Final of the 2015 Central States Invitational
13 point match
Game 6 of 13 point match
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 1, Tak Morioka (Brown): 9
Coming down with two checkers is not a bad play for money. Trailing big in the match, I think it’s clearly right.
Brown rolls 6-6, 24/18(2), 13/7(2). White rolls 6-5, 11/5, 8/3.
Brown rolls 3-3, 8/5(2), 6/3(2). White rolls 5-1, 8/3, 6/5.
For money, this is a double and a big pass. Tak is about a 3-to-1 favorite, and quite a few of those wins are gammons. At the score, Tak should not double here, since his gammon threat is less useful as leverage here. If the game turns around a bit, I can (and will) recube to 4 to “kill” his gammons (i.e., make them useless to him) while making my gammons more powerful.
As to the checker play, XG dings Tak very hard here. The 8 point is a nice addition to Brown’s priming formation, and 13/9 provides a nice builder for the 4-point, even at the cost of a direct shot. In fact, if White rolls something like 52 after the best play, Brown really does have a double, and I have a pass.
Tak’s play places a builder on the 3-point where it doesn’t belong, and it makes it more difficult to improve the position. In particular, it is very hard to make the 4-point naturally after the what was played in the game.
My turn to screw things up. It seems unnatural to run when one is down in the race, but I’m actually running out of time here since I have 48 pips locked up in my anchor. I should run out from behind Tak’s blockade, and expect to get hit. It is not the end of the world if this happens, since I usually come in right away, either remaking my anchor, or “splitting,” hoping to make a better anchor.
My actual play leaves a blot anyway, of course, but I should run even if I my roll were 63.
Brown rolls 4-2, 13/11, 13/9. White rolls 5-2, 13/8, 6/4.
Making the 4-point should be Brown’s overarching priority. The best play maximizes builders for it. Even if White hits a fly shot, Brown will have two blots to shoot at from the bar.
After the best play, if White doesn’t roll anything special, Brown’s threat of making the 4-point should lead him to cash the game.
After this roll, the game should be over. Brown will take control of the outfield and play 15 vs 2 against White’s back checkers.
I don’t know whether Tak thought he was too good or not good enough here. I could imagine a player thinking either one. But now I have almost no game left. Mostly I’m relying on eventually hitting a shot from my ace point game for my winning chances, and I win almost no gammons. Brown shouldn’t be afraid of doubling.
At the same time, Brown may never make the 4-point, and this could lead to some awkwardness down the line. Tak should make me pay to see that though.
White rolls 5-4, 6/1, 5/1.
For the next few rolls, XG says that Brown should cash, but just barely. I think Tak is strong enough (and I’m weak enough) to make playing on a reasonable choice. If I roll something that kind of escapes, Tak can usually cash the game.
White rolls 4-4, 6/2(2), 5/1(2). Brown rolls 3-2, 15/13, 12/9.
White rolls 5-4, 5/1. Brown rolls 6-6, 13/7, 9/3(3).
White rolls 5-3, 24/16.
So you think you know how to play backgammon? What do you do with this cube decision? There are certainly some blotting numbers for Brown here. 63 is an especially fun number, leaving a shot a two blots from the roof. White also has a little bit of racing equity here.
But even when Brown is forced to blot, White still has to hit it, and then win the game from there. Brown still has a big edge here, and it is very hard for White to win a gammon. Brown has a huge cube here, and XG says that White should pass. I think I would have taken, thinking that I had enough slimy variations that led to a win.
White rolls 5-5, 16/1.
Well, things have improved a bit in the race for me. It is still a big double, but now I can take.
Brown rolls 3-1, 5/2, 3/2. White rolls 2-1, 5/3, 4/3.
Still a big cube, but now a huge take. All of Brown’s threes except 33 leave a blot, as well as 65 and 64. 63 leaves a double shot. In fact, if Tak had cubed me and rolled 63, I would have a small, but correct redouble at the score. With a centered cube, I don’t have a double no matter what Tak rolls.
Brown rolls 6-4, 7/3, 7/1*.
A pretty good miss. I am only a small underdog now.
Brown rolls 1-1, 5/4, 2/off, 1/off. White rolls 5-4, 9/off.
Brown rolls, 4-3, takes 2 off. White rolls 6-1, takes 2 off.
Brown rolls 6-4, 6/off, 5/1. White rolls 6-4, takes 2 off.
Brown rolls 3-1, takes 2 off.
I rolled one of my four absolute crushers. Tak will pass unless he rolls something special.
Brown rolls 6-3, takes 2 off.
White doubles, Brown passes.
Game 7 of 13 point match
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 2, Tak Morioka (Brown): 9
This is an old school play that has fallen out of favor in the post-bot era. It tends to be more appropriate when one is trailing (and it is definitely right in my mind when trailing 4-away/2-away). But this play sacrifices some wins for a more gammonish position, which the leader should not seek to do.
