davis, President and Executive Director

The U.S. Backgammon Federation (USBGF) will celebrate our tenth anniversary at the end of 2019. It is an appropriate time to review how much the organization has benefited from the support of our founding Sponsors, Prime Benefactors, Educational Sponsors, and Corporate Sponsors.

Their early support was critical to the success of the organization in attracting members, offering a rich array of benefits in support of our mission, and achieving financial viability. To date, 180 Sponsors have contributed a total of $286,000 to the USBGF. These funds have provided seed capital to the organization, supported infrastructure development such as the online membership system and website, covered losses in the early years, and permitted the organization to continue to develop new benefits and initiatives.

Founding Sponsors

The Founding Sponsors program was launched in May 2010 with a donation from the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Harvey Gillis. Harvey is a venture capitalist who urged creation of the program, recognizing that new businesses need start-up support to create the services and products that will generate a stream of revenue to cover future operating expenses. Karen Davis, a Founding Board member and Treasurer who succeeded Harvey as Chairman in the Fall of 2010, suggested that five levels of Founding Sponsors be created: Diamond ($6400 contribution), Platinum($3200), Gold ($1600), $800 (Silver), and Bronze ($400). The idea was derived, of course, from the doubling cube, but also drew on

  • Be in on the ground floor of an organization that advances the intellectually stimulating game of backgammon.
  • Support the mission and activities of the organization—A not-for-profit organization devoted to advancing the awareness, participation, education and enjoyment of the skill-based game of backgammon.
  • Receive benefits including lifetime membership for Diamond/ Platinum/Gold Sponsors, 10 years for Silver Sponsors, and five years for Bronze Sponsors; an invitation to participate in an annual USBGF Tournament of Stars doubles tournament pairing Founding Sponsors with stars of backgammon; and a specially designed doubling cube with their name and level of support on the cube.
  • Be recognized in perpetuity for their support, both on the USBGF website and in PrimeTime Backgammon magazine.

Karen Davis brings her expertise as a former nonprofit CEO, economist, and noted health policy expert to her role as President and Executive Director of the USBGF.Capture

 

 

 

 

Prime Benefactors

On August 15, 2014, the USBGF launched a three-year Prime Tournament program to provide added money prizes to USBGF members attending major tournaments in America. The idea grew out of a meeting between USBGF leaders and Giant of Backgammon Falafel Natanzon at the Chicago Open in May 2014. Falafel stressed the need to improve the economics of backgammon tournaments by sweetening the pot.

In launching the initiative, the USBGF pointed out that it is a win-win-win partnership. Tournament directors benefit because added money makes their events more attractive; players gain increased support and recognition; and the USBGF expands membership and helps fulfill our mission to grow the game. The initiative has been successful, and the USBGF has extended it annually, modifying some of its elements over time.

The stated objectives are:
» Increase USBGF membership.
» Increase tournament attendance.
» Enhance USBGF role, visibility, and influence.

Prime Benefactors were sought to finance the Prime Tournament initiative. Prime Benefactor levels include: Chairman’s Club Prime Benefactors ($1,500 annual contribution); President’s Club ($1,000 annual contribution); Sustaining ($750 annual contribution); Supporting ($500 annual contribution); Contributing ($250 annual contribution). Geoffrey Parker Games provided a special doubling cube to Benefactors.

Key provisions of the USBGF Prime Tournament program include:

» Raising a Prime Tournament Prize Fund from a new category of USBGF Prime Benefactors to be used to provide added money to Prime Tournaments; providing trophies to USBGF Master Point leaders; and supporting an online Federation Cup tournament with free entries for members and a cash prize to winners.
» In turn, Tournament Directors encourage USBGF enrollment at national tournaments through a variety of strategies, including announcements, a membership table, and active outreach to players.
» The USBGF markets Prime Tournaments, giving information in PrimeTime Backgammon magazine and on the USBGF website; notice on the USBGF Facebook site; and a bulk email notice to over 3000 USBGF members and registered website guests with links to tournament brochures and websites.

