What happened in Vegas 2018

I’ve been neglecting the blog for a while, sorry about that. We’ve had a couple of tournaments and a couple of chouettes since the last time I posted, and those results are around here somewhere, but I don’t have any fun backgammon puzzles from them anyway; so instead here’s a bit about my time at the 2018 Vegas Open.

I got in around lunchtime on Thursday, plenty of time for the 2:00 kickoff. I lost my first match to Thomas, who went on to win the intermediate main tournament, so in that sense I came in second! I rebought, and was down around 6-0 in the next match when 5:00 came around, and they announced that any new rebuys had to happen right then. I conceded and rebought again. And the third time – I lost again. I went to get a late dinner and a little sleep, hoping for a better day on Friday.

Well, I got it. Friday I won three matches in the consolation flight, then three matches in a blitz, and three matches in the Seniors. It was the proverbial swing from low to high,and one where I have a photo worth sharing. This is from the Seniors, which is a match to 7 and at this point I am up 3-1:

IMG_20181110_122726

I’m on the bar against a three point board with a blot, but I also have no particular board going. 20 numbers cover the blot, and a couple of things hit the last checker on the ace point. It ain’t good, in other words. There’s certainly more than 25% wins, but a lot of my losses are gammons. I dropped, and XG agrees. This was a pretty close double – no double is +0.964 equity, so I am proud of myself for recognizing that I should drop, because often I’m too optimistic about positions like this. Match score played into my thinking, at that’s correct too – at a 3-3 score this would be a take.

Saturday was a lot more mixed. I won a few, I lost a few, and mostly it was a long day.

One of my more entertaining matches was the $100 jackpot, where I only survived one match against Joe. This position came up in game 5, when I was down 4-1 in our match to 7:

IMG_20181110_152216

In some ways similar but not as extreme as the prior photo – I’m in trouble with a couple of possible hits on this next roll and a 3-point board against his 4-point board. I’m again over 25% to win, but a lot of those losses are gammons. But being in as much trouble as I was, I correctly felt it was a take. XG rates this as a No Double at this score, although a double/take if we were more even.

Having won a blitz on Friday, I got to play in the Blitz Champions Saturday night. Well, I got to play one match anyway. Here I’m playing Lynda for the second time, and we’re tied at 3-3 in the match to 5 when she offered me the cube:

IMG_20181110_212942

From this set of photos, it sure looks like I was always in trouble, doesn’t it? On the bar, no home board, a weak 3-prime to contain her last checker – sure, but against only a 2-point board and it’s not going to get stronger without likely leaving a blot or two around. I took, as XG later said I should, but as was predicted to happen 2/3rds of the time, I lost.

In the consolation round on Saturday, I lasted one match, against Richard, who went on to win the consolation flight, so in that sense I came in second there too. Here’s a photo from the last game of that match, where I led 6-5 in the match to 9:

IMG_20181111_105332

Richard doubled me from the bar, which is always fun. I had doubled him out from the bar in an earlier game, so I like to think I gave him the idea. Anyway – there’s some risk here, especially if he gets a 3. XG puts this as a double/take, which is what happened over the board. Richard is 60.7% to win, and 13.7% gammons. After rolling double 3’s, his win percentage jumped to 89.2% and his gammons to 63.5%, and he went on to get one of those gammons. Ah, well.

Sunday, I got eliminated early from everything I still had going. In the Seniors, I made it to the quarter-finals, and hedged, and lost; so although I didn’t cash in the tournament I cashed in the tournament.

Overall, the Golden Nugget was a nicer room to play in than the basement of the Flamingo. I had a great time, played better than last year, and have a few good lessons out of it all. Y’all should come next year.

-Mark

September 9 2018 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had one of our final sunny afternoons of the season to compete with, but a pretty good showing for our return to Lucky Lab for the fall: 15 people participated. We had one more show up about an hour into it, but by that point it felt unreasonable to try to deal him in, unfortunately. But he hung around and got some play time in with people who had finished their tournament play, so no harm done.

