October 2023 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a nice showing for this month’s (very early in the month) tournament – 14 players showed up to play, plus Christine from the Puget Sound club stopped by to say hello (she had a wedding to attend and so could not stay long enough to actually play). We had 3 newcomers, plus a returning newcomer from last month – overall quite a good turnout for such a sunny and pleasant day.

Bodger and I played a couple of matches of speedgammon before the tournament started, to help him warm up for attending the Denver Open later this week (where he plans to play that event). With a 90 second time bank for a 5 point match, it is a very frantic event! First match we did in one game (with the cube up to 8); the second actually took multiple games. Bodger smoked me in both of them, which hopefully bodes well for his performance in Denver.

In the “A” bracket, I had only 6 players, so there were some second round byes. In round 1, Leah beat out Dave, Bodger defeated first-timer Giless, and Elliott (who has played before in an online event back when we were doing those) skunked me. Leah went on to win the bracket, with Bodger taking second (which hopefully bodes well for his performance in Denver). Dave squeaked out the Consolation bracket win over Elliott.

In the “B” bracket, Cam beat out Larry in round 1, as did first-timer Rich over Ceci, Terry over Kyle, and first-timer Diane over Mark A. Cam went on to win the bracket, with Rich taking second; Terry won the Consolation bracket over Ceci.

We will meet again at the end of the month for the final “Championship Qualifier”, followed one week later by the November tournament – as the weather turns colder and wetter I expect more people will see the attraction of spending the day inside playing gammon – hope to see you there!

-Mark

September 2023 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a good turnout for the return to the fall tournament series, back at our “home base” of Lucky Lab. 18 players showed up for the tournament, plus many more for the “Second Sunday” event that was happening at the same time. We had 5 new players in the tournament this time, which is a record for new participants this year, I think! We actually had 16 when I first started to do the draw, but one more showed up after I had drawn the “A” bracket, and then the last guy about 15 minutes later, but I figured out a way to deal him in too – better a 10 person bracket than a 9 person bracket…

In the “A” bracket first round, Dave took out Bodger, Kyle defeated Cam, Sanam beat Joel, and I squeaked past Tim. Dave went on the beat Kyle in the final of the Main, and I had a rematch against Tim to win the Consolation bracket.

In the “B” bracket first round, Mark A took out first timer Sarah, Ian took down Jesse, Tim (Sarah’s partner) beat out Nathan, visiting player from SoCal Larry defeated Matt, and Jack (also a newcomer) got the bye. Jack then took on Larry, and shortly after that, Brad (also a newcomer) showed up, so I put him in against Mark A. Eventually, somehow, it all worked out, and Mark A won the Main bracket against Larry, while Nathan came back to defeat Jack for the Consolation bracket.

I did record (and subsequently transcribe) all of my matches from the day, so I do have some interesting positions to look at. This one is from my match against Kyle (where I played… very poorly). Kyle is leading 2-1 in our match to 5. Our positions are more or less equal – he’s escaped both his back checkers to my bar point, but I only have one checker back and have started slotting points to build my board. And then this happened.

Screenshot 2023-09-11 8.37.24 PM

So this is a great roll, if I want to jump out and hit him in the outfield – with a one point home board and two blots for him to hit back. Or, I can play quietly, something like 13/8, 6/2 – build my board and wait for a better opportunity. Over the board, I decided that patience was a virtue – but the correct move (by a lot) is to hit! Sure, it will turn into a blot-hitting contest with me as the main course; but he also only has a one point home board, and besides, hitting is fun! This was far from my worst blunder of the match (or indeed of the day), but it’s one that’s typical for me and I’m trying to burn it out of my brain. Hitting feels risky, because it leaves three blots lying around, letting him hit with 2’s, 3’s, and 5’s. But I re-enter 35/36 times if hit, and if he happens to roll a 6, it’s kinda awkward for him even if it’s a hitting number like 6-2. When in doubt, hit!

Anyway – in spite of some longish waits between matches for some players, the afternoon went pretty well and a good time was had by most-if-not-all. Hope to see you all at the next one!

-Mark

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!

-Mark

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!