President’s Column

From 2015 to 2018, the USBGF provided a total of over $50,000 in added money. Initially the added money per tournament ranged from $500 to $1000 according to size. Currently we provide $5 per USBGF member playing in the tournament in the previous year. Directors have considerable discretion to allocate the added money to different events: Championship, Advanced, and Novice divisions for winners who are USBGF members; side events such as blitzes or mini-matches; free roll events; or door prizes awarded by random drawing.

An analysis of the program found that:

» More than a dozen Prime Benefactors have contributed to the program.
» Attendance at Prime Tournaments increased by over 10 percent annually, reversing a previous decade of decline in membership.
» USBGF membership growth climbed 25 percent. Enrollment at tournaments was particularly marked.
» The percent of Prime tournament entrants who are USBGF members increased from 55% to 74%, including 90% of Championship players.
» Tournaments that have specific USBGF events such as the Tournament of Stars and National Championship have the greatest percentage of USBGF membership.

Perhaps more importantly, the program has established that well-publicized “added money” increases tournament attendance. ABT directors now try to recruit sponsors for their individual tournaments. The USBGF has recruited Corporate Sponsors who donate backgammon boards to be awarded at larger ABT tournaments (more on this below). While modest compared with money added by casinos in European tournaments, it has become part of the modern tournament scene.

Prime Benefactor funds were also used to provide cash prizes to the top four finishers in the online USBGF Federation Cup. Entry was free. Held between March 2016 and January 2017, it was the largest online tournament ever held on the USBGF Online Circuit with 448 entries. Fourteen single elimination qualifiers, each composed of 32 entrants, were held between March 10 and September 1, 2016. Players losing a match could re-enter twice. The single-elimination playoff of the 14 qualifier winners started on November 1 of 2016 and concluded in January, 2017. Semi-finalists were Peggy Neubig and Peter Wisniewski. Jeb Horton prevailed over David Kettler in the finals.

In 2017, USBGF added money of $5 per USBGF member was extended to annual local club initiative tournaments as well as ABT tournaments. Twenty-two local clubs participated in both 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. Winners of the local club initiatives play in a Local Club Initiative online tournament with the winner receiving a free entry to an ABT tournament of their choice. Gus Contos from Los Angeles’s Gammon Associates won in 2018, and Carl Sorg from the Atlanta Northside Club won in 2019.

Educational Sponsors

Growing the backgammon community through outreach to newcomers and younger players is a major goal of the USBGF. Sponsors have been generous over time in contributing to four major educational programs:

» Boards for Kids—provides backgammon boards to elementary and secondary schools and other youth programs.
» Collegiate Program—provides backgammon boards to college and university backgammon clubs and scholarships to winners of collegiate backgammon tournaments.
» Novice and Newcomer Initiative—provides complimentary USBGF membership and backgammon books for beginners to ABT Novice division entrants and newcomers.
» Streaming—provides support for streaming and commentary of matches at ABT tournaments.

The USBGF originally put most of our emphasis on backgammon clubs in schools and colleges. We enjoyed some initial success, with about two dozen colleges and universities forming backgammon clubs and competing in an annual collegiate online backgammon tournament. These proved difficult to sustain, however, as student champions graduated and moved on to other interests. Similarly, high school backgammon clubs competed against a wide array of other activities for students and tended to lapse over time. New approaches and ideas, such as use of backgammon apps and mobile devices, may be required for long-term success.

The USBGF Novice and Newcomer Initiative, launched in 2016, has had a demonstrable impact. In 2015, 135 Novices entered ABT tournaments. Three years later in 2018, the number of Novices at tournaments had doubled to 268. Strategies included providing free backgammon books to Novice entrants and complimentary
USBGF memberships. Some ABT tournaments provide a dedicated Novice director to ensure a good experience for Novices, providing tips or special lectures for Novice players. The most successful tournaments are those that make a year-round effort to attract new players to local club tournaments through use of social media, particularly Facebook and MeetUp notices of meetings, as well as news and photos.

