Las Vegas Open Super Jackpot Round of 8

John O’Hagan and Kit Woolsey played an amazing match at the Las Vegas Backgammon Open last week (November 8, 2018).

Phil Simborg streamed it live – and we’ve got it here (most of it, anyway!):

If you have XG you may download the XG file here.

Backgammon players have achieved better and better Performance Ratings (PRs) of late. But it’s hard to imagine players doing as well as these two did in this match. John O’Hagan had the better PR by a bit, but won handily because he also had the luck going for him, with a luck factor of close to 8.

It’s good to be lucky. But it’s better to be good.

Answers to Oct 12 Quiz

How did you do?

For checker plays (Problems 5-7), use the numbers on the board. For double decisions (Problems 1-4), choose one of these: No Double/Take; No Double/Pass; Double/Take; Double/Pass. Good luck!

Problem 1: White is 11-away/7-away; White on roll

If you’re Red, you’re probably thinking, I don’t want this double because I’m ahead 4-0 and with my blot on my 11 point it could easily be 4-4 if I take. By Woolsey’s Law, it’s a clear double.

But Red has reasonable chances to win this game. First, White has to cover the four point: six numbers don’t cover or make the one point. Even if White covers, Red can still button up and be in it until the end.

For money, it’s a take. At this score, however, it’s a pretty big drop.

Problem 2: Red is 6-away/4-away; Red on roll

Red’s gammons loom large. At 4.4%, so do Red’s backgammons.

At this score, with White an even number of points away, it’s slightly too good.

Not much will be different next time Red is on roll. So why double now? It doesn’t really cost to wait.

That said, over the board, this is an excellent double. If the opponent takes as little as one out of 16 times, the double is better.

Let’s be honest: Holding the one point, how many times have we seen White pull out situations like this? And who doesn’t like to play a back game?

Problem 3: Red is 5-away/4-away; Red on roll

Same as Position 3, but with Red trailing by one less point, the position is no longer too good and is instead a D/P.

Because of the high probability of gammons, the score makes all the difference: With Red 4-away, 8-away, it’s a double/take, and with Red 2-away, 4-away, it’s not even a double.

Fascinating!

Problem 4: 3-away/3-away; White on roll

White looks strong. True, White is down 15 in the race, but White is simultaneously pursuing a back game, a priming game, and an attacking game.

But it’s not even close to a double! Apparently having three games plans at once isn’t such a great idea.

Using PRAT, the home boards are equal. Position = 0.

White doesn’t have a lot of (any? Maybe 6-1 then bounce…) market losers. Threat = 0.

White is ahead; Race = 1.

White doesn’t have a huge gammon edge (18% vs 12%). Gammon Vig = 0.

Total PRAT = 1, not even close to the 2 required for a cube. That said, at the score of 3-away, 3-away early doubles are OK. Just not this early.

Problem 5: 3-away/3-away; Red to play 6-4

Yes, this was a trick question. It’s tempting to go for symmetry and make the bar point, but in general, making the next point in your home board is right, and it is here as well.

Note that playing safe with 11/5 10/6 is a 0.316 blunder. Making a point is worth the downside of leaving a shot, especially here where there are likely to be many return shots if Red is hit.

Problem 6: 3-away/3-away; Red to play 5-1

Red’s gotta be nervous about getting those back checkers out. But patience is the best approach. The score is close: Make White be the first to leave a shot.

Red can’t make a point, so button up!

Problem 7: White is 3-away/2-away; White to play 4-3

After the roll, the race is even. The boards are the same. But Red can play a bit bolder holding White’s 4 point. White’s 8/5 7/3 is safe and perfectly reasonable.

But 24/21 7/3 puts pressure on Red and simultaneously starts a home board point. Thing is, it’s darn ugly. It’s hard to imagine convincing your doubles partner it’s the right play!


Do you know your GammonPoint total?

GammonPoints tracks local tournaments and ranks players on a level playing field. See how many GammonPoints you have.

Friday VoB Quiz 2018-10-12

It’s time for the Friday quiz! What would you do in these interesting positions?

Submit your answers in the comments below, on Facebook, or by emailing larry@voiceofbackgammon.com by 6 pm EST Wednesday, October 17. One hundred GammonCoin* will be awarded to the one with the most correct answers (ties split the total). You must warrant that you have not gotten the answer from XG or other experts, human or otherwise!

For checker plays (Problems 5-7), use the numbers on the board. For double decisions (Problems 1-4), choose one of these: No Double/Take; No Double/Pass; Double/Take; Double/Pass. Good luck!

