He Who Hesitates May Lose Gammon
Paul Magriel, 1977
New York Times, December 8, 1977
Michael Maxakuli
Michael Maxakuli
The first annual Bill Eisenberg Cup was held last weekend at the Cavendish West Club in Los Angeles. Bill Eisenberg, a top West Coast player, was 1975 world champion of backgammon. Nevertheless, he is probably better known for skill in another game, bridge; four times he has been a member of a world championship team.

The tournament, which drew a strong field of 128 players, was won by Gaby Horowitz, who teaches backgammon in the Los Angeles area. He triumphed over Michael Maxakuli, president of the Las Vegas Backgammon Club, in the finals. Chuck Papazian of San Francisco defeated Bill Bartholomay of Chicago to win the consolation flight.

The diagrammed position occurred in the 25-point finals with Maxakuli (Black) trailing Horowitz (White) 24 to 16. With Horowitz only one point away from victory, the Crawford Rule, preventing doubling, was in effect.

Black to play 4-2.
Black, with a 4-2 to play, is in a favorable position: Black is well ahead in the race and is tactically superior because of his strong home board. The obvious play for Black is 6/2, 6/4, covering the blot on his 2-point and moving the 2 safely inside his home board.

Instead of playing safe, Black (Maxakuli) made a better play, 6/2, 15/13. This play leaves Black with a single man on his 15-point, exposed to a direct shot. Black had good reason to relinquish the 15-point immediately. To see why, it is necessary to look ahead a few rolls and anticipate the game’s likely development.

(a) 6/2, 6/4
(b) 6/2, 15/13
For Black to utilize his lead in the race he must bring home his men in White’s outfield. Because Black has insufficient points in his own outfield on which to land, the only way he can hope to come home without leaving shots is to roll doubles. However, if Black delays breaking the 15-point and waits for doubles he actually increases his jeopardy. Every roll he waits, White’s home board will grow stronger. In the likely event that Black will be forced to leave a shot later, White will be much better prepared to hit.

By breaking his 15-point immediately, Black takes his chances before White is properly prepared. White’s home board is now extremely weak. If White hits, his game will be disorganized and highly vulnerable. Indeed, White cannot afford a tactical confrontation until he first strengthens his position.

Maxakuli’s steep play helped him win this game (in fact, a gammon), and so keep alive his hopes of winning the match. He scored two more points next game, but then his comeback attempt ended. The final match score was Horowitz 25 to Maxakuli’s 20.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Match to 25
White 24, Black 16
Black rolls 4-2

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

4-2: Game BG   Equity
1 15/13, 6/2 W
+0.5324 x  (b)
2 6/4, 6/2 W
+0.4668 (0.0656)  (a)

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