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.


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.


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:

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!


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 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?


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 to register!)


Planning the Portlandia Backgammon Classic (Part 2 of ???)

We are just over a month away, and things are falling into place. I still have only one registration form sent in, but there are a half-dozen pre-registrations through meetup, and I got an email from one out-of-town attendee asking me for the hotel registration code, so I still trust that people will come. I was at the San Antonio tournament earlier this month, and talking to Bill and April, both assured me that most of the registrations will come in the last few weeks leading up to the event.

San Antonio, by the way, was a fantastic event at which I played very poorly. But it was super nice being right by the river walk. The other thing I talked to Bill about was he strongly recommended picking a venue that people would want to bring their partners or friends along, and San Antonio delivered on that regard. My partner came and helped run the desk for a while to get a sense for what to do, and I think that will help as well. Also, I brought about 3 dozen fliers to the event and I think they all got picked up, so maybe a few more registrations will come from that direction.

I have a good start on the various props we will need – the trophies are in my possession. Well, we’re doing plaques actually. I did not go big on the trophies, but I think they’re pretty nice. Earlier this afternoon, I finished paper-cutting the score cards that the print shop only cut into 3rds, when I wanted 6ths. Loads of fun!

The big concern on my mind now is planning for the brackets. I need a game plan for anywhere from 12 to 64 players in terms of tournament design, and I need to be able to run people down into not just a consolation bracket, but a last chance. The checklist of other items to bring I got from USBGF is also intimidating – it’s based off the LA event, and says bring 12 spare boards. I have 4. It says bring 32 clocks. I have 2, on loan from a co-worker who is big into chess. We’re not going to be as big as LA, and I’m going to have to let some stuff slide.


January 21, 2018 Tournament Results

Running this group is a constant emotional rollercoaster, let me tell you. I normally send a reminder email, but I didn’t this month. Then I got sad as I saw our numbers drop from 9 people RSVP’d to 4 as the weekend approached and some people realized there would also be a football game on TV at the same time. Then, as I drove over to Lucky Lab, three last minute RSVP’s hit my phone. Then, a couple of people who hadn’t RSVP’d at all were there waiting. So we had 9 players after all!

You probably know that 9 isn’t a power of 2, and so doesn’t fit easily into a bracket, but we made due with one first round bye and one second round bye. First round, I took down Kevin in a ruthless series of 3 games. Kevin went on to win the consolation bracket, so don’t feel too bad for him. Newcomer Jake drew Martin, and showed himself to be no slacker, taking that match. Bryan faced off with but couldn’t defeat Tim. And Nathan and Lee got their money’s worth out of the match, playing an extended series of back games that meant that the timing of the whole bracket was at risk. Sharon, in the meantime, drew the first round bye, and had to just sit around waiting. But don’t feel too bad for her either, because she went on to win the main flight, taking out Tim in a high spirited match.

I didn’t take any pictures this time, so no positions to analyze – sorry. But the day was a success – we played up until around 5, lots of pick-up games after the tournament, and I was still home in time for dinner. I think everyone took a flier for the Portlandia Backgammon Classic (see for details and registration form!) and there was a lot of excitement about that upcoming event.

Join us at Lucky Lab again next month for another tournament, last one before the big game!

December 10, 2017 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a decent showing this afternoon – 9 players! Slightly too many for an 8 person bracket, but we made do. I have been reading some on bracket design, and shuffled it so that we didn’t need to have effectively 7 byes on a 16 person bracket… not sure it went perfectly smoothly, but it worked.

We had two newcomers, Scott and Amelia, plus a few players we haven’t seen in a while, plus a couple of us who can’t help but show up every month. A couple of hours in, Tim found out from the barkeep that the place was closing at 5:00, and so suddenly the clock became a consideration. We’d managed to finish up by 4:30 or so last month, and so I wasn’t overly stressed about it. That is, until the finals were starting at 4:10 or so…

At that point, I was playing Scott for the first/second in the main flight, and Lee and Tim were facing off for the consolation. I figured they would be fine, being as it was only a three point match. But a five point match in 50 minutes is… a little tight. Totally doable, but a little tight. As it turned out, we finished the first game in about 12 minutes. In the second, Scott offered me an early-ish cube, which I was able to return to him just after we broke contact. I don’t recall the exact pip count for each of us, but Scott, I think that was a drop. But hey – second place for your first visit is pretty good!

Lee held on to take the consolation bracket, and we all scattered at a few minutes before 5. Well, Julie and Martin were still finishing up a “just for fun” game.

