April 2022 Backgammon Tournament

We had an even 24 players show up for today’s tournament, on a gorgeous sunny afternoon. We played outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, and with 3 even brackets, it was a very smooth running event. It also helped that all the players today were experienced veterans of the tournament scene – I had one player show up for the lesson ahead of time, but he did not stay for the tournament itself.

In the “A” bracket, round 1 had Paul over Bodger, Aaron over Jeremy, Tim over Jesse, and Dave over me. Aaron and Dave progressed to the finals, and Aaron came out on top this month! In the consolation bracket, Jesse and I fought our ways back to the final, where he wiped me out with a doubled gammon win to take the match in one game.

In the “B” bracket, Kyle beat out Rick D, Bob H beat out Matt H (who was the only Matt this month), Nick whipped Sande in the fastest match of the afternoon, and Mark A beat Richard D. Mark A and Bob H advanced to the finals, where Bob took his first tournament victory! Kyle ground it out through the consolation bracket to take the tie for 2nd place from Rick D.

In the “C” bracket, Bill beat Robert T, Phil beat Steve, Joel beat Julie, and late-comer Carlos beat out Nathan, who would have otherwise gotten the bye. Carlos and Joel advanced to the finals, with Carlos taking it! Julie beat out Nathan in the consolation bracket for the 2nd 2nd place.

With Mark A’s 2 out of 3 performance today, he has at least temporarily consolidated his lead in the race towards Player of the Year, currently having an 8 out of 10 overall performance. But of the top 10 players (based on tournament matches played), 7 have winning records so far, so it is still anyone’s prize to take.

Sande brought some flyers to today’s event, she intends to start up a “second Sunday” backgammon event, which will be neither a tournament nor a chouette, but a more loose social gathering with lots of backgammon play time. I’ve added it on meetup, but no need to RSVP, just show up and have fun!

See you all next time!

-Mark

Backgammon US Open 2022 Report

I spent this past weekend in Las Vegas for the 2022 US Open. Historically, I have been going to the Las Vegas Open in the fall since I got serious about backgammon tournaments, and I had planned to go to the US Open for the first time back in 2020. Guess what caused me to put that one off for 2 years, if you can…

I had an early flight down on Thursday, and got to the Golden Nugget just about 11:00, as the Calcutta auction was starting. By 1:30, I was playing in my first match. My opponent was named Ward, currently from Hawaii, but previously from Bend, Oregon. There were a couple of cube positions in that match that I recorded for posterity.

In the first, I am down 0-2 in our match to 11. After an unlucky sequence, I have two checkers on the bar, and Ward went looking for a quick win for our third game. (Here we’re bearing off to the left)

USOpen2022_1

Looks fairly dire, but: he only has two points made on his home board, and not a lot of checkers in the zone. He’s not a favorite to make a third point on this next roll, and I have an anchor. Plus, I’m down 0-2, so I need to make something happen. It was an easy take; and in fact a no double. At 0-0, the computer says it would have been a close no double, but as is, a fairly big no double/take. I took, and turned the game around to get on the board.

Roughly an hour later, we got to this position, where I am the one offering a dubious cube. The score is now 9-3 to my advantage; or 2-away, 8-away if you prefer. Winning a gammon here wins me the match, and giving him the cube gave me a lot of pause for thought. If he took, he should automatically redouble, and then a gammon loss hands the match to him! So it was not an easy decision.

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At a normal score, say 7-away, 7-away, this is a double/pass. At this score, a HUGE no double/take. I have 35% or so gammons if I play it out. But, I doubled, and he passed, and so it took me two more games to win the match.

After that rousing success, I got suckered into joining the intermediate jackpot as well. In the first round of that, I got into a similar kind of situation. Here I’m leading 7-6, in a match to 9; so 2-away, 3-away. (This one is bearing off to the right…)

USOpen2022_3

There aren’t so many gammons as the last position, but what I could tell was different was his wins after the automatic redouble. Earlier in the match, this would have been a fine double/take. Now, it’s a pretty big no double/take. Fortunately, on this one, I did not make the massive blunder and played on (to eventually win that match as well).

My next match in the jackpot brought me back to humility, as I started out down 0-2, caught up and passed to 7-4, then eventually lost 7-9. It was a fun match, but I didn’t take any positions for later reference. In fact, I took as many pictures in those first two matches as I did the rest of the weekend! The rest of them were relatively straightforward, though, and I don’t want to drag everyone through every match I had all weekend…

In the main event, I got knocked down to consolation after my first match on Friday, but then advanced to the round of 8 in that before getting knocked out. In the last chance, I busted out in the first match. This position is (approximately) an important decision I faced in that one, but a checker play. Hit, or jump past?

