A Few Vingnettes

Games of Chance

I have heard a story of two persons playing backgammon, one of whom became so enraged at losing his match at a particular point of the game, that he took his board and threw it out of the window.  It fell upon the head of one of the passengers in the street, who came up to demand instant satisfaction for the affront and injury he had sustained.  The losing gambler only asked him if he understood backgammon, and finding that he did, said that if upon seeing the state of the game he did not excuse the extravagance of his conduct, he would give him any other satisfaction he wished for.  The tables were accordingly brought, and the situation of the two contending parties being explained, the gentleman put up his sword and went away perfectly satisfied.


The Manitowoc Herald, May 5, 1859

Tom Browne Says

“A woman may learn one useful doctrine from the game of backgammon, which is, not to take up any man ‘til she’s sure of him.”

The Athens Post, June 3, 1859

Tric trac

Treatment of the Insane in Russia

The behavior of the attendants is polite and courteous; every patient is received very respectfully, and first taken into the society of the most rational of the lunatics, who have likewise acquired the same tone of politeness.  Here the patient is shown the interesting collections and productions of art; refreshments are brought in; he is invited to a game of billiards or backgammon…


Burlington Weekly Free Press, February 17, 1843

How I Became a Gambler

Although I belong to the despised fraternity called gamblers, I have always made it a rule to advise young men to avoid the gaming table that they might avoid the rock upon which I split; and I will now offer, through your paper, some suggestions to the heads of families on the subject of social card playing.


I was twenty years of age and had lived some months in New York before I even knew the names of the ordinary playing cards. But the importance of a thorough education in the science of games was soon made apparent to me – and from a quarter where I had least expected it.

Boarding on Broadway, I made the acquaintance of a number of highly respectable families. By one of these, I was invited to attend a social party. The heads of this family I knew to be members of an Evangelical church. And you will readily judge of my surprise when I made my entrée into the parlor to behold most of the company – and my pious friends – deeply engaged at play!


Not the plays of innocence! But the plays of depraved gamblers! The father of the family was engaged at chess, whilst his wife presided at a card table! Their children were among the whist players and others of the company were engaged at backgammon, dominoes and checkers!

The wine circulated freely and all seemed happy but myself, who in such a party was a barbarian. I could do nothing but look on and confess my ignorance, or occasionally engage in conversation with some old lady, whilst

“The young and gay
Were all engaged at play.”

It is needless to say that I spent a very unhappy evening; and that I resolved to acquire at once an education so necessary to the maintenance of a respectable good standing in society!

I was not long therefore, in mastering the mysteries of High, Low Jack, and The Game, and Whist – and a slight knowledge let to a desire for further information, until at last, I was adept at a variety of games and a favorite partner wherever I went.

I was exceedingly fond of cards as they were introduced into every social circle I was in. And the fondness ripened into a passion which clings to me even in this hour.


No better illustration of the dangers of social card playing can be given than my own history. In the parlors of respectable families I acquired a taste for play which became an all-consuming passion knowing no bounds and rapidly hurrying me down the road to ruin, desolation and hell.

But my case is not a solitary one; thousands of gamblers have been made in the same way, and tens of thousands have fallen before this terrible vice, in consequence of a taste for play formed in the family circle!

sin of gam

The Biblical Recorder, Raleigh, North Carolina, September 8, 1849

More Funny Papers!

On October 11, 1821, the Times of London gives us an account of two people who loved the game a little too much.

It appears that one fine day, a certain Mrs. Kahl of London went out visiting in the morning around 11:00 am and returned about 7:00 pm the same evening.

But Mrs. Kahl returned home to a bit of a shock. She was:

Struck with astonishment at seeing a light appearing and disappearing at the windows of her house.

And as she knew no one was home, Mrs. Kahl leapt to the only logical conclusion. Burglars! But she did NOT panic.

Instead of making a noise that might alert the thieves as most other females would have done, she quietly went to some of her neighbors and communicated her suspicions…

The troupe of neighborly Good Samaritans reconnoitered the house, procured a ladder, and entered quietly as mice through a second floor window. They crept down the stairs and tiptoed to the parlor door where:

They saw to their great surprise the two thieves playing a game of backgammon. They were sitting on a sofa and had the backgammon table between them. One of them instantly started up and said, “We’ll make no resistance.” On examination it was found that the house had been ransacked from top to bottom!

If only one of them hadn’t steered for a backgame and successfully executed the coup classique they would have gotten clean away! The moral of the story is, that if you MUST play backgammon while burgling a home, try for racing games!

Charles_Peace_penny_dreadful_1Burglar Bill

In November of 1822, The Hagerstown, Maryland Torch and Light Public Advertiser gives us a punny backgammon tale.

Apparently, it was the fashion of the era to make backgammon boards in the form of books like so:

bg book set

One day, a gentleman named Adam purchased one of these sets that was housed in the shell of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Upon taking the set home to his fair Eve, it was found that the dice cups and checkers were all present and accounted for, but:

The magical cubes (proverbially the device of the Old Serpent) which give life to the whole system were missing!

Whereupon Eve remarked:

In truth, my dear, this is Milton’s pair o’dice lost!


In June 1840 the New York Evening Post reported an unfortunate occurrence in the life of a player who was loving but not much loved in return:

On Saturday evening last, Major John Loving, proprietor of the Commercial Hotel in this place, was dangerously wounded with a dirk, in a personal affray with Dr. E.E. Slade.  The misunderstanding arose respecting a game of backgammon they had been playing together.


Backgammon in the News

One of the first mentions of backgammon I could find was in the gossip column of the Pennsylvania Gazette of August 23, 1739.

Apparently, the Players Gone Wild phenomenon is not exclusively a product of the modern era:

We hear, that here are private letters from Rome which advise that the Pope and the Pretender (Bonnie Prince Charlie Stewart, Pretender to the British throne), had an unlucky quarrel over a game of backgammon, so that the boxes, dice and tables were thrown about the room, and the Pretender left the city next morning in high disgust.

And they weren’t even playing with the cube!

BG Match

On November 14, 1760, King George II appears to have settled the question, “Backgammon – Skill or Luck?”  (I always thought Georgie II was smart, George III must have been a regression to the mean.)

George II enacts that the game of Passage, and all and every other game or games invented or to be invented with one or more die or dice, or with any other instrument, engine or device in the nature of dice having one of more numbers thereon, (Backgammon or other games played with a Backgammon table excepted), are and shall be deemed to be games or lotteries by dice, within the intent and meaning of the foregoing Act and persons keeping any house of place for such purpose and persons playing at any of the said games shall be liable to the several penalties inflicted by the Act.

London Public Advertiser, November 14, 1760

These penalties included transportation to America – oh the horror!

George ii

The July 13, 1786 edition of the Belfast Evening Post tells us that O’Carolan, the celebrated Irish bard:

…though blind, was eminently skilled in the game of backgammon.

All I can say  is that O’Carolan must’ve REALLY trusted the guys in the local chouette.

Backgammon has certainly had some distinguished players.  As Napoleon was en route to exile on St. Helena, the British ambassador asked General Bertrand (he was to be Napoleon’s companion on the island) if there was anything Bonaparte wanted to take with him.  The reply was:

…20 packs of cards, a backgammon and a domino table and some articles of furniture.

The Times of London, August 11, 1815


And sometimes, you just REALLY, REALLY want a new backgammon board – and flowers.

A SWINDLER – On Saturday afternoon a man of gentlemanly appearance went into Mrs. Morton’s filagree shop and ordered a backgammon board to be sent to 39 Tavistock Street and said it would be paid for on delivery.  (25 pounds sterling or $2,358.58 in today’s dollars)  He stated his name was Kenny.

A lad was accordingly sent with it.  On his arrival near the house, the “Kenny” accosted him and inquired if he was going to #39.  The lad answered in the affirmative and recognized him to be the person who had ordered the board.  He delivered the board to him and walked with the swindler to #39.  On their arrival, the “Kenny” knocked and while waiting for the door to be opened, directed the boy to go back to the shop and return with another board of smaller size that he would purchase as well.  The door was opened and the boy saw the swindler enter the home after which he returned to the shop to fetch the second board.

On his arriving the 2nd time at #39, the boy knocked and the door was answered by a female servant who said no person of the name of Kenny lived there.  An altercation ensued between the boy and the female which brought the master of the house into the hall.  He stated that a man had been there a short time before carrying a backgammon board.  The man had inquired if anyone named Kenny lived in the home, and being told “No” went away again.

The man further reported that a flower woman had been also been swindled the week before in the same way.

The Times of London, November 12, 1816

Handmade backgammon board made of walnut tree with mother-of-pearl and filigree

Handmade backgammon board made of walnut tree with mother-of-pearl and filigree

Double Sixes

A Prim Little Old Lady Battles for a Girl and a Baseball Club While Fate Scampers Over a Backgammon Board

By Otavus Roy Cohen

Reprinted from the August 27, 1933 edition of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Miss Martha was Pine Ridge and Pine Ridge was Miss Martha; that’s all there was to it.  You couldn’t think of one without thinking of the other.

The town was little and prim, and so was she.  She lived in a big, rambling old house, a thing with two cupolas and a couple of stained glass windows, and I remember when I was a kid there was a melodeon in the parlor.  Well, when I visited that house again last summer, the melodeon was still there, but Pat had also installed a swell radio.


Pat was Miss Martha’s niece, and looking at her you couldn’t help getting the idea that if the old lady had been fifty years younger she would have been just as Pat was today; pretty and full of pep and fond of a good time and democratic as all get out.

That was the nice thing about both of them. They had so much class that they didn’t have to go around high-hatting folks just to prove they were better. In fact, they didn’t think they were better, although after Pat and I graduated from high school together and she went off to a finishing place in the East, I sort of got afraid of her and never visited up there. That is, not until last year when we had the mix up about the baseball team.

Imagine Miss Martha – almost seventy years old; tiny, fragile and prissy; a leader in the ladies’ clubs; the richest person in Pine Ridge; a grand little lady but kind of old-fashioned – imagine her, I say, owning a professional baseball club and trying to run it!

