Tour of Patios #3 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a fair showing for our final “Tour of Patios” event of the year – 11 players came out to Breakside Dekum (which, to be fair, is more of a sidewalk than a patio). It was largely the usuals, but a couple of players who haven’t been in for a while as well – Andres (who beat me in a hard fought first round match), and Leslie (who brought her daughter, Nina, and then the random draw set them against one another!)

Anyway, with a smaller field, we only had 4 brackets run – congratulations to Julie, Bodger, Kyle, and me on the bracket wins! Julie noted that she wins just often enough to keep her sense of optimism going, which I think resonates for all of us…

I attempted to record my matches, but I “upgraded” my camera to one that I apparently don’t know how to use – almost none of the recordings are usable. In the first, which was just Dave and I doing some money games before the matches started, I literally can’t see the right-hand side of the board at all. Terrible. But, I did get close enough on my final match, against Jeremy, to be able to transcribe that (single game) match. Here are a couple of points from that one that I think are a little interesting.

First up is a cube decision that Jeremy gave me. Spoiler alert, it’s a great time for him to cube – but should I take, or drop?

Screenshot 2023-08-13 8.09.45 AM

For these kinds of decisions, I like to use the “Position, Race, and Threat” analysis schema to think through it. If your opponent only has 2 out of 3, it’s probably a take. If he has all 3, it’s likely a drop. Here, Jeremy is definitely up in position, having mostly escaped his back checkers, while mine are stuck back on his ace point. He’s also up in the race, something I did not bother to check at the time, but which was obvious because he had rolled double 6’s the sequence before and we were early in the game. And threat – well, yes, he has the threat of priming my back checkers! So I should have dropped. But over the board, I did not actually use the “Position, Race, and Threat” analysis schema, I just said “oh, it’s early” and grabbed the cube to use as a weapon later on. GnuBG rates this as about a -0.152 blunder – my winning chances are good enough, but I also get gammoned a lot, and so it’s a massive drop!

And here’s the point where I decided that I had turned things around enough to offer the cube back to Jeremy – should I have doubled from here?

Screenshot 2023-08-13 8.19.22 AM

For recubes, one key thing is to know what “market losers” you have – what can you roll that would make it impossible for your opponent to take. Here, I escape with any 4, 5, or 6, and I step up my last checker off the ace point with any 3. If I happen to roll just 1’s and 2’s, well, I can safely play those in my home board. So nothing can go wrong, and most of my rolls put me in a much better position, so I figured I was good enough to take it up to a 4-cube. But I am not good enough just yet! GnuBG rates my recube as a -0.166 blunder, so slightly worse even than my take! If my back checker was also on his 4-point, or if my checker on his 4-point was up to where it could directly hit his blot in my outfield – then it would be a proper redouble. So I was premature. However, I was also lucky – Jeremy snatched up the 4-cube, but then the dice went completely in my direction and I was able to win a gammon to win the match in one game.

Anyway, it was a fun afternoon, thanks to everyone who came out. Next event is the Men’s Championship Qualifier/Women’s Championship Qualifier double-event, back at Lucky Lab, on the 27th – hope to see you all there!


Tour of Patios #2 Results

We had a great turnout last Sunday for the 2nd “Tour of Patios” backgammon tournament at Bar Bar. 17 players came out to play, and play we did! We ended up running 8 total brackets, and ended up with 8 different winners! Congratulations to Dave, Kyle, me, Steven, Paul, Nick, Bodger, and Cam on the wins!

I did not end up using my overhead camera set-up this time, but I did take pictures of a number of interesting positions that came up. This first one is a cube decision and a variation that came out of my first round match against Nick (who came out for the first time in quite a while, it was good to see him again…)

Screenshot 2023-08-02 7.17.03 PM

I’m leading 1-0 in our match to 5, but score doesn’t seem to matter in the bit I have played with this on the machine. I did not do a full pip-count over the board, but I am clearly ahead in the race. What I actually did was count cross-overs to get to bear-off: I have 14, Nick has 17. That is, each of his checkers in my homeboard need to do 3 cross-overs to reach his homeboard, those in my outfield need 2 each, etc. Anyway – I have the race lead. My position isn’t amazing but his is terrible, having just had to split a checker off his 3 point to his ace point to avoid leaving a direct shot. And in terms of threats, well – there’s always double 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s but I am not too worried about hitting loose on my 4 point. So I have position (a little), race (a lot), and threat (a smidge) – should be a double and a pass. And it is! It would have only been about -0.025 error to not double, but the drop is huge -0.430 or so mega-monster blunder to take. Nick then pointed out that if he still had his 3 point made, he thought it would be a take, and it is!

Screenshot 2023-08-02 7.24.03 PM

One checker, moved two pips, makes an enormous difference! Now it would be about a -0.105 blunder to not double, but also a -0.044 error to drop! With the fourth point made on his home board, my threats are completely neutralized – hitting loose would be suicidal. I thought that was a great observation, and the kind of thing that I love about this game: a seemingly small change that is, in fact, a huge difference!

The next couple of positions were from that same match, one game later. After a lot of standoffs, we eventually got into a race and in the bear-off I faced the doubling decision below:

Screenshot 2023-08-02 7.31.50 PM

In these kinds of positions, I have been using a technique called the Keith Count to guide my decisions. Here, with perfect rolling but without doubles, I need 4 rolls to get off, but Nick needs only 3. On the other hand, that’s not likely. He’s got a double gap, and I have a gap on the 2 point. So it’s complex. My Keith Count is 33 and a bit, his is 29, so the difference is 4 and a bit. I often ignore the “and a bit” part of that, but a difference of 4 is the cut-off between doubling and not doubling, so here that “and a bit” matters. I decided to roll on. Which is correct by a lot! If I doubled and he took, my equity drops by 0.095, putting a double into the category of a blunder (unless he made an even bigger blunder by passing, but he confirmed that he would have taken here).

A couple of rolls later, I faced the following position:

Screenshot 2023-08-02 7.40.09 PM

Again, perfect rolls would make this a two-roll versus two-roll position, which is a double/pass. But we both have gaps, so it will more likely take 3 rolls each, but 3-roll versus 3-roll is also a double/pass. Keith Count puts me at 19 and a bit, him at 16, for a difference of 3 and a bit, which is a double and a take. So, I doubled. I think I would have doubled just based on it being kind of 3-roll versus 3-roll, but having learned the Keith Count made me far more confident about the move, which is correct! Not doubling would have been about a -0.18 blunder.

The last position is a checker play decision that came up in my match against Kyle. As you can probably guess from the position, there’d been a fair amount of hitting early on in this game…

Screenshot 2023-08-02 7.47.17 PM

This 6-3 roll provides me with a lot of choices! I can anchor on his 5 point, safety the blot on the 14 point, make my own 3 point, and probably a dozen other things! I looked at making my 3 point (9/3, 6/3), on grounds that it strengthens my board and the other side is a mess anyway. I looked at 20/14, 9/6 on grounds that it cleans up almost everything. But ultimately, I went with 23/20 as the strongest use of the 3, which left 14/8 as the strongest use of the 6. When I ran it through the machine, I was glad to see that I was right, but I was also shocked to see that everything else was a massive blunder! The second best move was 23/20, 9/3, which I didn’t even look at, and that’s a -0.195 double-blunder!

Anyway: as I mentioned, we ran 8 brackets, and so play went until around 6pm. I actually left before the last two brackets had resolved, and relied on the players to report back to me afterwards. It was a great afternoon of backgammon. See you all at the next one!