Normally, I conclude these posts with some statistics about each player’s Elo score etc., but this is the last tournament of the year and so instead I have some statistics about the whole year. In 2017, we had 10 official tournaments – 11 if you count September when only Martin showed up. In that time, we had 49 people attend, and played a total of 354 matches! Gold stars for attendance go to Bryan, Julie, and Martin. Special platinum stars for attendance go to Kevin and Sharon, who only made 5 tournaments each, but drove up from Coos Bay for those 5, so they clocked more miles than anyone else. Our winning-est players are: Mark F, who won 11 of the 14 matches he played in 2017; and Lee, the new guy in town who has won 7 of his 8 matches so far. I can’t wait to watch the two of them go head-to-head next year! Which will probably happen at the big Portlandia Backgammon Classic, this coming March 24-25, 2018. Register today! Or tomorrow. No rush.



December 2, 2017 Chouette Results

We actually met at Claudia’s this time, which is a pretty good place to play. The main advantage it has is that Mark F can watch football while playing backgammon, which appears to make him pretty happy. Of course, he was in a good mood anyway, coming off his multiple wins in Las Vegas a few weeks ago…

Modest turnout – Martin, Mark F, Bryan, and me. I rolled into the box and won the first game, then it was steadily downhill for me. Martin took and held the box for about the first half, Mark F for most of the second half, and then when Bryan showed up we had a bit more alteration.

Here’s one position that came up that I thought was interesting. Well, there were several I thought were interesting, but after running them through Extreme Gammon, this is the one that actually is:

Chouette 12-2

Black is on roll, should he double? The risk is the 9 rolls that dance, leaving White the chance to redouble or roll to put another checker on the bar. On the other hand, black has 15 hits that put white facing a four point board. In other words, this is a very gammonish position. Absent the Jacoby rule, this is a no double/take. But with Jacoby, it’s a double – barely. No double is -0.002 equity error.

Now in practice, I was being offered this cube. As I recall, I passed. I was having a rough afternoon, and felt a little gun-shy. Feeling gun-shy is no way to play backgammon though. Fortunately, this particular one was only a very small error for me. Unfortunately, some of the others I made were bigger. Ah well, there’s always next month!


Planning the Portlandia Backgammon Classic (Part 1 of ???)

Just to document and explain a bit of my thought process for posterity…

I’m about a month into the “serious” planning stage for the first annual Portlandia Backgammon Classic. So far, I’ve locked down a venue and dates, drafted a flyer, gotten feedback, made changes, sought more feedback, etc. My initial planning was to figure that February or March was the window in which I could conceivably do it – April starts to get busy for me at work, and so it had to be before then or after May, once things slowed down again. I sent an email with that vague amount of detail to USBGF, and was advised to give them at least three months runway to help get the word out, which meant March was better than February.

Well, the venue I had talked to back in June was booked up for both months, and so priority one was to find a new place. I sent out about 8 queries to hotels, restaurants, and other event spaces. Pricing and availability was all over the place. The airport Sheraton was the most flexible (assuming I would take one of the two weekends they had a last minute cancellation for, which I would), and by far the most affordable! So, I got the venue and dates locked down the Tuesday before leaving for Las Vegas for a work conference and the Las Vegas Open. That did not leave enough time to get the flyer finalized before, but at the suggestion of Bill Riles (of the San Antonio tournament), I made a very vague half-page flyer that at least got the word out. Of course, I also did not have time to update the Portlandia page of this website before then, so it was a vague half-pager leading to a vaguer landing page – but it was a start.

At the Vegas tournament, I had the opportunity to talk to a number of other tournament organizers: Bill, Carol, Patrick, and of course Howard. I got a lot of good ideas just from watching how Vegas was run, and benefited greatly from the many conversations. I was not far off in my thinking about how long I needed for the main tourney, but greatly modified my plans for the (limited) side events. And I walked away with a new stack of flyers to consider for inspiration. Also, USBGF brokered some help for me in the form of a “mentor” – Kristina, who had run the Seattle tournament while that was an ongoing event, agreed to serve as a sounding board and possibly even help run the event!