Perhaps Tak believed he was playing a weaker player, and thus tried for a prime-vs-prime game, which tends to lead to more complications.
White rolls 6-6, 24/18(2), 13/7(2). Brown rolls 5-3, 13/5.
When you roll 66 on the second roll of the game, then turn the cube on your next turn, it is known as an “Atlanta Double.” Since Atlanta is the place where I first started playing backgammon seriously, I can tell you that I have absolutely no idea why this is the case. Players in Atlanta weren’t particularly prone to offering Atlanta Doubles.
You should know that for money, the Atlanta Double is usually wrong. The rule of thumb that I use is one I read on Stick’s site, bgonline.org: “Double sixes plus another net improvement is a cube.”
Now, trailing big in the match, I can be a bit looser with that cube. Apparently I don’t quite have a double in this position, but it is very close. If Tak did not have his 5-point made, I’m pretty sure I would have a correct cube. Note that if I roll 31, 42, 11, 22, 33, 44, or 55 here, Brown would be very hard-pressed to take a cube if he didn’t roll something great in response.
White rolls 6-1, 13/7, 8/7.
I don’t know why XG says it is okay to split here. My position has stacks that would love nothing more than to have targets to shoot at.
For money, one might consider making the 22-point anchor and then the 4-point, noting that the additional contact might favor the player trailing the race. But with a big lead and the cube turned, Tak makes the 20-point, in effect telling me, “You shall not gammon me!” This tends to be the right idea at the score.
Tak must be pleased with his previous play, as this 21 would have allowed me to make the 5-point otherwise.
Brown rolls 6-3, 13/4. White rolls 6-5, 13/8, 13/7.
Brown rolls 4-2, 6/4, 6/2.
I think I’m supposed to keep a spare outside my board, so that I don’t have to break one of my outside points should I roll 6x. Of course, XG’s play leaves a blot on 66.
Brown rolls 5-2, 8/6, 8/3. White rolls 6-2, 8/6, 8/2.
Brown rolls 6-2, 20/14, 6/4. White rolls 6-6, 7/1(2).
XG’s play is very clever. It duplicates my three’s to hit and cover the 3-point. Look at how badly my non-hitting sixes play after the right play. Yikes!
I failed to hit with this 52, and it is just an inexcusable error. I was afraid of getting gammoned, and I thought, “I’m ahead in the race; I don’t need to put all my eggs in one basket with the big play.”
The problem is that I do have a 4-point board, so hitting plays start to pan out more often than with weaker boards. Also, I am basically out of time here. This is actually an excellent opportunity to leave my anchor while getting a “risk discount.” Hitting only leaves Brown with 13 hitting numbers, fewer than the 17 (or more) numbers I will probably have to leave later if I don’t hit.
After I made my play, Tak asked me whether I would have hit if he had played 20/16 5/2 the roll before. I said I probably would have with the extra blot lying around. I would have been correct by a small margin. So Tak’s blunder induced an even bigger blunder on my part. Well played, sir.
Here, there’s no duplication involved, but Tak should take advantage of the blot in my board to give a double shot on my bad sixes.
White rolls 3-1, 6/3, 2/1.
Brown rolls a good racing number, but he is not yet ahead in the race. If he stays back, I will either have to leave a shot or crack my board next turn. Tak’s play reduces the pressure on my back checkers.
This was a hard choice for me, and apparently I got it badly wrong. I did not like the idea of breaking my board and burying another checker with the 5. The race is close, and I’d like to use my pips for racing if possible. I’m still giving Tak bad aces if I stay with one checker, but now his twos are really good. Too good, in fact. I should stand pat and force him to play inside with a “small-big” combination (or leave a shot with 61 and 62.
Tak’s dice reward me for my bad play.
Gotta go now. I’m up 9 raw pips after the roll, but my gap on the 5-point and stack on the ace point make me a small underdog.
Brown rolls 4-1, 9/8, 9/5. White rolls 5-3, 15/12, 10/5.
Brown rolls 5-2, 8/3, 2/off. White rolls 3-1, 12/9, 6/5.
Brown rolls 6-2, takes 2 off. White rolls 4-2, 9/5, 2/off.
White rolls 1-1, takes 4 off. Brown rolls 6-3, takes 2 off.
White rolls 4-1, 5/off. Brown rolls 3-3, 5/2, 4/1, 3/off(2).
White rolls 3-2, takes 2 off.
White rolls 5-4, takes 2 off. Brown rolls 6-1, 5/4, 5/off.
White rolls 5-4, takes 2 off. Brown rolls 5-1, 5/off, 2/1.
White rolls 4-4, takes 3 off and wins a single game – 2 points.
