Rising to the Challenge

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President's Corner with John Pirner

I had hoped that the Summer issue of PrimeTime would announce the resumption of live play. Sadly, this issue will not make that optimistic announcement. Instead, it appears that we are entering a new wave of COVID-19 infections. Restrictions on gatherings in public places are continuing or have been reinstated. While some parts of the country have seen their infection rates level off or decline, other areas, that had previously been spared, are now experiencing spikes in infection rates.

On April 30 the USBGF announced the cancellation of the 2020 ABT points race. It is too early to make a determination for 2021, but if infection rates don’t decline we will consider changes to the 2021 race as well.

Our community is particularly at risk to be infected by the virus. A quick look around a tournament room suggests that many of our players are in their retirement years. They may be managing hyper- tension or high blood pressure, a heart condition, a compromised immune system, and other health issues. Our gatherings are often crowded, and trying to keep individuals spaced 6 feet apart over a backgammon board is not practical. We have people traveling from all areas of the country and internationally. It is impossible to not share common surfaces, such as checkers, dice and clocks.

Our community is particularly at risk to be infected by the virus.

in the United States have been in adults 65 years and older. It would be a tragedy to lose anyone in our community because they attended a tournament before the pandemic is under control. No one can predict when that will be. It may be a cliché, but it is worth repeating: Be cautious and safe, and be mindful of the safety of those around you.


There has been a lot of activity at the USBGF in the past few months.

First, Karen Davis stepped down as President and Executive Direc- tor of the USBGF. A literally tireless promoter of backgammon and champion of the USBGF, Karen’s participation and leadership have been instrumental to the growth of the USBGF. She continues to serve on the board of directors and is Chair of the U.S. Backgam- mon Foundation, an education non-profit.

Tara Mendicino stepped down as Vice President and Production Editor of PrimeTime Backgammon. Tara was an equally tireless champion of the USBGF. She is also a perfectionist. The wonder- ful production quality of PrimeTime is Tara’s accomplishment. In addition to laying out the magazine Tara also ran the USBGF

shop, oversaw the Online Tournament Circuit, managed the USBGF website, and responded to customer service emails 24/7. Tara will be missed.

Dan Minardi is our new Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer. Dan is a business leader from Denver and director of Denver’s Wild West Shootout.

Ed Corey replaces Ray Bills as our Membership Director. A business leader from Connecticut, Ed brings exceptional customer service skills to the role. I would like to thank Ray Bills, our prior Mem- bership Director, for his help in growing our membership ranks.

Kris Heuer is our new PrimeTime Backgammon Production Editor. Although he is not a backgammon player, Kris is quickly learning how to use XG. Kris lives with his family in Eagan, Minnesota.

Cary Hoarty is our Education Director, a newly created position. His responsibilities will include

USBGF PrimeTime Backgammon Magazine 13 President’s Column

New Initiatives

Although the pandemic has slowed our efforts to develop and promote local clubs this remains prioritized activity.

ABT Online!

In response to the suspension of live tournaments the USBGF has created the ABT Online! These tournaments have been played on GridGammon, Backgammon Galaxy and Backgammon Studio. As in the live tournaments, players compete for points. Top points earners will receive recognition for their 2020 accomplishments on our website, our Facebook page, and at the annual awards banquet, whenever that may be!

In response to the suspension of live tournaments the USBGF has created the ABT Online!

We didn’t know what to expect but online play has proven to be quite popular. These are the results to date:

  • Cherry Blossom Open ABT Online! – 98 participants
  • Chicago Open ABT Online! – 124 participants
  • Los Angeles Open ABT Online! – 89 participants
  • USBGF Spring Fling Open ABT Online! – 94 participants
  • Buffalo/Niagara Backgammon ABT Online! – 46 participants 

Some tournaments are hosted by an ABT director, like the Cherry Blossom, the Chicago Open, and the LA Open. Some will be hosted by the USBGF, like the Spring Fling. All tournament winners will receive ABT Online! points.

USBGF membership and a $10 USBGF registration fee are required to play in an ABT Online! event. A 3-month Basic membership costs $10 a quarter when purchased using our recurring billing option. A 3-month Novice membership costs $5. The 3-month Premium membership is $15. The membership may be cancelled any time.

  • Managing online “education” Jackpots where the prize is a 60-minute lesson with an acclaimed pro. So far our Jackpot pro instructors include Art Benjamin, Joe Russell, Steve Sax, Jonah Seewald, Marty Storer, and Cary himself.
  • Develop commentary for ABT Online! matches and post match analysis.
  • Post positions of ABT Online! Matches for analysis on the ABT FaceBook site.
  • Createneweducationalcontentwithafocusonyouthoutreach.
  • Repackage streamed videos from our YouTube collection to include XG analysis and expert commentary for online study.
  • Interviews with backgammon authors, grandmasters, and Giants.
  • Create short instructional and information videos, 2-5 min-utes in length.
  • Create new content exclusively for Premium members.

The upcoming Tour schedule is as follows. Check the calendar for the latest updates:

  • Michigan ABT Online! Summer Championships 7/17–19
  • Ohio State ABT Online! Backgammon 8/15
  • USBGF Tournament of Stars 9/3–7 ABT Online!
  • Viking Classic 9/12
  • Memphis ABT Online! Backgammon Championships 9/24–27
  • Wild West Shootout 10/9–11
  • Sunny Florida ABT Online 

USBGF Website

We have begun work on a new website. We are in the early dis- covery stages but we are underway. I don’t have much to tell you now but look for a progress report in the Fall issue of PrimeTime Backgammon.

Online Tournament Circuit

The Online Tournament Circuit is one of our most popular member benefits. We are working on an updated version with new features including consolation format options. We expect to roll out the new OTC by the end of the year.

Capital Campaign & Fundraising

To move to the next level we need to be agile as we respond to the needs of our members, to utilize new technologies, and take advantage of opportunities. We have reached a size that is too large for volunteers. We do not have the resources to update, much less grow our infrastructure.

We need paid staff that can organize and develop new benefits for our membership. We also need professional marketing that can communicate regularly and consistently to you, our members.

People say, we should have our own online playing site. Our website should have better functionality. Why don’t we have a library of instructional videos? Where can I find information about…? We can help local clubs grow if we give them marketing and technology support. We can do these things but we need resources.

Karen Davis is managing our capital campaign. To date the campaign has raised over $40,000, as well as planned giving bequests of $325,000. We have enhanced recognition for major donors including donated FTH backgammon boards and creation of Beaver and Raccoon Founding Sponsor levels. We have created a Finance Committee to help find additional sources of revenue. I will write more about this in upcoming issues. For more informa- tion contact me, Karen Davis or Dan Minardi.

Looking Forward To 2021

The ABT Tour, which is owned by the USBGF, has been a free benefit to anyone who enters an ABT tournament. Membership has not been required, which is highly unusual for an organization like ours. The USBGF depends on memberships for operating revenue. That worked while membership levels were growing but they have reached a plateau. To expand our community and grow our membership levels we need to help local clubs recruit and retain new players. That can’t be done without the help of paid staff and professional marketing. After consultation with the Tournament Directors Advisory Committee we have decided to implement a $10 USBGF tournament fee at ABT tournaments for USBGF members and a $20 tournament fee for nonmembers beginning in 2021.


We are still in need of volunteers! Please contact me or Dan Minardi if you would like to contribute your time and talents to the USBGF.

Take care and enjoy the summer!
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