Final of the 2015 Central States Invitational
13 point match
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 9, Tak Morioka (Brown): 9
Brown rolls 5-4, 24/15.
There are times when making the 5-point is better than hitting the outfield blot with 31. This isn’t one of them, since I can also use the ace to split after hitting. For more information, read “Backgammon Openings, Vol. 1” by Nack Ballard and Paul Weaver.
Brown rolls 4-3, bar/21, 24/21.
When your opponent has made an advanced anchor, the bar point goes down in value, and the point 6 pips away from the anchor goes up in value (at least in the early going). XG’s play is just better than mine here.
Brown rolls 4-2, 8/4, 6/4.
My play strips the midpoint. I don’t typically like to run with a checker if it only gets to my opponent’s 9-point, but getting the back checkers moving and keeping a spare on the midpoint is more important here.
Brown rolls 3-1, 6/3*, 3/2*. White rolls 5-1, bar/24, bar/20.
Tak’s play puts a checker on the bar against a three-point board with no inner board blots. This would probably be the right play if he had more ammunition in the zone to follow up on the blitz, or if he had a big lead in the race. As it is, the backup isn’t there yet, and the race is close, so making the 5-point is a better play for the long term.
What a swing number. Instead of dancing, I make the 20-point anchor and can heave a sigh of relief.
Brown rolls 3-2, 13/8. White rolls 6-3, 8/2, 6/3.
Brown can take advantage of the two blots in my board to put a checker on the 9-point. He might be able to make it next turn, or he can use it as a cover for the 3-point.
I regretted this play as soon as I picked up my dice. While my play leaves no shots this turn, the follow-up is very difficult with all of my outfield points stripped. At a cost of just 4 hitting numbers, I create a much more flexible position, and I even create builders for the 5-point.
Tak makes a good play, choosing “pretty” over “safe.” If I hit his blot, it comes at a price, and his play creates a smoother, more threatening position in the future.
And on cue, I am forced to leave a shot. I chose to duplicate hitting and covering sixes.
Brown rolls 6-6, 21/15*, 13/7(2), 9/3. White rolls 2-1, bar/24, 8/6.
I like Tak’s decision to play on. I don’t care what XG says.
I thought hitting loose just got me gammoned more, without giving me a realistic chance to win, so I played safe.
Brown rolls 6-1, 7/1*, 2/1. White rolls 4-3, fanning.
Brown rolls 2-1, 15/13, 7/6. White rolls 6-4, fanning.
Brown rolls 4-1, 21/17, 13/12. White rolls 6-5, bar/20, 7/1.
Weirdly, I now like Tak’s decision to cash, despite XG’s tiny preference for playing on. I’m not going to leave any blots next turn, but I could roll 66 and have some chances in the race.
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 9, Tak Morioka (Brown): 10
White rolls 6-5, 24/13. Brown rolls 3-1, 8/5, 6/5.
White rolls 6-5, 24/13.
The minor split actually leads to more contact and more bad numbers for me. Since Brown is down in the race and has a better board, this is what he should strive for.
Normally with a 51, it is not right to hit two (but it is right with a 65) because the double hit strips the 8-point, so there aren’t as many ways to cover the bar point blot while keeping the 8-point.
Here, the double hit has the benefit of minimizing shots in a position where getting hit is quite bad (I’m up in the race and have a worse board). But I decided that the seven-checker stack on the midpoint was too ugly to be left unremedied, so I played 13/7.
Brown rolls 6-5, bar/20, 24/18*. White rolls 5-1, bar/24, 13/8.
Brown rolls 4-2, 20/16, 18/16. White rolls 5-4, 13/4.
Brown rolls 6-5, 16/11, 16/10.
My worst blunder of the match is brought to you by a nasty combination of oversight and positional misunderstanding.
I did see that this roll lets me hit the checker on the 15-point. Had I also seen that I could move 4/1, I would have made that play. Experienced players are not always accustomed to moving blots from desirable points to undesirable points, so in my mind, the blot on the 4-point was effectively nailed in place. But if I move it to the ace point, Black only has 19 hitting numbers (1’s and 3’s except 63, and 55). On the 17 non-hitters, I’m quite happy. I’m up in the race and have basically escaped all of my checkers.