USOpen2022_4

The problem with hitting is, what if you get hit back? On the other hand, my opponent has two open spaces on their board, so I might just pop right back out. On the other other hand, I might dance multiple times after the return hit. It’s never easy… I went with no hit, which is… MASSIVELY CORRECT. Hitting is a -0.324 quadruple blunder. Except that I ended up losing the game anyway, when my opponent rolled double 5s and then a multitude of doubles (she went on to second place in the last chance).

I also played in the Blitz, Speedgammon, DMP, and the After Tourney, ending up second in the Blitz Championship and first in the After Tourney, so I came home with some cash and a trophy. All in all, a very nice weekend.

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I also brought home a pile of brochures for future events to share with the Portland backgammon club. I am not sure what my next national event is going to be – there are a lot of good ones! I got a couple of asks about when the next Portland national event is going to be, to which I say: sigh. Someday I will have that much energy again, but probably not for a while.

-Mark

March 2022 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had quite a turnout for today’s tournament – we keep setting new records! 26 players turned out, a full alphabet of backgammon! Well, technically, it was 27, but I did turn away one player who showed up after I had finished the bracket draws. 7 new players, plus a handful we haven’t seen in quite a while. It was a gorgeous afternoon, and so we played (mostly) out on the patio again to enjoy to warm breezes.

The “A” bracket had Bodger over Tim in the first round, Steve over Dirk, David over Max, and (eventually) me over Jeremy. Jeremy and I had quite a match, especially the first game, which easily took over 20 minutes, possible over 30. It turned into a crazy two-sided back game. At one point Jeremy had 3 points on my home board and 2 on his, versus I had 2 points on his home board and 2 on mine. I told him I thought that meant that he was ahead… I have a checker position from our match I’ll come back to later. Anyway – second round had Bodger taking out David, and me facing off Steve, who graciously made the long drive from Beaverton for the event. He gammoned me in the first game, but I survived Crawford, and had a lucky win in the third game. Then Bodger and I had what turned out to be a 1-game match. With a lucky hit after he got his first checker off, I was able to scramble around; but he replied with a double 5 to turn it into a straight race for the bear-off. By the end, he had 3 checkers on his ace-point, I had 4 checkers spread out over the board, but my double 6 sealed the match for me! It was an exciting game… Jeremy and Steve faced off for the consolation bracket winner, and Jeremy pulled that one off.

The “B” and “C” brackets both had play-in’s to accommodate 9 players. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make that work out with the consolation bracket, but luckily enough one person from each dropped out along the way (the tournament ran a little bit long with so many players…)

In the “B” bracket, Richard lost to newcomer Zach, Nathan lost to newcomer Jamie, newcomer Majid lost to Kyle, and Matt T lost to Bob H. in the play-in match. Mark A got Bob in the first round, and for his patience got kicked down to the consolation bracket right away. Eventually it came down to Zach and Kyle in the main, and Mark A versus Jamie in the consolation. Kyle took 1st place, his first tournament win! Congrats Kyle, you were definitely overdue. Mark A won the consolation bracket, which by the way puts him at an overall 6 out of 7 matches record for the year and (at least temporarily) front-runner position for player of the year. Bodger is lagging behind with a 7 out of 9 record…

In the “C” bracket, newcomer and supposed novice Zack R knocked out Leah in round 1, Philip returned for the first time in a long time to beat out newcomer Jorge, Rick D took out Dave K, and Mary defeated Pam in the play-in match. Mary then also took out Matt H, who had been waiting patiently. It ended up with Philip over Rick in the final, with Leah redeeming herself in the consolation bracket.

Thanks to Dirk for a good conversation after the tournament, where he pointed out that he (and maybe others) have first learned about the Portland Backgammon Club by stumbling across this blog, and so may not know where to go to sign up for tournaments, etc. So: if you want to know about upcoming events, the best way is to register to the group at https://www.meetup.com/Portland-Backgammon. I know there’s the mailchimp as well, but I don’t use it as much as I should.

We have the chouette moved up a week to next weekend, since the week after I will be going to Vegas for the US Open. We’re back to our regular tournament schedule though at the end of the month.

A number of people asked if I’ve thought about moving to twice a month tournaments, and yes, yes I have. Look for more news about that in the near future!

Oh, and here’s the position I mentioned – as entered into GnuBG as that’s far cleaner than the photo I took. We’re at 0-0 in a match to 3.