Most ABT tournaments now stream matches to a worldwide audience. The USBGF provides $6,000 annual support to help tournament directors cover the cost of streaming staff. We also sponsor streaming at the Backgammon World Championships in Monte Carlo. A total of over 350 matches were streamed in 2018 with USBGF support. For interested directors, the USBGF Remote Commentary Support Center arranges top-flight commentators for finals of ABT tournaments.

Corporate Sponsors

» The USBGF now has five corporate sponsors: Gammon Stuff, Gammon Guys, Cook Travel, GameSite 2000, and Geoffrey Parker Games. The criteria for USBGF corporate sponsorship include:

» The corporate sponsor must be a recognized provider of quality products and services.
» Owners, directors, officers, and management must have good reputation and standing in the community.
» The sponsor must not require an exclusive relationship with the USBGF.
» The sponsor must provide a significant benefit to the USBGF, ABT tournaments, and/or members.
» These include discounts on goods and services or provision of free goods and services such as backgammon equipment, software, publications, or airline travel/hotel accommodations.

All corporate sponsors are recognized on the USBGF website and in our quarterly PrimeTime Backgammon magazine.

The first USBGF corporate sponsor was GameSite 2000, the maker of eXtreme Gammon software and host of the GammonSite backgammon server. GameSite 2000 provides a 20% discount to USBGF Premium members for first-time purchase of XG ($48 instead of $60), and gives all USBGF members a 30% discount on the annual fee for use of the GammonSite server ($14 instead of $20). The XG discount has been a key factor in increasing membership at the Premium level. The GammonSite server is one of five acceptable servers for USBGF Online Circuit tournaments. On occasion, we award an annual GammonSite membership to online tournament winners.

Gammon Stuff, the U.S. distributor of FTH backgammon boards and equipment, is a generous supporter of large ABT tournaments. It offers a free board valued at $950 to the nine ABT tournaments that had 100 or more entrants in the previous year.

Gammon Guys, the U.S. distributor of Artgammon backgammon boards and equipment, similarly offers a free backgammon board valued at $600 to 11 ABT tournaments with 10 or more Novice entrants in the previous year. The board is awarded to the winner of the Novice or Intermediate division.

Cook Travel arranges airline travel discounts for USBGF members of 2-5% on economy tickets, and 10-30% on business/first-class tickets on selected airlines including Delta and American. For international tickets costing more than $800, the savings vary between 10-30%. These discounts are on Turkish Airlines, Delta, American, and Lufthansa. Cook Travel has been around for more than 40 years and specializes in discounted first and business class travel. Cook has been recommended by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and was an affiliate of American Express for 20 years before becoming independent.

Geoffrey Parker Games provides doubling cubes to USBGF Prime Benefactors.

USBGF Corporate Sponsors receive discounted advertising rates in our quarterly PrimeTime Backgammon magazine. Their logos appear on a USBGF backdrop which is displayed prominently at ABT tournaments, and used as a backdrop for photographs of winners.

Looking to the Future

As we enter our second decade, the U.S. Backgammon Federation is poised to raise awareness and interest in backgammon tournament participation to a new level, be a leader in forging international partnerships and activities, and enhance benefits for a growing membership. Our success in doing so will continue to depend on the generosity of donors and sponsors.