Now, imagining my 4-point blot nailed down, I thought, “What am I trying to accomplish by hitting if I’m giving him 4s, 3s and 1s to hit back?” It turns out that if I play 24/15* 13/10, then Brown has 25 numbers that hit back (all 1s, 3s, and 4s, except 61 and 63, 22 and 55.). But again, I’m quite happy on the 11 nonhitters.
No, I thought, “Let’s make the big scary board and hit him later if he leaves a shot.” The trouble is that Brown has escaped all his checkers has a very nice, smooth position that is easy to improve safely. I’m giving him a chance to play 15 vs. 1. This is completely hopeless.
I would have said that my big blunder last roll cost me the match, except that Tak rolled one of the few numbers where I would have ended up with a worse position had I made the right play!
White rolls 3-1, 8/4. Brown rolls 2-1, 6/4, 5/4.
White rolls 6-2, 24/22, 13/7. Brown rolls 4-3, 11/7, 10/7.
Brown rolls 5-3, 13/8, 7/4.
Tak has a nice double here. His best number is 55, which buries me, gains in the race, and threatens to gammon me. 44, 42, 41, 22, and 21 make a 6-prime, after which I’m usually dead (and most of these numbers are not great racing numbers). 33 and 11 shift and put me in the air, after which I’m suffering if I roll badly from the bar. And Tak will gladly take 66 and 54 for various reasons.
So that’s 14 numbers I’d rather not see, many of which (but not all) are absolutely crushing. Tak is certainly favored on the remaining 22 numbers.
Here are a couple of mitigating factors. The less important one is that my board strength does not make his building of a 6-prime an automatic win. Tak may have to think carefully about hitting loose to roll the prime forward.
But the greater source of concern is the fact that I am up 10 pips here. If I can jump his prime safely and turn this into a race while holding a 2 cube, I usually win. More often than you may think, in fact. That’s because Tak’s take point on a 4-cube at this score is 40 percent. That’s really high! Remember that I would have roughly a 50 percent chance to win the game if I am on roll and DOWN 4 pips in a typical race. For a race in which we both have a pip count of 100, I usually have a big redouble and Tak has a take. If I have a 1 pip lead, it usually turns into a pass!
Then there’s this issue. How do you play your duds if you are Brown? For instance, how do you play 53? How do you play 31? Answers next roll…
Give yourself a thousand lashes with a wet noodle if you failed to point of White’s head with this roll. The 6 numbers that hit back from the roof are scary, but not nearly as scary as the possibility of my rolling a 6 and winning immediately.
Now, for the duds. With a 31, Brown should play 13/9, slotting the back of the prime. A 6 from White is bad anyway, so why not give White one chance to roll it, then prime him forever if he fails. This play does lose more gammons than a quiet play like 10/6, but the increased number of wins is worth it.
With a 53, one might be tempted to hit loose, but this gives White 14 immediate great numbers. It’s better to play 13/10 11/6. Then at least White’s 61 and 64 still run into a double shot.
White rolls 6-4, fanning. Brown rolls 4-3, 13/10, 11/7.
White rolls 4-3, fanning, Brown rolls, 5-4, 13/9, 13/8.
White rolls 2-2, bar/23, 13/11, 13/9. Brown rolls 4-3, 10/7, 9/5.
Brown rolls 5-3, 7/2, 5/2. White rolls 6-4, fanning.
Brown rolls 5-2, 10/5, 8/6. White rolls 3-1, bar/24, 8/5,
Brown rolls 6-2, 8/2, 6/4. White rolls 5-3, 7/2, 5/2.
White rolls 4-3, 11/7, 4/1. Brown rolls 4-2, 5/3, 4/off.
White rolls 5-3, 7/4, 6/1. Brown rolls 5-3, takes 2 off.
It’s a bit better to save a 6 here. I’m not in much gammon danger.
Brown rolls 6-1, 6/5, 6/off. White rolls 6-5, 24/13.
Brown rolls 2-2, takes 3 off. White rolls 6-5, 13/2.
Brown rolls 5-3, takes 2 off. White rolls 5-3, takes 2 off.
White rolls 4-2 takes 2 off. Brown rolls 3-2, 5/off.
White rolls 2-2, , takes 3 off. Brown rolls 6-6, takes 3 off.
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 9, Tak Morioka (Brown): 12
Brown rolls 5-4, 24/20, 13/8.
A gammon is valuable here, although actually not too much more than for money. What makes the aggressive hitting play so competitive here is that Tak’s gammons are worthless.
