2015 San Antonio Backgammon Finals

by Stick
18 February 2015


My plan had originally been to annotate the entire finals match between Bower v. Simborg but after receiving feedback from both Chuck and Phil and realizing how much longer of an article that would make I decided to cherry pick based on their responses and the big picture. You can download the entire match which is analyzed in XGR++ with certain decisions rolled out.

At a tournament like San Antonio there is a lot going on. There was the Dual/Duel event, there was the Hall of Fame induction dinner, there was the Super Bowl party, there was the city itself with its Riverwalk and glorious atmosphere. For me personally there was also the Australian Open semis or finals every night in the middle of the night. For everyone there was whatever event(s) they were in. I played in a chouette two nights that weekend, Cribbage one night, and went out yet another. What I'm trying to say is you can get wrapped up in whatever you're doing so much that you forget everything else that's going on. That's what happened to me. I had no idea who had made it to the finals in San Antonio until they were long over with. Since I had long since busted out of the main, the consolation, and the last chance it wasn't my primary concern. Still, normally you naturally pick up on it by it being talked about or simply being in the playing room.

Somehow I didn't hear until just before Chuck was getting his picture taken with his Texas belt buckle trophy that it was between him and Phil. If I would have known I probably would have at least jumped down to the playing room during the Super Bowl party to see how they were doing. I was happy to hear after all the Giant slaying was said and done these two were to face off in the finals. I emailed them both once everyone was home and settled and asked them for any thoughts they had on the match. Let me intro the article with how each player went into the match. Every individual player has a different routine that they have developed over the years to prep them for big matches. It may be very fine tuned and regulated à la Rafael Nadal tennis routine or it may be a more general outlook on it.

Chuck's preparation was very in depth and detailed. He sent me a list which I will share with you here that you should consider incorporating as part of your pre game routine if you could use some work in that area.

  • It's only another backgammon match. Nobody's life hangs on the line. Keep focused on the game. Play your best and don't concern yourself with the short term W or L.

  • Pressure the opponent with the cube. (Chuck said he has the tendency to wait too long to double which has the opposite effect. I think this is good advice in general)

  • When facing a cube, remember to take gammons into account! I often preach this in my lessons as far too many people see a position and realize there's a lot of play left meaning they get a fair amount of wins and ignore the overwhelming amount of gammons which leads to big cube errors.

  • Play your game. If something doesn't feel right don't force it. Don't try to be too clever. When in doubt make the brave play.

  • Try to find reasonable candidates especially after rolling doubles. Don't play too quickly in general and don't settle for the first decent play you see.

  • Use clock time wisely. Count pips on the opponent's time. Think on the opponent's time if possible. Don't labor over close decisions early in the match.

  • "It ain't over til it's over" straight from the lips of Yogi Berra. Keep vigilant. This is great advice and why the bots are so good. They get down, they get out, but they're a neural net so they fight tooth and nail for every last scrap of equity and that is what Chuck is recommending here.

  • You've been here, you've done that. The opponent is playing under the same conditions. Winning is nice, the trophy would be great, the prize pool sweet but nothing here is life changing. Keep calm and carry on.

  • That the match is being streamed and recorded should not effect your play. We're always trying to make the best decisions, why would this environment change that for any reason? It shouldn't.

  • Speaking specifically of Phil - knowing Phil and Phil being a friend means it will be a friendly atmosphere. Banter is fine and expected but make sure you focus and concentrate when it's time to do so.

  • Phil is a very experienced and strong player. He isn't going to hand you the match. Expect the right decisions to come from him and don't get discouraged if you don't see him making any errors. He plays relatively faster. Don't let this knock you off balance.

Straight from the mouth of the 2015 San Antonio champion! A lot right? All sound reasoning. We will see how Chuck faired in relation to the goals he set out before the match shortly. Luckily with Phil we have the other end of the spectrum so this article doesn't get too long. Phil's thoughts going into the match were short and sweet. "Don't focus on winning or losing but only on playing well. If I play well and make the correct decisions the rest will take care of itself." I'm a big fan of this and try to incorporate it into everything I do/play.

On to some in match decisions. Phil picked out this first one.

is Chuck Bower

score: 0
pip: 157
11 point match
pip: 142
score: 0

is Phil Simborg
on roll, cube action?

Analyzed in XG Roller++ No double Double/Take
  Player Winning Chances: 65.19% (G:28.14% B:2.02%) 65.14% (G:28.56% B:2.05%)
  Opponent Winning Chances: 34.81% (G:8.70% B:0.39%) 34.86% (G:8.78% B:0.41%)
  Cubeless Equities +0.519 +1.062
Cubeful Equities
     No double:+0.736 (-0.050)
xg Double/Take:+0.786
     Double/Pass:+1.000 (+0.214)
Best Cube action: Double / Take

eXtreme Gammon Version: 2.19.206.pre-release, MET: Kazaross XG2

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