Modern Communications Outreach Strategy

The USBGF has raised awareness of backgammon as a mind-sport through our social media presence and support of streaming backgammon matches. In the last year, we have developed a successful social media strategy that has resulted in a significant increase in total fans of our USBGF and American Backgammon Tour (ABT) Facebook sites—now over 55,000. These sites are a leading source of backgammon news as well as educational and historical material, including such popular features as Bray’s Learning Curve, Thursday Teaching Videos, and Flashback Friday. The ABT site showcases the 20 national ABT tournaments, including key positions from final matches and links to match videos. This generates excitement and increases exposure to ABT events, helping continue the ABT growth trend. We have also established a USBGF Remote Commentary Support Center that provides expert commentary on final matches of ABT tournaments, often on a par with professional sports commentators.

However, a modern communications outreach strategy will be required in order to reach even larger audiences and attract fans to follow backgammon stars as they play in tournaments around the world. We have demonstrated this potential and are poised to increase worldwide exposure to top-rate backgammon to a substantially higher level.

Backgammon across the Globe

For the first time this year, the U.S. fielded a team for the World Team Championships (WTC; see this issue’s article on that recent event, held in Montenegro). The event had previously been restricted to European countries and sponsored by the European Backgammon Federation. The U.S. and Japan have now been invited to participate and join a newly formed World Backgammon Federation. Negotiations are underway to restructure governance of the organization, with the goals of representing the worldwide backgammon community, agreeing upon a common core set of rules and options to accommodate different practices around the world, formalizing a world backgammon ranking system with guidelines on qualifying events, and making the World Team Championships a truly global event.

 

Doubling Cube

Sponsors are particularly needed to support the World Team Championships. The venue appropriately should rotate among Europe, Japan/Asia, and the USA/Americas, so travel expenses for a four-member team can be prohibitive. Another priority for USBGF fund-raising is sponsorship to cover expenses when the U.S. hosts the WTC, which ideally would occur about once every five years. Such a prestigious event can greatly benefit from a modern communications strategy to reach a worldwide viewing audience.

Sponsorship of USBGF Flagship Events Similarly, we can raise awareness of expert backgammon play in the U.S. through sponsorship of the USBGF’s two flagship events: the Tournament of Stars and the USBGF National Championship. The Tournament of Stars is held in connection with the Cherry Blossom Backgammon Championships in the Washington, DC area in the spring, and pairs Founding Sponsors with backgammon stars. The National Championship consists of East and West divisional events, which are held at the Cherry Blossom (East) and Los Angeles Open (West), with the winners playing off for the national championship, and the champion receiving a FTH USBGF Championship board.

Coverage of these flagship events, heightened through streaming and social media, would enhance participation as well as visibility. Sponsorship is key to providing the prize pool that will ensure premier status.
A Second Decade In our first decade of existence, the USBGF has achieved significant progress as a national non-profit organization, representing players and growing the backgammon community. As we enter the coming decade, we must make a major investment in the infrastructure that supports the organization: revamping our website; developing modern tournament tools, software, and technological support for local club and ABT directors; enhancing our online tournament and instructional offerings; and refreshing our backgammon shop. We have benefited greatly from the dedicated volunteer contributions of our leadership and members. Sustaining these efforts requires converting to a still lean, but compensated, full-time staff in key positions. Staff will be responsible for seizing opportunities to offer enhanced benefits to members and reach new players and fans.

So with deep appreciation for the generosity and support provided by our sponsors and members, we invite your continued investment, ideas, and insight as our second decade approaches. With the potential of modern media and technology, we have an exciting opportunity to put backgammon on the map as a leading mind-sport.

“Get Into the Game—Become a Member”

USBGF Intermediate Divisional LXII

Sebastian Hagadol IntDiv LXII

Congratulations to Sebastian Adams, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LXII. Sebastian defeated Curt Wilhelmsen in the 13-point final. Karl Sours and Max McCauley 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. See current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard.

Bray’s Learning Curve: Containment

 

Match Play. Double Match Point. How should Red play 41?

2019 - Intermediates 15

XGID=-BBBCB———–aBbcBccc-:0:0:1:41:6:6:0:7:10

This is a problem about containment. A whole book could be written on the topic but let’s start with this one position.

