Summer's the Season for Play in Europe
Paul Magriel, 1978
New York Times, July 13, 1978
Crockfords Summer is the season for backgammon in Europe, with major international tournaments being held back-to-back through June and July. This year, Crockford’s summer backgammon championships and Curzon House tournament in London will be followed by the European championships in Monte Carlo.

Former European champion Joe Dwek won at Crockford’s last week by beating Charlie Witz of Chicago in the finals. In the semifinals, Dwek defeated Gino Scalamandre, also a top-ranked competitor. In other results at Crockford’s, Hermes Michaledes won the first consolation and Peter Gold took the second consolation.

The diagrammed position occurred during a key game early in the 21-point finals match, with Dwek (White) leading 8–6. Earlier in the game, Witz (Black) had doubled and then been redoubled, so he now owned the cube at the 4 level.

Black to play 5-2.
At this point he was reduced to sitting passively on the 24-point, hoping for a shot in the bearoff. Witz realized that he was in a highly unfavorable situation — the more so since the cube was at the four level and the gammon (double game) was a strong possibility. Losing a gammon for eight points would put him behind 16–6, a virtually insurmountable lead against a player of Dwek’s ability. To avoid this possibility, he decided to put all his efforts into getting his men home as quickly as possible.
(a) 11/6, 8/6

When attempting to save the gammon, the standard procedure is to move your men into your home board as efficiently as possible. This can be done by bringing men exactly onto the 6-point. Moving men deeper into the home board wastes pips which should be used in the outfield instead. With this in mind, Black played 11/6, 8/6, stacking two more men on the 6-point.

Unfortunately, Witz’s strategic evaluation of the position was faulty. With nine men still outside, Black had, in reality, little chance of saving the gammon simply by running home. Black should resign himself to being gammoned unless he gets a hit, and play accordingly.

(b) 9/4, 6/4

The correct play is 9/4, 6/4, strengthening Black’s home board. Black must prepare to contain White in case he is able to hit him later on. In the actual game Black did indeed get a shot and sent White back. Unfortunately White was able to escape because Black’s home board was still weak. In fact, despite the hit, Black narrowly averted being gammoned — the one outcome he mistakenly tried to avoid.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Match to 21
White 8, Black 6
Black owns 4-cube
Black rolls 5-2

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

5-2: Game BG   Equity
1 9/4, 6/4 W
−0.8287 x  (b)
2 17/12, 6/4 W
−0.8306 (0.0019) 
3 13/8, 6/4 W
−0.8424 (0.0137) 
15 11/6, 8/6 W
−0.9317 (0.1030)  (a)

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