Tuesday, October 10, 2017

New England Backgammon Club Newsletter -- October 2017

Lots of Action in September
The new location and the fact that we're now running two levels of tournaments attracted the biggest crowd at the NEBC that I can remember -- 39 players. It was great to so many enthusiastic backgammon players, including some regular players from way back (Hi John, Michael and Bill). 

We're very optimistic that we can continue running two tournaments as well as play at Frank's for years to come.

Director Fight! Zamanian over Steg 
In the Open division, 23 players competed in the inaugural tournament of the 2017/2018 season. Not distracted by the duties of the running the tournaments 
(not distracted too much, anyways)Alex Zamanian was the last man standing when he beat Albert Steg in the finals. David Kornwitz and Paul A. Caracciolo, both of whom seem to be hitting the winner's circle more and more frequently lately, were the semi-finalists. Down in the consolation round, it was Daniel Bluestone over Joseph Ithier. 

Rigel Makes His Mark
In our first intermediate tournament in many years, 16 players competed. Mark Rigel took the top spot over 2nd place Dale Libkin. Semi-finalists were Robert Brennan and Steve Hassman, while Pedro Calmell beat Anne Bidner in the finals of the consolation round.

October Tournament
Our next tournament is SUNDAYOctober 15th at 12:00 at Frank's Steakhouse 2310 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge. 

Entry fees are $60 for the Open division and $30 for the Intermediate/Novice division. 

Please show up around noon to register. We like to do the draw promptly at 12:15. If you're going to be a little later than 12:15, you can call or text (text preferred) my mobile, 781-354-6466, to reserve a spot. And let me know what division you want to play in. If for some reason I don't pick up, leave a message. I'll be sure to check my messages before we begin the draw.

A $5 food credit is given with tournament entry. Before you leave, pay the tournament director for any food you ordered less $5.

A Week Later -- Connecticut!
Don't forget, the weekend after our tournament is the Connecticut State Backgammon Championships. I've been down every year, and it's always been a great time. It's not too late to plan to go. I'm not sure of the discounted hotel room situation, but there are lots of places to stay in the area. One year I stayed at the La Quinta Inn, and it was really inexpensive and convenient.

For full details see: http://connecticutbackgammon.com/tournament
Direct link to brochure: http://connecticutbackgammon.com/CT17flyer.pdf

2017/2018 Points Race
Throughout the season, we run a points race where players earn points for winning matches and making it deep into tournaments. After our May tournament, the top 7 points earners play in a playoff tournament for the coveted title of NEBC Champion and prize money provided by the club. The top points earner get a very valuable bye in this tournament. For current standings, see our website www.nebackgammon.org . There's also a link there now to explain exactly how points are awarded. 

Follow NEBC on Facebook
We’ve had a Facebook page up for years but haven’t made much use of it until now.  While we of course will continue to use emails for our official ‘newsletter’ announcements of tournament results and upcoming events, We’ll also be posting this information on Facebook, along with occasional pictures, backgammon positions, and other news about backgammon books, products, and events outside of town.  The more people who view and participate in the NEBC page, the more useful this resource will be, so please head over there and ‘Like’ us today!   

September Article
This month's article comes from Marty Storer. Thanks Marty!

If anyone wants to write something for the newsletter, let me know. It can be anything backgammon related -- analysis of a position, trip report to an out-of-town tournament, a funny chouette story, or really, anything else you can think of.

 Saving the Gammon on the Last Roll
  Copyright © 2017 by Marty Storer

The 6 is 16/10. Many players would automatically keep the outside checker going, but Black should at least consider stopping on the 10 point and filling the gap on his 1. He must maximize gammon-saving rolls for his next turn, should there be one, and it won’t take too long to count the misses after each play. Note that it’s much easier to count misses than to count gammon-savers: far fewer rolls miss than save.

After 16/8, Black misses with any 1 except double 1: ten rolls total. But after 16/10 3/1, only five aces miss: 31 21 11. The only other missing number is 32. The total is seven misses after 16/10 3/1, making that the best play by far.

All right, that counting exercise is not too difficult. The answer is not remotely astounding. But counting can be tedious, boring, and error-prone. Short of memorizing last-roll gammon-saving positions, are there any counting shortcuts available?

Jeff Ward published one of his tricks in the magazine Backgammon Times in 1982. He calls it the Rule of the Sevens. It says that in general you should not put your outside checker seven pips away from a gap in your inner board. In this problem, 16/8 does just that, so it violates the Rule.