Screenshot 2022-03-27 6.35.38 PM

It’s not a great roll. Nothing hits, nothing covers, nothing does nothing good. Eventually I settled down to two options: either 17/9; or 20/17, 8/3. According to the computer, that’s pretty good, as one of those is the right choice and the other is the only other move that isn’t at least a blunder. Part of the reason our match took so long, as I probably spent 5 minutes thinking about this one. But I settled on 17/9, and that is in fact the right choice. I’m proud of me on this one…

-Mark

February 2022 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a phenomenal turnout for today’s tournament – 24 players divided into 3 brackets! Would have been 25, but I told Richard that he was too late when he showed up at 1:03… sorry Richard! There were 9 or 10 new players, plus a handful of people we haven’t seen since pre-pandemic days. In spite of being a bit of a mob scene, the tournament ran pretty smoothly, and I believe a good time was had by all…

Prior to the tournament starting, I did have a special moment for the award ceremony, presenting Bodger with a genuine trophy for his performance as “Player of the Year” for 2021. In case you are wondering, the criteria I used was two-fold: you had to have at least 10 tournament matches for the year, and then have the best record of wins/losses of those players. Criteria for 2022 might be slightly higher, as I expect we will have 4-5 more tournaments than last year, so I may bump the minimum match count to 15 or so – time will tell I suppose. Bodger is off to a roaring start again this year, with a current 5 out of 6 record. I am including the Martin Memorial tournament in results this year, which is how he (and a few of us) have more than 3 or 4 matches after our first regular tournament…

Also, as an FYI, exciting to me at least: the club is officially back in the black! I had been running the club at a loss most of the last 5 years, but after today’s rake, the club has a surplus for the first time in a long time. If we keep having turnouts like today’s, that will even hold up after our next meetup dues… I intend to use the surplus for more door prizes or some kind of end of the year party or I don’t know what exactly. More trophies. More fun. That’s what it’s all about.

Anyway, on to the results:

As usual, I put the players who wanted into the side pool(s) into a single bracket to concentrate the higher equity. We also had a couple of players who were just in the main pool playing in that bracket as well, which ended up leading to some complications in the payout at the end… Anyway, in the first round: I beat out Tim, Brad defeated David, Jeremy took out Ed, and Nathan topped Andres. After the second round (in which Nathan came back from a 2-1 deficit to gammon me in the Crawford game!), Nathan and Brad were playing for 1st/2nd. Except – complication – Nathan was not in the side pools and Brad was only in the first side pool. So they were playing for 1st/2nd in the main, but Brad had a lock on 1st in the 1st side pool. In the consolation bracket, it came down to David versus Jeremy, who were both in both side pools. So the consolation winner got the tie for 2nd in the main, 2nd in the 1st side pool, and 1st in the 2nd side pool, while the consolation loser got 2nd in the 2nd side pool. Easy as pie, right? Nathan took 1st, Brad and David got the 2nd places, and Jeremy got the consolation of 2nd in the 2nd, which he proceeded to lose in the post-tournament chouette. So he broke even for the day…

In the “B” bracket, round one had Sandee over Bob, Alec over Robert, Mark (not me, the other Mark) over JB, and Rick over Kyle. Mark and Sandee went on to duke it out for the top bracket, and Rick and Kyle faced off for a second time in the consolation bracket. Mark had first timer’s luck and ended up with the overall win for the bracket, and Rick showed that he was consistent at least against Kyle, beating him a second time for the tie for 2nd.

In the “C” bracket, we had Matt T beating out newcomer Issa, newcomer Matt H beating out newcomer Steve (not really a newcomer, he came to the last chouette, but it was his first tournament), Bodger beating out newcomer Joe, and newcomer Lor beating out newcomer Katherine. What I am trying to get across here is that there were a lot of newcomers in the “C” bracket. Also two different guys named Matt. I try to keep it confusing for everyone… Matt T lost out to Bodger in the final of the top bracket, while Matt H lost out to Joe in the consolation bracket.

We were asked to move from the side of the patio with the heaters to the side of the patio with better lighting at about a quarter to 3, and the party that showed up for the original side took the volume of the place up multiple notches. Fortunately that was late enough in the tournament that many people were free to leave if they wanted, but I was impressed at how many stuck around to keep playing and chatting. When I left (around 4:30), that was mostly the end of the post-tournament chouette, but there were still a handful of folks finishing a drink and playing a bit. March should be significantly warmer if we’re playing outside, and the mask mandate is scheduled to be lifted by then – so I will hopefully see you all again then!

