• A Backgammon Lesson from Mochy

    I spent last week at the Cyprus Open tournament. It was a wonderful event with over 580 players in attendance. In an all-French Franck Stepler edged out Aurelien Bonnet in two hard-fought and very exciting matches. You can watch the first match with commentary by myself and others at:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=busY6ywUM2s&fbclid=IwAR1m38izHZrPZRWzGcp_qvafuazC8WCYRTHltFjf6VNPXxIzSLMqA4PcB9k

    It was a double elimination event. I lost in the first round without ever getting going. I then won two matches in the Fighters bracket and that left me facing the world number 1, Mochy, in the next round. After each winning an early point Mochy doubled me early in the next game. I slowly turned it around until we reached this week’s position.

    With ones, fours, sixes and eights all being good for me, some gammon possibilities (winning the match) and with a small racing lead as well this looked to me to be the perfect time to redouble and that is exactly what I did. Mochy’s own rule is that you must take at least twelve seconds before making any cube decision, no matter how trivial. He thought and analysed for thirty times that minimum requirement, taking a full three minutes before making his decision.

    We had about twenty spectators around the table and I think all of them expected Mochy to drop the redouble. I also expected him to drop – that glimmer of a gammon would surely worry him? There was a collective gasp when he accepted the redouble. I rolled one of my best numbers, 41, which I played 24/20, 13/12*, but after that things went awry and I passed Mochy’s redouble to 8. We will see the denouement in next week’s article.

    Was this really a take for White I wondered? After the match I used XG Mobile to do a quick evaluation and was very surprised to find that not only was the take trivial. but it is the redouble that is in question! Worse was to follow when I rolled out the position to discover that my redouble, certainly, in technical terms was an error.

    I think that given the skill disparity between the two players my redouble was practically correct but what impressed me most was Mochy’s ability to make the correct decision over the board. I had only looked at my good numbers but he had looked at numbers such as 32 and 33 for Black. He also pointed out that high anchor games very rarely lose many gammons and that is true of this position. He had correctly judged that there was still a lot of play in the position and that Black had a lot of work to do to win the game.

    This was also an object lesson in time management. When you have a difficult decision to make, TAKE YOUR TIME. Mochy needed the time to correctly evaluate the position as a take rather than dropping, which would be many player’s (including your columnist) instinctive decision. As I have mentioned many times backgammon is a very complex game and only the very best can avoid making bad errors and blunders. By using his time and doing the necessary analysis Mochy avoided a bad mistake, something he does consistently, and hence his Number 1 world ranking.

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  • 2018 - Position 191

    XGID=-cBCCDCa----b---ab-ca-b---:1:-1:1:61:0:0:3:0:10

    Money Play. How should Red play 61?

    This is a technical play but it is always good to know the correct technique. It is more important to have a smooth distribution than to be even on the two highest points.

    The correct play is 6/off, 5/4 rather 6/off, 4/3 which is a bad error or 6/off, 3/2 which is actually a blunder.

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  • 2018 - Position 190

    XGID=a--BBaC-B--B-A--BbAbc-abc-:1:1:1:42:4:2:0:7:10

    Match Play. Red leads 4-2 to 7. How should Red play 42?

    Despite the apparent risk the most direct route to victory (and a potential gammon) is 11/5*. Everything else gives White too many opportunities for counter-play.

    If White’s blot on his 3-pt were safe on his 5-pt it would be a toss-up between 18/12 and 11/5* but as it is that blot gives Red additional tactical options.

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  • 2018 - Position 189

    XGID=-cBBAbDCA--Aa-a---ccb---A-:1:-1:1:32:0:0:3:0:10

    Money Play. How should Red play 32?

    It looks obvious to play 11/8, 6/4, which is what most people would play over the board, but Red’s forward position could collapse before he escapes his rear checker.

    The correct play is 24/21, 6/4. This positions the rear checker to escape and White will have to give up his 5-pt anchor to hit either of Red’s outfield blots.

    Given this as a quiz problem most people will get it right but how would you do over the board? I got it wrong. 11/8, 6/4 is an error but not a blunder.

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  • 2018 - Position 188

    XGID=-BCBbCC----------Bcbbbbb--:0:0:1:11:0:0:3:0:10

    Money Play. How should Red play 11?

    This position was originally posted by Phil Simborg and leads to a very simple rule of thumb. When your opponent has a perfect board don’t leave any unnecessary shots. Thus 17/15(2) is the correct play.

    Take a checker from White’s 2-pt and put it on his 3-pt and 17/13 becomes the correct play.

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