The Rule of the Sevens is O.K. as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. Here’s an exception (an equivalent position was given by Ward in a 1982 follow-up to his original article):

The 6 is 18/12; then 12/11 violates the Rule of the Sevens. But should Black fill the higher gap with 5/4, or the lower gap with 2/1? The Rule is silent on that point. It turns out that the Rule-violating 18/11 is best in this position, giving 14 ways to bear off next turn. The gap-filling plays give only 13 gammon-saving numbers each.

This counting exercise is much more difficult than Black’s task in our first position. Do we count misses or gammon-savers? Either way it looks easy to make a mistake.

Here’s another position where the Rule of the Sevens makes no clear prediction:

After 17/11, should Black play 11/10, 5/4, or 3/2? Using only the Rule of the Sevens, Black must choose between 5/4 and 11/10. The only way to find out which is best is to count. And since we know the Rule has at least one exception, we might as well count for all three alternatives. What a pain!

It turns out that 17/10 is best, giving 21 gammon-savers, versus 18 after either gap-filling play. But wouldn’t it be nice if we had better rules of thumb than Ward’s?

There is an extremely useful counting trick, which I discovered in 1982 after reading Ward’s articles, and which I’ll share now. To use this trick takes a little up-front work: you have to memorize the one-sided two-checker bearoffs. That is, you have to know how many rolls bear off the last two checkers in the inner board, no matter what points they occupy.

Here’s the table:

Select the points occupied by the last two checkers using the numbers in the first row and the first column (Points). Suppose your last two checkers are on the 3 and 2 points. Select row 3, column 2 (or row 2, column 3 if you want): the number in that table cell is 25, which is the number of rolls that bear off the last two checkers if they’re on the 3 and 2 points. If both checkers are on the 6 point, go to the [6,6] table cell and read 4: that’s how many numbers bear off the last two checkers if they’re both on the 6 point (you need double 3s, 4s, 5s, or 6s).

Note that you only have to memorize a bit more than half of the table, because there are duplicated entries: for example, the number in the [3,2] cell is the same as the one in the [2,3], because the information in one of those cells means the same thing as the information in the other. Therefore there are only 21 distinct entries to memorize (the unshaded ones), not 36.

Once you’ve memorized the table, you can put your knowledge to work for a whole class of last-roll gammon-saving problems. You can also use the knowledge in a similar kind of gammon-saving position.

This counting trick is most useful for what I call standard gammon-saving positions. For a gammon-saving position to be standard, you must have fourteen checkers inside and one in your outfield. Also, you need to have either no inner-board gaps, or else one or more consecutive gaps starting with the 1 point.

The problem position, with Black to play 62, is an example of a standard gammon-saving position: Black moves to his outfield with the 6, but can’t bear in with the 2. And he has a gap on his 1 point.

What does this problem have to do with the table? Everything.

Consider two numbers: the minimum number needed to bear the last checker in, and the minimum needed to bear off once the last checker is in. In this example there are two such number-pairs to look at: the first is [4,1] (the minimum to bear in and the minimum to bear off, respectively, after Black plays 16/10 3/1), and the second is [2,2] (minimum bearin and bearoff numbers after Black’s 16/8).

Use those two pairs of numbers to index the table. The entry for the [4,1] table cell is 29, and the entry for [2,2] is 26. This tells us that after 16/10 3/1, Black has 29 ways to save the gammon on the next turn. After 16/8, he has only 26. So 16/10 3/1 is Black’s best play.

Why does this trick work? I’ll tell you. In a two-checker bearoff, two numbers are key: the minimum to bear off one checker, and the minimum to bear off the other. In a standard gammon-saving problem, a pair of minimum crossover numbers is again critical, except that one of them is the minimum number to bear in. It’s just that simple.
Here’s another example of a standard gammon-saving problem.

Obviously, Black plays 16/11 with the 5, and now we have a standard gammon-saving problem: Black has one checker in his outer board, and consecutive inner-board gaps starting with his ace point. He has a 1 to play and must decide between 11/10 and 3/2. Note that the Rule of the Sevens is no help here.