-Mark

Martin Memorial Board Tournament

We had a good turnout for our first event of 2022, the Martin Memorial Board Tournament. Originally scheduled for our normal home base of the Lucky Lab, we moved it to Claudia’s at kind of the last minute, since the Lab is closed for a week. I am not saying that the ghost of Martin haunted the mind of the Lucky Lab owner to force me to move the event to a location he liked better, but I am not saying he didn’t either.

Seven players showed up to try their luck. Per Martin’s request, we had a brief interlude after the first roll of 1-1, which took place in the match between Bryan and Bodger. We gathered, and Bryan and I each made a short toast to Martin’s memory. It was a lovely moment.

Bryan told the story of how Martin told him, towards the end, that he would have someone contact him when he had passed with an important message. And so, one day in early July 2020, he got a phone call from an unknown number. “Is this Bryan?” the woman asked. “Yes” he replied. “I have a message for you from Martin. Stop taking bad cubes.”

My story was from the first match I played against Martin, back before I had really studied the game, and was really quite a weak player. However, I was having really good dice, which makes you feel like you’re a genius of the game, and at one point I whipped the doubling cube at him. It was either a great cube, or too good. Regardless, Martin gave me such a withering look that I briefly feared for me life.

Over the years, as we played more and I started to become half-decent at the game, I always appreciated Martin’s patient attitude and willingness to help me (and everyone) become better at the game he loved so well.

Anyway – on to the results. Round 1 as already mentioned had Bodger versus Bryan, which Bodger managed a win. I had Kyle in the first round, in a match that felt like it would never end – he started out up, I fought my way back, but it was a lot of single games, no gammons, to finally beat him. Tim had his first match against Jeremy, squeezing out a win there. And Paul had the easiest first round of any of us, with the bye.

Second round, Bodger took me out of the running in a 2 game match. Second game he doubled me early, and I redoubled him when I thought I had it turned around. To my surprise, Bodger took, and then turned the cube back to me at 8 to make it for the match. I was down again at that point, but far from a drop, but he managed to finish me off. Tim, warmed up from his first round, rolled over Paul, and so Tim and Bodger went into the final round for the prize.

Meanwhile, we got a good chouette running – Kyle just watched, but we all had a grand time. Bryan took the box initially and it took some doing to get him out; later Jeremy had a good run in the box as well.

In the final round, it turned into a longer slugfest kind of match. In the end, Tim pulled out the win! So congratulations to Tim, our currently undefeated 2022 Portland backgammon player. I will count this tournament towards 2022 results, so it’s a strong start for him. 🙂

Thanks everyone who came out, thanks everyone who read this and remembered our friend Martin.

See you all at the next one!

December 2021 Tournament Results

We had a fair showing for a holiday weekend/snow hazard/omicron variant final tournament of the year, with 11 players risking their lives to play backgammon.

Before I get into the tournament results, a reminder of how good the Lucky Lab is to our group – turns out they will be closed for the next week, and so we will have to find a new venue for the Martin Memorial tournament next week. The bartender came over to check with me, and apologized because they were also told to close early today. So we had a very brief window to get the tournament done today! The bartender said she was happy to keep the place open a little past when the owner had said to close, if we needed it to finish the tournament. We switched from 5 point matches to 3 point matches at that point (which I should probably have done from the get-go anyway), and wrapped up around 3:45. So look for a venue change announcement soon, and remember to tip the staff the next time we’re back at the Lab.

4 players wanted into the side pool, so I did that as a mini-bracket and put 7 into the main bracket. Main bracket results first: Kyle started off against his “+1”, Bob; Nathan took on Richard, Aaron (not that Aaron, the other one) took on Bodger, and late-comer Nick got the first round bye. Kyle, Richard, and Bodger advanced, Bodger took out Kyle in the second round, and Nick took out Richard. Then in the final, Bodger came out on top, for his third-in-a-row undefeated showing! As the clock was moving, I gave Nick a second place instead of having him stick around until the consolation bracket finished to determine second; Richard eventually came out on top of that bracket, defeating Kyle 3-0 in a flourish of a finish.