Red has been lucky enough to roll a number where he can hit from either of his two anchors. The question is how should he hit the White blot?  Over the board Red played 18/17*/13 trying for coverage of his outer board but that play turns out to be an error.

The bots have taught us in positions like this to protect against jokers. What is White’s only joker? Double sixes, which will nearly certainly win the game and match for him. Therefore, Red should keep the 18-pt for the time being and later on, if White remains on the bar, he should make his 12-pt with the same idea.

This joker prevention play turns out be more important than diversifying the rear checkers. The best play in this position  is 21/17*/16. After that, if White stays on the bar, Red will have time to diversify his four rear checkers to give himself maximum coverage of the outer boards.

Here’s an additional question for you to ponder. After Red plays 21/17*/16 how should White subsequently play 61? I’ll leave you to sleep on that one!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 15 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 LXIX

2019 Garrett Duquesne

Congratulations to Garrett Duquesne, winner of the Advanced Divisional LXIX. Garrett defeated Martin Stemberka in the 17-point final. Elizabeth Liberty and Jesse Anderson Lehman 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: Prat

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

2019 - Beginners 15

XGID=-a–BaCBC—eC—–e-b-Ba-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

 A classic middle game position. Red has the advantage, not least because he is on roll. Is he good enough to double? Can White accept a double?

Leaning doubling reference positions is long and arduous and so we need  shortcut. That shortcut is PRaT which stands for Position, Race, Threat. If you are ahead in two out of three key elements you should certainly be considering doubling. From the taker’s perspective. If you are behind in all three factors the position is nearly certainly a drop.

In this position the race is even. Red has slightly the better overall position as his structure is stronger than White’s. The position is volatile as Red is threatening a blitz. There are a lot of sequences where White won’t be taking a double next turn.

This implies Red should double, which is correct. What about the take? White trails in two of three factors but, other than the checker on his ace-point, his position is sound and if he can establish an anchor in Red’s home board he will be in the game for a long time. Of course, he may get blitzed as Red has ten checkers in the attack zone, but nearly all backgammon positions have inherent risk. White should take the double.

One way of learning is to see what adjustments to the position can alter the  result. Here, if we move a checker from Red’s mid-point to his 9-pt the position becomes double/drop because Red’s attack is now just too strong. This sort of exercise can rapidly improve your playing strength.

So remember to use PRaT – it is a fundamental tool for evaluating doubling decisions

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 15 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: Blitz Reference

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

Basic Begiiners 5

XGID=aa-B-BC-A–AdDa–c-e—-B-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

Other than end-game situations and races how do we learn when to double and whether or not to take an offered double?

Backgammon is far too difficult a game to be able to evaluate doubling decisions over the board without prior knowledge of similar positions. These are known as ‘Reference Positions’. A Reference Position is one where we ‘know’ the correct cube action for both players. Expert players have thousands of reference positions in their mental library. Beginners have very few and consequently a) make a lot of mistakes and b) take a lot of time to make decisions. Building a library of reference positions takes time so the more you study the quicker you can build your own library.

Positions rarely repeat but types of positions constantly repeat. An expert will look at the position in front of him, call up a Reference Position, make adjustments for the differences between that and the actual position and, more often than not, arrive at the correct doubling decision.

This week’s position is an early blitz. Red has rolled an early 33 and White has stayed on the bar. The standard Reference Position for an early 33 is the same as this position but with the two blots on the respective 11-pts both on the mid-points. That position is known to be both a correct double and a correct take.

How do the two 11-pt blots affect things? They are both in Red’s favour. Firstly, his 64 hits another blot. Secondly he has a checker closer to the attack zone than in the standard reference position, strengthening his blitz attack.

Those two differences turn what was a reasonable take into a close pass for White, although many would take because of an imperfect Reference Position library.

So remember, most doubling decisions are based on Reference Positions. This example was reasonably easy but sometimes the adjustments are much more difficult  to perform and then the expert comes into his own.