Well, that’s just what happened in Pine Ridge last summer, and while the hunch was swell to begin with, it brought us plenty of trouble. Things are so mixed up that it’s sort of hard to tell ‘em straight.

First of all, about me: I’m a native of Pine Ridge. I reckon my folks have lived in that town about as long as Miss Martha’s family; but whereas the Fosters were always very rich, the Averys (that’s my family) haven’t ever been able to do much in a financial way. I sort of oozed through high school, but then I had to go to work. I got a chance to take over the agency for a very popular low-priced car, and bank helped me raise the money to fit up a first-class machine shop and garage.

All through school I had been a pretty nice ball player. First summer after graduating I put in a season in the Class A league and managed to do pretty well. Then I quit and went to work.

Pine Ridge is pretty far down South. All around us is a flock of towns which are bigger than we are, and they have for years formed a regular Class D league – just as much a part of organized baseball as the majors, though maybe a mite less important. And the year before, one of the towns had been obliged to forfeit its franchise, and the suggestion had been made that Pine Ridge take it over.


Lots of hot sports live in Pine Ridge and they go nuts about having a regular team in a regular league. The prominent citizens get together and agree that we’re to take our place in the baseball world come spring, and that was when they appointed me Manager of the club.

But that winter, everything went bad. Two of our best banks closed up, and just before the season was due to get underway, it was decided that Pine Ridge couldn’t afford pro ball. Unless…

While we were waiting in the front parlor, Pat came in. She looked like ninety million dollars.

“Bill Avery!” she says. “How are you?”

“Fine, thank you. And you are looking as pretty as ever too.”

She speaks to the others and drapes herself on the arm of my chair.

“Calling on Aunty?”


“And maybe I’m de trop, eh?”

“Maybe. But you might stand by to pick up the pieces after the explosion occurs.”

“What are you planning?”

“Something terrible, Pat. We’re trying to get Miss Martha to finance the Pine Ridge Baseball Association.”

For a minute Pat stares. Then she turns loose a laugh that a feller could dream about.

“Aunty a baseball magnate! Oh, Bill! You haven’t changed. You’re the same idiot I was always crazy about!”

“Crazy, perhaps – but desperate, Pat. It’s either Miss Martha or else.”

We heard a light step in the hall, and Pat jumped up and squeezed my arm. “Hop to it Big Boy.”

Then Miss Martha came in – neat and trim and tidy, and smiling at all of us.

Well, it’s my funeral and I start to talk. I commence orating about Pine Ridge and how it had always claimed to be the finest little city in the state. I see that this is getting me way past first base.

I then orate about how all the other towns nearby have rubbed it into us about being old-fashioned and backward, and about how we have a chance to show them a thing or two, and then I paint a picture of her as being the one person in Pine Ridge who can make us stand out like nobody’s business, Finally I explain the baseball situation and tell her that we want her to finance the club, else we’ll appear ridiculous for having said we’d take it over – and then welshing.

I’ll say this for the old lady, there wasn’t any explosion. But she did look kind of queer.

“Isn’t it rather absurd, Bill – that I should finance a baseball team?”

“Yes’m. But if you don’t, nobody will and we’ll be laughed at.”

“H-m-m! You’re a nice boy Bill Avery. In fact, I can’t understand why you’ve been avoiding us up here on the hill. But I wouldn’t dream of investing in anything I didn’t understand.”

“I’ll explain it to you Miss Martha. And then you can run the team.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!”

“I’m not. Just think what it will mean to the town too.” Then I hesitated for just a moment. “But there’s one other thing I’ve got to make plain Miss Martha. This is not a good investment. Ball clubs in little towns like this don’t make money. Sometimes they lose.”

“How much?”

“Oh, you might lose four or five thousand during the season. If you were lucky, you’d break even. We’re not asking you because we think you’ll make money. We’re asking you because we figure you’re the only person in Pine Ridge who has enough money and pride to want to do a good deed for the town.”

Well sir, that decided her. Of course there was a lot more talk back and forth, but before the afternoon ended she had practically agreed – and that meant she would do it. On the way out – me feeling kind of dazed – I run slap into Pat Foster.

“Bill Avery!” she says. “It’s marvelous!” She went into a suppressed giggle. “Aunty running a ball club!”

“I’ll help her all I can, Pat.”

“And I’ll help too.” Then she smiles straight into my eyes. “If it’ll get you up here occasionally, you poor goof, her losses will be worthwhile.”

“You’re a sweet kid Pat.”

“Says you! But you haven’t acted that way since I came back from school.”

“Scared! You were too impressive.”

“Baloney!” says she.

There’s plenty to be done right after that. Miss Martha buys the franchise and spends some jack having the park fixed up. As a matter of fact, I can see she’s getting a big kick out of the whole idea, though she balks at having her picture taken with the team.

And that team! I get one old, broken-down major leaguer who is smart, and I make him field captain. He is still a pretty good catcher. For the rest, I dig around that territory and gather up a bunch of likely lads who can really play ball and will take any salary.

Then I sign Slats Morgan.

Nobody who hadn’t seen Slats could possibly appreciate him, either as a ball player or man. He was spotted at first base for us, and I’m on record as prophesying that before he’s through he will be in the record books as another Hal Chase. That guy could play the initial sack; and how!

Hal Chase

Hal Chase

But there ain’t nothing else good could be said about Slats. On the field he was a wizard; off he was just naturally the biggest, strongest, dumbest egg that ever came out of the Big Sticks. Pretty near six feet tall, and broad to match; he had a big chest, a receding forehead and a vacant look. Also, he had long ago elected himself the handsomest and most desirable man in the world.

Well, the season opens and we get away to a good start. The team is green, but they scrap plenty and I can see that once the rough edges get worn off, we’re going to make the other five clubs all sit up and take notice. In fact, I don’t see anything to stop us – which proves that a guy can never tell. You wouldn’t think I’d go and forget Miss Martha that quick.

The season is a month old when the bombshell busts. She sends for me when I come in off a road trip. “Bill Avery,” she asks, “is it true that some of my ball players drink beer and chew tobacco and swear and play pool and gamble?”

“Why yes’m – sort of. But they don’t do any of those things much.”

“It’s got to stop.”

I try to explain to her that they are just a harmless bunch of kids who ain’t really got any bad habits, only sort of like to play around, but I don’t get nowhere. Miss Martha is bent on making a bunch of gents out of the Pine Ridge Club. If they can’t act sweet and pretty, they’re gonna get canned, and I know better than to argue.

I call the boys together and tell ‘em what’s what. They let out a howl you could hear across the state, but I made it clear it’s that – or else.


Maybe what happened pleased Miss Martha, but it didn’t make any hit with the fans or the players. They were pretty desperate; no pool, no profanity, no gambling, and me enforcing the rules because Miss Martha trusted me. Anyway, the boys went kind of went melancholy. Their playing lost its pep.

I’m admitting that we had the most gentlemanly team in the league – but also we were rapidly becoming the worst. I talked things over with Pat, and she worked on her aunt, but reported back nothing doing. “And what’s still worse Bill,” she tells me, “tomorrow afternoon, following the game, she’s having all the players up for tea!”

That slew me! Also, it durn near gave the boys nervous prostration – all except Slats Morgan.

They were all introduced to Miss Martha, and they all shook hands and were very polite, and they drunk tea all right, but only that Pat was there, the afternoon would have been three degrees worse than a funeral.

Also, word gets around the circuit about what has happened, and some bright sports writer gives us the nickname of Tea Hounds, and that finishes whatever damage hadn’t been done before.

But, getting back to the tea party, that was the first time Pat ever met Slats Morgan. Slats had never had any judgement to begin with. He thought he was the original answer to a maiden’s prayer.

Three days later I see him and her drinking ice cream sodas in Flynn’s drug store, and I call Pat on the carpet.

“He’s grand!” she says.


“Be yourself! He’s dumb as an ox!”

“Which is what makes him so delicious! You may never have suspected it, Bill, but Mister Slats Morgan is cute. He’s a riot!”

We go on the road and are handed tons of raspberries everywhere we visit. The boys go nuts and play worse than ever – if possible.

I’m thinking I’ve got all the troubles in the world, but no sooner do we get back home than I discover I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. It was Pat and Slats. They start running around together – and how!

It ain’t so much what they did, but how often they did it. Rides in Pat’s car, ice cream sodas, movies…and the whole town talking about how Pat is making a spectacle of herself. I try talking to her, but it don’t get me anywhere. She sticks to the old line about finding Slats a delicious novelty and all that sort of hooey.

At first, Miss Martha couldn’t hardly take it in. Then she sent for me.

“What are we going to do about it Bill Avery?”

“I don’t know ma’am. I’m as worried as you are. I got you into this thing, and…”

“Tommyrot! I went into this thing myself, and I’ll face the consequences. But I feel helpless, and I figured that you would help me out.”

“Yes, ma’am…all I can. I’m fond of Pat…”

“I once had hopes that you were in love with her.”

That knocked me for a loop, because I’d have sworn that Miss Martha would hate the idea of her niece marrying a garage keeper.

“Is she in love with this Slats person?” asked Miss Martha.

“She couldn’t be.”

“H’mph!” Miss Martha sniffed. “You don’t know the Fosters very well Bill Avery.”

“I know no Foster could lose her head over a man like Slats Morgan.”

“But one could – that’s what worries me. I shall trust you with a secret Bill Avery. When I was Pat’s age, I fell in love with an atrocious looking young man who earned a living by going around the country wrestling bulls. My father smuggled me into one of his astounding exhibitions, and I met him later – secretly.”


“He gave you a thrill Miss Martha. You would not have married him.”

“In a minute,” she snapped, “if he had asked me. Of course six weeks after he had departed from Pine Ridge my heart was mended, and I was glad I hadn’t become the wife of a professional bull wrestler, but that doesn’t alter the fact that I would have done so if he had given me the chance. So you can now understand Bill Avery why I’m so worried about Pat.”

I saw right enough. “Everything’s shot it seems Miss Martha. Pat running around with Slats and the team playing rotten ball, and all that razzing.”