In the side-pool bracket, Paul took out Brad in the first round, and I squeaked past Jesse. Paul then proceeded to crush me for 1st place, and Jesse fought his way past Brad to take me on AGAIN for 2nd. I took the first game, then took a cube in the second game which I lost to get us to Crawford; I survived Crawford to get us to 2-all post-Crawford, and then I must have run out of steam because the last game is a blur. I think I spent most of it on the bar…

Thanks all for coming out, and now I can share the much anticipated year-in-review rankings! Here’s the list of everyone with at least 10 tournament matches for 2021, along with their total wins:

Player Played Won %
Mark 21 11 52.38%
Max 17 10 58.82%
Julie 16 7 43.75%
Tim 16 6 37.50%
Brad 14 7 50.00%
Stephanie 14 6 42.86%
Bodger 13 11 84.62%
Kyle 12 6 50.00%
Nathan 11 5 45.45%
Leah 10 6 60.00%
Aaron 10 5 50.00%
Carlos 10 5 50.00%

Max gets the nod for highest participation level – I don’t count for that one since by dint of organizing the events I never ever miss one – with Julie and Tim close behind. But the clear player of the year award has to go to Bodger, with an incredible 11-2 record for the year! Congratulations, Bodger! I’ll bring your trophy to the next regular tournament.

See you all in 2022!

-Mark

California Championship Reflections

I had the pleasure of attending the California State Championship tournament this past weekend, for 4 days of backgammon! The event is a quick two-hour flight away, and I know the organizers put on a good event from my prior experience at the LA Open pre-pandemic. I am glad I went!

I flew down Thursday morning for a short-lived run at the Dingwell amateur jackpot. I got exactly one match in that event, and spent the rest of the day playing a mix of Blitzes (5-point, 8 person brackets, in which I lost every time in round 1), DMPs (1-point matches, in which I was mysteriously unbeatable), and the “Juniors” event (for those of us under age 60).

Friday the main event started. I drew a match against April in round 1, which intimidated me because I know she’s been studying and rising in the ranks. However, I got very lucky off a possibly bad cube decision she made and came from behind to win. April went and re-entered, and went on to win the Consolation bracket. That meant I had a break until after dinner, and I used it to nap and walk and generally recharge the mental batteries. That night, I played my second round against Kevin, who trounced me, and then went on to win the overall event. The structure was a double elimination, so I still had a chance at winning the whole thing (although I did not, no suspense needed here). I played a few more rounds until I got to the just-before-the-money round.

So here’s a bit about hedging. I like to hedge. When you get to a point where the winner is guaranteed to cash and the loser is guaranteed nothing, most people are happy to set up a hedge, whereby the loser gets some share of the minimum payout.

I lost the game, but got the hedge. Then in the Consolation bracket, I also got to the just-before-the-money round, hedged again, and lost, but got the second hedge. Between the two, I ended up with more money than the 5th place payout that had been the basis for the first hedge!

So then there were the side events. In the DMP, they ran them as 4 separate entry brackets with a playoff. I ended up winning two brackets, and so got a bye in the playoff, but I had to fight for it. One director had said I got the bye, but a different one said it was a random draw, which would have given me a shot at winning both 1st and 2nd. But I knew I was going to hedge up to half of the prize anyway, so it made more sense to me to push for the bye, and that’s the way it went. When it came to the final, versus Patrick, we agreed to split the prize money evenly and just play for the trophy. The one other event I cashed in was a “Super Speed Gammon”, 5 point matches with a 30 second (!) time bank plus 8 second delay. I had just heard “Speed Gammon”, which is normally 2 minute time bank, and I’ve done those before – they’re a little stressful but fun. Well, 30 seconds is not a lot! I made it to the semi-final of that, but by then the other semi-finalist had already left for their flight home, and so we ended up with a split win on that one. Again, I paid out a hedge to my final opponent. So: 4 hedged events, split evenly between paying and getting paid.

I took pictures of a few positions through the weekend to analyze later, and a couple of people have promised me transcriptions of the matches they recorded. Here’s a couple of places where I blundered…

This first one is from the “Juniors” event. This is the Crawford game, with me leading 6-3 in the match to 7. I’ve got two on the bar and the situation is dire, but a lucky 44 roll put me back in the game:

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The first two are easy: B/21(2). Then what? I can just keep going – B/17 (2); or I can un-stack either the 6-point or the 8-point. Or, for completeness, I could bring two down with 13/9(2), or I could switch with 5/1*(2); but I ruled both of those out immediately. Coming down leaves the back checkers badly disconnected, the switching play sets me up for a fight I probably lose as I am likely to leave a blot on the next roll after the hit. Ultimately I went with the 6/2(2), as that’s the heaviest stack. But XG says that coming out B/17(2) is the best move! 8/4(2) would have been a minor error, getting the strongest possible 3-point board to balance his 4-point board; but 6/2(2) was a -0.108 blunder! There’s something I do not understand about this one. If it was a cash game, 6/2(2) rises to second best, only a -0.022 error. At some point, I’ll go back and play from this position a few times, see if I can figure it out. Or something else will become my new confusing position and I’ll forget about it… one of the two.