The quicker you can build your own reference library the stronger player you will become.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 5

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: Take Care With Redoubles

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

b) Match Play. Red trails 5-6 to 11. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

 2019 - Experts 14

XGID=aB–b-DDB—-Ba-a–bbcAb–:1:1:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

Whenever I face a match play cube decision I first try to create a benchmark by looking at the correct action for money. Here Red still has a lot of work to do to win the game. His home board structure is poor and White is in the game for ever with his 4-pt anchor. If things go well for him, Red can win a gammon but given the strength of White’s home board Red will not expect to get many drops but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t redouble.

A cautious player might hold the cube but not redoubling is technically an error – the position is too volatile to wait.  Red will win a high percentage of gammons and he would rather win 8 points rather than 4.  Even so, White has an easy take and dropping would be a huge blunder.

What about the match play decision. Now things are very different. A 4-cube where either player could win a gammon and the match should give both sides pause for thought. Whenever I am redoubled in a match situation I always take extra thinking time. Note especially that cube will be virtually useless to White,. Red will only need 10% game-winning chances to take a redouble to 8 so White will hardly ever redouble.

That lack of cube usefulness for White plus the gammon threat means that now the cube decisions are very different. Not redoubling becomes a blunder and the take is right on the borderline for White. Because it is so close the opponent factor must be considered. If White is the stronger player he should probably drop but if he is the weaker the player he should take.

Remember, redoubling decisions in match play are usually crucial to the outcome of the match so ALWAYS take your time.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

 Money

Experts 14 Rollout - Money

 

Match

Experts 14 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: Think Ahead

 Money Game. How should Red play 43?

2019 - Intermediates 14

XGID=-a—aE-C–AdD—a-bAb-bbA:1:1:1:43:0:0:3:0:10

Red is in a lot of trouble in this position. He faces a strong blitz and the loss of gammon.

His 3 is forced. He must play bar/22. The question is how to play the 4?

Exposing a new blot with 8/4 (although that duplicates 3’s) or 6/2 does not look right.That leaves the choice between 22/18, 20/16 and 11/7. Before making any play, Red must consider his game plan and uppermost in his mind should be this question, “how can I establish anchor?”. If he can establish an anchor, he will have a foothold in the game and some winning chances or at least he might save the gammon.

Over the board, Red chose 20/16 but that does not follow the game plan. After bar/22 he has two potential anchors, the 22-pt and the 20-pt. The best chance to make one of those points is to leave them both slotted.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 14 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 March Monthly Circuit

2017_AlfredMamlet_Silicon V

Congratulations to Alfred Mamlet, winner of the USBGF 2019 March Monthly Circuit. Alfred won this single elimination tournament by defeating Art Benjamin in the 17-point final match. Ray Bills and Jim Wallace finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final match.

See the latest Online Circuit Leader Board posting here.

Bray’s Learning Curve: Pay me now, pay me later?

Money Play. How should Red play 54?

2019 - Beginners 14

XGID=-BCbBaF-aB———bbbbc–:0:0:1:54:0:0:3:0:10

This looks like a classic ‘Pay me now, pay me later’ problem. Should Red play 9/5*, 9/4, leaving White 13 shots to win the game or should he wait with 6/2, 6/1?

As it happens the two plays are very close with the ‘pay now’ play of 9/5*,  9/4 winning by the tiniest of margins.

However, that statement is only true if Red had already doubled. It is rarely right to ‘pay now’ if you haven’t made your opponent pay for that opportunity. That is the case here and, because Red hasn’t doubled, he should play safe with 6/2, 6/1 and see what the position looks like next turn when he is on roll. Playing 9/5*, 9/4 with the cube in the centre is very nearly a  double blunder.

In fact, Red made a big error in not doubling before rolling this 54. The position is highly volatile and he may have lost his market by his next turn. White would have had a comfortable take.