“What do you mean – razzing?”

“It’s a slang word Miss Martha. It means kidding – joking.”

“Who is joking about what?”

“Well, you see, we’re kind of ridiculous in the league because you don’t allow the boys to act like real ball players. They can’t take a glass of beer or use cuss words or shoot pool or – well anyway that’s why we’ve been playing so badly.”

She gave me a hard, little smile. “I suppose I’ve been a fool Bill Avery paying attention to little things like that. Very well, I’ll tell you what I’ll do Bill Avery. If you’ll solve this Slats Morgan problem for me I’ll lift all the restrictions. And then, if I understand correctly, the boys will perform better.”

“They sure would Miss Martha. But you don’t have to bribe me to help about Pat. I’d do anything in the world…”

“You haven’t made any suggestions.”

“I’ve only got one. Slats is really a swell ball player. I think I can sell him.”

She looked kind of startled. “Sell him? What does that mean?”

Well I explained how organized baseball works. I could see she was shocked. She stated she wouldn’t be a party to any such thing. (She called it slavery.) And she said that after things adjusted themselves I could tell the boys that if they were sold up for good playing they could have all the purchase money.

“Besides,” finished Miss Martha, “selling Slats wouldn’t do any good. If I know anything about Pat – and if she in love with that person – she would follow him to wherever he went.” She looked at me hard. “Why don’t you make Pat marry you right away?”

“I’d like to. But I’m afraid I’m a trifle late.”

“H’mph! You don’t deserve a fine girl like Pat. You’re worried but you don’t do anything. You even confess you’re in love with her, and you haven’t the nerve to propose.” She walked across the room and stood there a minute; then whirled on me. “That’s the trouble with you Bill Avery. You’re too weak…I’m going to handle this thing myself!”

I ask her what she’s planning to do and she says she don’t know but that she’s going to handle it.


I don’t sleep very well that night, and early next morning I’m called to the telephone. It’s Miss Martha. She tells me to come right up to her place.

She looks serene, but grim. “Bill Avery,” she starts, “I wish to ask a direct question and get a direct answer. Does this Slats person indulge in games of chance?”

I didn’t see what she was driving at exactly, but I admitted that Slats was usually very keen to lay a little something on the line when there was any action promised.

“Go get him,” she ordered.

Worried – that’s what I was. I found Slats at the boarding house and dragged him along with me.

Miss Martha was sitting at one end of her big reception room. She gave Slats a stare that made him fidget.

“You have been in my niece’s society a great deal,” accused Miss Martha in a voice like snapping icicles.

“Yes’m,” says Slats.

“You’re not her kind,” says Miss Martha, “nor is she yours. I know better than to approach you on those grounds, however. So, I’ve sent for you to find out whether or not you are a good gambler.”

He suspects a trick. “We’ve got a rule against gambling.”

“You and I are going to break that rule, Mr. Morgan. We’re going to make a bet and play a game for high stakes. We’ll play the game,” she continued bleakly, “to settle our problem. If you lose, you are to take your contract and leave the club and the town. And you are to give me your word that you will never again see my niece or communicate with her. Furthermore, if she follows you, you will refuse to speak to her.”

“And if I win?”

“Then as to my niece, you will have to take your chances – with the frank understanding that I will continue to oppose any alliance between you. But also, if you win, I will turn over the entire baseball club to you!”

“You mean,” he gasped, “that it would be mine?!”


That’s where I jumped up and said a lot of things, but Miss Martha told me to shut up and mind my own business. Of course, Slats accepted the proposition.

“And now,” says Miss Martha, “what game shall we play?”

“Stud poker?” suggests Slats eagerly.

“I’m not familiar with that sport.”

“I – er – I don’t suppose you shoot pool do you?”

“No,” she answered primly, “I don’t.”

“Well I’ll be dog-goned if I can think of anything else except maybe matching pennies best three out of five.”

“That wouldn’t do Mr. Morgan.”  She thought for a minute and then looked up. “Do you play cribbage?”

“No ma’am.”

Suddenly her eyes lighted. “Surely you play backgammon?”

That was right up his alley, and he said so – never mentioning however, that he was one of those newfangled backgammon hounds who have the board all figured out. Anyway, they agreed to play the best four out of seven games of backgammon with a beautiful girl and a ball club as stakes. It was decided they would play that night after supper and I shooed Slats away.

I begged and argued and pleaded with Miss Martha but I never even budged her. She said she had been playing all her life and didn’t believe any such person as Slats could beat her. Then I explained that she couldn’t trust Slats, that he was a natural double-crosser, and even if he lost he would most likely make a play for Pat anyway, but she said she didn’t believe me – that no man would welsh on a bet, not even Slats Morgan.

Instead of going out to the ballpark, I telephoned for my field captain to handle the team that afternoon and did some heavy thinking. Somebody had to save Miss Martha. Slats was a whang at backgammon, and I knew it. Besides, I knew he’d double-cross her if he lost, and if he won…

Then suddenly an inspiration slapped me square in the brain and I hustled down to the Jimdandy Pool Room and backed Tim McSwan into a corner.

Tim ain’t one of our best citizens, but he’s a nice guy. He’s a hustler, a bird who makes a living by reading the backs of cards and shooting educated dice. Him and me have always liked each other, and I know he’s twice as tight lipped as a clam so I spill the story.

“You’ve got to help Tim.”

He looks at me kind of queer. “You used to be pretty good at doing tricks Bill.”

“I still am.”

“All right,” he says handing me a pair of dice. “As I know this game, each player shoots with a different pair of dice. See that Miss Martha uses these.”

I look ‘em over and don’t see nothing phony; so I ask him how come.

“They’re my private backgammon dice. If you inspect closely you’ll see that each die has two sixes. Also the ace is left off one and the deuce off the other. It makes backgammon a cinch – almost always high numbers and a lot of double sixes.”

I told him he was a genius and no kidding. He explained he’d never been willing to try ‘em himself because they were pretty crude, but that not even a guy like Slats would suspect a neat little old lady like Miss Martha – especially if she didn’t know she was using ‘em.

As to the ethics of the thing, I didn’t worry at all. Slats was a worm and was always hitting below the belt. I was merely fighting fire with fire, and anyway, when Slats lost I was gonna sell him and give him the purchase money, which was a grand thing for any ball player. I felt that whatever kept him and Pat apart was right – no matter how it was done.


Well, that night after dinner I take Slats up to the big house on the hill. Miss Martha has the backgammon board all laid out. They sit down and she produces two dice cups. Slats selects a pair of bones and a cup. Then I start a last-minute plea, and while I’m doing it I fool with Miss Martha’s dice cup and when I put it back I have shifted dice.

Beat that for a goofy game; a prim, proper little old lady and the world’s worst roughneck battling over a backgammon board for a girl and a baseball club…and the nice little old lady shooting crooked dice, all unbeknownst to herself!

The game started. Slats was rolling lucky, but Miss Martha’s dice were phenomenal. She starts with a six four, then a double six then a pair of fives. She wins that first game so fast that it wasn’t anybody’s business.

She also wins the second. But Slats gets lucky in the third and wins a close game. The air in that room was pretty tense. Miss Martha didn’t show how excited she was, but her lips were set in a firm, straight line and her hand was trembling.

The fourth game went to Miss Martha and the fifth game starts.

That game is a bird…and when finally Miss Martha takes her last man off I feel like yelling. Slats flings away from the table and sort of swears under his breath, and then Miss Martha looks up at him coldly.

“Permit me to remind you of your promise Mr. Morgan. You are to leave town immediately without again seeing my niece. Moreover, you are not to communicate with her now or ever. Is that clear?”

Slats says uh-huh and takes it on the lam. Miss Martha is dimpling and twinkling at me.

Well, she then tells me that everything is jake with the ball club. Now that she has got rid of Slats Morgan, she don’t care how the fellers have a good time, so long as they don’t over-do it. Also, she repeats her permission for me to tell the boys that they can have any purchase money the club gets for them, which I know will make them play like streaks. I am up in the clouds when Pat busts into the room.


She stops in the doorway, looking pretty as seven pictures, and asks what’s what. I tell her about all the restrictions being lifted on the club, and with that she sits down suddenly and says, “Hallelujah!”

I tell her I didn’t know she was interested and she gives me the kind of look out of the corners of her eyes which is enough to drive any poor goof nuts.

“And also,” she says, “I have a little news myself.”

“What is it?” inquires Miss Martha.

She looks straight at us. “I’ve just had a proposal of marriage.”

“A what?!” Then: “From who?”

“Slats Morgan.”

We can piece the story together easy. Just like I had figured, Slats had played both ends against the middle. Having lost the backgammon game and his chance to own the club, he had done just what I expected and made a play for Pat. “What did you say?” I ask.

“What do you think silly? I turned him down cold.”

Miss Martha and I looked at each other then we both commenced getting sore. The fact that things had turned out all right didn’t make Slats any sweeter…and believe me, I was happy that I had switched those dice, because if Miss Martha had lost she’d have handed him her ball club with never a whimper.

Pat is looking at us kind of queer, and finally she asks what it is all about. Miss Martha – in her prim precise way – tells the whole story. Pat. smiles, then chuckles, and finally rolls over on the sofa laughing.

“Aunty and Slats Morgan playing backgammon for my future. She howls, “Can you ever tie it?”

“It seemed necessary.” stated Miss Martha, “You were acting like an idiot.”

“I had a reason.” Little spots of pink show in her cheeks. “I was trying to help Bill Avery.”

“Some help.” I grunted.

“It was some help,” she said sharply. “Aunty was interfering with a good ball club and making you look ridiculous as a manager. I thought if she started worrying about something worthwhile she would give you a free hand with the club. I was only waiting until the time was ripe to drive a bargain with her…and then you two butted in with a crazy backgammon game…”

Miss Martha looked at me and then at Pat. Her expression was stern – all except her eyes.

“You two children,” she remarked coldly, “are both so crazy that you ought to be married.”

Pat and I started to grin. Then we looked at each other and stopped grinning. My knees felt kind of wobbly and we were staring at each other like a couple of saps.