Game 8 of 13 point match
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 4, Tak Morioka (Brown): 9
White rolls 5-1, 24/23, 13/8.
Although the default play with a 62 is to split with the 6 and come down from the midpoint with the 2, once I have split with 51, it is right by a surprising amount to run all the way with the 62. I have too many good numbers against the other play.
White rolls 6-5, 24/18, 23/18. Brown rolls 4-2, 8/4, 6/4.
White rolls 6-1, 13/7, 8/7.
Brown tries to keep his back checkers connected. XG thinks he should just run with the 16-point checker and leave junior to fend for himself. Hitting a blot on the 10-point comes usually gives Brown return shots. Tak’s play runs when he’s down in the race, and leaves me great hitting deuces, plus numbers to hit loose on my five-point.
White rolls 3-1, 8/5*, 6/5. Brown rolls 5-1, bar/24, 14/9.
I’m surprised the take is this close. I think most players would pass this quickly as the leader. Heck, I think a lot of players would pass this for money (they shouldn’t; it is a big take).
Game 9 of 13 point match
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 5, Tak Morioka (Brown): 9
Again, it is a bit anti-thematic for the leader to make the more gammonish play here with the 43. Most players would split here.
After 43 down, the bots these days favor the play I made with this 33 for money. Sometimes you put more pressure on your opponent by not hitting. I make an anchor right in front of his two builders that would like to make an offensive point. And although we shouldn’t usually like sacrificing the 8-point to make an inner board point, Tak will have to use his whole roll if he hits the 8-point blot left behind, giving me a lot of return shots from the bar.
If your opponent plays 43 down with the opening roll, 33 is a response he does not want to see. Make sure you know how to play it properly.
Hitting is right. It does come with a cost.
Usually the outfield hit is right, since it gains more in the race. But here it gives up the anchor when I have a perfectly good hit that keeps the anchor. This is a silly mistake for me to make.
Normally, putting me on the bar is not a bad tactical move. The trouble is that I have a good six to play here, so this doesn’t cut down too much on my shots. All my numbers containing a 1, 5, or 6 hit except for 66. Tak should just keep the blot count down and slot his 5-point with 10/5.
I’m going to be honest here. I didn’t do much analysis over the board in this position. I just saw that I had a better board and Tak had 3 blots lying around, so I just doubled from the roof without thinking any more about it. It is not good to trail in matches, but there are some perks. One of them is that you can be super-aggressive with initial doubles that have some gammon potential. It’s only fair. A player who is trailing by a large margin might be prone to steaming, but in turn the steaming plays are often correct at the score!
Tak may have hit on the ace point last turn to try to stave off this cube (it is tougher to cube when you are on the bar than otherwise). But he is not supposed to pass this one. There is a ton of game left. I don’t have the 8-point, and I have only 7 checkers in the zone. Even if the worst happens and I hit two blots, my lack of ammunition up front will usually mean that Tak can establish a second anchor, and it will be difficult for me to bring this home safely.
Although I was disappointed not to have the chance to win a gammon here, I was very happy to take the point.
Game 10 of 13 point match
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 6, Tak Morioka (Brown): 9
If I had to pick a game where I felt I threw away my best chance to win the match, I would choose this one. Even though I made bigger mistakes in other games, I hated the way I played this game the most.
But I don’t hate the way I played this 43. I’m down in the match, so I make the gammonish play of two down.
Brown rolls 6-1, 13/7, 8/7.
Three of the fives are clear. XG doesn’t know whether to slot the 5 or the 4. I slotted the 5, since it is the better point.
My 55 put Black 20 pips down in the race, so auto-piloting this 65 with the Lover’s Leap play of 24/13 is a serious mistake. It is better not to run when down in the race. Counter-priming is better, so two down is the play.
White rolls 4-3, 24/21, 9/5.
Of course, if you roll TWO 65s, running is the right idea!
I just build my board and see if Tak rolls something that coughs up a blot.
And Brown has to leave a shot! I am glad it was not my decision as to how to play this roll. Tak’s play leaves only 12 immediate hitting numbers, which is safer than XG’s play, which leaves 15 numbers. And it is quite bad to get hit here. However, 13/10 13/8 unstacks the heavy point and is easier to clean up if Tak gets away with it. How do you determine which one is better? Beats me.
Mostly I’m going to tear my plays apart this game, but I will pat myself on the back for this double. XG 4-ply says this is a small double, but a rollout turns it into a monster cube at the score (it is actually a correct initial double for money). Over the board, I knew that my 12 hitting numbers were crushing. So I basically just counted the race to make sure I wasn’t horribly behind (and then counted again, then a third time, since my first two counts didn’t agree). Since I was actually up 7 pips, I was very comfortable shipping the cube here.
