This article originally appeared in the March 2000 issue of GammOnLine.|
Thank you to Kit Woolsey for his kind permission to reproduce it here.
| "I think we have to hit." "Never mind hit! First, we come out,
then we build our two-point, and then we hit." Gerhardt had it all
planned out. Of course, if Paul anchored in the meantime his plan might
need revision. Andreas, the Captain, agreed with me. Hit it would be.
Here was the position.
Andreas and I wanted to hit with 6/1*, while Gerhardt wanted run with 23/18. Gerhardt knew something about running, so perhaps we should have listened. As a youngster Gerhardt decided that his mission in life was to come to Thailand and meet beautiful women. Thwarting this noble goal was a rather large wall bisecting his hometown, Berlin. On one side were Lufthansa flights to balmy Bangkok; on Gerhardt's side were Aeroflot flights to less sunny climes. Gerhardt and a friend found a wooded spot about 150 meters from the Wall. They would have to run across that 150 meters and climb the wall before the guards from the military outpost 200 meters away intercepted them. So, they would have a 50-meter head start, and the element of surprise. The guards, on the other hand, would have a jeep, and machine guns. "As long as we had the angle, they could not fire. If they did, their bullets would cross the Wall, and the other side would shoot back. So they had to come and catch us with their hands." The jeep was only 50 meters away, and closing fast, when they reached the Wall. Gerhardt gave his friend a boost, and then, as the jeep pulled up, leapt up the Wall, catching his friend's outstretched hands. From the top he gave the guards a goodbye wave, and hopped to freedom. One month later the 40-year Cold War ended, and he could walk back and forth across the border.
We convinced Gerhardt we had to hit. Well, we didn't actually convince, but Andreas went ahead and hit, then picked up his dice. Paul fanned, and we covered with 2-2: 7/1, 13/11. He fanned again. This was working out great. Our next two rolls were 6-6 and 4-4. Things were no longer great.
Paul rolled a 6-5, and it was only because killing one's partners was against the rules that we were saved from Gerhardt's wrath. Andreas and I had been betting with each other on moves and cubes for the last few weeks (with Andreas up quite a few bets on me, - it's no surprise that his name appeared on many of the European Giant 32 ballots), and we wanted to bet Gerhardt that hitting was correct. I'm glad we didn't, because, it turns out it was probably wrong, though I still haven't figured out how to decide which move was correct. Why am I dithering? Well, Paul could only lose "half a gammon."
I'd better explain. We were playing in a chouette tournament at the 19th Hole Super Pub, on South Pattaya's Golden Mile. A chouette tournament, for those who have never seen one, runs like this. Twelve of us entered, and were given a stake of 35 points. We drew for boards, forming three tables of four. Each player had the right, if he lost his stake, of reentering once. (I had the honor of being the first player to reenter.) To insure that players would eventually lose their stakes, after 8 games the doubling cubes would start on 2, and after 16 games on 4, etc. Local chouette rules would apply - Jacoby, beavers and raccoons, "autos" up to the Box, though the Captain could insist on his if the Box declined, no talking until one's cube was turned, "must beaver" a contact game if only one taker, and individual cubes but "equal action." There were also special rules that applied to the tournament, as we'll see in a minute.
When we had our 3-2 to play, Paul had 37 points in his account. The cubes were starting on 2, but Paul had "taken autos," and then had accepted our doubles to 8. If we gammoned him we could only win 37 points, which would be apportioned 13 to the Captain, and 12 to each of us. On the other hand, if Paul won, he was only entitled to win 37 points. He could not win more than he could lose. One of the ambiguous points was whether the losses would be apportioned -12, -12, and -13 to Gerhardt, who was last in line, or -13, -12, -12, with Andreas being penalized in the same measure he would have benefited. The ruling was that, as is done when the "Box takes a partner" in regular chouette play, the Captain would be both rewarded and penalized, whichever was appropriate. Actually, it makes no difference which way the penalty is levied (there is a difference between always rewarding the Captain, and always rewarding the Box - the Captain/crew lineup is constantly shifting, while the Box/partner lineup is not), as long as it's consistent. Ruling on such matters was a bit of a nightmare. We had an American, two Germans, and a Dutch player at my table, and the director was French. Though the official tournament language was English, we had the makings of a good comedy sketch, except that no one would get the jokes.
