Backgammon with the
Champions' Panel of Masters

Compiled by Kent A. Goulding, 1982

From Backgammon Times, Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 1982.

The first Backgammon with the Champions' Panel of Masters is made up of:

  • Nack Ballard (Chicago, IL)
  • Billy Eisenberg (Century City, CA)
  • Lee Genud (Woodbury, NY)
  • Sandy Lubetkin (Houston, TX)
  • Paul Magriel (New York, NY)
  • Kit Woolsey (Arlington, VA)

Problem 1

This problem came up in a chouette at the DuPont Circle Club in Washington, D.C. The players almost came to blows when the team wanted to double and the captain refused. He was eventually paid half a point and removed from power. After doubling, White rolled 2-1, which caused another commotion. The five point was made and White eventually won, although the blot on the two point was difficult to cover!
12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
Money game.

Should White double?
Should Black accept?

Ballard: Double and take.
Eisenberg:  Don't double; there aren't enough market losers (jokers). Also gammon chances for Black as well as White. If doubled, accept.
Genud:  Double and take.
Lubetkin:  Double and accept. It is much closer whether to double. Although White is only five pips ahead, he probably has enough jokers to double.
Magriel:  Don't double. Easy take. Anyone want to play it as a proposition?
Woolsey:  White should double. He is five pips ahead and nothing bad can happen on the next roll. He will lose his market if he gains 6 or 7 pips or hits and covers with Black failing to enter on the twenty-point. This is sufficient justification to double. Black has a pretty easy take.

Problem 2

This problem was submitted to me by Charles Stimming, a BGWTC subscriber from Indianapolis, Indiana. He mentioned that the position has caused a lot of discussion. As you can see below, it will probably continue to do so.
12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
White to play 4-1.

Ballard: Pick and pass, making the ace point. Hitting two is also interesting, but it is my second choice.
Eisenberg:  Make the two point. It is tempting to make the ace point, but the long view should prevail.
Genud:  Make the two point.
Lubetkin:  Hit on the two and continue to cover the ace point. Hitting twice is inferior: if Black return hits, the momentum of White is stopped. Making the two point gives Black a reasonable chance of hitting on the one point either this roll or next, again slowing White down.
Magriel:  My first impression was to make the two point, but after playing it out many times I like hitting both of Black's blots. Anyone want to play it as a proposition?
Woolsey:  Make the two point. White is short of ammunition, so he must put every checker where it belongs. Hitting two checkers is tremendous if it works, but could easily cost White the initiative if Black hits back.

Problem 3

This position comes from a match between Chuck Papazian and George Matthews played in January of 1978. I first saw it when reading Papazian and Kennedy's book, Backgammon Master Games. Papazian, in his comments, states that "White must pass." I disagreed, but wondered what other good players thought. I'm still not sure what the correct answer is (although I would accept the cube).
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
White trails 4–6 in a match to 21.

Should White double? Should Black accept?

Ballard: Double and take.
Eisenberg:  Double and take (the match score is irrelevant).
Genud:  Double and take.
Lubetkin:  Double and pass, I think. At first I thought it was an easy take, but I lost some money playing it as a proposition. Poorer but wiser, I reluctantly pass.
Magriel:  Double. I thought it was a take, but got killed playing it as a proposition. Now I don't know what to think.
Woolsey:  White should double. He has the advantage and could easily lose his market. Black should accept. The combined chances of entering quickly and containing White's back checker plus the residual power of playing from the 21 point come to more than the 25% needed to take.

Problem 4

Lee Genud and Kathy Posner are the featured players in the upcoming Backgammon with the Champions Volume II, Number 3. The final two problems are both from that match. In the following position, Posner played 20/15. Although not a bad play, I thought a more aggressive play such as making either the eleven point or the ten point was better. Seeking an easy way out, I slipped this in to try to get some clarification. Now I'm more confused than ever.
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
White trails 5–6 in a match to 13.

White to play 3-2.

Ballard: Unclear, but I'd make the eleven point.
Eisenberg:  14/12, 15/12. Conservative, but protecting against a gammon seems clear.
Genud:  Play 20/15.
Lubetkin:  Come out from Black's five point to White's 15 point. This is flexible and maintains outfield coverage.
Magriel:  I feel strongly that the eleven point should be made. This is clearly the best way to win. Even if the nightmare happens, and Black scoops up all the blots, it doesn't swing much.
Woolsey:  15/12, 14/12. White can't do much constructive, so he should buckle up in case Black hits. A second blot could easily cost a gammon, while the twelve point has some small blocking value.

Problem 5

Also from Genud versus Posner, this problem was a bit tricky—there are strong arguments for each of the two main plays. Genud, in the match, played 13/6. She now likes making the one point. Perhaps Magriel is right—it may be a dumb problem.
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
White trails 6–7 in a match to 13.

White to play 6-1.

Ballard: 13/6.
Eisenberg:  White has sufficient time to make the one point and play for a close-out.
Genud:  Make one point.
Lubetkin:  Make one point. This minimizes the chance of Black making an anchor. Even if Black grabs the two point, White should be able to get his men around in time.
Magriel:  Making the one point is slightly better. (It's a dumb problem.)
Woolsey:  13/6. At first glance making the one point seems right. The problem is that Black will have several rolls to roll double twos and be back in the game. 13/6 leaves White with a 5 prime, which will permit continued play for a gammon even if Black rolls a two. If Black owned the cube, making the one point would be better since White could no longer double Black out if he linked on the two point.

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