-Mark

June 2023 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a pretty good turnout for today’s event – 15 players showed up on a cool and wet afternoon. I was hoping the unseasonably wet weather would inspire more people to show up, but alas. Still, 15 is a good showing. This month we did not get any brand new players, but we did have quite a few who haven’t been in a while.

We had a bye in the A bracket, which by legitimately random chance ended up with me. That was nice, it gave me time to figure out all the payouts etc. The rest of the field started with Jeremy over Bodger, Dave over Tim, and Kyle over Jesse. After my easy start, I did cruise on to victory, beating out Kyle in a tightly fought match. Jeremy won the consolation bracket.

The B bracket was a full field, starting with Andrea (who came in second in the last Women’s Championship Qualifier) over Cam, Elton (who hasn’t been in a while but has been before) over Steven, Joel over Mark A, and Sanam over Julie. Sanam and Andrea went on to face off in the finals, which Sanam won. It’s only a couple of appearances, but this does mean Sanam is currently the only undefeated player with more than one tournament appearance… Mark A won the consolation bracket.

As the tournament wound down, we had a good chouette going for those of us who hadn’t had enough yet, and the rain started to come down pretty hard! Just for a few minutes, it felt like fall.

I did record my matches for the day, and will get those transcribed eventually. Hopefully I got the camera to an angle where you can see the whole board this time. We’ll see, but I am toying with the idea of adding analysis and commentary and loading them to youtube… stay tuned!

Next event is a few weeks out, our first Tour of Patios for the summer, see you there!

-Mark

Championship Qualifier #2 Results

We had a great turnout for this past weekend’s second qualifier for the backgammon championship tournament – 18 players total showed up to compete. We had 14 entries in the men’s tournament, and 4 in the women’s, matching exactly the player mix from the first event back in March, but without me having to reassign any players.

For me, the tournament was short – JB knocked me out in the first match. I’m not claiming I played at my very best, but I will say, having recorded the match and transcribed it, that GnuBG described my luck level as “Go to bed!” I’ll pull out a position or two for analysis in a bit.

The women’s event resolved more quickly than the men’s, not just because of the smaller field, but also the matches all lasted a reasonable 45-60 minutes. In the men’s event, some of the matches stretched out to 75+ minutes long, which ended up holding up subsequent matches, etc. Anyway: Leah came out on top of the bracket for the second event in a row, meaning she has not only secured her entry into the championship tournament, but a first round bye! Andrea (making her first appearance at any of our events) came in second.

In the men’s event, given that the event was running on and I had been eliminated a long time ago, I decided to not ask for a deciding match to determine 1st/2nd, instead giving both of the players who would go into that match the 1st place payout and giving them both an entry into the championship. And those two players were Tim and Paul!

To recap both qualifiers so far, we have the following people eligible for the championship event:

  1. Leah (secured bye)
  2. Liz
  3. Andrea
  4. Molly
  5. Kyle
  6. Tim
  7. Paul

There will be two more opportunities to qualify – the next one is scheduled for August 27th, and the final will be scheduled for late October/early November, date TBD. The purse for the championship is already over $400, and I am planning on it being a trophy event as well, so you definitely want to try to get into it at one of the remaining qualifiers! I know I’m hoping to do better next time…

Speaking of doing better, here’s one of the positions where I struggled from my match with JB:

Screenshot 2023-06-07 7.30.28 PM

Now, earlier in this game, it was also a blunder for me to have accepted that cube, but I’m holding it now, and I am maybe in a position where I can turn it around. Not with this roll, of course – I needed maybe a 6-2 instead of a 6-4. But we have to play what we roll. With the 6, I have a choice between hitting another blot with 13/7*, or escaping one of the trapped back checkers with 24/18. With the 4… well, there are three legal and not foolish moves: 18/14, 13/9, and 5/1. Also 6/2, but that one I could immediately rule out. I decided that I preferred to pull one of the trapped back checkers out over hitting another blot, and given that I was aiming to start moving forward, I went ahead and lifted with the 4, 5/1. Huge mistake! Hitting the blot is the better use of the 6, and having done that, bringing another covering roll down with 13/9 is the obvious corollary. This is one of those “great if it works out” situations – yes, I might get hit back on the next roll, but if he dances, I am able to redouble on my next turn. That’s a turnaround! Lifting looks safe, but it takes that checker out of play, and I still have a lot of work to do so I need that resource.