So remember, paying now with the cube in the centre is rarely correct.

 

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

 

Beginners 14 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 LXI

Ira Gardner IntDivLXI

Congratulations to Ira Gardner, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LXI. Ira defeated George Jusuf Adenwala in the 13-point final. Karl Sours and Ed Corey 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. See current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard.

USBGF Advanced Divisional LXVIII

Congratulations to Dale Smith, winner of the Advanced Divisional LXVIII. Dale defeated Max Glaezer in the 17-point final. Andrew Hunter and Fabian Melnik 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: Racing Formulae

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

 

Basic Begiiners 4

XGID=–BBCCCB——–abbc-c-bb-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

Backgammon is at its simplest when the two armies have disengaged and the game becomes a simple race. Once that happens knowing how to use the doubling cube is much more important than moving the checkers.

The most important thing to know in a race is the pipcount for each player. When playing online this is given to you. In live play you have to do it yourself. Lots of people tell me they can’t count but it is surprising how much a  little practice can help. There are various shortcuts that can help. For example, two checkers on each of your home board points give a pipcount of 42. I’ll leave you to research other others.

How do we know when to double and when to take? The roughest guide is that you need to be about 10% ahead to double and at that point your opponent still has a take. Most beginners use the 8-9-12 rule. You can double when you are at least 8% ahead, you can redouble when you are at least 9% ahead and you can take until you are 12% behind.

That is the best guide when starting out in backgammon but once you have mastered that technique there are advanced formulae for more complex positions. If you really want to understand the topic, please download “Backgammon Races” from the downloads section of my website:

http://www.chrisbraybackgammon.com/#/downloads/4577963017

What about this week’s position? Based upon the 8-9-12 rule and just looking at the pipcounts this is both a double and an easy take. Regrettably life is not that simple. Two key points: White needs five crossovers to bring his remaining checkers home while Red needs only 2; White has gaps on his 3-pt and 5-pt. These two facts mean that White must drop Red’s double although I know many would take.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 4

 

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: High Value Cube

Match Play. Red trails 2-6 to 13.  Should Red redouble to 8. If redoubled, should White take?

 

2019 - Experts 13

XGID=aA-CB-DB–B-A—–bb-cbbc-:2:1:1:00:2:6:0:13:10

 High cubes in matches often determine the eventual outcome. Therefore, it is always worth taking some extra time when faced with a high-value cube decision and by that I mean at least a couple of minutes and probably longer. Too often I see even top players rush into crucial decisions without enough thought.

Such was the case in this week’s position. Red did not redouble to 8. He made his ace-point and after White fanned Red did redouble and White passed, tying the score at 6-6. Red went on to win the match

The first thing to do is to decide on the right action in a money game and then adjust that for the score.

For money this is not yet a redouble. Red has only a three-point home board versus White’s five-point home board. Red trails in the race and even if he makes his ace-point, White will still be favourite to enter from the bar. Red is the favourite, but he is not far enough into his doubling window to justify turning the cube. He needs to give White a much more difficult decision. With a fully active cube Red should hold on to the cube.

The match score changes things hugely. Now if Red redoubles and White takes, White can never use the cube to win the game. Also gammons are meaningless to White. In fact the score changes things so much that Red is longer within his doubling window. His market has gone. Red should redouble and White should drop. Taking is actually a blunder.

However, many players forget to adequately adjust their cube handling for the match score and as Red I would expect to get a few takes here. In the actual match Red missed a glorious opportunity to give White the chance to make a big mistake.

Always remember just how important the match score is when considering a high-value cube.

