Of Boldness, Vulnerability . . . and the Caprice of the Dice
Paul Magriel, 1980
New York Times, February 17, 1980
Hotel George V Rarely in backgammon has a major title been won by the same player two years in succession. Last weekend, Nihat Erdeniz repeated his 1979 performance by winning the 1980 French championship at the Hotel George V in Paris. This event is the first of a series of five tournaments to determine the overall 1980 Merit European champion. The player amassing the most points at the end of the five individual competitions will be awarded this title.

Erdeniz, a Turkish player living in Zurich, defeated Mai de Alfarez of Madrid in the finals. Marcel Baquich overcame George Sulimirski in the consolation, and Reginald Tannen won the last chance competition. In the intermediate division, Demetri Kourdoulou beat Gerd Brauneder for first place.

The diagrammed position shows a critical situation that occurred with Erdeniz (Black) leading Mrs. Alfarez (White) 5–3 in the 21-point finals match. Earlier in the game, Erdeniz had accepted a double, gained the advantage, and then redoubled to the 4 level. Each player now has two men back in the other’s home board. If there is no further contact, the resulting race is likely to be close.

Black to play 5-3.
With the roll of 5-3, Black must move off the 21-point into White’s outfield. In order to avoid any possibility of being hit next turn, the obvious play is 21/18, 21/16, coming out with both back men. Instead, Erdeniz played 21/13, running one man all the way to the mid-point (13-point).
(a) 21/18, 21/16

A remarkable sequence of rolls followed. White threw 6-5 (2 chances out of 36), the only combination enabling him to play 2/13*, hitting Black’s exposed man on the mid-point. With this lucky roll White had seemingly won the game.

Erdeniz, however, then came back with an even more fortunate roll, 4-4 (1 chance in 36). He played bar/21/13*, 21/17, not only reentering White’s home board but hitting White on the 13-point. White stayed out and Black won the game uneventfully. This gave Black a 9–3 lead in the match from which White was never able to recover.

After the match, some of the spectators questioned the wisdom of Erdeniz’s play, 21/13, leaving himself vulnerable to 6-5. In fact, this play is far better than the safer alternative, 21/18, 21/16.

(b) 21/13

In positions such as this, when neither player has any men in the outfield, it is vital to establish a presence there before your opponent. By moving to the 13-point, Black exerts direct control over his entire outer board. White now is unable to move out to Black’s 7-point or 8-point without leaving a costly direct shot.

Furthermore, because White has no spare men to play with, White may be unable to avoid immediately moving off Black’s 2-point. By contrast 21/18, 21/16 reduces Black’s coverage of his 7-, 8-, and 9-points and so allows White to come out and reach approximate equality.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Match to 21
White 5, Black 3
White owns 4-cube
Black rolls 5-3

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

5-3: Game BG   Equity
1 21/18, 21/16 W
+0.1235 x  (a)
2 21/13 W
+0.0437 (0.0798)  (b)

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