Brown rolls 6-2, 20/14, 13/11. White rolls 2-2, 13/11(2)*, 6/4(2).
Brown rolls 6-1, bar/24, 11/5. White rolls 6-1, 11/5, 6/5.
Brown rolls 5/3, 13/5, White rolls 5-2, 24/22, 11/6.
Tak should try to get to the edge of my prime while it is not too dangerous. Hitting here does nothing about the back checkers and often just gets another checker sent back behind the prime.
White rolls 3-1, bar/22*, 22/21. Brown rolls 5-4, fanning.
Looks like someone figured out escaping is important! The blots do not matter much. Even if one is hit, that usually leads to a ton of return shots.
Brown rolls 5-4, fanning. White rolls 6-2, 24/16.
44 is a problem. I should split the checkers on the 16-point. It is very unlikely Tak will be able to win by hitting and containing my checkers.
Brown rolls 4-2, 8/4, 6/4. White rolls 4-1, 16/11.
Very close decision. Hitting wins more, but loses more gammons too.
White rolls 4-1, bar/24, 11/7. Brown rolls 5-1, 24/23, 8/3.
I have to prevent Tak from getting the bar point. I think that’s why hitting is essential, even if it is ugly.
Yikes! I have some ugly numbers now.
White rolls 4-1, 24/23, 5/1*. Brown rolls 5-4, fanning.
Whew! I escaped, and now have great gammon chances.
I think Tak would rather have fanned than come in like this.
There is relatively little danger in slotting the three point. If I’m hit, Brown usually crunches before he can get all of his back checkers out. The real danger is in never making the 3-point. Then Brown gets to play a phantom 2-3 backgame.
Brown rolls 3-3, 7/1(2).
What a horrible shake! I bet the spectators loved it!
Brown rolls 3-1, 23/22*, 5/2. White rolls 4-3, fanning.
The bot says to lift the blot, but leaving it definitely wins more games. Tak wants to close me out.
White rolls 3-1, fanning. Brown rolls 5-2, 23/18, 16/14.
White rolls 5-2, bar/20*, 20/18. Brown rolls 4-4, fanning.
White rolls 6-1, 18/11*. Brown rolls 5-1, fanning.
Slotting the 3-point is safer than it looks. Brown has three on the bar against a 4-point board. Even if he hits me, I still usually just have to enter one checker on a 5-point board before he enters 2 checkers on a 4-point board.
The real danger, again, is what happens if I never make the 3-point. Then Brown has a phantom 2-3 backgame…while I have 4 checkers on the ace point. That’s quite dangerous, and that’s why this decision is not even close.
Rats! Okay, who will get his checkers in first?
White rolls 6-2, fanning. Brown rolls 4-1, fanning.
White rolls 2-1, fanning, Brown rolls 6-5, fanning.
White rolls 3-1, fanning. Brown rolls 6-5, fanning.
White rolls 6-4, fanning. Brown rolls 4-1, fanning.
I got in! Now this three was the source of some controversy. Some players thought I went “too hard for the gammon” by hitting here. I hit not because hitting wins more gammons (although it certainly does) but because it wins more games! This position is terribly problematic if I don’t make the 3-point (or worse, if Black does), so I need to fight for it now. Once again, hitting is much safer than it looks (and not hitting much more dangerous).
Ho boy! I did not want to see this!
White rolls 2-1, fanning, Brown rolls 6-2, bar/23. 22/16.
I’m going to be honest. I thought there was a chance I might lose this game after this number 🙂
White rolls 6-5, bar/19. Brown rolls 6-3, 23/13.
White rolls 5-4, fanning, Brown rolls 5-1, 23/18*,
White rolls 6/5, bar/19. Brown rolls 3-2, 18/15, 16/14.
White rolls 4-2, fanning. Brown rolls 5-5, 23/13, 15/5.
I saw the banana split play. I just didn’t think it was right given my awful forward structure. If I make the play, and if Brown fans, I guess I’m happy. I’ve got all those blots to shoot at, and plenty of hit-and cover numbers. But if I’m hit, I’m dead, since it is nearly impossible to put the front structure back together again with those 4 checkers on the ace point.
I thought that by playing Bar/18, I could keep the forward structure intact, even though it walks into a ton of shots. If I enter again after being hit, I can maybe survive.
