A Case of Overconfidence Leading to Fatal Overkill
Paul Magriel, 1979
New York Times, February 1, 1979
Miami The first Turnberry Isle Gold Cup of Backgammon, under the direction of Lewis Deyong, took place last weekend in Miami. The total prize pool of more than $100,000, including $7,500 added by Don Soffer’s Turnberry Isle, attracted a strong international field that included several dozen of Europe’s best.

First place went to Jim Pasko of New Jersey, who disappointed the local spectators by defeating Ed Green of Miami, 25–20. Green, a 19-year-old student, was still pleased to be runner-up in his first international-level competition. The losing semifinalists were Katie Wright, who took the ladies prize, and Michael Corbett.

The first consolation was a hard-fought contest between two top-ranked players, Jason Lester and Gino Scalamandre — both known for their predilection for complicated positions. Lester, the recent winner of the American Backgammon Championships’ Professional Tournament, emerged with a 21–12 victory. In the second consolation, Steve Zolotow defeated Lee Genud and Mike Carson won the last chance by beating Reynold Wacht. Ronald Glantz took the intermediate division and Dale Kalleher the beginners’.

In an early round of play, one competitor (Black) lost a key game and, as a result, the match, because he momentarily lost sight of his strategic objectives. In the diagrammed position, Black has already doubled and reached a favorable position: Not only is he well ahead in the race, but White still has two men deep within his home board.

Black to play 1-1.
Black, already confident of victory, was pleased when he rolled 1-1, obviously an excellent throw. Lulled by overconfidence, he did not stop to critically analyze the most assured winning procedure. Instead, he quickly played 4/3(2), 9/8(2), making both his 3-point and his 8-point. With this play, Black created a full 6-point prime — that is, owning six points in a row, from the 3-point to the 8-point.
(a) 4/3(2), 9/8(2)

This prime creates an impassable barrier for White’s back men. In this position, however, White has no desire to escape from Black’s home board. Because he is so far behind in the race, his only chance now is to stay back on the 2-point with the hope of getting a shot at Black. Accordingly, Black has no reason to contain White, his only concern is to come home safely and avoid an “accident.”

(b) 4/3(2), 6/4
The correct and safest play is 4/3(2), 6/4. Black should avoid making the 8-point, which he will only have to try to get rid of next roll. Indeed, the 8-point is a liability because each extra point (within direct range of White) that Black has to “clear” increases the danger of coming home. In the actual game, Black immediately ran into trouble. He next rolled a 6-5, which forced him to play 7/1, 6/1, leaving a man exposed on the 7-point. White rolled a 5, hit Black, and went on to win.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
White owns 2-cube
Black rolls 1-1

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

1-1: Game BG   Equity
1 7/6(2), 4/3(2) W
+0.7933 x 
2 6/3, 4/3 W
+0.7449 (0.0484)  (b)
3 9/7, 4/3(2) W
+0.6563 (0.1370) 
4 9/8(2), 4/3(2) W
+0.6488 (0.1445)  (a)

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