Bill Davis, 1980
Gammon Magazine, Winter 1980
Another form of doubles backgammon play became history this summer when the first-ever Duo-Gammon tournament was conducted in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook by the National Backgammon League.

Unlike full consultation doubles, a skilled Duo-Gammon team is made up of two quality players. Team members play the same game, alternating moves, but are not permitted to consult with one another. Consultation on doubling decisions (offering, accepting, and rejecting) is allowed; however it is limited to an exchange of positive, negative, and neutral statements about the situation (e.g., "I want to accept the double."). No reasons for any doubling opinions may be given.

After a short explanation about the play of the game followed by the first-round team pairing announcements, tournament directors Bill Davis and Randy Cone were kept very busy answering questions and settling penalty disputes. As the evening progressed, the rate of questions decreased to a normal level.

Opening round matches were set at nine points. A funny thing happened at the score-reporting table during the first two hours — nothing! It was initially assumed that because the non-consultation format eliminated partnership arguments, moves would be played quicker. Not true. Two of the finest (and fastest) bridge, chess, and backgammon players in the Midwest are Greg DeFotis and Bobbie Anderson. Even these two dynamos were decelerated by the Duo-Gammon format. And this was true for everyone. The simplest moves were played carefully in the fear of facing an ungodly partner's wrath after the game.

Although the following rounds progressed at a somewhat quicker pace, the overall tournament length necessitated a split for first place in the Open division. The final results were not entirely unexpected. Players with the greatest success in previous doubles tournaments continued to win. Chicagoans Sarge Serges and Bernie Pygon shared first place in the Open Main Flight with Diane Blumenfeld and House of Backgammon director Ida Weil. Serges was a semifinalist in two major 1978 doubles events — the World Championship and the U.S. Open. Blumenfeld (with Sue Boyd) won the doubles tournament at the 1978 Women's World championships.

In the Open Consolation event, Tom Walthes and Peter Kalba (semifinalists, 1979 Indiana State Doubles Championships) split the top honors with Howard Markowitz and Darrell Marcus. Lucky Nelson and Dean Morehouse captured first prize in the Intermediate bracket.

In a survey of entrants conducted at the conclusion of the tournament, 53% said that they liked Duo-Gammon less than other current forms of doubles play. Some participants said that Duo-Gammon was extremely taxing — as tough as singles. Many players complained about the slow playing time. Diane Blumenfeld thought that it was difficult to develop a solid game plan when you could only play every other move.

On the positive side, nearly everyone agreed that the Duo-Gammon format was a true test of actual doubles skill. Sarge Serges commented that it was an extremely quiet tournament, and Ida Weil came up with another hidden benefit, "At least I couldn't argue with may partner!"

Other survey questions indicated that general support for backgammon doubles is solid. Although 50% of the players like doubles play less than singles, 72% agree that some form of doubles should be included in every major tournament.

Is Duo-Gammon a suitable form of backgammon doubles for general tourney play? Probably not. However, for head-to-head team challenge matches or paramount doubles tournaments with suitable running time, Duo-Gammon provides a fine test of a team's ability to channel individual player skills into a combined partnership effort.

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