After 3/2, the minimum bearin number is 5 and the minimum to bear off is 2. After 11/10, those numbers are 4 and 3. So, index the table accordingly: the [5,2] value is 19, and the [4,3] value is 17. Therefore Black plays 16/11 3/2, for 19 ways to bear off, versus 16/10 giving only 17 ways to save the gammon.

Consider the same position, but this time with Black to play 52. Now there are three choices to consider: 16/11 4/2 giving [5,2]; 16/9 giving [3,3]; and 16/11 3/1 giving—what?

Since Black reaches a standard gammon-saving position with 16/11 4/2 or with 16/9, we can look up the corresponding numbers in the table: [5,2] is 19 and [3,3] is 17, so we know that 16/11 4/2 beats 16/9. But what about 16/11 3/1? After that play Black has one gap, but it’s not on the ace point, so the gammon-saving position is non-standard. How do we handle non-standard gammon-saving positions, i.e. those having one or more inner-board gaps that do not start with the 1 point or are not consecutive?

The general method isn’t too hard. First, pretend that you do have a standard gammon-saving position, and index your table accordingly. Take the minimum bearin number, and also the number of the lowest point in your inner board: here, you get [5,1], and the corresponding table entry is 23.

Now, look at your inner-board gaps: here, Black’s only gap is on the 2 point. The only extra misses, over and above the misses in a standard [5,1] gammon-saving position, will be with numbers corresponding to the gap. The gap is on the 2 point, so the only extra missing numbers will include a 2.

If Black did not have a gap on his 2 point, he would have a standard [5,1] position, and rolls of 62, 52, and 22 would bear off a checker. But because of the interior gap, those rolls (five numbers out of 36) do not bear off. So, subtract 5 from 23, and you have the number of rolls to save the gammon after 16/11 3/1: 18 total. (Note that 42, 32, and 12 do not bear off in the standard [5,1] position, so you don’t subtract those.)

We’ve already determined that 16/11 4/2 gives us 19 gammon-savers and 16/9 gives 17. Since 16/11 3/1 gives 18,we choose 16/11 4/2.

Let’s consider another non-standard position.

After 18/12, Black can play 12/11, 5/4, or 3/2. None of the resulting positions is standard; for each of them we start with a number-pair for a standard position and then subtract numbers corresponding to Black’s interior gaps.

After 12/11, our standard number-pair is [5,1] giving 23 gammon-savers. Black has gaps on his 4 and 2 point, so we subtract numbers including 4 or 2 that miss in the non-standard position but do not miss in the standard. Those missing numbers are 64, 54, 44, 62, 52, and 22: ten total, which subtracted from 23 gives us 13 ways to save the gammon.

After 5/4, our standard number-pair is [6,1] giving 15 ways to save the gammon. From 15 we subtract 62 and 22: three numbers, for a result of 12 gammon-savers.

After 3/2 we again have a standard number-pair of [6,1] for 15 gammon-savers. We subtract 64 (but not 44 because that number bears off from the 12 point): two dice combinations, for a total of 13 ways to save the gammon. Since 18/11 gives us 13 saving rolls and 18/12 5/4 gives only 12, we choose either 18/11 or 18/12 3/2. I would play 18/11 in order to thumb my nose at the Rule of the Sevens.

A useful exercise is to try to solve the second position using my method. Feel free to use the table if you haven’t already memorized it.

This process becomes rather easy with practice. I have been using it since 1982 and my last-roll gammon-saving technique has been virtually error-free since then. I never make mistakes in standard gammon-saving positions, and I doubt I’ll goof up a non-standard problem more than once every year or two.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New England Backgammon Newsletter

Two Levels of Tournaments Starting in September
If you've been on the fence about coming to tournaments, this is a great time to start playing! We'll be running two tournaments starting in September, one for novice/intermediate players, and one Open-level tournament available to everyone, but mostly populated by the stronger players. With this change, we hope to attract and retain more casual and novice players, as we understand coming to the club and having to compete with the many expert-level backgammon players here can be discouraging for new players. 

Also, to start the season off right, we'll be returning 100% of the entry fees for both tournaments in September. 

New Location
We'll be playing at:

Frank's Steakhouse
2310 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

For details on parking and subway accessibility, see our homepage: www.nebackgammon.org .

September Tournament
Our September tournament, the first of the official 2017/2018 season, is SUNDAYSeptember 17th at 12:00. Note that we'll be moving to Sundays for the entire season. 

Entry fees are $60 for the Open division and $30 for the Intermediate/Novice division. 