 

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 13 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

 

March Women’s Monthly Tournament

Marcela Pelagatti Sample 3

When Marcela Pelagatti won the March Women’s Monthly tournament, Mario Savan wrote:

Marcela is a dear cousin. I traveled to Buenos Aires 5 yrs ago. I had not seen her since we were children. Near the end of my trip, just lounging around in the backyard on a warm afternoon, I noticed Marcela intensely focused on her phone. I asked if she was playing a game. She said, “yes, Backgammon..do you know the game?”……

She was a casual beginner who had just started playing on a phone app. The last couple of days in Buenos Aires before departing we spent some time playing and reviewing basic strategies. I had her join the USBGF as well.

She is so thrilled about her victory. I could not be happier for her.

Congratulations to Marcela for her win and thanks to Mario and all who give encouragement to novice players!

USBGF Intermediate Divisional LX

Konstantin Keresteliev

Congratulations to Konstantin Keresteliev, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LX. Konstantin defeated Brian Holmes in the 13-point final. Vera Holley and Gary Knox 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. See current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard.

Bray’s Learning Curve: A Bot Play

Money Play. How should Red play 44?

2019 - Intermediates 13

XGID=a-a-BBBCD-A-b-a–cbc-b–A-:1:-1:1:44:0:0:3:0:10

This is a difficult position that I got wrong in my first analysis.

In fact there are two perfectly valid game plans. The pure blitz of 7/3(2), 10/2* is thematic because Red has fourteen checkers in the attack zone. Unless White rolls an immediate 2 or double 1 or double 3 he is going to be in a lot of trouble.

The second approach is the “bot” play of 24/16, 6/2(2)*. This leaves White no discernible target in Red’s home board and escapes Red’s last rear checker, something that the bots put a high premium on.

The rollout has the blitz as the winner by a tiny amount but, in reality, there is no difference between the two plays. The position neatly demonstrates that there can be two perfectly valid game plans in a single position.

30 years ago I would wager that nobody would have considered 24/16, 6/2(2)* but the bots have taught us to look at things differently and thus progress is made.

 

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 13 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: Which Point?

 

Money Play. How should Red play 33?

2019 - Beginners 13

XGID=-b—-E-C–AdD—cad—-aB:0:0:1:33:0:0:3:0:10

This is another third roll position that demonstrates an important learning point.

Obviously two of Red’s threes are forced, bar/22(2). The question is should Red then make his 5-pt with 8/5(2), his 3-pt with 6/3(2) or his 10-pt with 13/10(2)?

In the early skirmishes it is usually better to make home board points rather than outer board points as home board points have the advantage of reducing your opponent’s entry numbers if he/she has a blot hit. That is the case here and 13/10(2) comes last of our three plays, although it is extremely close.

So, which home board point should Red make? 6/3(2) leaves White only one hitting number, 64 while 8/5(2) leaves four hitting numbers: 64, 61, 52 and 43. Is it worth giving the extra shots to make the better point? The answer is yes, and it is because of the structure of White’s board with blots on his bar-point and ace-point. If Red is hit, he will have a lot of return shots. So ,in this case ,the risk is worth the reward.

If you take a checker from White’s 6-pt and put it on his ace-point thus giving him his ace-point then the two plays become equal.

There are two key learning points here:

  • If your opponent has home board weaknesses you can take more risk on your own side of the board to improve your position.
  • Always take the time to look at the whole board. Only then should you look at candidate plays and choose between them

 

 

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 13 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 February Monthly Circuit

Miki Laukkanen 2018

Congratulations to Miki Laukkanen, winner of the USBGF 2019 February Monthly Circuit. Miki won this single elimination tournament by defeating Steven Waller in the 17-point final match.

Bob Stringer and Marcus Selle finished 3/4 in the 15-point semi-final match. See the latest Online Circuit Leader Board posting here.

USBGF Intermediate Divisional LIX

Yusuf Adenwala 2018

Congratulations to Yusuf Adenwala, winner of the Intermediate Divisional LIX. Yusuf defeated Jesse Anderson-Lehman in the 13-point final. Gillian Misrahi and Konstantin Kresteliev 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. See current online tournament ratings at Online Circuit Leaderboard.