Miss Martha was impatient. That’s Miss Martha all over. She’s going to run things, and run them her own way.

“You laughed at me, Pat, for playing backgammon with your future as the stake. Are you willing to take the same chance?”

“I-I…” For the first time in her life Pat was at a loss for words.

“Sit down and play,” ordered Miss Martha. “If Bill Avery wins he is to marry you. Are you both willing?”

I couldn’t say a thing and Pat answered with the same words. But we sat down and prepared to play.

Miss Martha is hovering over us, trying to keep from showing how delighted she is with herself. She finally makes me look straight at her and I see in her eyes the keen, mischievous light that I love.

I thought I knew Miss Martha pretty well. Nice and sweet and innocent and guileless. But I guess I was mistaken in her. Because with a broad wink, she handed me the same pair of dice she had used in winning the backgammon game against Slats Morgan,

“Better use these magic dice yourself Bill Avery,” she smiled. “There’s no sense taking a chance if you don’t have to.”


An 8 Cube From Chicago

by Gerry Tansey

Winner-Gerry Tansey

The championship division of the Chicago Open this past Memorial Day weekend was run using the “More Swiss” format.  In each round, the organizers try to pair players with the same record.  Players with four losses cannot cash and are eliminated, but players with two losses or fewer can still win the title.

My tournament started out well.  I managed to win my first four matches on Saturday, including one against the number two Giant of Backgammon, Michihito Kageyama, known to the world as “Michy”  (you can see this match on the USBGF channel on YouTube if you would like to see just how good my dice were at the start of the tournament).  My fifth round opponent was Paul Weaver, who has been named one of the top 32 Giants of Backgammon in every incarnation of the list since its 1993 inception.  Our 9-point match only lasted two games, but there was plenty of excitement.

In the first game, Paul rolled an unfortunate 66, and eventually we reached this position.  I am White and on roll, considering a double.  Scroll down slowly if you want to consider your own decision, as XG’s opinion immediately follows.



Here I decided to “double on ugly.”  I figured that Paul’s position was dangerously awkward.  I can make another offensive point or attack the lone checker on the ace point.  If Paul cannot escape his back checker quickly, he may be forced to leave blots where he does not want to, since he does not have a great deal of flexibility in his position.

However, Paul is up in the race, and he often can make a three-point board, which is strong enough to fight back with in a blot-hitting contest.  The true “danger time” for Brown is often two or three rolls away, when I have more ammunition near my home board, and Brown has perhaps stripped his midpoint.  Basically, I need to improve my position a bit more in order for Paul to seriously consider passing.

I did not roll this position out to statistical significance in XG because it really isn’t necessary to get the practical verdict.  This position is on the border between a double and no double, and it is a trivially easy take.  Whether it is a technical double or not, I think I would cube this against anyone.  A lot of players on the Brown side will look at the state of their home board and just not feel like playing it out.  But, as someone once said, “Backgammon ain’t no beauty contest.”  Brown needs to take this, and Paul correctly did.

Well, I ended up having to attack Paul’s back checker, and it didn’t go very well.  Paul turned the game around, and we reached this position, with Brown on roll.





Paul is leading by 10 pips in the raw pip count, but his racing advantage is not quite that large.  He has a few more checkers buried on low points, and those gaps on the 4 and 5 points will hurt him in the bearoff, since he will be forced to bury checkers when he rolls 4s and 5s rather than bearing checkers off.  But still, Paul is a solid favorite, and he will lose his market if he points on me, or if he rolls a lot of pips and I don’t respond well, so he redoubled now.  Facing this cube, I decided that I was not dead in the race, and I noticed that Paul leaves a direct shot when he rolls 63, 62, 53, 43, 44, 55, and 66, so I took.  If I had to rely solely on my racing chances, or solely on hitting a shot in order to win the game, I would be less thrilled about taking this cube, but my combined chances make this a huge take.

The game continued and turned into a race.  I was able to bear in my last checker relatively quickly, and then I rolled 22 in the bearoff, to reach this position, as White, holding a 4-cube:



There is quite a bit going on here.  Most experienced players will know that the 5-roll vs. 5-roll position (where both players have 10 checkers on the ace point) is an initial double in a money game, but not quite a redouble, as seen in the XG diagram below.



However, the main reason this is not a redouble for money is that by redoubling, White is giving Brown access to the cube that he did not have before. So if White redoubles and Brown takes, consider the sequence where White rolls a non-doublet, Brown rolls a doublet, and White rolls a non-doublet. Brown is now on roll, holding the cube, in a 3-roll vs 3-roll position, and so Brown will redouble, and White should pass. If White had held on to the cube, Brown would have had to play this game out to the end, giving White a chance to get lucky and win the game. It is the fear of Brown’s potential use of the cube that makes a redouble slightly wrong for White in a money game.

Now what should White do in that 5-roll vs. 5-roll position holding a 4-cube at 0-0 in a 9-point match? The first thing to note is that if Brown takes White’s 8-cube, White should not fear Brown’s 16 cube. White is never going to pass a meaningful 16-cube in this game. This is because if White passes a 16-cube, he will be trailing 8-0 Crawford, a score from which he wins only about 5.6% of the time. Thus the value of Brown’s cube ownership is reduced to almost nothing, so at 0-0 in a 9-point match, White should redouble the 5-roll vs. 5-roll position to 8.



Now that we know what to do with the 5-roll vs 5-roll position at the score, we can return to the position that arose during the match. Both White and Brown have worse positions than in the 5-roll vs 5-roll position.

White can fail to bear off in 5 rolls or fewer if he “misses” (fails to bear off two checkers in one roll) twice. This will typically happen when he leaves a gap on the ace or deuce points, and then rolls an ace or deuce. Further, 11 and 22 do not save a roll for White, and while White will welcome rolling 33, this will leave a gap on the three-point, which will end up not saving White a roll if he rolls another 3.

Brown can fail to bear off in 5 rolls or fewer if he misses once. This will only happen if he rolls a single ace on two distinct rolls. As for Brown’s doublets, only 11 fails to save a roll.

The upshot of all this is that while both Brown and White are worse off than in the 5-roll vs 5-roll position, White is quite a bit *more* worse off than Brown is. So Brown has a trivially easy take.

I confess I did not analyze it quite this calmly over the board. I basically said to myself, “I’m favored. I don’t have to worry about his recube to 8. I’m playing Paul Weaver. I double!” It turns out I was right, by a razor-thin margin.

Paul thought about the take for quite a while, as is good practice when facing what is almost certainly the last and most important decision of the match, and then correctly took. I then rolled…21! This one roll dropped me from nearly a 2-to-1 favorite in the game to a 52-48 favorite. Fortunately, in spite of creating two gaps in my board, I only missed once in the bearoff, and Paul never rolled a set of doublets, so I won that game, and then later the match. Sometimes an 8-cube decides matches when neither player is crazy or otherwise out of line. Paul was very unlucky to lose this one, although he did get some measure of revenge against me in the After-Tournament Tournament. It’s hard to beat a Giant twice in a row.

As for the rest of my tournament, I became the only undefeated player in the field on Sunday afternoon at 6-0, and then won my next match to go to 7-0. Then, I crashed and burned, losing my next four matches to finish out of the money. My dice just ran out of magic, although I do believe that my last four opponents, Di Di, Neil Kazaross, Matt Cohn-Geier, and Carol Joy Cole, played very well in beating me. Dorn Bishop, a very strong player from California, was the deserving champion of the event.


Reprinted from the September 25, 1930 edition of The News-Palladium of Benton Harbor, Michigan

By Julia Blanshard
(With some commentary and illustrations courtesy of your humble editor.)

America has a new remedy for boredom this winter.

In addition, it is calculated to help a girl catch a beau, to keep husbands in nights and to prevent children from leaving home.  More than that, it’s the smartest thing you can serve guests as a party.  Its name is backgammon.


A good old stand-by game for the elite back in the gay 90’s, backgammon has gone modernly 1930, is smartly democratic and threatens the country with a vogue this winter more widespread and contagious than miniature golf.

BG v Mini Golf

Society folks on the Riviera and Lido last winter are responsible for the renaissance of this game. Somehow, it seems to answer the modern need for thrill. It combines the chance of throwing dice with the skill of play, which challenges even the most blasé. More than that, while two people play the game – or four in some types of backgammon – as many as four others can look on in the capacity of kibitzers; and we all know how much more Americans enjoy telling folks how to do things than actually doing them, themselves.


This summer, backgammon added zest to Long Island weekends and this autumn clubs, hotel and homes are adopting backgammon as one of their chief stocks in trade. Suburban commuters are foregoing their rummy and going in for backgammon while riding to work and home again. Dragging out a backgammon board when a new young man calls is now considered not only a fine way to get a slant on his I.Q., but also to rate him socially. Giving a backgammon party is quite the smartest thing a hostess can do.


All good department and sports stores now carry a multitude of paraphernalia for backgammon parties.  Some stores have rigged up separate little backgammon shops where you not only can purchase boards, men and dice, but such party accessories as backgammon sets of linen or crepe paper cloths and napkins for serving refreshments when the game is done.  Backgammon china and beverage sets and modernistic smoking things with backgammon figures on them also attest the vogue.

OMG - It's true!

OMG – It’s true!

If you would be very, very chic and take to the new game with flair, you can purchase a backgammon table with ebony legs and smartest of inlaid tops designed for the game.  Even newer and more modernistic backgammon tables are made with automatic legs (when you shut one you shut all) and tops of gorgeous Chinese red or bright jade green glazed leather tops, with cork inlay for the markers.  Most of these are convertible by lifting out the backgammon board and turning it over onto a bridge table if you happen to have a few old-fashioned guests.


I love it! I have no idea how 4 people play with 36 checkers each – but I wanna learn!

There are sets of backgammon men and dice that come as high as $250.  There are sets in colored stones.  Othemadonna madonnars come in ebony and white reflecting the classic color for the old fashioned game that is over 100 years of age.  No matter what color your men and dice happen to be, you casually refer to them as black and white for this same conventional reason (Editor’s note – You do?!  And why “casually”, why can’t I refer to them formally?”)

