Open Home May Be Costly When One Aims for Guests
Paul Magriel, 1979
New York Times, December 16, 1979
Las Vegas The third annual Las Vegas backgammon tournament sponsored by American Backgammon Championships was completed recently. This record-breaking event drew more than 1,000 players competing in three sections for over $400,000 in prize money.

The chief attraction was the World Amateur Championship for the Plimpton Cup, with a first prize of $150,000. It was won by Wayne Araki, a truck driver from Vancouver, British Columbia, participating in his first tournament. In the finals, he defeated Dr. Paul DiBiase, a dentist from Steubenville, Ohio, who collected $90,000 for finishing second. Third place went to Jim Ax and fourth to John Klein.

The Open section, which drew an exceptionally strong field, was won by Alan Martin. Dr. Milton Nathanson, Mike Carson, and Bill Eisenberg finished next in order. In addition, Larry Arnold triumphed over George Stoffmacher to take the well-attended beginner’s section.

The 19-point finals match between Araki and DiBiase was viewed on closed-circuit television by hundreds of the less successful contestants. Araki went ahead early in this hard-fought match, and maintained a narrow lead for 15 games. At the halfway point, the score was 11–10 in his favor, when Araki turned around a key game and surged ahead 17–11.

By playing conservatively, Araki seemed almost certain to score the two additional points he needed for victory. To everyone’s surprise, however, Araki (White) doubled in the next game without a decisive advantage. This mistake in match strategy allowed DiBiase to accept and immediately redouble to 4. DiBiase (Black) now had an undeserved opportunity to get back in contention for the match by winning a single game.

Black to play 5-4.
The diagrammed position occurred later in this game. Black (Dibiase) is waiting back on the 24- and 21-points, hoping that White (Araki) will be forced to leave a man open. White has a dangerous gap on his 21- and 22-points, which will be difficult to eliminate, especially with five men already on the 23-point. Indeed, because of this weakness, White will have trouble bearing in without repeatedly leaving shots.
(a) 6/1, 5/1

Unfortunately, with the roll of 5-4, Black is immediately faced with a dilemma: he is out of time and so must decide whether to abandon the 21-point or to break his home board. In the actual game, Black decided to stay on the 21-point and so played 6/1, 5/1. He feared that if he ran with a single man from the 21-point, White might be able to attack the remaining man and make the 21-point. Black’s judgment was faulty, and his play proved to be a costly error. The subsequent course of the game shows why Black’s play was unacceptable.

White cleared the 17-point safely, took off three men, and then left a shot while clearing the 19-point. Black hit the shot but found that his problems had only begun. Because he had voluntarily broken his 5-point, he had only four points closed in his home board. Far worse, by playing 6/1, 5/1, he had put four men on the 1-point, thereby sending two men out of play forever. As a result, Black was severely handicapped in his attempt to complete his home board. Black tried valiantly to contain White and close him out, but was unsuccessful: White eventually escaped with his last men, and so won the game and the match.

(b) 21/12

The outcome of this game would like have been different if Black had correctly played 21/12. Black needs a closed board to win, and he will soon be in a position to make it. Because White is still likely to leave shots, Black will have excellent winning chances.

Black’s actual play, by permanently destroying his home board, drastically reduces any chances Black has of ever winning, even if he hits a shot. Furthermore, the gain of staying back on the 21-point is only temporary; Black will be squeezed and next turn will probably have to abandon it anyway.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Match to 19
White 17, Black 11
White owns 4-cube
Black rolls 5-4

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

5-4: Game BG   Equity
1 21/12 W
−0.1574 x  (b)
4 6/1, 5/1 W
−0.5620 (0.4046)  (a)

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