A Lack of Vigilance Can Ruin a Sure Thing
Paul Magriel, 1978
New York Times, February 9, 1978
Las Vegas The Amateur Backgammon Championship recently held in Las Vegas, Nev., drew a record-breaking 652 players, who competed for $360,000 in prizes. No professional players were permitted to play. Suspense heightened in the last rounds of the tournament, as all the final contestants were unknown and untested.

In the finals, Moishe Felberbaum, A Canadian real-estate man, defeated Ronald Rubin of New Jersey to take the grand prize of $180,000 and the Plimpton Cup. Dennis Stone and Simon Naim took third and fourth place, respectively. Quarter finalists were Roland Manolo, Constantin Manukain, Sebastian Taylor, and Tim Kerr.

Special prize-winners: George Sagaran won the “senior citizen’s” prize, and the women’s prize was divided among Barbara Leiff, Louise Steinberg, and Denise Hemingway. Ronald Rubin, in addition to winning second place, won a special prize for the player who advanced the furthest among the early entrants.

Late in the 15-point finals, Felberbaum (Black) was leading 14 to 5. Felberbaum, only one game from winning the title, felt confident of victory when the diagrammed position was reached.

Black to play 5-1.
Rubin (White), facing Black’s solid 5-point home board, already had one man on the bar and three vulnerable blots around the board. When Black rolled at 5-1, he instinctively pounced on two of these blots, playing 13/12*/7* leaving White with three men on the bar.

This careless play very nearly proved costly for Black. White next rolled a perfect number, 2-2, and played bar/2(3), 16/18*, reentering with all three men and using his last 2 to hit Black’s exposed blot on the 18-point. In one roll, the game had miraculously turned around; now Black, with a man on the bar and two more exposed on the 7- and 8-points, was in great jeopardy. Fortunately for Black, he was later saved by several lucky combinations and won the game.

(a) 13/12*/7*
(b) 18/12*
By correctly playing 18/12*, Black could have avoided even remote possibilities of a mishap. With this play, he could hit a second man without any risk whatsoever — even if White now rolled a 2-2.

When the game is all but won, be vigilant and don’t allow your opponent any unnecessary opportunities, no matter how small.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Match to 15
White 5, Black 14
Black owns 2-cube
Black rolls 5-1

20736 games with VR
Checker play: 2-ply
Cube play: 3-ply Red

5-1: Game BG   Equity
1 13/8, 13/12* W
+0.6696 x 
2 13/12*/7* W
+0.6669 (0.0027)  (a)
3 13/12*, 8/3 W
+0.6623 (0.0073) 
4 18/12* W
+0.6593 (0.0103)  (b)

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