Tournament review: British Masters Series #1

Fourteen players gathered at East Midlands Airport this weekend to get the first British tournament in the BMAB’s Masters Series underway under the watchful eye of Rick Janowski. As we reported earlier, the aim is two-fold – to win games, of course, and to play with as low an error rate as possible. To make that possible, every game is recorded on video, transcribed and analysed. And that gave the tournament a different feel from the start – instead of a wide variety of personalised boards of varying sizes, we arrived to find standard sized boards with high contrast pieces and tape marks on the tables to position them exactly for the array of cameras positioned above. Players were also shepherded to specific boards with nameplates so that none could end up on the wrong video by mistake, with Rick watching in on an impressive array of laptops…

NASA would be proud (Pictures: Peter Bennet)


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Featured Match: Raj Jansari v Michael Nielsen

Or “Division 2 London Player does surprisingly well against Danish Champion”

UKBGF’s Raj Jansari was over in Denmark this weekend for the Munkebjerg Championships – a regular event run in association with the Danish Backgammon Federation. It features a very strong field in the main division, and plenty of action with generous prizes right down to beginner level.
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Beware the Ides of March…

In recent times the tournament world seems to have settled largely on knockouts, either plain or double-elimination, with reasonably length matches of odd numbers of points, as the format of choice. One year ago, the inaugural Ides of March Cambridge Invitational tournament broke this mould with an innovative approach. A select group of 8 leading players – Peter Bennet, Julian Fetterlein, John Hurst, Jason Pack, Lawrence Powell, Tariq Siddiqi, and Sean Williams, together with eXtremeGammon – played out a round robin of increasing-length matches, starting with a 2-pointer and progressing up to an 8-pointer.

At the end of this process, the top two played a final 11-pointer, with a twist – bringing home more victories in the round robin, and a victory against the other finalist, would earn head-start points in the final. Ultimately Sean would triumph and claim not only a substantial cash prize but also a backgammon-themed painting – an unusual and delightful alternative to a trophy. (I can’t help wondering what eXtremeGammon would have done with a cash prize, perhaps we shall never know!)
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In memoriam: Mick Vacarey

It is with great sadness that we report that one of the most colourful and much loved characters on the UK backgammon scene, Mick Vacarey, has passed away leaving a loving wife and daughter to whom we offer our most sincere condolences.

Mick was a very jolly person and backgammon player and most often seen with dice in one hand and a drink in the other.

He will be sadly missed and although he has gone, he will not be forgotten.

Mick Vacarey – RIP

We invite people with their own memories of Mick to post them below.

“But I played well… didn’t I?”

Backgammon can be a cruel game, and live tournament play is probably the most cruel. You can sit down for your first round all hopeful, take an early double, get blitzed and find yourself first to get unceremoniously knocked out, with plenty of time to twiddle thumbs until consolations start. You can play your heart out, grind away one point at a time to get to a tense final, establish a decent lead in the double-match-point game, then watch helplessly in dismay as your opponent rolls double after double to just squeak home.  But I played so well… didn’t I? Didn’t I deserve to win?

To tournament novices: don’t let that put you off trying – the euphoria of, say, pulling off a tough backgame to whip a trophy from under your adversary’s nose makes up for many hard-luck stories!

For some time there’s been a growing trend among top players to record games and take them home to pick over, looking for lessons to learn. This has been helped along by video camera technology becoming cheaper, and camera stands evolving from something that would make Rube Goldberg proud to unobtrusive purpose-built kit. Running the game past your favourite bot can at least help answer the question of how badly the dice treated you.
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