Today, I think I have finalized the flyer, and have sent it out to my semi-voluntary feedback committee. The main thing I was working on was setting the entry fees and rake. I used Chicago Point to get a better sense of the number of attendees to expect at each entry level, and looked up the flyers from a dozen or so tournaments to get a good idea of the expected entry fees. What I learned was that the open/championship bracket should have higher stakes than I was thinking, to make it more worth the while for people who want that level of play. There’s a wide variety of hospitality fees and rakes being applied at different tournaments, and I think I settled on one that makes sense. The hospitality fee will probably be excessive for the amount of food and beverage we’ll actually order, and the rake will probably be excessive for the amount we’ll actually spend on trophies, give-aways, supplies, etc. But that’s deliberate – the club has been running at a deficit since I took it over, and I want a grub-stake for making next year’s tournament bigger and better. If it goes especially well, I’ll drop the rake on the monthly meetup tournaments, and still be positioned to grow the “big” tournament for next year. For one thing, I do not assume I will get the screaming deal on the venue that I got this year ever again… I’m not asking for anything “out of market” with other tournaments, and so I think it will be well received.

If all goes well, the flyer will be finalized by end of the week, and I will start the advertisement push. Come January, it’ll be time to start arranging the physical items for the event (ordering trophies, etc.), and start filling in details. I’m very excited to be putting the event on – and I hope it will be a break-through type event for the local players. There’s certainly a decent amount of excitement from the people I talked to in Vegas, and so I’m pretty optimistic at the moment. I can’t wait to share the flyer with you all, and to see how this all shakes out.



What Happened in Vegas (November 2017)

I attended the Las Vegas Backgammon Open this past weekend, my first time going for that big of a tournament, and played in the intermediate bracket. Bryan was also there, playing in the same; and Mark F was playing in the open. So, pretty good representation from the Portland Backgammon crew. Mark F ended up winning the consolation flight of the open, making him the most successful of us (as usual)!

I had a couple of highlights – Wednesday night I got to play a 5-point blitz again Paul Magriel, and got lucky! I mean, it was lucky to get to play him in the first place, but I got lucky in the match! First game, I offered an early cube – not an error I don’t think, but an easy take only a few rolls in. But then I immediately rolled a double that covered two more points on my home board and it went well for me from there. That’s one beautiful thing about this game – even a rookie like me has a chance against one of the best in the world, at least in a short match!

In the main event, I made it to the semi-finals, then crashed and burned from there. The game that took me out was against James, who went on to take second overall in the intermediate. The loss was spectacular – I had doubled him early, he was turning it around and recubed me, and in my biggest blunder of the tournament (in effect, I might have done even stupider things that worked out ok), I took. Well, that game ended with me having 3 on the bar as he was bearing off, and I danced and danced and danced. Got backgammoned holding a 4-cube in an 11 point match. You can’t do that too often and win. Fortunately, as we both were nervous about a game that made the difference between cashing and crashing, we had agreed to a hedge, and so he paid me out a decent amount for losing!

Here’s a somewhat interesting pair of positions that came up in the 10th game of my second round, against a gentleman named Alberto. At this point, I was down 4-8 in an 11 point match, and had to think a while about whether or not to offer the cube:


At this point, I have 7s or 8s to hit on the outside, 4s to hit on the inside, but pretty good chance that he re-enters and I have a blot somewhere. I did not double, and GnuBG backs me up – I’m only 55% to win and double/take is a -0.11 error. Two rolls later, the board looks a little different, and a little similar!


I rolled a 6-2, he came back with a 5-3, and I had to think some more. The dynamics look similar, and I again choose to just roll, but this time it was a mistake! I’m up to 72% to win, with 10% gammons – a perfect double and barely a pass for him. Luckily, I rolled a double 4, so did ok without the cube.

Couple of matches later, against Paul, I was looking at the following position:


Note the direction change, I’m just putting them up the way the camera captured them. Obviously, sitting relatively pretty here, but with some work still to do to get my back checkers out from behind his 4-prime. In his shoes, I wouldn’t think too hard about taking. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t double! I’m only 60% to win, but have 27% gammons. No double is a -0.172 equity error, one that I (shamefully) made.

Finally, here’s a position from my first (and only) match in the consolation round, against Bern. Checker question this time – I rolled a pretty excellent double 1 – but what’s the best way to use it?


Well, the first 1 has to be coming off the bar. Coming off to the 24 point seems wasteful, I would rather have two numbers that escape than have just sixes. So bar-23 takes two moves. Then I had to pick between 6-5(2) and 2-1*(2). It seemed likely that one was right and one was wrong, and that’s true. When in doubt, hit? No! The right move was 6-5(2), and 2-1*(2) is a -0.355 blunder! A four-point board is much much better than a three-point board. Which way did I play it? I have no idea. Bern might remember, but I don’t. All that I remember was him hitting double-2 to bear off his last three checkers against my single checker on the 1-point in the bear-off, to push me into the Last Chance flight. Bern and I went on to play quite a few money games and some chouettes with Bryan, which was great – we were pretty evenly matched, which always makes for fun play.