This next one is a take/pass decision from the game that knocked me out of the main bracket. It’s a 7 point match, and I trail 2 to 1. Ignore the dice, we were using a baffle box and they’re just left over from my prior roll:

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I’m on the bar, sure, but with 3 points to enter and him having three checkers back, I’m likely to enter/anchor. The thing which scared me was the gammon potential – he has 1’s plus 62, 64, 44 to hit the other blot in my outfield, and 55 to hit/cover the blot on his home board – 17 fairly devastating numbers! I figured it was a take for money (correct), but was too scared to take it. Roughly a -0.2 blunder!

Finally, a random selfie I took with Zdenek “ZZ” Zizka before our match in the “Juniors” match. This is the same ZZ who is at the top of the ranks on backgammon galaxy, and who gave the backgammon lecture the day before based on his new book. I lost the first game with the cube up to 4 (I had doubled too early, and taken a borderline recube – when you’re massively outclassed, it is good strategy to go for a shorter match where luck can help you out), but then fought my way back to get to 6-6 post-Crawford. At that point I felt a momentary surge of confidence, as I had beaten ZZ in a DMP game back on Thursday. Alas, that was not a feat I could recreate. Still, a fair showing against a very strong player…

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Overall, a very enjoyable weekend of backgammon, and an easy event to get to for all us West Coast players…

November 2021 Tournament Results

We had another fine showing of 16 players for this month’s tournaments – not bad given the sunny skies and unseasonably warm weather. It was mostly the usual cast of characters, with a couple of new people (Jesse and Margaret),and Kyle’s “+1”, Bob. Bob was highly entertained to be called Kyle’s “+1”, by the way. “I’ve been called a lot worse,” he quiped.

I brought along Martin’s board to play on this time, it was nice to put it back in action. If you didn’t notice it during the tournament, there’s a couple of pictures below from some positions that stumped me (I played them both incorrectly!) – don’t forget to register for the Martin Memorial tournament if you want a chance to win the board!

I split the group into two brackets. As we were getting settled, Joel surprised me by asking for everyone’s attention, and he said some very kind words thanking me for organizing the event and keeping the group running. I want to reiterate, if there was any doubt, it’s a labor of love – I might not be the best player in town, but I’m probably the biggest maniac for the game! Joel went on to throw some money at me to help offset the cost of running the group, and encouraged everyone else to do the same – and many of you did! I was overwhelmed and touched by the generosity of the group. With the donations offered and the rake off the brackets, the group is down to a deficit of $247.95, almost down to where we were pre-pandemic. At least, until the next meetup fees come due in mid December… Ah well! The rake is catching up on the fees, and most of the entry fees from the  Martin Memorial tournament (did I mention that’s coming up?) will go to paying it down as well. I expect to get “caught up” in the next year or two – not a problem in the meantime. But it means a lot to me that people see the value of the group – it really is the community of players that makes the events so much fun!

Anyway, on to results! In the “A” bracket, Tim took round 1 over Max, Bodger beat out Kyle, Carlos (very quickly) defeated Killion, and I showed my thanks to Joel by beating him. A few rounds later, Bodger and I faced off in the final, which wasn’t even close – Bodger wiped the floor with me. In the consolation bracket, Carlos took the other second place over Tim.

In the “B” bracket, Jesse beat out Richard in round 1, Julie defeated Stephanie (a match punctuated by a chorus of “Oh my god!” from them both as Julie got a magical double 5 in the last game), Nathan got past Nitan, and Bob got past Margaret. Bob and Nathan went on to face off in the championship match, which Nathan took. Margaret and Jesse fought their ways to the final of the consolation bracket, which Jesse managed to win.

My match against Bodger had me face a couple of plays that I found challenging. Here’s the first:

PXL_20211128_221420659

Here I’m white, bearing off towards the bottom right. It’s a little hard to see the dice in the picture, but I have a double 2 to play. My trouble lay in the fact that I really wanted to use one of them to play 6/4, but I couldn’t see a way to do that without also playing 24/22, and then what would the other two moves be? I finally settled on 24/22 (2), 3/1 (2), which is a blunder. The correct move, per roll-out, is 24/22 (2), 13/11 (2). I was thinking that keeping the mid-point was long term better as a landing spot once I pull a checker out of Bodger’s home board, but by the time I do that, I am probably aiming for a blot anyway, so getting more material to my own home board is a higher priority.