This revival of an old time game and adapting it to modern use is quite in line with other contemporary trends.  Smart new costumes for women have quite a Naughty Ninety note in some of their styles.  A new-old elegance is reviving home-hospitality.  The old-time waltz thrills now where the quick one-step leaves us cold.  Backgammon rightly takes its place as a classic that bears a renaissance.  It appears to be about to ride the crest of popularity into becoming the great indoor American sport this winter.


CSI Final with Commentary by Gerry Tansey – Part III

Final of the  2015 Central States Invitational


Tak Morioka and Gerry Tansey

13 point match

Game 12

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.

Game 13

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.

Game 14

Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 9, Tak Morioka (Brown): 12

Crawford Game

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.

Game 15

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.

Game 16

Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 12, Tak Morioka (Brown): 12

Brown rolls 6-5, 24/13.  White rolls 2-2, 13/11(2), 6/3(2).


I like Tak’s play of unstacking the heavy midpoint.


It’s close between my play, running, and slotting the 5, going for the prime. One good thing about the slot is that even if I’m hit, it is tough for that straggler to get out. Another is that I’m not ahead in the race, slotting avoids making a racing play.


Wish I’d slotted the five now. Sure it would have been hit, but the six is no fun for Brown. This is too easy for Tak.

White rolls 4-3, bar/21, 24/21.  Brown rolls 5-2, 24/22, 8/3.


Hitting is mandatory. Brown can’t be allowed to leave easily.


There are two strange things about this roll. First, I would be in much better shape if I hadn’t hit with the previous roll. Second, although most players would ask for something that hit if they could call their roll, this non-hitting roll is Tak’s very best number.


I failed to hit, and now I’m a huge dog.


The ace is clear. With the deuce, Brown should absolutely not leave a blot in the outfield. He doesn’t need to build anymore. If he can come home safely, he will win. So even though plays like 8/6 and 3/1 are ugly, they are much better than leaving me 4 shots of hope.

White rolls 3-1, 11/10, 8/5.  Brown rolls 4-3, 11/7, 6/3.

White rolls 2-1, 10/7.  Brown rolls 3-2, 8/3.

White rolls 3-1, 11/7.  Brown rolls 3-3, 13/7(2).

White rolls 2-2, 13/5.


Even though Kit Woolsey’s “Clear from the rear and ask no questions” usually rules the day, here the result is an ugly stack on the 7 point. If Brown rolls too many 3s, this can become a problem.

White rolls 6-4, 13/7, 6/2.  Brown rolls 6-4, 7/3, 7/1.

White rolls 5-2, 7/5, 7/2.  Brown rolls 4-4, 7/3(3), 6/2.

White rolls 2-2, 5/1(2). Brown rolls 4-3 6/2, 3/off.


Brown rolls 6-3 (2), 5/2(2). White rolls 2-2 21/17, 15/11.

Brown rolls 5-5, takes 4 off. White rolls 3-2, 11/6.

Brown rolls 3-1, takes 2 off. White rolls 6-1, 17/10.


Tak Morioka wins his second ABT title in less than a year (he also won in Peoria in 2014). A very impressive performance indeed!

White resigns a single game and the match.

CSI Final with Commentary by Gerry Tansey – Part II

Final of the  2015 Central States Invitational


Tak Morioka and Gerry Tansey

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

White rolls 5-3, 8/3, 6/3.


Splitting with the 51 is right after your opponent has made the three point.


After hitting, the 5 is 13/8. This unstacks the heavy midpoint and leaves the 20-point slotted so I can make it later.


Bar/23 24/20 looks scary, but it gives the best chance to get an advanced anchor. I have some sympathy for Tak’s play though. My front structure is looking very “blitzy.” I have nine checkers in the zone already, and some spare checkers that would love to attack blots.


Emotionally, I hate lifting with aces. Backgammon is supposed to be pretty. We slot the points we want, our opponent obliges us by not hitting, we cover, and our opponent graciously slips into a losing position.

But I didn’t like any of my other aces, and getting hit here takes a lot of air out of the attack in a situation where I might be one good exchange away from a cube. The bots have convinced me to lift in situations like this, and it looks like it might be right.


Tak duplicates my threes and unstacks his 6-point.

White rolls 2-1, 24/21*.  Brown rolls 6-6, fanning.


Even if you were not sure whether this was a double, you simply have to double in this spot. Your opponent has four men back, no board, and has just fanned against a two-point board. You’re going to get some passes.

But it is a big take. Although I’ve technically got 9 in the zone, that dilly builder on the 3-point is of questionable value. Brown has an anchor, and if he wins the fight for the 20-point, or makes any other anchor, he will be in fine shape. White has a lot of work to do, and Brown is no longer so far ahead that he should drop cubes that have some gammon threat attached.

At this stage, having tied the match at 9 after being down 9-1, I really thought I was going to win. Tak had other ideas.

CSI Final with Commentary by Gerry Tansey – Part I

Final of the  2015 Central States Invitational


Tak Morioka and Gerry Tansey

13 point match

Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 0, Tak Morioka (Brown): 0


Most top players prefer to slot the 5-point with an opening 21. It has a greater upside when it works than splitting, and it leads to more complex positions.


Hitting is far better than making the 5-point with this 31, as it leads to a concrete advantage, namely a large lead in the race. If White makes the 5-point, then Brown usually makes his own 5-point, and the game is even.

Interestingly, with a roll of 1-1, the bots slightly prefer making the 5 and bar points to hitting with the whole roll.



After hitting, moving 20/14 with the 6 is clear to minimize return shots. A good rule of thumb in the early going is to not leave your opponent a good 6 from the bar.


Coming in with the 3 is clear, since Brown does not want to have 3 checkers on the 24 point. Brown has several choices with the ace, but since Brown’s back checkers are already pretty well placed for making an advanced anchor, I like Tak’s play of slotting the 5-point. Since Brown already has 4 checkers back and White has a 1-point board, Brown is not too concerned about having another checker sent back. He can afford to play “purely,” placing his checkers where they belong without concern for their safety.


Hitting two here is right by a mile. White’s most direct path to victory is to prevent Brown from making a second anchor.

Tak entered with a 6-3.  Bar/22*.


White just keeps hitting here. Before you become too concerned about fighting against your opponent’s backgame, you should make certain that your opponent is actually forced to play a backgame.


Tak now has two deep anchors and a checker on the bar. Do you think he’s committed to a backgame yet? Read on.


I chose to partially escape my back checkers by making the 16-point. Another idea is to realize that the point 6 pips away from Black’s front anchor, the 9-point, might be a good point to have. Slotting the 9-point with 13/9 and playing 20/14 is attractive and perhaps worth the shots from the bar, which are not too damaging in any case.


The 5 comes in, and after that Tak breaks the back anchor. Tak is not committed to playing a deep backgame, and the added flexibility of splitting the back men allows him to fight for a more advanced anchor or hit any blots White might leave in the outfield. Even if I point on Tak’s head with 31, he can usually remake the second deep anchor later if he needs to.


Mainly, I thought the 11-point was important here to pressure my 5-point. Tak’s 2’s and 4’s are duplicated to make the 20-point and to hit. If Tak does make my 5-point, I have builders to make more points in my outside blockade. If he fails to make my 5-point, I might be able to attack and make my 5-point myself. Even if Tak hits one or both of my blots, it is not the end of the world.

I felt that the one-blot plays were tough to follow up, even if I got away with them. I would be left with an awkward structure on my 13- and 14- points, which would be tough to deal with in the face of Tak’s likely 2-anchor structure.


Brown rolls a great number, but doesn’t quite get the most out of it. Tak’s mistake is understandable though. He’s well down in the race even after this roll, so he wants to take care of his defensive position first. But making the offensive 5-point is so good with this roll that it cries out to be made. The anchors can be improved later.


I thought balancing out the spares in the outfield with Bar/24 14/11 outweighed the potential benefits of creeping closer to safety with Bar/22 14/13. I was also concerned about playing 6s if I made the latter play and Tak then made his 9-point.



Now we really do want to try to get out with the 2.


An excellent roll for Tak played 13/9, making my 6s awkward again.


Hey! I made an inner board point. This is much better than making the 9-point, which doesn’t really block much and just strips my outfield points of spares.


Tak’s structure is good. There’s nothing to do here but move the remaining checker 23/18.


A big mistake for me. With a big lead in the race, my biggest problem is escaping the back checker. The ace simply has to be 22/21. Many times 22/18 is right in positions like these. It isn’t here because it gives Black good 6s when he otherwise doesn’t have them. Just 11/8 with the 3 is fine.


Slotting the bar point is right by a mile. Pointing on my head would be very wrong here. Tak is still well down in the race and does not have the ammunition in place to blitz me. If he can make the 5-prime, Tak will have a very strong position.


Stepping up to the edge of the “almost 5-prime” is still right, even though it comes at a cost of breaking my 4-point with 4/3. I was concerned that busting my board would leave Tak freer to attack me, but not being at the edge of Tak’s 5-prime is pretty disconcerting too.


Brown rolls 2-2 played 13/11, 13/7.


Stepping up with the ace is huge.


Tak rolls 2-1 played 11/8.


My outfield points are stripped, and Tak is very likely to at hit my straggler loose next turn. If I then roll a number like 61 from the bar, I’ll have to leave another blot. It is also not great to leave a blot in one’s home board if one is anticipating an exchange of hits. Finally, it is very likely one of my outfield points will be forced to break in a turn or two. This 21 lets me do it in the most constructive way possible, putting spares on the most valuable points in front of Brown’s anchors. I should have cleared the 10 point.


As promised, Tak hits loose, breaking his 5-prime to do so. Other plays are blunders, but do notice that the second and third best plays also hit. Tak cannot afford to give me the opportunity to roll a 6 to escape. If Tak were to play 8/3, even if I failed to escape, his follow-up would usually be difficult. When you have a lot of checkers back, it is important to use the checkers you have up front efficiently. Tak really needs to make the points in order, and the next point in line is the 4-point.

