Boldness in a Pinch Pays Off — At Times
Paul Magriel, 1978
New York Times, January 19, 1978
Backgammon The 1978 World Championship of Backgammon, sponsored by Phillip Morris International, was held at Paradise Island in Nassau, Jan. 10–15. This annual backgammon event attracted the world’s best active players, including a large and strong European contingent. Under the supervision of Lewis Deyong, tournament director, more than 400 players competed for better than $200,000 in prizes.

Results in the championship division were: Paul Magriel defeated Kal Robinson in the finals; semifinalists were Kent Goulding and Allan Hodis. Al Tesoro won the first consolation, Steve Norton the second, and Kit Woolsey took the last chance. Pary Elghanian won the Ladies Prize.

J. Morse defeated Paula Rubin in the intermediate section, and Iran Rad-Bachari won the beginner’s section.

The diagrammed position is taken from the 25-point finals match between Robinson (Black) and Magriel (White). Robinson had suffered several unfortunate reversals at the beginning of the match and had fallen behind, 18 to 4. With such a substantial deficit, he correctly decided to make an all-out bid for a comeback. He gave Magriel a speculative redouble to 8, and a few rolls later this key position was reached.

Black to play 6-3.
Black, with three men back, is substantially behind in the race, even though White has been hit and still has a man on the bar. In order to win, Black must prevent this last opposing man from reentering and coming home safely. Black can stop this man only by making his own 5-point to complete a prime. The common way to do this is to bring spare men into one’s outer board and wait to roll the right combination.
(a) 11/5, 13/10

Instead, when Robinson rolled a 6-3, he decided to play 11/5, 13/10, boldly slotting the 5-point (leaving a single man there). In so doing, he attempted to make the point directly, without waiting to get builders into position. This play may seem unduly risky, but Robinson realized that by waiting he might incur even greater risk: Without slotting, it would take him much longer to make the point, and the danger that White would come in and out — and escape — would accumulate.

Unfortunately, the same bold playing style that took Robinson through seven rounds to the finals now backfired. White rolled a 5-6, reentering with a hit on the 5-point and escaping. White easily won this game to take the match.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Match to 25
White 18, Black 4
White owns 8-cube
Black rolls 6-3

1296 games with VR
Checker play: 2-ply
Cube play: 3-ply Red

6-3: Game BG   Equity
1 23/17, 13/10 W
+0.5344 x 
2 23/14 W
+0.4793 (0.0551) 
3 23/17, 11/8 W
+0.3575 (0.1769) 
4 13/10, 11/5 W
+0.3136 (0.2208)  (a)

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