November 2022 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had an excellent turnout for this month’s tournament – 26 players showed up on a cold wet afternoon to play some gammon! There were a handful of new players, a handful of people who haven’t been out in a while, and a slew of the usual suspects. Competition remains hot for the coveted 2022 Player of the Year award, and a number of people were specifically gunning to up their winning percentages for the year as we come close to finishing it out… More on that in a bit.

We split into 3 brackets, which was not a perfect set-up, but best we could do with the high numbers who showed up. A couple of people have asked, so here’s a brief explanation of the process I use for that. First of all, I put all of the players who opt into one or both side pools into a single bracket if possible. So far, it always has been – if we get more than 8 players in the side pools, I may have to revisit the approach. Then the remainder of the list I break into different brackets using an A-B-A-B kind of scheme. Then I use the random number generator list to pair people within each bracket. This time, I only had 6 players in the side pools, so I randomly assigned a couple of additional (and in my opinion stronger) players into that bracket as well. If we had been just shy of 3 full brackets, I might have done something different, splitting the byes between brackets or whatever. But that’s more or less the process – hope that answers more questions than it raises.

Anyway – in the “A” bracket, we started off with Paul versus Pete, David versus Molly, Mark A versus Max, and Kyle versus me. In all those pairings, the first person listed won the first match. Paul went on to beat Kyle in the final, and I fought my way through the consolation bracket to beat out Pete for the tie-for-second.

In the “B” bracket round 1, Sande beat out Bodger, Richard defeated newcomer Mazda, Steve knocked out Rick D, and Andres won over newcomer Gary. Andres and Richard went on to the finals, with Andres coming out on top. In the consolation bracket, Mazda came back to win.

In the “C” bracket, Leah won over Matt, Cam beat Joel, Philip beat Mir, Jenny beat newcomer Rob A, and Jesse beat out Julie. That was 5 pairings instead of 4, and so there were some complicated second/third round byes imposed to try to keep it fair. Ultimately Leah beat out Philip in the final; with Cam squeaking by Jenny to take the Consolation title.

Now, about Player of the Year. There is trophy on the way, and I believe I will have it physically present at the December tournament. At that point, I expect to have an up-to-date list of everyone who is in the running, and to do an on the fly update calculation to determine the winner and present that trophy. Exciting, no?

I am slightly modifying the conditions compared to last year. The idea is to award the player who has the best record for wins & attendance of events. If it was just the best win/loss ratio, Carlos would be the front runner, but he only attended two events! David has an edge from the participation perspective, having missed only one tournament all year. Rick D and Kyle P are both top candidates based on win/loss ratio. It’s really very much up in the air! Come out to the December event to see what happens!


Road to Vegas Part 2, and then also Vegas

I never posted an update for the second part of the “Road to Vegas” tournament, and then I went off to Vegas for the actual tournament. So here we go. The next round had me over Mir, and David over Bodger. David wanted to immediately start a chouette, so we chopped the prize money and played a one-point match for the title, which David won!

Then, you know, Vegas. Paul went down on Tuesday, but Max, Dave, Tim, and I were all on the same flight heading down on Wednesday. Not one to let transportation get in the way of playing backgammon, we started a chouette at the PDX airport.


I know, I know, but really we only played a couple of games.

Wednesday was the Jackpot day – Paul was playing in the “Limited” (which he made it 3 rounds deep), the rest of us in the “Intermediate”. David and Max drew each other in the qualifier round, and then again (after a re-entry) in the first round! Rory told me that he swore to redraw the main ABT if they got each other a third time… Anyway, Tim made it the furthest of any of us in that event, eventually losing in the semi-finals to Tigran, who had just defeated David as well, and who went on to win the event!

