We had an excessive turnout for the first “High Equity” tournament of 2023 – I limited the entries to 8, which made the 9th person to show up justifiably upset. For the next one, I am thinking about using a Swiss tournament system instead, or maybe just starting it earlier in the day so that we can absorb an extra round without cutting into the evening. We shall see what I come up with.
Molly and Pete made the trek down from Seattle, and Mark S made a return appearance, coming up from Salem, so we were relatively geographically diverse as well. Most players were there early, and I did the initial bracket draw at a quarter to 2 so that people would not just be sitting around idle.
In round 1, David faced off against Molly, Mark S against Jesse, Pete against Tim, and I drew Bodger. In each of those pairings, I have listed the winner first. Second round in the main, David beat Mark S, and I steamrolled Pete, my dice smoking behind me. I squeaked out a win against David, winning the first post-Crawford game. In the Consolation bracket, Pete and Tim faced off again, but Tim sadly did not get his revenge, and Pete won again.
I do not normally post positions based on my opponent’s mistakes, because I make so many of my own that I don’t need the extra material – but this one was an interesting one that came up in my match against Bodger. Here he is leading 5-3 in our match to 7, in other words, he is 2 points away from winning and I am 4 points away from winning, a situation called 2 away 4 away or even 2A4A in the backgammon books. It is typically harder to find a good moment to double when you are leading in the match, but it is especially hard to do at 2A4A. Once the cube is offered as the leader, the opponent, if they take, should immediately recube on the next move, even as the underdog, because the leader wins the match from a win regardless, and so as the trailer you want the same should you manage to turn it around. That is exactly what happened in this case – Bodger offered the cube, and I gave it back to him at the start of my turn.
I have already given it away, but this was a huge no double for him, and it would have been an even bigger blunder for me to drop. It is far from a comfortable position for me – I have two checkers trapped back on his home board, my board is in messy condition with a big stack on the 6 point and a blot, it is going to take a good amount of luck for me to make a solid board instead of just crunching, and who knows if I will even get a shot? On the other hand, the race is pretty even, and so even if I don’t get a shot, I could win by just racing. I reckoned it was probably a good double for money, but not for this match score. It turns out to be a borderline no double for money as well – if you think about it from the “Position, Race, and Threat” viewpoint, he gets credit for a better position for sure, but as mentioned the race is even or biased towards me, and there are no checkers of mine that he can hit.
Similar story but from the other side, here is a position where I offered the cube to Dave, in spite of being ahead in the match score.
I am up 5-4, so 2A3A, which is not quite as sensitive as 2A4A but still pretty tricky. For money, this is an obvious immediate drop, and my guess is that it was a money drop for two or three moves prior to this position as well, but I was holding off because of the score. If I had a better log of the game, it would probably show me missing the double two or three times in a row, in other words.
Anyway, if those kinds of positions interest you, I recommend Nick Blasier’s new book, Adjusting to Match Play.
Back to the format question for a minute – one of the challenges in running tournaments is that people RSVP who don’t end up showing up, and people who don’t RSVP do end up showing up – as a result you don’t really know what you are getting into until the cutoff time for an event. When we had the “Road to Vegas” event back in November, I dealt with having more than 8 players by having a couple of “anti-bye” positions, that is, some players who had one more round between them and the cashing positions than other players. That is, obviously, unfair to the players with the anti-bye and to anyone who has to wait around for an opponent as a result of the round mismatches this creates. This time, I dealt with it by being more strict about limiting to 8 players, which ideally I would do by setting the registration limit, but as mentioned, online RSVPs are not equivalent to who actually shows. That is, obviously, unfair to the players who had more traffic getting to the event. The Swiss format solution is that you run the event as an incomplete round-robin instead of a bracket. That has challenges as well, in that you need all of the first round events to finish before you can draw the second round, etc., plus it can require more rounds than a simple bracket to determine the winner. That can be unfair to people with time constraints, who might have to forfeit a match late in the tournament. There is no perfect system, unfortunately. I do my best, and I do take any feedback about it all seriously.