Well, it was a good day of backgammon, and as I said, several more opportunities to come. Also, this summer’s Tour of Patios is scheduled – so please RSVP for those as well. Hope to play with you soon!

-Mark

 

Chicago Open 2023

I spent Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, for my first appearance at the Chicago Open. I have been wanting to do that tournament for several years now. Back in 2020, when the shutdowns first started, I was initially really bummed because I had intended to do more ABT tournaments that year. But then online ABT came live, and it turned out that I was able to do a massive number of tournaments from the comfort of my own couch. Rory ran many of those tournaments, and used the “More Swiss” format for them, and I really liked that format. Chicago is the one live tournament that I know of using that format (and run by Rory, of course), and now you get the digression.

“More Swiss” works by pairing players at random in round 1, then in round 2 players who won play other players who won, then in round 3 players with a 2-0 record play other players with a 2-0 record (and likewise 1-1 pair with 1-1, 0-2 pair with 0-2), etc. The way it was run each player was guaranteed at least 4 matches in the main event, which is a more forgiving approach than the traditional main/consolation/last chance bracket structure of most tournaments.

I got in on Thursday, and played (and lost) a couple of side event matches – the limited jackpot and a “Taki board” tournament. Friday, I re-entered the limited jackpot, and lost again. So I re-entered a third time, and that time it stuck.

It was, naturally, a little discouraging to have lost so many matches before the main event even started. However, I seemed to be playing pretty well. I took pictures of a dozen or so decisions through those first couple of days, and most of them, I made the best decision. Of course, there were a couple of inexplicably bad decisions in there as well. For instance, this position (which came from the second round of the jackpot):

Screenshot 2023-06-03 5.57.49 PM

Here I’m leading 7-6 in a match to 9, and I’ve been offered a cube. My position isn’t bad, and in a money game, or at a score of 0-0, I would not have hesitated. But, I did hesitate. I thought about the downside – if I took and lost, he would suddenly have me in the Crawford game, when I had just taken the lead in the match. Whereas, if I dropped, we would go into double match point immediately (as the cube would be offered early in the next game). Of course, if I took and won, that would be the match. But it felt greedy, and I talked myself out of the take, and it was a huge take.

Anyway – I played until late Friday night, eventually losing in the semi-finals of the jackpot. But, I had broken my losing streak.

Until the next day, when the main event started. Guaranteed 4 rounds, I proceeded to lose 4 in a row. So that was Saturday. Sunday, I got up bright and early to take part in the “Unlucky Dice Last Chance” event, which my opponent proceeded to smoke me in. I asked him how he had gotten into the “Unlucky Dice” contest, given he rolled approximately 80 doubles in our 5-point match. From there, it was down to side events – I entered the “Juniors” event and the DMP (1-point match) event. Those went pretty well, and I was kept busy for the rest of Sunday and through most of the day Monday in those events – reaching the semi-finals in the Juniors and the finals in the DMP.

I had a couple of exciting positions in the Juniors. For instance, here’s a position where I am down 0-5 in a match to 7, on the bar, and considering throwing the cube!

Screenshot 2023-06-03 6.27.00 PM

Cubing from the bar is always good fun. My 0dds of winning the game are not that high, but a lot of times that I win, it’s with a gammon. It’s a pretty big double, and a monster take. However, not only did I go on to win the game, I won with a backgammon, swinging the score to me leading 6-5 Crawford! I hit his checker, he entered and rehit me, I hit that checker, and eventually got him with 5 or 6 checkers back.

A couple of rounds later, I had a troublesome checker play decision. I was down 0-2 in a match to 7, earlier in the game I had taken a cube and then recubed him, so the stakes were pretty high; and the roll – not my best.