White rolls 3-1 playing bar/21*.


This is how you want to roll from the roof in the finals! Remember when it looked like Black was going to play a backgame?

White rolls 6-3.  Bar/22.



Another great roll. The cube is almost certainly coming next.

White rolls 4-4 fanning.


Since I have two on the roof against the best 4-point board, Tak clearly has at least a double. (Often times this is too good, but Tak has quite a bit of work to do in extricating his back checkers).

I need a lot of positional compensation to take this cube – more than I’ve actually got. XG 4-ply actually does think it’s a take, but the rollout reveals the horrible truth. The trouble is that Brown doesn’t really have many bad numbers. His 4s, 5s and 6s all move his back checkers constructively. Only 33 is a truly bad number here. The best I can really hope for is to make a deep anchor. By the time that happens, Tak will have probably done most of the work of escaping, and maybe added another point to his board or his prime. This is a big pass, and I should have let this one go.

Having said that, some blunderful passes are worse than others. Tak will have all of the decisions for a while, so he might give back some of the equity I frittered away…

Brown rolls 3-1 played 8/4.

White rolls 6-3, fanning.


Tak’s hardest checker to extricate is the one on the 22-point. He should have liberated it here. Instead, Tak tried to attain outfield control by breaking the bar point. Perhaps he wanted to build his own bar point quickly and form a 5-prime. Maybe he thought the defensive bar point could be a problematic point to clear later. But the defensive bar point is serving as an important bridge in the process of releasing the back checkers, and I still have two on the bar. Extrication has to be the priority now.

White rolls 6-6.


No escaping can be done with this number, so Tak slots his bar point. He might make the bar point later, or use this checker to build his two point.

White rolls 3-2, bar/23.


Brown can make the five-prime with this roll, or he can hit loose. Which should he do?

I know it doesn’t look like White is threatening much in this position, but he actually is. White’s biggest threat is making the 23-point anchor. If he does that, all of a sudden Brown has three checkers disconnected from the rest of his forces and almost no time to escape them before his front position starts breaking down.

If you are just starting to learn the game, this is an important lesson: Good backgammon players are not fearless; rather, they fear the right things. When you are in an attacking position, you should not be afraid to hit loose, and then get hit back. You should be afraid of your opponent *making an anchor.*


Even though I have to leave two outside blots, I’m thrilled with making this anchor. I’m over 40 percent to win now. We have a game again.


Remember when Tak had no bad escaping numbers? When he broke the defensive bar, 5s became useless for escaping. This is a horrific number that forces Tak to break his 6-point. It’s probably a little better to just clear the 6-point entirely, but it is not horrible to maintain a 4-point board while tempting me to hit the blot.

White rolls 6-1, 13/6.


A pretty good roll for Brown, escaping the toughest checker, while threatening to remake the 6-point.


This is how you roll in the finals! The first two 4s are clearly used to hit and make the 19-point. Then we make a third point in our board with the other two checkers while eyeing Brown’s outfield blot.

My plan was to redouble if Tak rolled one of his 9 fanning numbers. His 20-point anchor and good standing in the race would give him a comfortable take, of course. I didn’t even notice at the time that if Brown rolls 63, that is much worse than fanning. Tak would have to pass a redouble if that happened.


Tak keeps the blot count at 1 and prepares to escape by playing Bar/20.

Even though I’m a favorite here and shooting at a blot, I don’t have a proper redouble. I am down 11 pips in the race, and Tak is anchored, so I’ll feel rather silly if I give away the cube and roll a dud next turn. My thought was, “Let’s hit that blot and then see how we feel.”

White rolls 3-1, 12/8.


A good roll for Black, safetying his checker and springing one of his back men.

White rolls 3-1, 8/4.


The question of when to stay or go is always difficult. I’m sympathetic to Tak’s play here. He’s up in the race, so he’s running out of time. He has me outboarded, so I have to be careful about hitting him loose. If he were to play 14/7, I could seize the outfield by leaping out with my two back checkers. The desire to run and force me to deal with his straggler now is completely understandable.

But leaving the anchor is just too dangerous. 55, 44, 33, 54, 53, and 43 point on Brown’s head and usually lose the game immediately. Brown certainly would not like to see 11, and even pick-and-pass numbers can quickly become problematic. There is too much immediate death for Brown to leave the anchor now.


Hitting is clear. Since it is possible to lift the blot, White lifts it in this case. White must respect Brown’s 4-point board. Note that White would still hit loose with a 52 in this position, even though it is not possible to lift the blot in that case.

Brown rolls 4-1, bar/20.


I have to hit loose here. I continued with 5/3 to put Tak’s checker on a tougher point to escape from if he does hit. Also, if my blot survives, I can use an ace from the 4-point stack constructively.

Brown rolls 1-1.  Bar/24, 14/13(2), 4/3.


Now that the home boards are of equal strength, it becomes even more clear to hit loose with the 3. Note that there is no truly “safe” 3 anyway. 9/6 leaves two very hittable outfield blots.

Incidentally, if Brown fans here, I have a big redouble, and Tak has a big take.

Brown rolls 5-4, bar/20, 7/3.


This is a critical moment. There is no safe play here, so hitting with the 4 is clear. I played 8/3 to diversify covering numbers/return shots.

On Brown’s 16 fans, the correct cube action is redouble/pass. White is not always dead when Black hits. However…


It’s the finals, baby! Tak finds his very best roll (good for him). He is a favorite to win a gammon now.

White rolls 5-2, bar/23.


Remember what I said about fearing your opponent making an anchor? Tak correctly hits two. His play wins more games and more gammons than any other. It isn’t close.

White fans with 4-3.  Brown rolls 5-2, 13/10, 7/2.

White rolls 6-2, bar/24.  Brown rolls 3-2, 16/14, 10/7.

White fans,  Brown rolls 4-1, 13/8.

White rolls 6-5, bar/19.  Brown rolls 6-3, 14/5.

White fans.


XG slightly prefers risking an immediate hit with 61 from the bar to Tak’s play. I can’t say I would have found this. I suppose XG’s play leaves very few later blotting possibilities if Brown gets away with it, while there may be future problems clearing the bar or leaving an awkward bearoff distribution with Tak’s play.

But still, 2 immediate shots is a lot to leave. I don’t know if many humans would make the bot play in this instance.

White fans.  Brown rolls 2-2, 7/5(2), 4/off.

White fans.  Brown rolls 5-2, takes 2 off.

White fans.  Brown rolls 6-5, takes 2 off.

White fans.  Brown rolls 5-5 takes 4 off.

White rolls 4-3, bar/18.  Brown rolls 5-1, takes 2 off.Picture47

White rolls 6-2, 19/17, 19/13.  Brown rolls 2-1 takes 2 off.

Brown resigns a gammon – 4 points.

Game 2 of 13 point match

Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 0, Tak Morioka (Brown): 4

Brown rolls 5-3, 8/3, 6/3.  White rolls 6-2, 24/18, 13/11.


Coming down with the 3 both wins and loses more gammons than splitting. Since Tak has the lead, and splitting also wins slightly more plain games, he should split here.


I would definitely anchor here for money. My hitting play is very likely to lead to a blot hitting contest in which I am outboarded and outgunned. The upside to hitting is that I gain a lot of pips in the race. However, anchoring shuts down Tak’s offense and lets me concentrate on playing against Tak’s back checkers.


The punishment comes quickly. This 11 roll allows Tak to enter, hit, and make the 5-point.

White rolls 6-5 fanning.  Fanning is not what you want to do here.


Certainly Brown has the advantage in a gammonish position. Is it enough to double?

First, let’s convince ourselves that White has a super-easy take. Consider the following position: White opens with a 52, splitting with the 2 and coming down from the midpoint with the 5. Brown rolls 33, making the 5 and 3 points. White dances. This is a well known reference position. For money, Brown has a big double and White has a big take. It is a blunder for either player to deviate from these actions.

Now, how is this position different? Brown has an additional builder on the 10-point (plus) but a third man back on the 24-point (minus). The movement of the builder from the 6-point to the 7-point has little effect. Now, I would judge that the 3rd checker on the 24-point carries a bit more weight than the additional builder on the 10 point. Brown’s attack will run out of steam faster if he gets a fourth man sent back, so I think Brown stands slightly worse than in the reference position.

White’s only change is that the fourth man on the 8-point is now a blot on the 11-point. In these early blitz positions, this tends to be a wash. Sure, the blot is a target (though Brown will not hit if he rolls an immediate 64), but if White anchors, this checker becomes a valuable builder).

Thus, compared with the reference position, Brown stands a bit worse, and White is roughly the same. Thus we would expect that for money, this is a small double for Brown and a trivial take for White.

Leading 4-0 in a match to 13, Brown can still offer gammonish initial doubles correctly. He still needs to score points. He does have to be careful about taking and offering 4 cubes. However, marginal initial doubles for money turn into no doubles at the score. As a result, this is technically a bit shy of a correct initial double leading 4-0/13.

Practically, the cube is not quite as bad as that if Brown is playing an unknown quantity. People pass “scary” cubes all the time. But you should not expect to bluff out a good player with this double, since a good player will go through the same thought process I outlined and scoop up this cube.


I think this is a tough play. The 6 is easy. But I think we’ve all heard the adage, “Three on the ace point is death,” so even before the dice landed, most players would be mentally moving a spare off the ace point (if they didn’t roll something that made the 4-point).

But the bot likes making the broken 6-prime with the deuce. This recalls another adage: “Offense, offense. Defense, defense.” When it seems like you are on offense, make offensive plays.

White rolls 5-1, bar/24, 13/8.


I wonder how many players would have the guts to break the bar and make the 4-point here. If White doesn’t roll something great, he is toast after that play. Notice that the race is close, and making the 4-point gives Brown a 4-to-1 advantage in home board points. Even if White hits, the position is fraught with gammon danger for some time.

White rolls 4-2 making the 4-point.