Please show up around noon to register. We like to do the draw promptly at 12:15. If you're going to be a little later than 12:15, you can call or text (text preferred) my mobile, 781-354-6466, to reserve a spot. If for some reason I don't pick up, leave a message. I'll be sure to check my messages before we begin the draw.

A $5 food credit is given with tournament entry. Before you leave, pay the tournament director for any food you ordered less $5.

Points Race
We'll be running our usual points race throughout the season. You earn points for winning matches and making it deep into the tournaments (top 4 in the main round, top 2 in the consolation round earn bonus points). Top 7 points earners play in a playoff tournament at the end of the season for the title of NEBC Champion and prize money provided by the club. 

Intermediate-level matches will earn 1/2 the points of the Open bracket.

Last season's NEBC Champion is Marty Storer. Well done Marty!

Adam Rose to the Top in August
We had a nice dry run tournament at Frank's in August where 21 players competed. Adam Rosen came out on top, his first NEBC win. John Leonard, who returned to the club after a many-years absence, took second. Semi-finalists where the two Pauls Caracciolo (father and son, BG skills must run in the family!). 

In the consolation round finals, it was Anne Bidner over Rich Sweetman. 

Now is the Time to Register for Connecticut!
Our friends down in Connecticut lead by Ross Gordon are running their annual Connecticut State Backgammon Championships the weekend of October 20th. Pre-tournament events starting on Thursday the 19th. For full details see: http://connecticutbackgammon.com/tournament
Direct link to brochure: http://connecticutbackgammon.com/CT17flyer.pdf

Friday, August 4, 2017

August 10 Thurs. 6 pm - Backgammon at Quassy

Come join us at Quassy Amusement Park for some terrific food, fun, and of course, backgammon in our own reserved, covered and lighted outing venue.

The fun starts at 6 PM with food service from 6:30 to 7:30 PM. Choose from hot dogs, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and buffalo wings, and assorted salads. Beverage choices include four varieties of soda, Hawaiian Punch, lemonade, juice, coffee or tea. A cash bar for beer or wine will also be available.

Your $40.00 registration fee includes all the food and beverages, free parking (usually $7.00), and double-elimination tournament entry (100% return). There will also be lots of time for side games or chouettes.

(You may also want to arrive a bit early to catch Jim & Sandy Sisti's last magic show of the day at 5 PM before the backgammon fun begins.)

Please note that spouses or other family members are welcome. If they are not playing in the tournament, their registration is just $18.00 for food.

Lots of food - lots of fun - and lots of backgammon Please RSVP to let us know you're coming (https://www.meetup.com/Brass-City-Backgammon/events/242091640/) - we need to let the park know how many to expect.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Hi all, Albert has found us a possible nice location to move the club to in the coming years. See below for a message from him. This place has a lot going for it over the Dockside. Better location, bigger space, and still has easy-peasy parking. We're going to give it a dry run tournament on *Sunday* August 6th. We'll do the usual thing -- $60/$30 entry, $5 food credit. We'll do the draw around 12:15, although unlike the Dockside, the restaurant doesn't open until noon. So come, tell us what you think, play some BG, eat some delicious food, and get excited for the coming season! (Woo!) Just so we can let the restaurant know how many people to expect for this first tournament, let me know if you plan on showing up. (We won't ask you to do this for the regular tournaments.) But even if you don't RSVP, you can still show up at noon this Sunday to get in on the action. Hope to see you there! Alex NEBC folks — As everyone should be aware, we have been working at scouting new viable locations for us to hold tournaments in the Boston area. It has proven very challenging to find venues with sufficient space to accommodate us, but we have identified one that may just prove to be ideal. So we are going to host a one-off ‘pop-up’ NEBC tournament this coming SUNDAY, August 6th, at 12:00 noon: Venue: FRANK’s STEAKHOUSE 2310 Massachusetts ave Cambridge, MA 02140 http://www.frankssteakhouse.com/?page_id=2 Frank's is a venerable and highly-rated ‘old school’ neighborhood steakhouse that has fared well in Phantom Gourmet and and various local restaurant reviews identifying it as a good value ‘cheap eats’ but quality restaurant. The owner, George Ravanis has expressed enthusiasm for our coming in once a month for our tournament, so we are attempting a ‘dry run’ this week to see whether this collaboration will work for NEBC and Franks alike. SUNDAY - SUNDAY - SUNDAY ! NEBC used to hold its monthly tournaments on Sundays’ ‘back in the day’ and we are hoping to revive the Sunday tradition based on questionnaire responses we received this spring. So please don’t show up this Saturday, you’ll be lonely. PARKING Frank’s has an ample parking lot right behind their establishment, off Rice Street. If it should fill up, you may park across the street at the Century Bank lot, or around the next corner to the north (Norris Strret) behind Verna’s cafe. If you want to take the T, you can get off at Porter Square and walk about 10 mins up Mass Ave towards Arlington. EATING at FRANK’S George is not asking us to pay any fees to rent the space in their dining rooms, but of course we are needing to make it worth their while to host our tournaments, so we encourage people to come and have lunch during the outset of the tournament, much as we have done at the Dockside. For this initial event at least we will continue the “$5 dollar credit” toward your eat/drink at Franks. We will once again have all orders placed on a common tab and settled by the tournament director. Please come to Frank’s recognizing that it is a somewhat more staid environment compared to the Dockside. There are no air-hockey tables, and fewer mobs of kids running around. It’s a somewhat ‘quieter’ place though George expressed concern it might get a little too loud for us during sports games, so it’s not exactly a library. We think it will be a comfortable place to play, but do be aware of the effect your gaming may have on other diners in the room. Frank’s closes at 9:30, so we will need to arrange our affairs so that we can reliably finish play by that hour. Chouettes may decamp to local Davis Square venues! Albert


