End It with Dispatch Safely, Celebrate Victory, Go Home
Paul Magriel, 1979
New York Times, March 1, 1979
James and Mary Zita Jacoby
James and Mary Zita Jacoby
FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth Opera Guild held its sixth annual backgammon tournament last weekend. At the end of the first day’s play an unusual result was observed: Three of the eight remaining undefeated players belonged to the same family. Oswald and Mary Zita Jacoby, who soon will observe their 47th wedding anniversary, and their son, James, are all noted for their exceptional games-playing abilities.

The next day Oswald Jacoby, a former backgammon world champion, and Mary Zita Jacoby, one of the better woman players, won their respective quarter-final matches and found themselves paired against each other in the semifinals. The match was a close and hard-fought contest. Mary Zita rallied from far behind to win at double match point.

Tom Weaver, a West Coast expert now living in Houston, earned first place by defeating Mary Zita Jacoby in the finals. Dan Keenan triumphed over Brice Evans to take the intermediate, and Phil Burleson won the beginners.

The diagrammed position is taken from the 15-point finals match with Weaver (Black) leading Jacoby (White), 14 to 9. Black has already borne off four men and his only concern now is to avoid being hit.

Black to play 3-1.
With the roll of 3-1, the obvious move for Black is 3/off, 3/2. Although this move is temporarily safe, the resulting position leaves much to be desired. On the immediate next roll, Black will be forced to give a shot more than one half the time (20 chances out of 36). Furthermore, one third of the time (12 chances out of 36), Black will be obliged to give a double direct shot.

Weaver discovered a daring alternative. The correct play is 5/2/1*, hitting loose (unprotected) on the 1-point. Black seeks to avoid later difficulties by voluntarily yielding White an immediate single direct shot. White is given the chance to reenter from the bar with a 1 to hit back and win the game. If White misses, however, he may be forced to reenter instead on the 4-point or 6-point. By driving White off the 1-point, Black will now be in excellent condition to complete his bearoff with little or no danger.

Safe: 3/off, 3/2
Daring: 5/2/1*
The obvious “safe” play merely postpones the danger. If White is allowed to stay on the 1-point, it is extremely likely that Black will have to leave at least one shot later on. By forcing the issue immediately, Black greatly reduces the chance of leaving double shots and repeating shots.

Note that it is important for Black to play 5/2/1*, hitting only one man, instead of 5/4*/1*, hitting both White’s blots. Black wants White to reenter at once. Hitting the extra man increases the danger of White’s staying out and then getting an additional shot.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Match to 15
White 9, Black 14
Black rolls 3-1

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

3-1: Game BG   Equity
1 3/2, 3/off W
+0.4082 x  Safe
2 5/1* W
+0.3752 (0.0330)  Daring
3 5/4*/1* W
+0.3186 (0.0896) 

Previous Column
February 22, 1979
Next Column
March 8, 1979

Main page for Magriel's NYT Columns

Index to the Columns

More articles by Paul Magriel

Backgammon Galore : Articles