February 2019 Chouette

We had pretty much the usual crew for this month’s chouette, plus Edmund, who hasn’t played with the cube before, and so was relegated to spectator status. But we enjoyed meeting him and may have started him further on the path.

We experienced two new technical difficulties through the afternoon. First was a game between Tim and me, I was the box, but somehow got confused about that and when I was ready to cube, I interrupted Mark F and Bryan’s argument about a position from the prior game to ask them if they wanted to join me. They did, and about six moves later, we realized that wait, they shouldn’t cube against their captain. We settled that by basically putting them out of the game, and Tim and I just played it out. Second was a game between Bryan and me, he was the box, and about halfway through we were in a position when we both wanted to count. At which point, we noticed that one of my checkers hadn’t ever made it onto the board. I was in favor of restarting the game, but Mark F said we should play on, and that checker wouldn’t count towards gammons. We settled on letting Bryan choose, and he went with playing on.

My reckon is that at this point, I’ve probably now seen everything that can possibly go wrong with a chouette. I also reckon I’m tempting fate by saying so.

This is a position that came up in a different game with Bryan. I’m the box, on the bar, and have just been handed 4 cubes, turned up to 4… We had put them back to the side before I took the picture though, so spoiler alert, I dropped:


Slightly dark picture, sorry. Bryan has 3 numbers to cover the 4 point, or 4 numbers to hit and cover, plus a direct shot at my blot in the outfield. I have a modest race advantage, but with the spare on the 3 point, I felt like even if I survived the next roll, I’m starting to crash. Plus I’ve lost my midpoint. So I dropped. Correctly, as it turns out! It’s -0.031 to take, so pretty borderline decision. And in fact, XG says if my spare was on the 6 instead of the 3, it would be a take. Interestingly, if my blot on his home board was on the 1 instead of the 2, it would also be a take – 3 numbers to hit and cover versus 4 numbers to hit and cover is a big difference.

We’ll do the next chouette on March 16th, squeaking in before NCAA March madness makes it impossible to find a table at Claudia’s.


San Antonio 2019

I spent last weekend at the ABT tournament in San Antonio. I feel like I played well, but I definitely didn’t do well – made back about $5 on chouettes though, so there’s that. But one thing I did achieve was I took more photos of positions and took better notes than I’ve done in prior tournaments. I got it down to where I was pretty consistent about recording the match score, what I was doing, and what I decided to go with. This gives me a load of material to examine my blunders of the weekend!

Here’s the first:


This is from Friday night, my first draw was Candace, who is the producer of the LA tournaments. We had an excellent match overall, and a long one – went almost 2 1/2 hours! Anyway – this is game 1, and my first cube of the tournament. I had gone in with the mantra of “don’t be greedy” – trying to break my habit of going for a gammon and instead losing by one. This seemed like a perfect example. But no, the double is a 0.113 blunder! I’m too good, at 85% wins/28% gammons. She correctly dropped, and I congratulated myself on a strong start to the event.

Of course, I didn’t only make blunders with cube decisions. I occasionally blew a checker play as well, as in this example:


Here I’m playing CJ, part of a fairly large group of Brits who had come over for the event, thus the UKBGF board. I’m heading to the bottom left, and have double fives. I agonized over whether or not to run the checker off the 23 point to the 13. Eventually I decided against that, and played 13/3, 8/3(2). Only a -0.085 error! Of course, the 23/13, 8/3(2) that I was weighing that against is also slightly inferior to 23/18, 13/3, 8/3. But at least the play I passed over wasn’t the very best play.

That was not, incidentally, my only blunder off a double against a British opponent. The next morning, in my first match of the last chance, against Steve, I rolled double fours in the following position:


I got the first one right – bar/21. I even got the second one right, 9/5*. But then I got stuck. I eventually took 13/5 to cover the blot. But I should have done 9/5*(2), and then slotted! My play is -0.124 compared to slotting the 2 point. Ah, well.

Not every play I made was wrong, however. For example, in this position, I’m playing Peggy (who, it happens, had knocked me out of the last chance in Vegas in 2017), and I’m up 3-0 in the 5 point match. IMG_20190203_135558

Clearly, I’m a monster favorite, the question is, am I too good to double? I spent a good amount of time thinking about it, recounted at least once, and ultimately decided to play on. Barely correct, but correct! No double is the +1.016 equity play, meaning I’m accurate within 1.6%. Super sharp decision maker!

Or not. My next match, I had an early blitz position to play, double 5’s put Roman on the bar, and he danced, leaving us here:


I doubled, he dropped. It was too good, +1.026, I should have played on. But – this was my main learning moment for the weekend. In two prior matches, I had been the one on the bar in the comparable position, and had taken both times, and had been gammoned for 4. So, I had reason to believe that someone might take this one, and as Phil Simborg says, your opponent can’t make a cube error if you don’t offer it.

All in all, I had a good time, played probably better than I did in Vegas last fall, and I can’t say I have regrets. I’m going to aim for two more ABT events this year – if you haven’t played in one before, it’s a good way to get a lot of time over the board with a wide variety of opponents. Away from the boards, everyone is very friendly and fun. Over the boards, of course, even more so.