My heart-break game was against Justin, in the second round. I took a cube but failed to get the turn-around shot and was looking likely to be gammoned. Justin had two checkers left, on the two point; I had a full board and one checker left in the outfield, on the nine point. “Roll a 1!” I called before his penultimate roll, and he did! “Roll a 2-1!” he responded as I picked up my dice cup, and I did! Curses! Justin went on to take second or third place.

You would think I would know that, right? Well. Mark F came in first, winning against Karen, Jake, Tim, and finally Justin. So Justin had a 3/1 match score. At that point, he had 19 games won, and the other two people with a 3/1 match score (Martin and Jake) had 17 each. Brian was sitting down to play against Tim for their last match, after which one of them would have a 3/1 match score. I deemed that Justin had taken second, and that Brian had an outside chance of taking third, because he had 12 points from his first three games. I let him know he needed to win with 6 points in the match to take third, and they went at it. Well, Brian is an overachiever – he concluded the match with 8 points! Brian and Justin settled the matter between themselves somehow.

Thanks especially to the newcomers and long-gap returning players this time: Phillip, Michael, Jake, and Karen. It’s great to have new people showing up.

We’ll be back at Lucky Lab on October 14th for the next installment – see you there!

-Mark

How They Play in Zurich

As I mentioned to a few people at the last meetup, my daughter is moving to Switzerland. My wife and I spent a week or so over there helping her tour the country and then get settled in. While in our first stop, Zurich, I happened to be in town the same time as their weekly chouette, and so I thought I would share some impressions.

They play weekly, on Wednesday nights, at Cafe Bubbles. The owner is one of the players, and quite sharp over the board, but prone to wander off to help customers and chat up passers-by. Half the time I was there, someone else was making cube decisions for her and she skipped multiple turns. But it seemed to work out. They had 4 playing when I first arrived, and a couple more arrived after the first few games. They split to two boards, having everyone roll a die to decide which table they would go to. I was one of 4 on the original board, with Bobbi (the cafe owner), Jacque (the event organizer), and Andres (the scorekeeper). With 3 or 4 players, the rotations happened quickly enough that I quickly lost track of time.

One of their rules was they played for only 2 CHF/point, which is about $1/point purchasing equivalent for us. It made for a friendlier game – people weren’t afraid to make a dumb take in hopes of keeping the box because of stakes for instance. I certainly wasn’t. About 3 hours in, Andres noted that I had been having the longest streaks in the box of anyone. I asked him if I was up, and he said “Yes, by one game!” That’s the kind of night it was. I took the box again the next time it came around and held it for about an hour and half, then bid my adieu.

There were a couple of differences they used from how we’ve run our chouettes. If the first roll both the box and captain had the same roll, it was the box’s choice whether or not to do an automatic double. I don’t think I exercised that right, but it happened with Bobbi in the box every time she was able. They allowed beavers, which I saw happen once or twice. They re-rolled if a die ended up on top of a checker. At one point I mentioned that in America, we’d play that, and thereafter that became a joke for the evening if a good roll came up: “American rules?” The other joke of the evening was based on my non-existent German. We had a conversation about whether or not it was rude to call a roll in advance. I said I didn’t think so, because the dice never listen to me anyway. A few rolls later I called a roll, in German (I can count to 6…) “That’s the problem, the dice only speak German!”

Jacque had his laptop and checked a few positions in XG when it came up. At one point, I had the box and the cubes, a huge racing lead, and needed to jump past a point to avoid leaving a shot against their closed board. I hesitated for a while, thinking about whether to re-double them out. Turns out, the redouble was a huge blunder! This is approximately the position…
Untitled drawing (1)

I might have been crashed a little more forward, their board might have been slightly weaker, but it was about this. This version XG says is a beaver if I had redoubled! Well, I didn’t double, but I did roll double 6’s, then cashed it.