The coolest thing about that is that Tim’s last match ended up on the streaming of the event – if you want to watch him go down, go to about 3:54:00 into this link:

In the ABT event, the PDX pack managed to avoid running into each other until the semi-finals of the Consolation bracket, where I faced off against David. Not to trash-talk, but you know – easiest win of the event. 🙂

Here’s one of a couple of cube decisions I faced in a pivotal match, my first game in the Consolation. This is early on, I am down 0-1 in a match to 9 (and so 9-away, 8-away). I had cubed my opponent earlier, it was going well, but then he got a lucky shot and sent one of my checkers back. I re-entered, and he flipped the cube to me at 4:

Screenshot 2022-11-22 3.21.29 PM

I think I miscounted the race, because I took. My thought was that I just had to escape the one checker, then I ought to be able to outrun him, but I am actually down 10 pips in the race, and it was a -0.224 blunder to take! Nonetheless, I did escape the back checker and outrun him to win the game. So better to be lucky than good.

It gets worse. A couple of games later, I was up 4-2, turned the cube to him (correctly, I think, didn’t record the position so let’s assume I knew what I was doing please), and in the bear-off, he flipped it back to me at 4:

Screenshot 2022-11-22 3.29.53 PM

My thinking here was that he has 4 rolls to bear off, maybe 4.5 if he is unlucky and rolls a 3. I am off in 3 – so long as those three rolls are all 4’s, 5’s, and 6’s. But that’s equivalent to winning three coin tosses in a row, so 12.5%, and if one of them misses I probably am off in 4. So it’s sort of like a 4-roll to 4-roll situation. Well, apparently I am wrong about that, because it was a -0.415 blunder to take! I am, in fact, 13.1% to win, which is above my 3-coin-flips thinking, but not by very much. However, I did win 3 coin flips in a row, and took the game, very unfairly.

In the final of the consolation, I faced off against Lynn, who runs the New York ABT tournament. We spent a good amount of time at the start of the match negotiating the split of the prize money – the way it had worked out was that we were both in the side pool, and so the winner would get 1st for the side pool, and the loser would get half of the 2nd place in the side pool, because half of 2nd was going to whoever made it furthest in the main bracket. Normally there is a 2:1 ratio in the payout, but there was almost as much side pool money as entry pool money, so the default was almost 3:1. We negotiated it down to a 65/35 split, and then almost finished the match in the first game. I cubed her early in the game, she flipped it back to me at 4 a while later, and as we got to the bear-off, I gave it back to her at 8 (which would get us to Crawford!) in the following position:

Screenshot 2022-11-22 3.44.21 PM

I was not sure if it was a take or a pass, given how much wastage I have; but Lynn successfully found the drop. However, it is a good double! It would have been a -0.027 error to not redouble it to 8 here.

I had one other tough double in the match, a couple of games later, leading 5-0 in our match to 9, I chose to offer the cube from this position:

Screenshot 2022-11-22 3.53.09 PM

Again, a -0.017 error if I had not doubled! So I am pretty pleased with myself for finding this one. Alas for Lynn, it was a drop, but she took, probably thinking that the score swung it far enough to take the chance.

That game put me up 7-0, and I started celebrating too soon. Lynn exploited my overconfidence to win the next game, putting us to 7-1. She then took the next game with the cube turned to put us 7-3. Then 7-5, then 7-7. At that point, I suggested we revisit the negotiated split of the prize money, and we agreed to just chop the prize money and play only for the trophy.

At 7-7 in a match to 9, you are supposed to throw the cube early – it’s almost impossible to it to not be a double-take. However, we kept ending in positions where the race was pretty even, there were no blots to shoot at, and it would have taken some thought to decide if the person on roll was actually up or down. Like we opened with her playing 3-1, and I thought, well, I’m down, so why bother. Then I rolled 6-5, and she thought, well, I’m down in the race, so why bother. And it just kept going on like that – rolls where it would have been correct to double and correct to take, and neither of us did, until we were 20 moves or more into the game! Finally, we got to the following position, and I belatedly threw the cube:

Screenshot 2022-11-22 4.03.21 PM

Here, it is finally a double and a pass! Lynn passed, and then beat me by a gammon in the Crawford game, to win the match 9-8, after starting out down 7-0! Super exciting match, to be sure.