Screenshot 2023-06-03 6.34.23 PM

I stared at it for probably 2 full minutes. 24/18 seems mandatory, but then the only 3 is 10/7. Unless… “I’m thinking about the banana split”, I informed my opponent, and he raised one eyebrow. And so I played 24/18, 5/3*, putting him on the bar. He danced, I covered the 5 on the next roll, he danced again, I brought a checker around, he danced a third time, and I was able to close him out. I won a gammon, and thus the match. On the other hand, the correct move was 24/18, 10/7. The banana split was -0.039 in equity; but it worked out.

You can watch me play the final in the DMP! The event was streamed, on the “second stream” for the event (so no commentary) – it’s about the last ten minutes of this video.

When I went to cash out, Arda and I went in together, and after Rory paid us off on the DMP, I said I also had the semi from the Juniors, and he paid me for that, and then I said I also had the semi from the limited jackpot. “You’ve won a lot of backgammon this weekend, my friend”, he said. And that’s true – this was a pretty good showing, even given that I went 0-4 in the main event.

A number of Portland players are heading to Los Angeles in another week or so for the LA Open, and I am having some FOMO. But other obligations do, in fact, make it untenable for me to get to another tournament so soon. But I’ll be watching the streams and hope to see one of them on there…

-Mark

May 2023 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a fine showing for this month’s tournament – 17 players came out on a cool and breezy afternoon. We played out on Lucky Lab’s patio, because why not? It was a little cooler than I had expected, and I occasionally regretted not having a light jacket or something, but the dice were hot and so that kept me going…

17 players does not, of course, lend itself to a clean bracket structure, so we had an unclean on instead, with 9 players in the “B” bracket, which made the event drag on a bit. This did not go unnoticed, but the alternative was to tell Cam (as the last player to arrive) that he was out of luck, and, well, it all worked out.

In the “A” bracket, I started off with a game against Rick, newcomer Edan took on Steven, Dave challenged Bodger, and Max tackled Tim (not literally). In each pairing, the first listed player advanced to the next round. After a fairly long road, with a number of long matches, Edan took out Dave in the championship bracket, and Bodger won the consolation bracket.

In the “B” bracket, newcomer Chaz took on first timer Adam (for the right to face off against Leah, who got the first round bye), newcomer Elisabeth faced off against Ian, Mark A drew Cam (who may have been the latecomer but he had RSVP’d), and Jeremy took on Joel. Again, in each pairing, the first player (eventually) won that match. After a protracted and complex bracket, Leah took first place over Elisabeth, and Mark A took the consolation bracket.

The new toy for me at this one was I brought an overhead tripod kind of setup and a small camera, to record my matches! This was the first time putting it into full production, and I learned some lessons:

  1. Lighting. The lighting at the table I was at was… not great. The videos are a little hard to follow, as shadows on the board make distinguishing the colors a challenge.
  2. Check your shot before recording. One little knob of the camera mount is partially blocking the view of the board, covering over about one checker’s worth of that point, and making it not possible to read the die if it happens to end up there.
  3. This camera… I need an upgrade already. It’s probably fine, but the camera does break the recording up into 15 minute segments, so the two matches I recorded ended up being 5 different files.
  4. Bring a bigger battery – I had partially used up the battery testing it all out at home earlier, and so the battery died after my first match. Fortunately I had a back-up, but I now know why people at tournaments always have their cameras wired up to a bigger battery pack.
  5. Transcription ain’t trivial. The app I used to transcribe is a little slow, and so I had to pause/rewind a lot to get the transcription done. But I did get it done!

The upside of all that is, I have a lot more than a few random photos of positions I thought were tricky at the time, and can see how I did overall on those two matches! And the answer to that is: not great! I’m a little disappointed in my PR from them. But then, it’s not my most conducive environment either – I do get interrupted in most games to record results, or direct people to their next opponent, etc. Not really an excuse, and it’s not like my PR was massively worse than when I play online (where, for instance, the pip count is just given to me). So, this is reality.

Here’s a position where I made a massive blunder in my match against Rick. This is our second game, and I’m leading 2-0 in the match to 5. Rick had me on the bar and was beginning to bear in, when an unlucky sequence forced him to leave a shot, which I was lucky enough to hit, and get him trapped behind a 5-prime, cube him, etc. And then this, where I rolled a double 4.