The other great thing about the tournament was, I got to interact with a number of other tournament directors, and got some great input as I prepare for the FIRST ANNUAL PORTLANDIA BACKGAMMON CLASSIC, to be held March 24-25, 2018. I need about another week to finalize the flyer and start getting the word out, but we had some half-page announcements to put out, and they got snatched up quickly. There’s a good amount of interest from people in Seattle, Vancouver BC, Denver, Las Vegas, LA,…. This could go much bigger than I’ve been anticipating! Or, it could be pretty small. We’ll see – either way I am excited to bring a bigger backgammon opportunity to the Portland Metro area. Stay tuned, more details coming!


November 12, 2017 Backgammon Tournament Results

We had a pretty good turnout for today’s tournament – 10 people! 7 were repeats from last month, and we had 3 new folks, Roland and the brother/sister duo of Lee and Rochelle. 10 didn’t seem like enough to split into two brackets, and so we did it as one bracket, with a couple of play-in matches.  Or, alternatively, a 16 person bracket with 6 byes…

My first match was against Tim. My recollection is that he won the first, I won the second, he won the third, then it starts getting blurry. I believe he got me down 4-1, but post Crawford I managed to gammon him with the cube turned to win the match. There was a position or two of interest, but I didn’t think to take pictures at any point, sorry. From there, I went on to play Sharon, then Rochelle, then Lee. Now not to give spoilers, but that was a tough road to the finals! I think in every match I ended up coming from behind to win post-Crawford.

Now Lee had the advantage of having watched me play Rochelle, plus he was well rested after defeating Nathan and Bryan – no play-in match for him. I took an early cube in game 1, then lost by a gammon, putting us to Crawford in game 2. Well, no problem, I’d been coming back post-Crawford all afternoon. Lee was having none of it, he slammed me and won the final in 2 games!

Rochelle squeaked past Bryan in the consolation flight, and so the dynamic duo took 1st & 3rd on their first tournament. I told them we like to have a newcomer win the first time so they get hooked and come back – well done all.

Here’s the summary of rankings after today’s event:

Player Initial Elo Rating Matches Played Matches Won Final Elo Rating
Bryan 1573.0 5 3 1570.74
Mark 1546.4 4 3 1570.53
Lee 1500.0 3 3 1558.55
Rochelle 1500.0 3 2 1519.96
Kevin 1521.3 3 1 1502.39
Sharon 1496.7 3 1 1488.05
Nathan 1471.1 3 2 1485.37
Martin 1495.8 2 0 1468.10
Roland 1500.0 2 0 1467.00
Tim 1475.8 2 0 1449.45

See you all next month!


October 21 2017 Chouette Results

We had a nice turnout for this month’s chouette – in addition to what I’ve come to think of as the usual suspects, Rob made an appearance, and brought along two new players – Ben & James. There was some logistical confusion due to a last minute venue change, but c’est la vie. Between that and people needing to drop off, we had from 3 to 9 players at different times through the afternoon (and let’s be honest, into the early evening…)

There were a couple of positions that were interesting enough to record. The first came up when 6 of us were playing on one board. I know – we said 5 to a board max, but somehow that didn’t hold this month.

sat 10-21-17

Martin was in the box, and doubled the field, thinking it was a drop. Lucky for me, I was late in the line to declare take/drop, and could just go along with the crowd, otherwise I probably would have dropped. Mark F went first, and confidently declared a take. I think the rest of us were wondering what he was thinking, but lucky again, he explained in the email where he sent this along: “We have an anchor, the race is close, we have no checkers out of play, both sides have 3-point boards, and we have no loose blots.” Extreme gammon bears this out, we were still just over 30% to win, a comfortable take!

The second position, I took a picture of came late in the session, when just Martin, Mark S, and I were still playing. Martin was again the box (again, not still! He had a good day I think, but not like that…), and we had doubled him earlier, and now he had a chance to repay the favor.


Prime versus prime, almost. He has 4-4, 4-5, and 4-6 to get out, or add 1-1, 3-3, 5-5, 5-6, and 6-6 to hit on the 2 point, or any other 4 to advance the anchor and get better distribution… High likelihood he looks much better after this roll. But, if he got say a 5-3, not great, we might fill in the 5 point and then he’d almost certainly break his home board first… there’s a chance for us. So great time to double. As I recall, Mark S took and I dropped. What do you think?

Extreme gammon puts Martin at 74% to win, with 16.45% gammons, and declares it a redouble-pass! One time my lack of courage served me well.

Overall, another great chouette. We might try for a different venue again next month, or might skip a month due to the Vegas Open – stay tuned to find out.