After that, it was time to head to the airport, where we resumed a chouette until time to board the plane, because hey, why else were we in Vegas?

All in all, it was a fantastic (if slightly exhausting) tournament. It was my second time cashing in an Intermediate event this year, and so I am (voluntarily) moving myself up to the Open level, where I will very likely take another 4-5 years before I get to cash again. But maybe I’ll have time for more side events again… 🙂 Paul cashed in approximately all the side events, plus Tim cashed in the Jackpot, so it was all around the best showing for the Portland crew ever.


Road to Vegas Part 1

We had a great turnout for our unofficial satellite tournament – 9 people showed up to play. Mark S, who hasn’t shown up for a couple of years, came up from Salem; and I finally connected the dots that User 367848122 is Mir. David brought his (very nice) new board, and there were enough clocks to go around.

Nine is, you may know, one more than eight, which is how many people I expected/hoped for – so we started out with controversy and trouble right away by having a play-in round. Max and Paul drew the short straws for that, which meant Bodger had the short straw of having to wait for their match to finish before he could play at all.

Suffice it to say, there were delays.

In spite of that, some backgammon was played. David, Mark S, and I all won our first round matches. David and Mark S then played their second round match. In the meantime, Paul was getting the most out of his time bank in his play-in match against Max. When I started tracking, he was down to about 46 seconds of time bank left. At the end of the match, he had 8.8 seconds – and the win. Paul then sat down to face Bodger, and I joined into a lovely little chouette with David and Mark S. Mir and Kyle faced off in the preliminary consolation bracket, Tim and Max did the “play-in” of the consolation (so Max got stuck with two play-in rounds, which is a little rough), and we were hours in with very clearly hours to go to finish it out!

Paul beat Bodger, and then he and I were set to face off. Mark S negotiated a hedge with both Paul and I, that whoever he faced off in the final would just split the prize money 50-50, then conceded the final and asked for his payout.

My match against Paul ended up being very interesting, especially in cube action. Here’s two cube decisions from a critical game. I’m leading 5-1 at this point, and holding the cube at two.

Screenshot 2022-11-05 10.04.21 PM

The critical thing here is that I’m leading 5-1. I redoubled, Paul snapped it up, but it was a massive -0.262 triple-blunder to redouble here! In a money game, or an even match score, this is a fine cube; but giving up the cube gives him the potential for a very powerful recube. If the cube was centered, it would even be a fine initial cube.

I am still, obviously, wrapping my head around the complexities of the cube in certain match score situations. For instance, this position, which happened a few rolls later. I’m still leading 5-1, but now Paul has the cube at 4, and I had been forced to leave him a turn-around shot…

Screenshot 2022-11-05 10.12.04 PM

I was shocked when Paul turned the cube to 8. He only has 4’s and 3-1 to hit, so 13 out of 36 rolls. Of course, in those 13 situations, it’s terrible for me, but 23 out of 36 I win the match off this cube. So I snatched it up, and Paul rolled 46 I believe.

So was Paul insane to ship it here? No! It’s a good recube, in spite of the fact that he is only 35.1% to win! After turning the cube, he is -0.021 equity, versus if he did not double, he is at -0.179 equity. For me, in turn, it is a -1.021 blunder should I happen to drop (which I didn’t, otherwise how could he have rolled 46 and gone on to win 8 points on this game?)

Paul credited his tutor for teaching him about this position, which I still can’t fully comprehend. One day…

I fought my way partly back, but ultimately lost the match to Paul 11-7. So Paul ends up as our main bracket champion, with Mark S in second.

The fun will continue in one week, when we reconvene to finish the consolation bracket. We will start off with me facing off against Mir, and David playing Bodger. It should be a logistically and timing-wise much easier affair, so come out and watch and join in some of the post-match chouette/whatever else. See you there!