New Developments

Hall of Fame News and Much More.
President's Corner with John Pirner

The American Backgammon Hall of Fame recognizes those individuals who have made significant contributions to our game over a substantial period of time. Nominations are solicited from the USBGF membership. The 2021 Hall of Fame committee of Joe Russell, Chair; Art Benjamin, Patrick Gibson, Kent Goulding, Neil Kazaross, and Bill Robertie reviewed the 2021 nominations and sent eight candidates to the thirty- three Hall of Fame Electors. The Electors include past Hall of Fame inductees, current members of the USBGF Board of Directors, and others whose long and extensive participation and expertise in the backgammon community gives them the knowledge and perspective needed to make an informed choice. All of this year’s nominees were certainly worthy of induction, having made significant contributions to American backgammon over the span of decades; but Karen Davis rose to the top to become our newest member of the Hall of Fame.

Karen Davis rose to the top to become our newest member of the Hall of Fame.

Karen’s accomplishments and contributions are many. It is hard to imagine that the U.S. Backgammon Federation would exist today without her dedication and guidance, her creativity, and her contributions of time and financial support. Here are a few examples:

  • Karen launched PrimeTime Backgammon, and served as its Managing Editor from inception in 2010 to 2017. She continues to serve as Chairman of the Editorial Advisory Board. PrimeTime may very well be the premier gaming magazine in America.
  • Karen developed the Founding Sponsor program, which to date has raised more than $396,000 from 218 sponsors. Her efforts helped get the funds needed to begin work on a new website.
  • Always a collaborator, Karen established a strong relationship with the Tournament Directors Advisory Committee. In partnership with the TDAC she led us through the Tournament Rules project. The TDAC continues to have an influential voice in our organization and is one of our most important committees.
  • Karen has served on the USBGF Board of Directors since 2009. She served as Chairman from 2010 to 2017, and then as President and Executive Director from 2017 to 2020. Karen currently serves as President/Executive Director of the U.S. Backgammon Foundation, our 501(c)(3) counterpart of the U.S. Backgammon Federation.
  • Karen founded and directs two successful American Backgammon Tour (ABT) tournaments, the Sunny Florida and the Cherry Blossom. When she realized that COVID would cause live play to be suspended indefinitely, Karen became an early adopter of online tournament technology. Not afraid to take a risk,
    she demonstrated that online tournaments could be successful. Her online tournaments have recruited new players to the ABT and the USBGF.

We will have a feature cover story about Karen in the next issue of PrimeTime. It will tell more about her accomplishments, both in the backgammon community and in her professional career. For now I encourage you to Google “Karen Davis health care” to learn more about this leader and remarkable woman.

Backgammon 101

The USBGF is proud to announce the launch of Backgammon 101, a new series of events and lessons designed especially for newcomers to the game of backgammon. The goal of USBGF Backgammon 101 is to go over the fundamentals of the game in a friendly, interactive environment. We want to ease the frustration that new players often experience having little success against more experienced players in local clubs. We’ll keep the math to a minimum, and instead focus on basic strategy and rudimentary cube play. In the end, participants should have a base of knowledge to enjoy backgammon even more, and eventually become successful regulars at their club.

We will meet weekly on Sunday evenings at 6:00 p.m. Eastern / 3:00 p.m. Pacific time for two hours. On the first and third Sunday of every month we will host a round robin “tournament” for beginners and novices. After the tournament each participant will be asked to submit a particular position that they struggled with. The following Sunday, the second and fourth Sundays of the month, Jeff Spencer will hold a brief Zoom lecture on a concept relevant to the group and then go through the positions submitted from the previous week. Because it is a Zoom meeting, all participants will be able to comment and ask questions just as a study group would.

First tournament: May 2, 6:00 p.m. Central– Play on Grid Gammon, Backgammon Galaxy, or Backgammon Studio

First lecture: May 9, 6:00 p.m. Central– Group meeting on Zoom

Local club directors: this is a great way to retain your new players. We would like to have your help in recruiting players.

We are looking for people to help Jeff with the lectures and to analyze the positions. Teaching is a great way to deepen your understanding of a subject.

The sessions will be free and hopefully a lot of FUN!

Website Initiative

Work is progressing on the new USBGF website. April Mesich, leader of the project, has given me a preview. I am very excited about new features that have been missing from the current website. Another article in this issue has more to say about what to expect, but I will note some features that will be immediately useful. There will be a dynamic calendar, and a directory of members and local clubs. Most exciting is that the website will be a social media portal for backgammon. We are hoping for a mid-year launch.

Streaming Initiative

We are redesigning our streaming process and technology. We know that streamed matches with commentary are very important to you, but unfortunately, at times our product has been haphazard and inconsistent. To fix that problem, Antoinette Williams has agreed to be our Commentary Manager. She will recruit and coordinate commentators. Our interim technical team is Michael Mesich and Cary Hoarty; they intend to create a standard visual template and to streamline team collaboration, and are researching new technologies for this purpose. To begin with, we plan to stream two contests from each tournament – the Open final and the Masters / Super Jackpot final. The number of streams may increase over time, but we need help to sustain and grow the current effort. There is more to streaming than you may realize. Please let me know if you would like to be part of the technical team.

COVID and Live Play

We are seeing glimmers of hope that live play will return this year. Carol Joy Cole has announced that she will hold her Fourth of July Michigan Summer Championships in Novi, Michigan this summer. No decision has been made whether it will be an ABT event. The Board of Directors will review our comfort level for the safety of our community in mid-May. Carol has indicated that all participants will be required to have received the COVID vaccination.

Karen Davis is planning live play at her Sunny Florida Championship in October. We are planning to hold the Hall of Fame and USBGF Awards Dinner at the tournament.

Please send your thoughts, suggestions, and participation questions to

John Pirner brings extensive experience in business to his role as President and Executive Director of the USBGF.

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