Screenshot 2023-05-22 9.19.53 PM

I have noticed that doubles get me into trouble a lot – like it’s a lot easier for me to make a check play blunder off a double. Here what struck me was that I could hit him off the mid-point, 13/1*, then go ahead and cover that blot with 5/1. Seems so solid – put him on the roof, I still have 3 builders to make the 3 point… what could go wrong?

Well, he could roll 3-5 or 3-6, and escape (possibly hitting), and turn this around on me. Now, he didn’t – but good luck isn’t the same as good play. The computer suggests hitting off the 5 point, 5/1*, but then making the 3 point now with 7/3(2), then bringing the last builder into range with 13/9. If he rolls a 1, it’s a little painful, and 1-6 becomes a super joker. But having him on a 1 keeps him contained a lot more than having him on the 3. I need to probably study this one to really get it – the computer’s move feels super loose to me, but it claims a much higher win rate than what I did.

Here’s a massive blunder I made in my match against Bodger, and I don’t even have the excuse that doubles are hard!

Screenshot 2023-05-22 9.31.00 PM

This is from the Crawford game (Bodger is winning 2-0 in a match to 3). I was thinking it was important to get his back checker off my ace point, and so I started out with 6/1*, then came down with the 4, 13/9. Except: he has a 5 point board, hits with any 1 plus with 3-6 (and a super joker with 1-6). So I have given him a lot of potential returns with that play. Better by far would be to make the much quieter play of 13/4, giving him no return shots, and just trusting that since I’m way up in the race that it will probably work out.

And here’s another blunder from my match with Bodger (I made a lot of them…). We’re at double match point (DMP), and I do have the excuse that doubles are hard, in fact it’s double 4’s again…

Screenshot 2023-05-22 9.37.58 PM

Here I happened to make the second best move, 11/3*(2), which happens to be a double blunder at -0.16 equity… The correct move is 13/9(2), 11/7(2), putting a 5 prime in front of his 3 back checkers. From there, my life is easy – I just have to get that last checker out and around before he escapes, and he probably further crunches his board. By hitting, I let him keep his 4 prime in front of me for longer – potentially making my life harder. In fact he got in right away, I escaped on the next roll, and it came down to who could roll more doubles in the bear-off (Bodger could). So if I hadn’t recorded the whole match, I never would have suspected that I screwed this particular move up so badly!

Anyway – it was loads of fun, and I hope you all will join me at the next one – which will be the June 4th Championship Satellite events. See you there!

-Mark

 

April 2023 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a fine showing for today’s tournament – 17 players came out on a cool and cloudy afternoon, including 3 new players. Nobody came out for the pre-tournament lesson, however. Bodger was there almost as early as me, though, so we played a couple of rounds of speed gammon – playing with a clock with 2 minutes of time bank for a 5 point match. Bodger took the first one, I won the second (with the cube at 8 – single game match). It was a lot of fun, and got us both into a nice little frantic mood for the actual tournament.

17 players doesn’t divide evenly into nice brackets, and I was hoping/expecting that one more person would show up a little late. So I divided us into 3 brackets, one with 5 players and two with 6 players each. Because the brackets were smaller, I went with a modified system where the loser from the last round of the main played the winner of the consolation to determine 2nd place, and just paid out 1st/2nd. As usual, I put all the players who entered into the side pools into one bracket, and as I did last month, I made that bracket play out 5 point matches, while the rest of the brackets stayed at 3 point matches.

In the “A” bracket, round 1, Ed got steamrolled by Dave, Bodger got knocked out by Max, and I got a bye because this was the 5 person bracket. Max and Bodger had the fastest match of the day, finishing in about 15 minutes. So then Max and I faced off, and had a relatively quick match as well. I eventually pulled off the win, but Ed and Dave were still going on their first match! I did not want to put Max against Bodger a second time in the consolation, and so Max got the consolation round bye. Dave then stomped me in the final. Bodger took Ed the rest of the way out of the tournament, then Max, and then we faced off for 2nd place. It was a good match, and I have a position to review from it later on in the post. Sadly, I could not pull it off, and so Bodger took second.