The other position that I remember is because I was the one who photographed it and put in Mobile XG. Here’s the position:

Untitled drawing (2)

This time it’s red’s roll, and there was a question whether or not to double. The captain chose to double, the rest of us decided not to, and it is in fact a blunder to double.

So if you’re ever in Zurich on a Wednesday night, stop by Cafe Bubbles and tell Jacque I sent you. Viel Gluck!

August 12 Backgammon Tournament Results

This was what I was dreaming of when I created the Patio Series – a balmy but not unbearable afternoon, a shady patio, some good beers, and some enjoyable backgammon. APEX was a decent spot for the meetup, but probably not one we’ll go to again – the only beverage choices are beers and ciders, and no food choices, and modestly strict about outside beverages given they don’t offer coffee even. So it didn’t work for everyone for refreshments. On the other hand, we weren’t hassled at all.

Having learned from the fiasco at Prost!, I did bring spare boards this time. We didn’t need them – Julie, Martin, Kris and Tim all brought boards, so we were set. We had 6 people initially, and so settled into 3 pairs. Jarom showed up about 15 minutes late, but we were able to deal him in no problem.

My first match was against Martin, and it was one of those one game matches. Martin doubled me early, I had a chance to redouble later, and then pulled off a gammon. I wasn’t nearly so lucky the next round. Jarom and I went back and forth – he took the first game or two, I rallied to 4, he survived the Crawford game, and then pulled off the remaining games necessary to take the match. I ended up by playing Julie, who proceeded to not only win, but to frankly slaughter me. It was fun!

Martin had a chess buddy who was hanging around, and made a poorly advised bet, that if Martin beat Kris that the group would have to buy him a drink but if Kris won, he’d buy everyone a drink. Naturally, he left before the match was over. But Martin knows a free drink when he hears one – I’m not saying he threw the match, but that was one we were all rooting for Kris. After that, Martin threw in the towel, so he only got two matches out of the day. Somehow, we ended up with everyone else getting 3 games, though I might have had 4. It’s a little fuzzy now. Tim took first place, Jarom took second, and I took off while Julie and Kris finished their third matches.

July 8, 2018 Tournament Results

In spite of my fairly last minute announcement of the meetup, we had a pretty good turnout – 10 players total! Last time we went to Occidental, I got griped at by management for having so many people show up without advance warning. This time I got off with a “it would have helped if you called ahead”, to which I could honestly say “I did!” Of course, I ignored the request from when I called ahead to email someone else and I can’t find that piece of paper anymore, but anyway.

Any of you old timers remember Charlie, he’s back – he crushed me in the first round 7-0, and went on to take second in the tournament. Jarom is turning into the man to beat – he took first this time after coming in second last month. It was a good mix of some of the regulars and a few faces we haven’t seen in a while, or ever.

Swiss format is still striking me as a great approach – everyone got at least 3 matches and some people got 4, and we were pretty much out of there by 4:30. See you in a few weeks at the next Patio Series!

-Mark

June 10, 2018 Tournament Results

We had an excellent turnout for today’s tournament – 14 players! There were actually 3 other people who showed up late, but never more than one at a time… First guy, I said “sorry, we’re all paired up, don’t think you’ll get to play in.”, and he said “no problem, maybe next time”, and left. Not 5 minutes later, a second guy showed up. I said “crud, you just missed a guy, maybe he’s still here…” but he wasn’t. Second guy gave me his cell number and said “text me if he comes back.” About 20 minutes later, third guy shows up… I text the second guy, who doesn’t see the text until hours later. So moral of the story: be on time! Of course, we had three people show up while I was setting the first pairings, so it was a close thing…

We tried a “Swiss Format” this time, and I think it worked very well! I used dice to randomize people into 7 pairs, plus a bit of “yeah, uh, play that guy who just walked in”. But once the pairs were set, I don’t think anyone had to wait involuntarily more than about 5 minutes for their next match (although a couple of breaks were longer than that for nicotine or food…)

