Forum Archive :
||30 July 2010
||Article from June 2010 Chicago Point by Larry Leibster
This article is from June 2010 Chicago Point by Larry Leibster.
By Larry Liebster
I am an octogenarian.
It has its benefits. In some cities the buses have special seats for
us. The movies let us in for less money. There are senior discounts at
certain stores. It's like they are saying, "We know you are slowing
down and having difficulty moving around, so we will try to make it
easier for you to be here. We appreciate and respect you."
Not so in backgammon these days. The powers that be want to "improve"
our game -- speed it up at any cost. They have introduced clocks and
made them mandatory in a number of divisions including mine.
Clocks change many aspects of backgammon including the handling of
dice. I am used to picking them up to end my turn. I have my own dice
in money games (which I play a lot of), but in clocked matches, one
pair of dice is shared and you end your turn by pushing a button. So I
am required to switch back and forth. You say this is easy to learn and
do? For younger players, maybe. But I've been doing the same thing for
decades, so it is much harder for me.
I have had speedy players request a clock with me, probably to gain an
advantage. Sometimes they complicate their movement of checkers to
distract me and use up time. I do not mean complicated games. I mean
picking both checkers up, holding them, and then positioning and
repositioning them. So now I have to shift my concentration away from
strategy, pip count, and clock use to remember where the checkers
started and see if they were placed correctly.
Clock use fosters abuse like this. I guess as we move up the skill
ladder, we'll all have to accept this if we want to continue to play
I have dined with tournament directors and they all express the same
concern: where are the new players going to come from? In my opinion,
they should be making it easier to play the game, not more complex.
Sir, what's that you say? You don't know what an octogenarian is? Your
mother tongue is different and this is not in your vocabulary? I
commend you for trying to survive in this world, but the powers that be
do not want you. English is the official language of backgammon. They
have limited access to the game for foreigners, and now they're going
after the slower-moving individuals.
In my lifetime, I have seen purification tried before in Nazi Germany.
Their goal was the creation of a blond, blue-eyed master race. To reach
this end, they eliminated those considered to be the negative parts of
their society. Now it's starting in backgammon.
You say, "Why are you making such a fuss?"
At three different tournaments, I have lost matches on time. I have
traveled a long distance and paid substantial money only to be
disqualified. I have had trouble handling the clocks (there are at
least three different types in use, usually requiring a director to set
up), picking up (sometimes dropping) both dice, not hitting the clock,
and just thinking about my moves.
I am doing my best to adjust; but I also wonder about new players
entering the Championship. Will they stay with backgammon, or go to a
game that is more accommodating?
I only have about twenty years left to play, and I want tournaments to
exist until I leave. With clock use expanding, I'm beginning to have my
doubts that the game can draw enough new players to remain viable in
the years to come.
Gregg Cattanach writes:
If I play Larry or any other player with mobility issues, I automatically
will suggest we use a 18-second delay instead of 12, (director permitting,
George Morse writes:
I have two perspectives. First I am old. Second, I have directed well over
100+ tournaments in Texas (20+ years ago).
Age is really not the issue here. Slow players for whatever the reason is
the single biggest problem any tournament has and they come in all ages and
skill levels. Most slow players are in denial. When the TD talks to them,
they will complain about how slow other players are. I have seen expert
players take 15 minutes and more to make cube decisions (and play head
I don't know of any sport that doesn't have a higher standard for their top
competition. Tournaments are for demonstrating skill, and time management
is one of those skills.
I think change is one of the problems. If the top competition had always
been on the clock, no one would complain. Instead they would be practicing,
practicing so they could play with the big dogs. Something as simple as a
pip count can take some people forever if they don't practice.
Back to my age. I am old enough to have played against Oswald Jacoby. I
drop his name because in his 80's he stopped playing in our local
tournaments because he couldn't tolerate sitting while playing slow
While I know players that are older, better, and faster than me, I know
more players that younger and slower than me. Clearly clocks need to be
available for the tournament director, but I also believe the TD should be
able to make exceptions on a case by case basis, but age alone shouldn't be
Jason Lee writes:
I have a peeve about Larry Liebster. Nice guy, but he plays way too slowly.
This doesn't have to do with physical limitations. He is a SLOW player.
Marv Porten writes:
Let me start out by saying that I've played a few matches against Larry and
he's a wonderful person. If tournament directors and/or his opponents are
unable or unwilling to make accommodations for him, perhaps the following
suggestion is a workable compromise solution: Larry, play in the
intermediate division where, so far, clocks aren't used.
We all slow down when we age, and there comes a time when we must recognize
that we can't play our sport or game anymore at the higher level. If the
choice is between not playing in any tournament or playing as an
intermediate, then play as an intermediate and win a few tournaments!
Paul Weaver writes:
Larry (Lobster on GridGammon) is well liked by everyone. He is always
friendly and pleasant. I hope we will continue to see him on the backgammon
scene for a long time to come.