I will continue to administer the following sites on social media;

1) Connecticut Backgammon Magazine, our blog,

2) Connecticut Backgammon Magazine, our page on Facebook, and 

3) Connecticut Backgammon Society, our public group on Facebook.

It is also important for me to help my friends promote the Brass City Backgammon Club.  

Rob Roy



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Tuesday, July 11, 2017



I will continue to administer the following sites on social media;

1) Connecticut Backgammon Magazine, our blog,

2) Connecticut Backgammon Magazine, our page on Facebook, and 

3) Connecticut Backgammon Society, our public group on Facebook.

It is also important for me to help my friends promote the Brass City Backgammon Club.  

Rob Roy



Subscribe to Connecticut Backgammon Magazine

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner



Thursday, July 6, 2017

Connecticut Backgammon Magazine

Dear Backgammon Players,
We need more Connecticut people to subscribe to 
Email Subscriptions are managed by FEEDBURNER
Backgammon blog    ALL-TIME STATS
Graph of Blogger page views
We had a 3-month peak:  March (1026) April (1273) May (1318)
Chess blog    ALL-TIME STATS
Graph of Blogger page views
We had 10,000 hits within a single month in May 2017
Most of our traffic comes from my postings on Facebook, where
I am administrator for several pages and public groups.
Those most recent peaks in the charts above are because 
I invested $ 526.00 for ads on Facebook to pick up new 
players for our programs in Connecticut.  
We are unable to establish a backgammon club in Coventry.
We have only 3 bg players who live locally.
Rob Roy
Graph of Blogger page views
Our backgammon blog has poor half-life after a post,
as can be seen from the deep valleys between the peaks.
Graph of Blogger page views




Sunday, June 11, 2017

Brass City Backgammon a great success

June 15 Thurs 7pm


985 Watertown Ave.

Waterbury, CT


Report on June 10 event in Torrington

1st annual Summer Region Backgammon Tournament at held at Bachi's was a total success. $1,105.00 prize money was awarded. 1st Place Tom Meyer - Southbury, 2nd Place Bill Porter, Terryville, 3rd Place Andy Fazekas, Milford.

So nice to see great success for the backgammon championships held yesterday at Bachi's Ristorante in downtown Torrington.

Special thanks to the Brass City Backgammon Club directors; Sandra and Jim Sisti, Al Cantito, Ed Corey, and Gerhard Roland, who all worked hard to prepare for, and to conduct this event.

The venue was very comfortable and met our every need. The lunch was delicious. 18 players competed. The BCB will schedule another Saturday tournament this fall.

Link to 22 photos taken at this event by Ed Corey on Facebook


Connecticut Backgammon Blog 1,000 views/month


Facebook page: Connecticut Backgammon Magazine 500 likes


Facebook Public Group: Connecticut Backgammon Society 5,565 members


Twitter: Rob Roy 425 followers  860 742-5562




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