Anyway, getting back to our 3-2 (remember our 3-2?), JellyFish(tm) evaluation prefers 4/1* 13/11, followed by 23/20, 13/11. A short rollout of only our plays, had Gerhardt's winning more games, with ours winning more gammons. At money the net difference was very small, which means that, if gammons counted only half (Paul could only lose 37 points, not 48) our play was wrong. However...there are other factors. For instance, his gammons counted for less. Also, while he could "kill" gammons entirely by redoubling, consider our takepoint. Passing would cost 8 points, but taking would risk only 4, while gaining 20 (from -8 to +12), so we could take with 17% and no fear of gammons. The real question, and one I cannot answer, is: are all points created equal? In normal match play, winning or losing points translates into percentage chances of winning the match. Losing a gammon would knock Paul out, but what would his chances be if he retained 13 points? Needed is a chouette tournament equity table.
With his cushion, Paul survived long into the night, and was the only player at our table who didn't reenter. The other two tables pruned themselves to two finalists within two hours, but it was 3:15 a.m. before Paul succumbed. Exhausted by wrangling, the late hour, and a considerable quantity of beer, the rest of us were tempted to resign in sympathy, but it turned out that one more game was all that was needed to finish it.
My 6-1 was a great shot. With money rules applying, coming out rather than hiding the second blot, was clear. Tournament conditions made it easy for me, with 131 points in my account (Gerhardt, Andreas, and I had each reentered once, so there were 245 points in the pool) to pass Andreas' double, though it would be a clear money take. Gerhardt was not so lucky. Having only 14 points, he was not allowed to double me, and had to play it out. He missed, and I came home cleanly.
The following night we six finalists, Paul Czapor, Marcus Michel, Berndt Schmude, and Andreas Martens, all of Germany, plus Joachim Johanssen of Sweden, and myself started with 40 points apiece. There would be no buy backs.
Even on this second night there was confusion over some of the rules. For instance...Andreas, the Box, doubles to 8. Joachim and Berndt pass, while Marcus and I take. We are gammoned. Joachim and Berndt lose 4 each, but Marcus only loses 9 points, and I lose 8, though we have plenty of points in our respective accounts. This is because Andreas started with only 25 points, and so was only entitled to win 25. Among the points of dispute: if he started with 25, could he double to 32 (8 x 4); if two people dropped, could he win 33 points, since he would now have "8 more in the bank"; since Marcus and I could not lose 16 apiece, should Joachim and Berndt have their losses prorated to some lower figure than -4 after the game ends; if we gammon him, do we win 9 and 8, or 13 and 12? The respective answers are: yes; no; no; and 13 and 12 (he would start the next game with only the 8 points won from Joachim and Berndt). If you are not sure of why all this is so (in fact, if you don't understand all of the questions), imagine getting a ruling at 3 a.m., after downing six or seven beers, from someone speaking French!
This time around we were "only" starting on 32 when Joachim, on a 7-game Box run, knocked off Andreas. Guy, shunning standard trophies, purchased statuary to present to the winners. For 3rd, Andreas received the "insect," a foot long preying mantis. Joachim was now sitting on 164 points, to my 76. We agreed to an equitable split of the prize money, with Joachim claiming the title. We then played a 3-point match to see who got the "fish," and who the "bird." I won the match, and got the bird. (Did that come out right?) I am now the proud owner of a 16-inch, 8-pound wooden peacock. I have shipped it on a slow boat FROM China, at a cost greater than that of the statue itself. The Pattaya Cup starts tomorrow. First place receives the "elephant." At these shipping rates, should I be so lucky, I don't know if I can afford to win.