I think most players would miss this play. The 10-point is 6 pips away from the open 4-point, the most crucial point for Brown to make in this position. Further, the cost of leaving a blot on the midpoint is lessened, since many of White’s hitting aces could also be used to make the bar or 5-points. In fact, I should not hit with 61 or 31, and I should make the 5-point instead.

White rolls 6-1 making the 5-point.  Suddenly, I’ve got a bit of structure.


A tough choice here. The impulse to split is understandable, particularly when not splitting forces a direct shot. However, this does lead to a poorly placed spare on the 3-point. XG seems to like trying to make the 4-point instead, either by bringing down builders or by slotting it directly.


A little fast for my taste, but putting a checker in the air against a 4.5-point board is pretty good.

Brown rolls 5-1, a great shot hitting and getting out.


Here I fell victim to what I’ve heard Mary Hickey refer to as “Fancy Play Syndrome.” Coming in with the 4 is clear. White would like to make that point and see daylight. But then I saw that if I played the natural deuce 8/6, then Brown’s numbers would be very diversified. I thought there would be very few bad rolls. If I played the “banana split” play, he would at least have 9 dancing numbers.

But really, the banana split play is most appropriate when certain death comes if drastic steps are not taken. Here, I’ve got quite a strong structure, and Brown can’t usually do everything. I was most afraid of Brown attacking me on the 4-point, but that is not a risk-free proposition for him if he doesn’t roll a perfecta. My play misplaces a checker on the ace point and opens me up to some nasty double hits. I should just trust my structure and let the position come to me.


I think Tak’s first impulse was to hit on the 22-point. In a position where your opponent has a lot of checkers back already, it is often right not to hit a blot on the ace-point, since that checker is already so poorly placed.

I think Tak believed he didn’t have a good ace after hitting on the 22-point. But he really did! Slotting the two with the dilly builder is the right play. That ugly checker is such a liability that he should put it to work right away. Brown would rather not be hit, but it really is no tragedy if that checker is recirculated. White is not in any position to go for a quick knockout, and having that additional checker hit might help Brown’s timing.

Admittedly, this best play is hard to find. However, if Brown is going to hit on the 24-point, the best 3 is to also hit loose on the 4-point. This play puts immense pressure on White to roll a 4 immediately. If he doesn’t, Brown is usually just crushed like a bug, pinned in a hopeless ace-point game. There is some obvious risk involved. White definitely is in danger of losing if Brown does hit with a 4, but understand that if White can roll a 4 and make the 21-point anchor, that is pretty good for White anyway.


I made the advanced anchor, and then had an awkward 6 to play. I think I should have played 13/7. Even though this breaks the midpoint and leaves a ton of shots, I think it is the play that fights more. Brown will not be able to escape without hitting me with this play, which allows me to keep my structure longer. The 1296-trial rollout says that these plays are too close to call, with my play losing fewer gammons, but the other play winning more games.


An inexperienced player might not realize it, but this was a tremendous roll for Tak. He escapes his back checker without hitting and leaves no blots. It will be nearly impossible for me to keep both my back structure and my front position unless Brown rolls some big doubles now.

White rolls 4-2, 8/2.


Which point should Tak break? I don’t know. A blot on the 13-point gets hit by aces and nines, for 15 shots (though those nines are decidedly double-edged, since they break the anchor). A blot on the 15-point gets hit by threes, elevens, and 21, for 14 shots. However, White is very likely to have to break the midpoint next turn, so holding on to the 15-point might provide more contact should White be forced to leave a blot in the outfield. It’s a tough call.


I decided that getting hit hurts me more than helps me, so I left with both checkers from the midpoint to minimize shots. Busting the board is not an option.



Even though 9/3 makes a neat 5-point board, it is mandatory to come out with the 6. I have a lot of numbers that don’t jump the 4-prime (which could become a 5-prime) next turn, and that would force my board to crack, which would be a disaster. The board must stay intact at all costs.


This is a very tough judgment to make. If Tak hits me, he clearly wins more gammons, but that hit might give me just enough additional timing to hold everything together, which leads to more wins for White.


I really don’t want to be hit now, but I decide to “make the board and be annoying.” Black leaves a potentially game-losing shot on 64, 65, and 66.


Now Tak really should hit, since I have some really bad entering numbers. Look at how 61 and 62 play for starters. Then note that several other numbers will force me to break my board.

White rolls 3-1, 15/11.  Brown rolls 4-2, 12/6.



Note that running from the anchor is not that bad here, and actually wins more games than 11/4. I will likely have to run next time, if I roll something that jumps. Otherwise I have to break.

Brown rolls 3-2, 12/7.


Basically, I have to give up most of my remaining winning chances here. I would like to stay back with somebody on the 24-point, but doing that would force me to destroy my board too much. Even if I were to get a shot, could I then win the game? Probably not. I would definitely lose a lot more gammons back on the 24-point.


It is normally right to clear from the rear like Tak did here, but keeping the 4-prime for one shake has more merit than usual here. If I can’t jump this roll, I have to break up my board more, leading to a more secure win for Tak.

White rolls 6-5, 21/16, 21/15.  Brown rolls 6-1, 7/1, 6/5.

White rolls 4-4, 16/4, 15/11.  Brown rolls 3/1, 5/1.

White rolls 5-1, 11/5.  Brown rolls 4-2, 7/5, 7/3.


Brown rolls 4-1, 6/2, 1/off.  White rolls 6-4, 15/5.

Brown rolls 4-2, 5/1, 2/off.  White rolls 4-3, 21/14.

Brown rolls 6-1 takes 2 off.  White rolls 5-4, 14/5.


Brown rolls 5-1, takes 2 off.  White rolls 6-1 takes 2 off.

Brown rolls 3-2, takes 2 off.  White rolls 5-3 takes 2 off.

Brown rolls 1-1, 3/2, 3/off.  Brown rolls 4-4, takes 3 off.


Brown rolls 3-3, takes 2 off.  White rolls 5-3, takes 2 off.

Brown rolls 6-2, takes 2 off.  White rolls 4-2, 5/3, 4/off.

Brown rolls 6-1, 5/off, 3/2.  White resigns a single game and 2 points.

Game 3 of 13 point match

Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 0, Tak Morioka (Brown): 6

White rolls 6-2, 24/18, 13/10.  Brown rolls 5-1, 13/7*.

White rolls 6-6 fanning.  Brown rolls 6/3, 24/15*.

White rolls 6-2, bar/23.


For money, Brown might consider giving a marginal double here. It probably isn’t right to double, but he certainly should pause.

At the score, Brown should not even pause (he didn’t, and neither should you). Just roll.


A good roll, which I severely botched. I was afraid of coming “under the gun” with 24/20, but I’m really putting Brown under some pressure with that play. Many of the rolls that point on my head in that case also leave return shots from the bar.

13/9(2) makes a new point rather than just swapping the 8-point for the 4-point. That’s a better play.


Tak’s play is the one most players would make. It does leave a big stack on the 6-point, however. The “run and hope you get away with it” play comes out very strongly here. The loss of the 8-point by my misplay of 44 has to be a major reason for this.


Although I’d like to hit, the 20-point anchor is crying out to be made here.

Brown rolls 6-2, 23/17, 13/11.


I missed, so I get to work on my board.

Brown rolls 3-1, 17/13.  White rolls 1-1, 6/5, 6/3.

Brown rolls 5-4, 11/7, 11/6.  White rolls 4-1, 13/9, 4/3.

Brown rolls 5/4, 7/2*, 6/2.


4-ply wanted to play 13/7 with the 6. I really didn’t understand this. 9/3 does put a checker deeper than we’d like, but I can’t stomach leaving a shot for Tak to hit.

Brown rolls 4-3, 13/6.


Now I can see why we might leave a blot on the midpoint. There are some immediate shot leaving numbers for Brown, namely 62, 63, 52, 54, 43, and 32. If Brown rolls one of these, I want a strong front position in case I hit his blot. 13/7 6/2 creates a five-prime with just one blot in the board. My play makes a four-prime with two blots in the board.

The right play does worse when Brown rolls an ace, but the upside on the remaining rolls outweighs this.

Brown rolls 3-1, 6/2.  White rolls 6-1, 13/7, 2/1.


Tak must have been afraid of creating more contact, so he failed to hit. But he shouldn’t be afraid of this. Putting me on the bar gives him a golden opportunity to clear the midpoint without much risk, as only 44 hits from the roof. I don’t have much time to keep my checkers in his board without busting up front anyway. The right play wins more games and more gammons.

White rolls 5-3, 13/5.  Brown rolls 6-6, 13/1(2)*.

White rolls 3-1, bar/22, 5/4.


These are the sorts of high-win percentage, low-gammon loss percentage positions that a player with a big lead (but still with some need to score points) should feel comfortable doubling. Brown will lose his market if he points on White’s head, makes the 4-point with 32 or 22, or picks and passes with White entering high (or not at all). White should not take this cube for money, so Brown should feel safe doubling here.

Having said that, it is easy to see how Brown might lose this game. He is likely to leave a shot at some point. Likely, but not guaranteed. And even if Brown leaves a shot, White only hits it about a third of the time. Brown is a large enough favorite with enough good things happening next roll that he has to cube now. Who knows? I might have passed. It is hard to take a cube like this. White is dead in the race and can only hope to win by hitting a shot that might not ever come.

White rolls 4-1, 7/2.


Brown rolled a good number. Brown’s winning and gammon percentages shot up. As advertised, White has an easy pass.

Game 4 of 13 point match

Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 0, Tak Morioka (Brown): 7

White rolls 4-2, 8/4, 6/4.  Brown rolls 6-1, 13/7, 8/7.

White rolls 6-1, 13/7, 8/7.  Brown rolls 6/1, 24/17*.

White rolls 5-1, bar/24, 13/8*.


Tak wants an advanced anchor, so after entering, he puts the other checker on the point he wants to make. Even the worst happens and I point on one of these checkers, he can still make an anchor with a decent number from the bar.


This is the sort of play where, when I make it, beginning players look at me like I have three heads. But an experienced player won’t even see another play here. I do not want Tak to make an anchor. I have him outboarded two to one. I’m already down in the race. And if I get away with this play, I have excellent chances to make a strong board quickly. In fact, if Tak doesn’t hit me here, I’m cubing at the score.

