Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday Backgammon tournament

The 60 Wall backgammon organizer, an exceedingly nice gentleman, has introduced me to many folks in the backgammon community. One of those people is "Wheels" (not her real name), a very nice lady who runs a monthly backgammon tournament in a roving location around the city. Wheels is a high ranking member of the New York Backgammon community and has placed highly in many tournaments over the years. As a result, she has a long list of backgammon contacts she calls on to form these tournaments.

After having gotten her emails for a few months about the monthly tournaments, I finally found the time to go ahead and attend one. When I got there, Wheels was busy dividing the participants (about 20 people showed up) into different categories. She had a Beginner, Intermediate and Open category. Beginner was $10 entry fee, Intermediate was $50 and Open was $100. When I arrived, my backgammon board set in tow, she had already placed my name in the Intermediate category. I asked her how she knew where to put me and she replied, "it's my job to know". Fair enough. Unfortunately, only 3 people were on the Intermediate list and only 2 had shown up! So it was decided that me and my opponent, rather than playing a bracket of one game each, would play the best two out of three to 9 points a match.

I was doing very well in the first match and the score was 4-2, in my favor, when I took a very bad 4 cube which turned into a gammon and the match was over just like that. Just as the match was ending, Wheels came over and said that the 3rd participant had arrived! She said that we could now revert to the original format but I protested that it wasn't fair. If we went back to the one match format, I would be out of the tournament. If I had known that, I might not have taken the cube that ended my first match! So it was agreed that we would simply do a round robin format with each player playing the other and best 2 out of 3 winning the contest.

I won my second match handily and was tied with my opponent 1-1. After taking that bad cube that cost me the first match, my concentration went into laser focus and I was playing great. It didn't help that I was rolling well too. In the 3rd match, I was cruising into the win at 7-2 (mostly because my opponent took an awful double that turned into a gammon win for me) and I just had to hold on for the win. Then I did a dumb, awful and stupid rookie tournament mistake. I was ahead in my game, with the score of 7-2 (remember we were playing to 9 points each match) and I cubed her. Whoops. In my head, I though that she would just drop the cube and move on to the next game. I was well ahead in position. But she took the cube at 2 and then turned around on her next roll and cubed me back! From her point of view, it makes total sense. If she take the 2 cube and loses, the match is over, so she might as well make it 4 to give her better position if she happens to win. And if she gammons? Then she wins the game AND the match. Which is exactly what happened. Even though I had an advanced anchor and had two of her runners back behind a 5 prime, she happened to roll a magic 66 which not only got her runners out, but also hit one of my blots. She then picked up another blot I had out on her next roll after I failed to come back onto the board and just like that I had two on the bar, two on her inside board and she was quickly filling up a prime. Before I could get both my checkers back into play, she had gotten a few checkers off and she rolled doubles twice more, clearing even more checkers and never leaving me a single shot. She gammoned me without breaking a sweat and I felt foolish. It's a mistake I won't be making again anytime soon.

My opponent ended up winning her second match against the late-comer, but their match took so long that rather than play for 2nd place prize money, I simply chopped it with him and got half my buyin back. I did better than that actually, because while I was waiting for them to finish their match, I played a small cash game with one of the beginner players, winning 16 points at $1 a point. It was a very nice guy and his wife who I chatted up and befriended. Hopefully, I'll be able to see them again soon at one of the weekly backgammon meetups that get held in the city.

For those interested in backgammon tournaments, give me a shout and I'll put you in touch with Wheels (if you don't already know who I'm talking about). It was a really fun experience and I'm looking forward to next month!