In the “B” bracket, we had 2 of the 3 newcomers. Ian started off against Nathan, Leah against Kyle, and Julie against Sanam; with the second named player from each pair winning the round. Sanam got the second round bye, and won the bracket! Always good when we can have a first-timer win, keeps them coming back for more… Nathan eventually won the 2nd place slot, in a close fought match with Leah.

In the “C” bracket, first timer Jon faced off against Joel, Rick took on Jeremy, and Steve challenged JB; with the second named player from each pair winning the round again. Rick ditched after that first game, on some implausible excuse – something about “wife” and “supportive”. Anyway – eventually JB came out on top, with Jeremy taking 2nd over Joel.

We had a lively post-tournament chouette that went until almost 5:00, giving me (and a few others) the opportunity to lose a little more money. Dave and Leah were the big winners there – Dave holding the box for a good long run while Bodger and I were playing the final match of the tournament, and Leah having a solid run until we had to break up for the day.

Speaking of Bodger and I playing the final match of the tournament – here is a position that came up in our 3rd game. I am leading 2-1 in a match to 5, and sitting behind a full 6-prime after Bodger turned the game around on me – I had been on the road to a gammon, and already have 4 checkers off the board…

Screenshot 2023-04-23 9.26.04 PM

This one did give me pause. It was tempting to give it up, and just go into the next game even with him, 2-2. On the other hand, since I have checkers off the board, I cannot lose a gammon, so my worst case scenario is I go into the next game down 2-3. My best case is he rolls something awkward and I win the game to go into Crawford, 4-1. My implausible dream case is I somehow still gammon him and just win the match! Ultimately I decided being down 2-3 wasn’t terrible and took – which is very correct, as Bodger does not quite have a double here! I have 25.2% winning chances for the game, making it not even a double for money play. It would be close if I were massively ahead in a long match score (a little trial and error said the position would be a borderline double if I were leading 9-1 in a match to 13), but I found the take. Thank goodness, because it would have been a triple blunder to pass. If I remember it correctly, I did pull out the win, taking us to the Crawford game, but then Bodger fought his way back to ultimately take me out. As he does…

Anyway, it was a great afternoon, I had a blast, I overheard the scrabble people talking about how many backgammon players were always there, and a good time was had by (almost) all. Hope to see you at the next one!

-Mark

March Tournament Results

It wasn’t quite as wet and rainy as I expected as I headed down for this month’s tournament. I was a bit worried about turnout because we had fewer RSVPs than usual, and a non-raining weekend day means lots of options for other activities. And of course, I hadn’t thought about spring break, which I think took a few people out of their regular routines.

We had 3 people turn up for the pre-tournament lesson, which was nice  – often I have had no people turn up for that. One of them even stayed for the tournament, and did pretty well!

Ultimately, there was a fair turnout for the backgammon tournament – 16 players, which made for an easy two-bracket event. To be honest, it got a little confusing, because as I started things off we only had 14, and so I was going to have the “A” bracket play 5 point matches, since I knew everyone in there was capable of playing a bit faster than average; but a couple of stragglers came in and joined, which led to it being a mix of 3 and 5 point matches (and then one pair in the “B” bracket heard me say 5, and played a 5, which meant they took twice as long as everyone else in the “B” bracket…) Tournament directing – it ain’t always easy!

In the “A” bracket, I started off against Bodger, Dave played Ed, Jeremy played Tim, and Sande played Matt. Dave romped on to ultimately take first place, with Jeremy taking second. Bodger and I had a rematch in the final of the consolation, where I managed to squeak out a win.

In the “B” bracket, Cam played Richard, Ryan played Sheila, Kyle played Greg, and Mark A played Rick. Mark went on to win the bracket, with Kyle taking second, and Richard won the consolation.

Jeremy, Dave, and I stayed to play a chouette for a while post tournament, where Dave won yet more. As I left, Bodger and Kyle were playing an extra match, and Sande and Richard were enjoying a drink. All in all, it was a fun afternoon.

-Mark