October 2022 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a respectable, if slightly down from average, showing for today’s tournament. The sun was out, the breeze was cool, and we all know the rains are coming soon; so I was not surprised that a lot of people were opting for some other kind of adventure, probably outdoors. Still, we had a dozen people show up to play some backgammon – not bad given that I changed up the day as well.

We ended up splitting into two brackets – 4 of us who had entered the side pools played a 7-point, single elimination bracket, while the other 8 did our traditional 3-point, double elimination style.

In the “high equity” pool, I started off playing David. He had me down out the gate – turning around the first game after I had cubed him to a point where he could ship it back to me, and I had to drop. I got a quick win in the second game, but then lost the third, before starting to grind my way back. I pulled the score back up to 3-3, then won a cubed game to pull ahead 5-3, and had a very lucky gammon in the last game to finish it off. We proceeded to play a few games heads-up while waiting for Paul and Max to finish. Max came out on top in that one, and so the two of us faced off. It started out very similar to my match with David, with me down 0-2, then down 0-4, before beginning to claw my way back. I scratched out a single win, then a double, then another single to get it to 4-4. Then we had a dramatic final, where I offered an early cube, Max turned the game around on me, and then I turned it back around on him, managing a lucky gammon to finish the match.

In the main bracket, round one had Rick over Mary, Joel over Jesse, JB over Mir, and Bodger over Tim. Bodger and Rick proceeded to march forward to the final, with Rick coming out on top, for his second straight undefeated appearance at one of our tournaments! With that win, Rick has shot up to an impressive 76.5% win rate for tournament matches this year, making him the clear front-runner for the coveted “Player of the Year” award. That race is far from over, however – recall that someone has to attend at least half the (regular) tournaments for the year and have the best record to win the prize, and Rick just barely is making the attendance requirement. Plus there are a handful of players (David, Mark A, Kyle, Bodger, Jeremy…) who also have high winning records and much more consistent participation. It could go to almost any of them at this point.

In the consolation bracket, Jesse had a revenge match against Joel. Jesse reported that in their first match, Joel had won the match off a situation where he had an 8 out of 36 chance of making a critical hit; so Jesse was looking for payback. Joel accepted his loss with his usual good sportsmanship and grace, of course.

A handful of us stayed behind to play a post-tournament chouette, which was boisterous and fun as well, and gave me a chance to redistribute my winnings from the tournament (and then some). Next event on the calendar is the “Road to Vegas” series, which currently has 7 people signed up and I really hope we get 1 more. There will also be a regular tournament somewhere in November, likely the weekend after Thanksgiving. See you then!


Denver Backgammon Tournament

Last weekend, I went to the Denver Open Backgammon tournament. Portland had a good showing at the event – with Bodger and Mary also attending the event. In fact, the first match I had ended up being against Bodger, and we laughed at the irony of coming all the way to Denver to play one another.

That match almost ended up being one game long. It was a match to 7, and in the first game, the cube made it up to 4. I had Bodger on the ropes, until a late hit put me on the bar, and he threw the cube back to me at 8.

Screenshot 2022-09-30 7.51.55 PM

The situation is, of course, bad. The question is, how bad? All I have to do is enter, get that back checker around (without getting hit again), before he manages to get his two checkers out and around. If I still had my bar point, it would even be a take – but it is a drop, and I did drop. That didn’t do me much good – I was down 0-4 in the match and Bodger was able to clean me out with a few more games. But at least I made it past game 1.

Doubling decisions are a theme of the photos I took over the weekend, naturally. Here’s one where I had to decide whether or not to redouble. This is from a 9-point match, and I trailed 0-3. I had been shipped the cube earlier, and had turned it around to this position.

Screenshot 2022-09-30 9.52.10 PM

Leading up to this, my opponent (Patrick) had been trying to bring his checkers in, and I had been trying to get my back checkers out of his home board. I had given up on hitting any more after he got his first checker in, and escaped as he got his second checker in. So it was decision time – cash the position, or play on for the gammon? It is obviously a massive drop for him, with my next roll likely running past his 15 point and bringing the blot on the 9 point to safety. I can still get a fair number of gammons by playing on, either with some big rolls or by potentially getting hit and picking up some additional checkers. Eventually I decided on cashing the position – which is… really borderline. GnuBG says it is too good to redouble by 0.001, while BGBlitz says to not redouble is a -0.003 error. Really can’t go wrong here.

Many of the pictures I took ended up being ones where I did, ultimately, make the right decision. This next one is not one of those… This is from a 9 point match, where I am trailing 3-7, and as you can see, the position is one where I’m in a bit of trouble. I don’t think the score really comes into the decision however, it’s just a question of what should be my game plan.

Screenshot 2022-10-01 10.17.47 AM

After the match, my opponent said he thought I should have played 13/7(2), 10/4(2), putting everything on containing his back checkers. I looked at that option. However, I was thinking the position was basically like a nackgammon game. If you haven’t played nackgammon, look it up – but the critical thing early in nack is keeping and improving the connectivity between your back checkers and the rest of the board. I couldn’t see leaving the 13 point, because then the back checkers are completely isolated from the front checkers. So 24/18(2) or 24/18(3) seemed like an absolute necessity – and that top 10 or so possible moves all include that. I finally landed on 24/18(2), 24/12 – hoping to strengthen my outfield position. The top move is 24/18(2), 10/4(2) – doing a little of both connecting and containing. Seeing it now, it seems obvious. But, on roll-out, my choice was only a -0.230 triple blunder. Much better than my opponent’s recommended -0.357 choice. Glad I didn’t listen to him!

Not to say that is the only position I captured where I made a mistake. Consider this cube decision:

Screenshot 2022-10-01 1.16.38 PM

This came out of an 11 point match, where I happened to be leading 5-3 at the time. At a normal score, say 2-2, this is a double and a take. But since I am ahead in the match, this was a pass, a -0.087 blunder to have taken. Why? Well, he has almost 70% winning chances, and over 20% gammons. If he wins one of those gammons, I would be down 5-7, so he’s 4 points away from winning, which is a very favorable place to be. I don’t mind this blunder so much, I think getting the nuances of match score on cube decisions is one of those things that comes last to most people as they get better at backgammon…

Here’s another position from that same match.

Screenshot 2022-10-01 1.59.05 PM

I’m now up 7-4 (so 4 points away for me, 7 points away for him), and I had to decide whether to double or play on. I’m in good shape for sure, my main liability being that my back checkers are still stuck on his ace point. But the race is surprisingly close, and I talked myself into being scared of some awkward rolls, and did not double. It’s a fairly big double (-0.055 error to have not shipped), and an easy take. I then rolled 62, and misplayed it 13/5 instead of 24/16. Just to try to pack some more blunders into the same 30 seconds, I suppose.

There are a few more positions I could post, I guess, but this is getting fairly long. Bodger did very well for his first ABT tournament, going 4-3 for the event. Mary didn’t fare quite as well, but I think she had fun and learned a lot from the experience. Bryan (from Seattle) was there as well, and ended up cashing in the consolation bracket. So overall, a good event for the Portland crew.