I found this impossible to weigh accurately over the board, and the additional gammons I win with the banana split play make that play hugely right. Fortunately, this probably won’t ever come up again. If it does, two of my checkers on the ace will be on the deuce, and it will be crystal clear to hit!
Tak missed! He told me later that he didn’t mind, because it let him clean up his blots.
White rolls 4-3, 18/11. Brown rolls 4-2, 22/16.
Hitting is clear. I thought it was time to start moving the back checkers while Brown was on the bar, but the rollout says otherwise.
Brown rolls 4-2, bar/23, 5/1. White rolls 4-3, 19/15, 9/6.
Brown rolls 4-2, 12/16,
What a number! Well, even though my plan of eschewing the banana split to keep my structure was bad, it looks like it is working.
Brown rolls 6-4, fanning. White rolls 6-4, 15/11, 15/9.
Brown rolls 6-5, fanning. White rolls 6-3, 11/5, 9/6.
Brown rolls 3-2, bar/22, 12/10. White rolls 6-4, 8/4, 6/off.
Brown rolls 5/1, 12/6. White rolls 4-3, 5/2, 4/off.
Brown rolls 6/3, 10/1. White rolls 5-4, 6/2, 6/1.
Again, Tak should stay, even if he has to break his board. It is his best chance to win, and there is virtually no gammon danger.
White rolls 3-2, 5/off. Brown rolls 6-3, 16/7.
White rolls 6-4, takes 2 off. Brown rolls 5-3, 7/4, 5/off.
White rolls 6-5, takes 2 off. Brown resigns a single game and 1 point.
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 10, Tak Morioka (Brown): 12
White rolls 3-1, 8/5, 6/5. Brown rolls 2-1, 13/11, 6/5.
White rolls 5-5, 13/3(2). Brown rolls 5-5, 13/3(2).
Running duplicates Brown’s 1s and 3s to hit and cover.
The last deuce 6/4 stacking is bad enough, even at the score, that it might be right to risk a shot to slot the 4 point. I really like Tak’s play.
But I should take advantage of Tak’s blot to leave two blots in the outfield aiming at my 4-point, rather than one blot that doesn’t aim at my 4-point.
No choice for Tak here. He creates a strong board and puts it to use by putting me in the air. He can’t let me have my whole roll to do what I want.
White rolls 6-2, bar/23, 11/5.
How many of you would have played 5/1 5/2*?
Tak’s play loses the fewest gammons, so it has to be a contender at the score. The one-blot play of 13/6, keeping the nice structure is also a contender, even though it leaves a direct shot. I was just glad it wasn’t my decision!
White rolls 4-2, 8/4, 6/4.
The DMP play is 9/2*, hitting and leaving two blots. The DMP play is 9/2*, hitting and leaving two blots. But a hit from the bar is usually fatal, and often leads to a gammon. Tak’s safe play looks best by a little bit at the score.
White rolls 2-2, 13/9(2). Brown rolls 5-3, 6/3, 6/1.
White rolls 6-5, 23/12. Brown rolls 2-2, 8/2, 4/2.
White rolls 6-4, 8/2, 6/2. Brown rolls 5-1, 8/2.
I need to keep a goalkeeper back on the 12-point to try to hit a Brown checker that is forced to run with a 6. Although this does risk losing when Brown hits a fly shot, the extra gammons that result when I can close out two checkers makes it worth it, even for money.
Brown rolls 3-1, 4/1, 2/1. White rolls 6/2, 9/3, 6/4.
Brown rolls 6-5, 24/13.
This one surprised me. For money, hitting loose is not right. But at the score, when I am willing to make a 1-to-1 trade of wins for gammons, hitting is right. I thought that I would be sacrificing far more wins than I actually am if I hit. But I guess Black still has a bit of racing equity (indeed, I will be very sad if he rolls 66).
Brown rolls 2-1, 13/10. White rolls 3-1, 8/5, 3/2.
Brown rolls 4-3, 10/3.
One more shot for the fans!
He missed. It’s DMP time.
White rolls 6-3, takes 2 off. Brown rolls 5-3, 14/6.
White rolls 6-6, takes 4 off. Brown rolls 5-2, takes 2 off.
White rolls 6-1, takes 2 off. Brown rolls 5-2,takes 2 off.
Brown rolls 3-1, takes 2 off. White rolls 5-2,takes 2 off.
Brown resigns a single game and 2 points.
Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 12, Tak Morioka (Brown): 12