Since Tak is fine the 2/3 of the time I don’t hit, it is a super-easy take.
White rolls 1-1, 24/22*, 22/21, 6/5. Brown rolls 6-3, fanning.
But here is a big blunder. Let me explain how this happens.
When conducting a blitz, your emphasis should usually be on bringing builders down first, moving the back checkers second. However, in this position, I already have a four-point board and well diversified builders to attack the open points. Although the bar point has some value if Black comes in deep, it is terrible if he rolls something like 54, escaping. The best improvement I can make to my position is to hop out with the 6. This gets the back checkers moving and provides some outfield coverage. The best ace is then 21/20, making it easier for this checker to escape.
Brown rolls 6-3, fanning. White rolls 5-3, 21/13.
Again, I’ve got enough builders (especially if 13/10 is the 3). Jumping is the most pressing problem.
Brown rolls 5-3, fanning.
The last ace after making the 4-point is 7/6 to diversify attackers on the ace point.
Brown rolls 6-1, bar/24, 13/7.
Hitting loose is clear to maximize gammons.
Tak makes a good play here. Putting two in the air by hitting loose with the deuce gives Brown excellent counter-priming chances if he gets away with it.
Even though it breaks the 6-prime, I have to shift 2/1* after entering with both checkers. It should be clear that this play wins the most gammons, as it gives me chances to shoot at Brown’s blot while he is on the bar. It may be less clear that this play wins the most games. Tak’s counter-priming threat is very real, and very serious.
Brown rolls 6-3, fanning. White rolls 6-2, 24/16.
A tremendous shot from Tak. If I don’t hit him, he has great chances to not only run off the gammon, but also to win the game.
Here I provoked a fight when the terms were most favorable to me by running all the way out.
First, we must reject the “safe” play 16/6, as this lets Black play 15 vs 1 against my back checker, which is just awful. Death may not come swiftly, but it does come often in the end.
My play runs into a hail of shots. The trouble for Brown is that he has to hit right now, or probably not hit at all. He usually can’t do this completely safely, as there is a blot in his board. This leads to return shots (and resulting gammons if those shots are hit). How good do you feel as Brown after my play if you roll 61?
The rollout suggests that the DMP play might be the compromise play of 24/20, 16/10. This limits the number of shots that send a checker back to 12.
Tak correctly hits, because hitting wins quite often, while not hitting basically gives up. However, at the gammon-save score of 1-away/2-away Crawford, Brown should make the wimpy play, since the additional wins from hitting are not as numerous as the additional gammon losses.
Well, I didn’t hit, but I did get to the edge of Brown’s three-prime, so I’m still a favorite.
Brown rolls 6-6, 13/1(2). White rolls 3-1, 15/11.
Critical roll coming up. I’m a big dog if I roll poorly.
A great roll for me, and the gammon is back on.
Brown rolls 6-3, fanning. White rolls 6-1, 16/9.
Brown rolls 5-2, bar/23, 13/8.
Although it’s not my biggest error, this is my most disappointing error of the whole match.
If you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me how to play this 43, I would say, “Hit! And how did you get in here?” I win many more gammons if I hit than if I don’t. And I’m not dead if Black hits me from the bar, so I’m not giving up too many wins.
I was clearly influenced by earlier events in this game. I hit loose in nearly the safest possible situation earlier and almost lost the game. I thought something along the lines of, “I can play safe this turn. I win a few gammons if I close him out later.” But I won’t close him out later unless I roll a number that points on his head (if I was going to hit loose, I would have done it now), and in the meantime, Brown is bringing his checkers home and reducing the percentage of gammons I can win.
I made many mistakes in this match. Some were due to an oversight. Some were due to my misunderstanding of a position. This particular mistake was a choke.
Brown rolls 4-3, 13/9, 8/5.
One roll later and it is already wrong to hit loose here. The moment has passed.
Brown rolls 5-4, 9/4, 8/4. White rolls 6-4, 7/3, 7/1.
Brown has almost all of his checkers home. He can afford to stay and wait for a shot. There is minuscule gammon danger now. This play just gives up.
White rolls 1-1, 3/2, 1/off(3). Brown rolls 6-5, 18/7.
White rolls 5-4, takes 2 off. Brown rolls 5-2, 8/3, 7/5.
White rolls 3-1, 5/4, 3/off. Brown rolls 3-1, 7/4, 1/off.
Brown rolls 6-4, takes 2 off. White rolls 6-2, takes 2 off.
Brown rolls 6-6, takes 4 off. White rolls 3-3, takes 3 off.
Brown rolls 5-1, takes 2 off, White rolls 6-4, takes 2 off.
White rolls 3-1, 5/1. Brown rolls 3-1, resigns a single game – 2 points.
Game 11 of 13 point match
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 8, Tak Morioka (Brown): 9