The other position that threw me came in our second game. Here I had taken a cube and then immediately thrown it back, so this was both the second and the final game for the match…

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This time I have a 6-2 to play. The 6 is forced, 22/16. Then the question is, should I keep going, with 22/16/14? Or do something else?

I went with “do something else”, the very cool looking, but also very wrong 22/16, 22/20. My thought is, the only way I win is to get a shot and hit it, so diversifying my back checkers will give me more opportunities to get that hit. That probably would work out if I knew that Bodger was about to roll double 6’s, but I did not know that, and in fact he didn’t. Well, it was only a -0.041 error, per roll-out, so I’ve certainly done worse.

There was a good amount of hanging around and playing post tournament, and we managed to wrap up the formal event by about 3:00, so I think this was a success. Thanks again to everyone who came out, and congrats to Bodger (second month in a row to win a bracket!) and Nathan (first time to win a bracket!)

See you all next time!

-Mark

October 2021 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had another excellent turnout for today’s event – 24 players showed up for a very sociable and lively afternoon of backgammon! For 6 of them, it was their first tournament, and several others it was their first appearance for quite a while, as in since I took over running the group! Several people asked why we seem to be having higher and higher attendance each month, and my answer is: beats me. I think a lot of people are just eager to come and do something live, face-to-face again. Plus, the events have each been a lot of fun, so people leave with a good impression and come back again – for which thanks to all of you who attend!

Given the size of the field, I broke us into 3 brackets of 8 people each. The way I decided on brackets is, I put all of the people who signed up for one or both side pools into one bracket, then randomly assigned people into one of the other two (more or less every other person, but not exactly, because I initially thought I could get away with just two brackets, so I had to resplit things…)

For the second time, I used a more structured approach to the double-elimination format. The first 4 pairings are based on random numbers I generate on the sign-up sheet. The winners advance to round 2, the losers play round 1 of the consolation bracket. Losers in round 2 of the top bracket play winners of the round 1 in the consolation, but I swap it so the round 2 consolation players come from different tiers of the main bracket so there’s no chance of a repeat match that early. Then the winners of round 2 in the consolation play, and I had the winner from that play the loser of the final in the main for second place.

It’s easier than it sounds. One critical feature of this, though, is that it’s a lot easier to win first than to win second. First place, just win 3 matches in a row. Second place, in some cases, can take winning 5 out of 6 matches, which happened in one of the brackets today!

For next time, I am thinking I will tweak it again, so that each bracket has two second-place winners – the loser of the final in the main and the winner of the consolation bracket. So, where this time, I paid $50 to first and $20 to second, I would pay $40 to first, and $15 each to the two second place winners. As with most of the tweaks I have been making, the hope is to get the formal event done a little more quickly, as we again went past 5:30 before the event finished today.

And as long as I’m four pages into the update without giving you any idea how each event went, I’ll go ahead and explain why there’s $70 in prize money in each bracket as well. I take a $10 rake per bracket to offset the costs of running the group. Those costs are mostly for meetup (about $200/year), as well as for this blog (about $25/year). The group has been running in the red for most of the time I have been organizing events – I inherited a $120 surplus from Rob when I first took over, but did not start taking a rake for the first 6 months or so while I was trying to figure out what I was doing, and then of course during the pandemic I wasn’t collecting anything. At this point, the group is $417.95 in the hole, which is an improvement. Not anything to worry about, just an FYI on how the financials of the group run.

On to results: The “A” bracket was mostly a “usual suspects” group – Max brought his parents along again, plus Aaron and Tim, plus returning player Dirk and newcomer Sofia (who got jammed in after showing up late, because otherwise Tim would have had a first round bye). Because of the late start on the Tim/Sofia game, this bracket ended up taking the longest of any to resolve for second place. Additionally, because this was the bracket with all the side pool players, it got a bit confusing for the payouts as well. Anyway – I ended up winning the overall – beating out Dirk in round 1, Tim in round 2, and Aaron in the final. Max had a rough day of it, losing first to his father, then to his mother. Tim and Dirk revenged Max, eliminating Evan and Elisa in the consolation bracket, allowing the three of them to finally head out. At this point, I got thrown, because Tim and Dirk were playing in the consolation and both of them had entered only 1 of the two side pools, so I chased them down to give Evan the 2nd place in the second side pool. Later I realized that, oops, Aaron was also in the second side pool, so he should be the winner of that! I texted Max and he returned the money via venmo, Aaron got paid out, and then he and Tim sat down to play the last match of the tournament. I headed out, but Tim later called to report that they had agreed to settle when the score was 2-2, as dear lord, it was already after 6:00 by that point.