My first match was against Tim E., who has a grudge against my new board. It’s a beauty – a tournament sized Crisloid that my wife got me for my birthday this year. So far I’ve been very lucky on it, especially against Tim. Here’s one position that came up in our first game:

gnubg-danbu_5p_2018-06-10

Here I’m black, and just rolled a 4-2. There were two options I was considering. First, 7/1*; second 8/6, 7/3. According to both GnuBG and XG, these are the right two options to consider, but it’s not especially close. It took me a minute or two over the board, though. 7/1* has about 39.4% wins, about 8% gammons; the more passive but safer looking 8/6, 7/3 is a blunder (-0.092 according to GnuBG, -0.137 according to XG). As usual, it doesn’t look that big of a difference to me. But I guess the difference comes not with red’s next roll, but black’s roll after that. With 4 men back, I’m in trouble on the next roll if red re-enters, or hits. As it happened, Tim danced, and I was able to pull this one off.

After Tim, I had a final match with Lee, who is moving back to Vegas this month. He’s been a fun addition to the group, but says he’ll be back for visits from time to time, and of course we can look for him when in Vegas (although we won’t be able to talk about it…) I gave him one of my bar boards as a parting gift.

I then made the tactical mistake of agreeing to play Martin on his own board, and got crushed. I wish I had taken a picture of the position that cost me most of the match – I had a choice of hitting loose on my home board (leaving two blots) or covering a blot on Martin’s home board, and went with the chicken move, which was probably wrong by a lot.

By a bit before 4, Jarom and Martin were the only two undefeated players, and so they played for the championship. It was a good match, and Martin got the top spot for today, winning the final game with some very timely double 4’s.

I’ll be posting a summer schedule soon – my thought is to do a “tour of patios” series, hitting two or three places we can play in the sun over the summer. Stay tuned for that!

-Mark

Portlandia Postscript

The final accounting is in. I shouldn’t have bought the candy.

Last I wrote about this, I mentioned the event was going to be borderline break-even, depending on the final coffee bill. That bill arrived today, and so I can definitively say: I lost money on the event. Not much, in the grand scheme of things, but here we are. Here’s the books:

Revenue
31 Hospitality Fees $620.00
17 Intermediate Entries Rake $255.00
15 Championship Entries Rake $450.00
Minis/Jackpots Rake $64.00
Tips $20.00
$1,399.00
Expenses
Printing & Office Supplies $229.60
Trophy Plaques $100.02
Pens & Score Cards $209.86
Spare boards, clocks, door prizes $196.79
Candy $44.91
PayPal Fees $7.78
Hotel set-up, coffee $663.34
$1,452.30
Profit/(Loss) -$43.30

We had 32 attendees. Why 31 hospitality fees? “Things happen.” I had one registrant who didn’t pay this fee, and I didn’t realize until slightly later, and I let it go rather than further agitate him. The “Tip” I will call out publically: thank you, Kevin, it was a classy gesture.

On the expense side, there are a number of items that will not recur for the next event – most of the office supplies I should be able to still find, there are left-over pens and score cards, the spare boards and clocks shouldn’t mold, etc. The candy (and the bright pink rabbit head felt bucket to dispense said candy) was a last minute whimsy purchase. I think most of us were glad it was there, but it conspicuously close to the net loss for the event. As my beloved wife and registration expert, Jen, said “we ate our profit!”

The PayPal fee is from the couple of people I allowed to pay entry fees electronically, which I’m seriously considering making the default for next time. The transaction fees associated is the main drawback to that approach, but it removes the case of registrations arriving after the event (which did happen!)

Originally the hotel was going to charge me for 4 gallons of coffee on Sunday, but I protested there was no way the size of a group we had left at that point could really have gone through that much, and they relented and dropped it to their minimum 2. I will say the Sheraton was super easy to work with, start to finish, and I agree with the people who did my post-event survey that it was an excellent venue, even if parking Saturday night got a little tight. I had several people suggest I move it to downtown for the next event, but I am not sure I will be able to swing the increase in rent that would entail. Any other tournament directors who happen to read this are going to be shocked and amazed that the hotel fee was so low, and again, most of that was consumables: coffee, at $59/gallon + 23% gratuity. Many people expressed their appreciation for it being there, but my goodness! And don’t get me started about the whiteboard fee!

