All Favorites Eliminated in European Tournament
Paul Magriel, 1978
New York Times, July 20, 1978
Monte Carlo The European Backgammon Championships, one of the year’s most outstanding events, was completed in Monte Carlo last weekend. With a total purse of more than $300,000, it attracted about 500 participants, including almost all of the world’s strongest players.

The first two days of play, however, were marked by an unusual number of upsets that eliminated all the pretournament favorites. The final was fought between two lesser-known French players, Richard Desurmont and Dr. Philip Bimes. After a six-hour struggle, Desurmont triumphed 25–23 to take the title.

Additional results: Ianni Zographos and Hugh Sconyers were the unsuccessful semifinalists. Peter Bader took the first consolation, Kumar Motakhasses the second, and Fred Narboni the last-chance competition. Sandy Carleston won the ladies’ prize.

Kumar Motakhasses, winner of the second consolation and one of the world’s top-ranked players, rarely competes in the United States. He is much better known in Europe, where he has won many titles. He is particularly renowned for his skillful checker play, which many consider to be unsurpassed.

Black to play 4-3.
Motakhasses (Black) demonstrated his technical skill in the diagrammed position taken from his quarter final match against another top-ranked player, Tony Goble (White). With the roll of 4-3, Black must safety his exposed man on the 7-point (bar-point) and decide which point to make.
10/7, 10/6

Playing 10/7, 10/6, giving up the 10-point to make the bar-point, is one possibility. However, when the position of White’s two back men is taken into account, this play is seen to be decidedly inferior.

The bar-point is usually one of the key points to own at the beginning of the game because of its blocking potential. But when your opponent has made your 5-point, the bar-point loses much of its value. In fact, the 10-point, which Black already owns, is now the ideal point for restraining White’s back men.

Motakhasses avoided an easily-made technical mistake by correctly playing 7/3, 6/3, making his 3-point. Because the 4-point is superior to the 3-point, many players would move 8/4, 7/4, making the 4-point instead. Several factors indicated to Motakhasses that, in this particular position, the 3-point, not the 4-point, was in fact the “natural” point to make.

4 point: 8/4, 7/4
3 point: 7/3, 6/3
Making the 4-point leaves Black with an unnecessarily awkward distribution. Specifically, it keeps five men piled inefficiently on the 6-point. Making the 3-point is better because it uses one of these men and leaves only four men on the 6-point. Furthermore, making the 3-point leaves Black with a spare man on the 8-point, whereas making the 4-point strips Black of his last builder on this point. Having a spare man on the 8-point also enables Black to play a hit without breaking up his position.

Yet another reason the 3-point is superior to the 4-point is because it forms a more natural formation in conjunction with the 10-point. Holding points exactly six pips apart such as the 4 and 10-points has been found to be inefficient.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
Centered cube
Black rolls 4-3

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

4-3: Game BG   Equity
1 7/3, 6/3 W
−0.1590 x  3 point
2 7/4, 6/2 W
−0.1887 (0.0297) 
3 8/4, 7/4 W
−0.1951 (0.0361)  4 point

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