In Bear-Off, as in Any Race, Speed Is Factor for Victory
Paul Magriel, 1978
New York Times, December 14, 1978
Las Vegas LAS VEGAS — The second Las Vegas backgammon tournament sponsored by American Backgammon Championships was completed here last weekend. This record-breaking event drew more than 700 players competing in three sections for $400,000 in prize money. The amateur section was won by David Leibowitz, who defeated Jack Barney in the finals. Third place went to Mike Campbell and fourth to J. Bysinski.

The open section, which drew many of the world’s finest players, was won by 20-year-old Jason Lester. Wayne McClintock, Dennis Carlston, and Mike Carson finished next in order.

The Super-16 invitational tournament was won by the former world champion Oswald Jacoby, who defeated Kyle Larsen in the finals. Jason Lester and Marie Reynolds were the losing semifinalists.

Several hundred players watched the Sunday finals of the amateur event on closed-circuit television. Two Californians, David Leibowitz and Jack Barney, were competing for the second annual Plimpton Cup as well as the $130,000 first prize. Leibowitz (White) jumped off to an early 9–1 lead in this 21-point match. The momentum, however, changed, and Barney (Black) played well to reduce his deficit to only 2 points, 13–11. A critical point in the match came in the diagrammed position in the next game.

Black to play 1-1.
Black unwisely played 11/9(2), switching from the 11-point to the 9-point, and so preparing to bring his farthest-back men into his home board. Because White still had two men on the 7-point, far away from his own home board, Black imagined he had the advantage in the race. Therefore Black prepared to bring his remaining men into his home board in order to begin his bearoff before White.

Black’s evaluation was faulty. He failed to take into account White’s fast home board. Because White’s home men are concentrated on his lower points, White will be able to bear off more quickly than Black after he brings his remaining two men home.

The correct play is 5/2, 3/2, making the 2-point.

(a) 11/9(2)
(b) 5/2, 3/2
With this play, Black stays back on the 11-point in order to prevent White from running safely off the 7-point. By delaying White and so forcing him to waste pips in his home board, Black’s racing chances are improved. Furthermore, Black may win without racing: White will soon be forced to leave the 7-point and possibility give Black a direct shot for the game.

Black’s unfortunate misevaluation of his racing potential led him to compound his original error. White next rolled a 5-2 and stayed on the 7-point. Black then gave a premature double, which White readily accepted. White rolled well and only two turns later redoubled Black. Black again misjudged his chances in the race, unwisely accepted, and lost 4 points. He was unable to overcome the resulting 17–11 disadvantage and so eventually lost, 21–15.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Match to 21
White 13, Black 11
Centered cube
Black rolls 1-1

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

1-1: Game BG   Equity
1 5/2, 3/2 W
+0.0036 x  (b)

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