I also have three books for door prizes which didn’t get handed out. I might see if anyone wants to buy them off me, or return them, instead of saving them to next time, and recoup the loss that way. I just philosophically am bothered that, in effect, I spent $43.30 to watch other people play backgammon. The whole reason for running the club is it gives me a lot more opportunity to play – organizing this event gave me a lot of opportunity to do a lot of other things besides playing. But, it’s good for the community, and it kept me out of other trouble for a good stretch, so no problems.

-Mark

 

Planning the Portlandia Backgammon Classic (Part Last)

Whew – it’s over!

Not quite – I have emailed results out to the participants, and to Chicago Point, but I have not yet updated the event page on this site. Wanted to get some thoughts out of my head first…

First lesson learned: just in time beats preparation. I used index cards, shuffled, to establish the initial order of match-ups. I had pre-written the cards for people who paid in advance, but a spilled cup of tea led to us having to re-do most of those as people registered. In the confusion, one (dry) card too many made it into the intermediate pile, leading me to be confused as to how many players I had. I should have had only one “play in” game in that bracket, but I set up two, and then had to balance it with a first round bye elsewhere! Major goof and my biggest regret from the event.

Second lesson learned: you need to be very clear with people. Had a couple of completely preventable issues that arose due to poorly explained clock controls (2 points/game in the match means 22 minutes on the clock at the start of the 11 point match, not to reset the clock to 2 minutes each game… although that’d be an interesting variation…) If the player says “I’ll be back between X and X+1”, say “be back at X or else”, not “try for X”. Confusion leads to hurt feelings. I don’t mind hurting feelings, but I don’t want to do it unnecessarily.

Third lesson learned: get buy-in. I had over 10 no-shows, only two of which gave me the courtesy of a note in advance. I had a few short of the walk-ins that I expected. So my mood was depressed by the swing from expected. I had told locals that they could just RSVP via meetup and pay day of, but that meant people were registering as a “yeah, I’ll maybe go do that” rather than really committing to the event. I’m still grumpy about that.

Still, once we got rolling, it did go pretty smoothly.

Financially, it looks like it’ll be close to a break-even, which met my expectations based on the numbers we had. We had 32 players, I figured break-even would be 30-35. I’m still waiting for the final bill from the hotel for coffee and set-up, but ball-park figuring those, we had $1400 in revenue from the event (hospitality fees + rakes from the various tourneys), and expenses of $1300 or so. I hope. If the bill includes two more gallons of coffee than I expect, expenses will exceed revenue! But some of those expenses are non-recurring for next year (spare boards, extra clocks) or for materials I can save to next year (still have about a third of the pens and about half the score pages). So even if the coffee bill puts me in the red for the event this year, I can think about amortizing those expenses over several years and claim a win. I was hoping to do a little better than that, as the club has been running in the red so far, but still… not a failed venture, not a home-run.

I know some of what I want to do differently next year, and I plan to do a survey of the people who came to see what they want different as well. And in another 3-6 months, hopefully, I will have the energy to start planning again.

-Mark

March 17, 2018 Chouette Results

We had a great turnout for the chouette today – 12 players over the afternoon, although no more than 10 at any one time. Newcomers Oggie, Oliver, and Nate had not done a chouette before, and so we set up a beginner’s table for $1/point, and the main table went for their usual $5-10/point.

It occurred to me that a sport’s bar is really a perfect spot for the chouette, because they had about 7 different events on various screens, and it was totally not out of place for a table to suddenly erupt in a cry of joy and/or despair. We had a lot of those for the backgammon games too, and more than once I found myself saying “all I need is a double <insert number here> or better…”, either to win or to save the gammon. I think I got my roll each time, too!