In the “B” bracket, Bodger had another very strong showing, winning 3 in a row to take 1st place! Combined with his results from last month, he now has an impressive 5-2 record in our tournaments. Also impressive is Matt’s record of 5-1, set entirely in today’s tournament, as he fought his way to the second place win! That’s what I was talking about as maybe this structure makes it a little too hard to win second place… Newcomers Richard and Paola had a rough time of it, but seemed to have a good time, and returning players Nitan, Leah, Julie, and Killion had mixed results. Julie came close to repeating a second place win, and definitely gets the “best behaved dog” award.

Finally, the “C” bracket was dominated by newcomers, with the 1st place going to Gary and second place going to AJ. We always like to have newcomers do well so they’re more eager to come back, but having watched parts of their matches I think these are both pretty strong players, certainly ones to watch out for! Chatting with AJ after, he expressed appreciation about Gary as being the kind of player who will give you some pointers about where you went astray, even as he wipes the table with you – which made me hope to get a chance to play him next time.

Speaking of next time, I will be getting something on the calendar in the next couple of days. Figuring out where makes sense against the holidays is always a challenge, which also reminds me: thank you to whoever thought to go in and ask them to turn on the heaters, it was far more pleasant once that happened. Until next time!

-Mark

September Backgammon Tournament Results

First of all, I should have split us into two brackets. Don’t know what I was thinking – we started out with 12 players, which is enough to have two brackets (although a 6 person bracket is not ideal) – but then 3 more people showed up late, making 15 total, which is almost 16, which really ought to be two brackets, not one. Because with a single bracket, it’s just going to take a lot longer to get done… Which it did. The final match of the day didn’t end until almost 6:00, 5 full hours after we started! Not even the final two players were that interested in still being there… though I (naturally) was eager to see how it turned out.

Anyway – I’ll remember the lesson for next time.

We had three players for whom this was the first time they came to one of our events – Lor, Kilion, and Nitan; plus for Carlos it was his first tournament (although he came to the chouette last week, so in that sense he’s a seasoned pro).

I tried a somewhat different approach to the bracket this time, and I think I’m onto something there – inspired by the brackets they used in the Minneapolis tournament I went to earlier this month, I did a more structured “top bracket/bottom bracket” approach after the first round, so rather than put any two random players with 1 win/1 loss against each other, I tried to match people who went win-lose against people who went lose-win, to try to prevent the kind of situation we had last month where it took Stephanie 5 matches to win an 8 person bracket… The approach I took meant that the first place would be decided definitively with 4 matches – and it was! For second place, I had two places – the loser of the finalist match, and also the winner of everyone who had lost a match before, which I think took 5 matches to resolve. Like I said, should have been two brackets, and then it would have been 3 matches/4 matches to resolve, and should have taken an hour or so less time…

So to the results: Max was this month’s big winner, taking down first Brad, then me, then Leah, then Lor in the finals. Lor, who you’ll recall was a first timer, thus walked off with the first of the second place wins. Oh, and Max also won the side pool (which was fairly small this time around, but still…) With that, Max also shoots to the top of this year’s consolidated scores, having 10 wins out of 13 matches in tournament play, an impressive 77% rate! I didn’t get to watch their match, but report is that Max took the first game, then doubled Lor in the second game. Lor took, and proceeded to almost immediately hand the cube back to Max, making the second game the deciding one for the match! That’s a fun little thing you can do when you’re down 3-away/2-away – if it’s a take, then it’s an automatic redouble. Didn’t work out for Lor, but it’s the right strategy!

To cut the suspense, I’ll just tell you the other second place came down to a match between Julie and Leah. Julie entered the lower bracket early, losing her first match to Stacey. From there, she proceeded to redeem herself with wins over first Stephanie (one of last month’s winners, recall) and then me before facing Leah. Leah took a little longer to get there, beating Marge and Bo before losing to Max, then beating Brad to get to the final. And their match followed a similar pattern to the one between Max and Lor: Julie took the first game, then doubled Leah in the second game. Leah held the cube for a little while before offering it back, by which point Julie was tempted to drop due to the game having turned against her. But, based on a desire to wrap it up and get home to her long suffering pets, Julie took. Leah proceeded to make good on her turnaround, although not without leaving a couple of shots that could easily have turned the game around again in Julie’s favor.

Thanks everyone for coming out today – we’ll all hope for better pandemic conditions and maybe an inside meetup for next month – today started to get a little chilly once the rain started up, and that’s not going to get better over the next couple of months. Stay safe and healthy, and see you at the next one!

-Mark