A passive play here has no upside at all. Especially in the early-going, we should make plays that give us something nice if they work.


Tak hits with one checker, fans with the other. Seems like a fair deal.


As much as I would have liked to have stayed on the 20-point, five blots seemed a little loose, even for me.


Tak anchored. I’ve got some scrambling to do.


Three on the ace point is death. So I moved the deuce from the 24-point and cleaned up a blot.


Tak can’t play this safely. I actually like his play of slotting the 9-point, but XG likes hitting. The hitting play makes it more difficult for me to make an advanced anchor. The hitting play duplicates 3s to hit and cover. It also gives me some truly awful sixes, namely 61, 62, and of course, 66.

Still, that checker looks to my eye like it belongs on the 9-point rather than the 3-point. This is one of the things that makes backgammon so difficult. How do we compare two plays when one play is better positionally, and the other is better tactically?



After anchoring with the 2, I chose to make the 8-point, trying to keep my checkers in front of his anchor.


It’s impossible to play this safely, so Tak plays 9/8, then hits on the ace point with the 5. This leaves only 11 shots, and if I miss, I will have to come in high. This will leave Tak with the ability to play behind my anchor if he can’t make the 5 and 4 points.

White rolls 4-3, bar/21, 6/3.


Once you’ve put one checker on the ace point, it is usually best to make it when you can. Old school players have conniptions when you make the ace point, but old school players thought you could only win a game of backgammon by building a prime or playing a backgame. Yes, the ace point is bad in those types of games. But in mutual holding games? Not so much.



I tried to improve my anchor because I read somewhere that the 22-point anchor is terrible. It’s actually not that bad if your opponent has made his ace point (Cue old school guy: “See, I told you whippersnappers not to make the ace!”). I was concerned about Tak making the 5 or 4 points, after which I felt I would regret not making a higher anchor.

Brown rolls 6-2, 13/11, 13/7.  White rolls 4-4, 13/9(2), 8/4, 6/2.

Brown rolls 4-1, 11/6.


Getting that spare checker out was big for me. I was able to keep my blocking points and gain a little bit of outfield coverage.


It can be scary to break your anchor and hit, but Tak simply must take advantage of this opportunity and do it now. Perhaps we should look at this as a pay-now-or-pay-later problem. Tak is up in this race by 17 pips after this roll (more if he hits). His front position rates to deteriorate, while I have some rolls that might seize control of the outfield. He needs to find a way to convert this position into a race, where he holds a sizable advantage. Now Brown can wait to roll doubles, but it is better to try to make a run for it now while he can put me on the bar. Even if I hit him back, he will have at least one blot to shoot at from the roof (rest assured, I will hit him loose on the five point and leave two blots if I have to).

We’re going to see an example of me screwing up a similar play later in the match. That’ll be fun.

White rolls 5-3, 16/8.  Brown rolls 2-1, 7/5, 6/5.

Brown rolls 6-1, 8/2, 4/3.


As much as I’d like to keep the outfield block, I couldn’t stomach wrecking my board to do it.


This is a great play by Tak. He can play safely for one roll, but then I might roll something that leaps into the outfield and seizes control. This is a great chance for Brown to seize outfield control at relatively low risk. He only really regrets this play if I roll an ace (33 and 66 also hit, but these were good rolls for me anyway).


That’s backgammon. Sometimes we are punished for our good plays.

Brown rolls 3-3, fanning.


Although it is possible for me to roll a dud, get hit from the roof, and lose, I really need to take a shake here. 21, 31, 32 and 11 make the best five point board. 51, 61, 42, 62, 22, 66, 63, 64, and 65 hit. 33 is awesome. 52 makes a 5-point board. There are so many good numbers, and not many bad ones, and the bad ones aren’t always followed by a good number from Tak. Psychologically, I wanted to get on the scoreboard, but I should have gone for more. That additional point might become very important.

Game 5 of 13 point match

Score is Gerry Tansey (White): 1, Tak Morioka (Brown): 7

White rolls 5-1, 24/23, 13/8.  Brown rolls 3-2, 24/21, 13/11.

White rolls 6-1, 13/7, 8/7.  Brown rolls 6-521/10.


I never considered the tempo hit in this spot. I thought Brown’s back checker was right where I wanted it. Brown does have quite a few numbers that do something constructive up front, so I guess I should do something about that. But I don’t really understand myself why slotting the 5-point is so bad here.

Brown rolls 6-2, 10/4, 6/4.  White rolls 6-6, 8/2(2), 7/1*(2).


After hitting, Tak picks up the outfield blot. This might be the right play at the score, but 13/10 is a serious contender. Only 55 and 65 hit one of the outfield blots. White will hit loose if he can otherwise, but if Black plays 13/10 and is not on the bar next turn, he has a lot of numbers that make the 5-point, which might be enough to lock up the game, given how stripped White’s outfield points are.


I opted to deny Tak good sixes, but I also stayed on the point he most wants to make. It is a close choice.


Oof. I had better not fan here. Tak should play on for a gammon if I do.


A great shot for me. This game is far from over.


Tak stays back. I have stripped outfield points and a blot in my board. He’d like to keep contact for this turn to see if I cough up a target for him to hit.

White rolls 4-2, 8/6, 8/4.



This is a tough choice between staying back and coming out. If Tak stays back, most of my sixes will leave a blot. But Tak won’t like it if I hit loose and he fans (or if I roll 11 or 44). Staying back is the more gammonish play for both sides, but gammons work a little better for me at the score, since I will cube after any hit/fan sequence.


Hitting is big. If Tak rolls poorly, he will get the cube.

Brown rolls 5-1, bar/20, 13/12.


This is the type of cube you have to give when you are trailing big in a match. I’m down a little in the race, but my threats are enough to make me a small favorite to win the game, with significant gammon chances if things go well. 65, 61, 51, and 11 make the 5-point on Brown’s head. These 7 numbers are huge market losers if Brown doesn’t enter right away. 43 and 52 are 4 more numbers which lose the market if Brown fans. I have several more numbers that hit loose. These are double-edged, but certainly I’ll be glad I cubed if Brown dances.

For money, this is probably a little thin for a double, since I will very much hate sequences where my attack fizzles and Brown has the cube to use against me. But at the score, I can really use a doubled gammon, and Brown will not be so eager to redouble to 4, so I have more incentive to cube. Brown has an easy take, as I still have a lot of work to do before I can claim victory.


Not a bad shake. A lot depends on this next roll…


Tak anchors and becomes an immediate favorite to win the game.

White rolls 5-1, 13/8, 11/10.


Tak is up in the race, so he is going to move 20/16(2) to disengage. It is tough for me to tell whether 20/12(2) or 13/9(2) is better for the remainder of the play.

White rolls 3-2, 10/5.  Brown rolls 4-2, 12/6.


I’m down one pip after the play. I thought I wanted to maximize contact with Tak’s midpoint and his 12-point blot, but this may be a situation where I’m not down in the race enough to be able to afford having 36 pips sunk in two checkers on the 18-point. The race may be close enough that disengaging a tad more than I’d like is my best chance.


Again with the immediate punishment. What a swing!


This is a dilemma. If I stay, I have to bury a checker on the 2-point, which is bad for the race. But there is not a ton of shot equity here anyway. There are, in fact, no numbers that leave a shot next turn for Brown. I decided it was best to take my chances in the race, dismal as those chances are.

It’s time to talk a little bit about the leader’s recube. For money, a racing lead of this size gives Brown a redouble, and White has a take. With a big lead, the leader usually should not offer any 4-cubes that the trailer can take for money. In fact, it is nearly a double whopper for the leader to redouble here.

Brown rolls 6-5, 9/4, 8/2.  White rolls 5-1, 12/6.


One sequence can change a lot in terms of racing cubes. First, the race got shorter. This favors the player leading the race. Second, Tak rolled more pips than I did. This is an enormous pass for money, so Tak should think hard about cubing here.

First, what is my take point on a 4-cube? If I pass, I will win the match about 12 percent of the time from 12-away/4-away. If I take and lose, I will win the match only 4.75 percent of the time from 12-away/2-away. So I’m risking 7.25 percent match winning chances. If I take and win 4 points, I will win the match about 38 percent of the time from 8-away/6-away. Thus I could gain 26 percent match winning chances. So my “dead cube take point” is (risk)/(risk + gain), or 7.25/(7.25 + 26) = 21.8 percent.

However, this is not the full story. My ownership of a 4-cube has some value. I might be able to cash a game with the cube that I would otherwise lose. More likely, I will “double in” Tak, so many of my wins will be worth 8 points. How do we take into account the value of cube ownership?

Here is where I get lazy, partly because there are too many terms to define, and partly because I don’t fully understand it myself. Just know that in a medium to long race, your true take point will be somewhat lower than your dead cube take point as long as you can give a decent recube when things go your way.

In this particular position, Tak has a big redouble, and I have a close pass. This is a situation that backgammon players don’t face too frequently these days when we play shorter matches. Normally, when one player has a big lead, he is also very close to winning, and thus shouldn’t ever think about recubing since he doesn’t need the extra points. But here Tak can use the 4 points from a recube (and has only 2 points of overage on any 8-cube that comes back), so there is a nontrivial window for that recube to 4.

Brown rolls 1-1, 8/5, 6/5.  White rolls 3-2, 8/6, 8/5.


Notice that I rolled one more pip than Tak did in that exchange, but Tak became a bigger favorite to win. The clock is ticking as the race gets shorter, and I have fewer and fewer opportunities to roll the big doubles I need to win.

Brown rolls 2-2, 9/5, 4/off.  White rolls 4-2, 15/9.

Brown rolls 4-1, takes 2 off.  White rolls 3-1, 9/6, 1/off.

Brown rolls 5-4, takes 2 off.  White rolls 4-3, 6/3, 4/off.


White rolls 5-2, takes 2 off.  Brown rolls 2-2, takes 2 off.

White rolls 5-1, takes 2 off.

Brown redoubles, White passes.