This position came up in one game where Oliver was the captain, and we spent a solid 2 minutes debating.

gnubg-danbu_21p_2018-03-17

The debate was: 7/3(2) or 24/20(2). Turns out, we went with the wrong answer. Extreme gammon says it’s 7/3(2), and by going with 24/20(2), we made a -0.004 error. Which is to say, you couldn’t really go wrong with either of those plays.  +0.934 equity or +0.930 equity – I guess one is slightly higher.

I have a couple of other positions from my table where there was a doubling decision, but running them through Extreme gammon shows the answer we arrived at was not only right, but kind of obvious.

Mark F sent me a couple of positions from the other table that were interesting. Brown was the box in our chouette yesterday, with white on roll. There were four 4-cubes on White’s side of the board. What is the cube action here? Note that brown has 8 checkers left on the one-point.

Untitled1

In the actual chouette, all four team members doubled to 8. The box took all 4 eight cubes. The box lost, and questioned his take. But it was a very easy take, and in fact, it would be a huge blunder to drop. In fact, it was not a proper double, and white’s error was .045 by doubling (a fairly small error).

Note that white will be very disappointed they doubled after white rolls a non-double and brown rolls any double. Also, if white rolls a 1 or a 2 (other than double-2), black still has a take next roll.

 

Later in the afternoon, another bearoff cube action came up:
Untitled12

After learning about the previous position through XG mobile shortly after that game, brown was reluctant to redouble. And he didn’t double. But actually, it is a clear double. And a double-blunder not to double! Here, brown can be off in 3 shakes without rolling a double, whereas white needs four rolls unless he rolls a double. That’s a huge factor. White barely has a take. The cube equity after white taking is .961, so it would only be a small error for White to pass.

Lots of excitement was expressed about next weekend’s Portlandia Backgammon Classic, and I’m super pumped for it. Hope to see you there!

-Mark

February 18, 2018 Tournament Results

We had a tremendous turnout for today’s event – 16 people showed up to play, and a couple of others showed up to either watch or just to register for next month’s “big show” (hint, hint, go to http://pdxbg.club/2018-portlandia-open/ to register!). I decided to split us into two brackets in order to make sure we got done in reasonable time, and we played from 1:00 until a bit before 4:00.

We had 7 first timers, although only 6 if you count the time James came to a chouette. Ok, so 6 first timers, although I’m not positive that maybe Joel came to one last summer. There were definitely at least 5 first timers.

In bracket one, Brian ended up winning the main flight, with possibly first timer Joel taking second. Jarom (who arrived a bit late but got us to the perfect bracket numbers) took the consolation bracket. In bracket two, absolutely for sure first timer Stephen beat me out for first, and Dick took the consolation bracket.

Here’s a position that came up in my second round match against Justin. I am up in the match 2-0, but had been in some trouble and aiming for a backgame. My previous roll, however, was a double-6, pulling all my checkers off the ace point and leaving me with this weird position. Justin stared at it for a while, and offered me the cube (I’m red in the picture below). What would you have done?

gnubg-danbu_5p_2018-02-18

According to GnuBG, black is only 54.6% to win here, with 33.2% gammons. At a score of 0-0 or 1-0, this is a no double/take. But at 2-0, this is a double/take!

Extreme Gammon disagrees – putting black at 59.75% to win, with 42.4% gammons. According to Extreme Gammon, this is a double/take at scores of 0-0 and 1-0, but a double/pass at 2-0!

So one way or another, the match score is critical to the cube action right here. I’m going to go with Extreme Gammon, because after all it’s supposed to be the stronger program, and also because over the board I did in fact drop.

We have our monthly chouette next Saturday, and possibly (possibly) another chouette in early/mid March, but the next tournament event will be the Portlandia Classic. Registration is starting to pick up, and I’m hoping we’ll have 60+ players. See you there! (hint, hint, go to http://pdxbg.club/2018-portlandia-open/ to register!)

-Mark