Problem 1: White is 11-away/7-away; White on roll

Problem 2: Brown is 6-away/4-away; Brown on roll

Problem 3: Brown is 5-away/4-away; Brown on roll

Problem 4: 3-away/3-away; White on roll

Problem 5: 3-away/3-away; Brown to play 6-4

Problem 6: 3-away/3-away; Brown to play 5-1

Problem 7: White is 3-away/2-away; White to play 4-3

I look forward to seeing your answers.

*What’s GammonCoin? GammonCoin was minted by GammonPoints to reward players for playing and winning at local, national, and international competitions. GammonPoints tracks local tournaments and ranks players on a level playing field. See how many GammonPoints you have.

Answers & Winner to the Friday Oct. 5 Quiz

Answers to the Friday quiz! How did you do?

Problem 1: 9-away/9-away

After 13/11*, white has a 3-point board with 9 1/2 men in the zone.

Where to play the 6? Having a better board and more men back calls for a bold play. But 13/7 is too bold and 22/16 is too meek. The happy ground is 13/5, giving White the same 3 attackers without incurring the risk of Red rolling a 7.

Problem 2: 9-away/9-away

White has a better board, race, market losers, and gammon chances. The question is whether White is too good. The bot says yes, but OTB (over the board), it might be best to double, because if Red takes more than one out of 13 times, White gains equity.

Problem 3: 3-away/8-away

It’s oh so close, but running offers the best chance. Generally, all things equal when you’re ahead in the match, running is the better option.

Problem 4: 8-away/3-away

Far behind in the match and an even # of points away, White goes for the gammon with 8/2, 6/2.

Basically, if we take some Crofford scores out of the equation, with a big lead in a match you should run, and with a big deficit you should make a point.

Problem 5: 8-away/3-away

White is 28 pips behind in the race but has a better board for analysis purposes because White holds Red’s 5-point. White also has many market losers: any doubles, 6-1, 4-2, 5-4, 6-4, and 6-5. And with Red holding White’s 1-point, White has reasonable gammon chances. So the double seems clear.

The danger for Red is to give White the opportunity to win 4 points with a gammon. At this score, with Red ahead, it’s a pass.

Problem 6: 4-away/8-away

In the same position as Problem 5 but leading in the match, White doesn’t have as much of a double. The game will soon become volatile, and owning the cube is worth a lot to Red at this score. By the way, XG needed some convincing of this: the ++ analysis doesn’t even think it’s a double. But a 1296 rollout gave XG 99.7% confidence that a double is correct.

What was a clear pass for Red at 3-away, 8-away becomes an easy take at 8-away, 4-away, with the away numbers in this paragraph adjusted to Red’s point of view.

Problem 7: 2-away/9-away

White must leave a shot. Generally, it’s correct to slot in the home board vs. the bar. But XG doesn’t think that’s a good idea in this position. The visual answer lies in the dice distribution:

The XG-recommended play is the second of the two charts.

White has a few sequences that really pay off (see upper left of both charts) while reducing the number of sequences that really hurt (see lower right of both charts).

And the Winner Is…

Congratulations to Dmitriy Obukhov, who gave 5 correct answers and earns 100 GammonCoin*. Dmitriy contributed to the comments above. Well done, Dmitriy!

Stay tuned next Friday for our next quiz. Subscribe below to be one of the first to receive the quiz.

*What’s GammonCoin? GammonCoin was minted by GammonPoints to reward players for playing and winning at local, national, and international competitions. GammonPoints tracks local tournaments and ranks players on a level playing field.

Friday Quiz

It’s time for the Friday quiz! What would you do?

Submit your answers in the comments below, on Facebook, or by emailing larry@voiceofbackgammon.com by 6 pm EST Wednesday, October 10. One hundred GammonCoin* will be awarded to the one with the most correct answers (ties split the total). You must warrant that you have not gotten the answer from XG or other experts, human or otherwise!

For checker plays, use the numbers on the board. For double decisions, choose one of these: No Double/Take; No Double/Pass; Double/Take; Double/Pass. Good luck!

Problem 1: 9-away/9-away

Problem 2: 9-away/9-away

Problem 3: 3-away/8-away

Problem 4: 8-away/3-away

Problem 5: 8-away/3-away

Problem 6: 4-away/8-away

Problem 7: 2-away/9-away

FYI I got most of these wrong. I look forward to seeing your answers.

*What’s GammonCoin? GammonCoin was minted by GammonPoints to reward players for playing and winning at local, national, and international competitions. GammonPoints tracks local tournaments and ranks players on a level playing field. See how many GammonPoints you have.