In Sante Fe in January 2010, a first-round 11 pm match between Larry and Ed
O'Laughlin (played without a clock) lasted three hours. As a result of this
one long match, the tournament became a nightmare for Neil Kazaross, myself
and possibly others. Neil and I finished playing our match at 12:45 am. I
had to play John O'Hagan at 10 am and it was a frustrating experience for
me not be able to play my best game because of lack of rest.
At another tournament this year, my Saturday schedule did not end until
2:15 am Sunday when my match with Linda Rockwell was completed. Linda was
not the problem. The problem was other slow matches earlier in the day
played without a clock. I had a three-hour wait from 8:15 to 11:15 pm.
The nightmare problems created by directors who falsely believe they can
run a decent tournament without using clocks on every match are much
greater than the problems described by Lobster of using clocks in his
I hope Larry can understand that we have a very good reason for using
clocks. Many directors have tried it without clocks and it just does not
The directors on other continents figured out years ago that clocks are
necessary. Some American directors have also learned this lesson.
Unfortunately, some American directors who have been running tournament for
decades have not.
We want to accommodate Lobster, but not at the expense of forcing people to
play until 1 am or 2 am or later Sunday morning.
Matt Cohn-Geier writes:
I have a BG Pet Peeve: unclocked tournament matches.
Have you ever played a 5-hour match in a 90 degree room with no air
conditioning and no clock? No? I have! When my opponent won the opening
roll (62) at DMP he felt it was appropriate to think about how to play it
for 40 seconds. Unfortunately, I had left my knife in my hotel room. In
retrospect, it would have been faster to get the knife.
These long matches turn into a huge bracketing nightmare when the
tournament has more matches to play. The only tournament I've seen with a
relaxed enough schedule where it didn't make a huge difference is Monte
Several times I have played in finals matches (against both 'slow' players
and 'fast' players) where my opponent has asked not to use a clock because
it's the finals. We don't hold up any more matches, but this invariably
means that we are going to play a 3+-hour match. Fun times for all.
Another thing that's great fun: unclocked doubles matches! I know it's DMP,
but excuse me for the next minute while I take a pip count and then figure
out how I will play all of the upcoming 36 rolls, which, of course, we
won't actually play that way without first arguing about it for 2 minutes
and finally flipping a coin to make the decision.
Also, recorders provide a great service, and I want to express my
appreciation for recording others' (or even your own) matches. No offense
is intended, but if you can't record a match on a clock, please don't
I hope I never have to play an unclocked tournament match again. Also, I'll
never leave my knife in my hotel room again.
Bill Riles writes:
I recorded an important match of mine about a year ago in which my opponent
ultimately got into time trouble. I won the match; however, he had to play
the last 2-3 games effectively on the delay and, doubtlessly, this might
have affected his play.
He complained later that he is a fast player, etc., the settings are too
Well, he does play relatively quickly. But I reviewed the videotape fairly
closely while entering into Snowie, at the time. He had a very precise
sequence of quirks with each roll. When I hit the clock he picked up the
dice, fondled them in one hand while checking his scorecard (every time),
finally put them in the cup, shook them 23 times (every time), and rolled.
God forbid when he cocked them.
Almost without exception, he exhausted the delay before rolling, then made
his play comparatively quickly.
The match was something like 22 games and 720 moves. I pointed out to him
if he wastes 2 seconds in each of his approx. 360 moves then 12 minutes
have elapsed. And, surprise, at the end of the match I had about 12 minutes
and he had about 5 seconds.
- Adjusting to face-to-face play (Paul Epstein+, Feb 2006)
- Adjusting to face-to-face play (Daniel Murphy, June 1999)
- Avoiding disputes (Kit Woolsey+, Oct 2007)
- Baffle box to roll dice (Ken Bame, Mar 2012)
- Calcutta auctions (David Moeser, Nov 2001)
- Calcutta auctions (Roland Scheicher+, Dec 1998)
- Calcutta auctions (Anthony R Wuersch, Oct 1994)
- Calcutta problems (Marty Storer, Dec 2002)
- Clock ethics (Patrick Gibson+, Mar 2009)
- Clock rules--Digital clocks (Chuck Bower+, Oct 2003)
- Clock rules--End of turn (Carlo Melzi+, July 2001)
- Clock rules--How do they work? (Gregg Cattanach, Oct 2002)
- Clock rules--Illegal move (Brendan Burgess+, Feb 2000)
- Clock rules--Why forfeit instead of penalty points? (neilkaz, Sept 2010)
- Clocks and older players (Stick+, July 2010)
- Clocks--Arguments against them (Timothy Chow, Jan 2011)
- Clocks--Common arguments against (Chuck Bower, Feb 2006)
- Clocks--Losing on time (Jason Lee+, Mar 2004)
- Clocks--Pros and cons (Michael Strato+, Jan 2004)
- Clocks--Should they be part of the game? (Kit Woolsey, June 1995)
- Clocks--Why use them (Stick, Jan 2011)
- Compensating for byes (Hank Youngerman+, Dec 1998)
- Factors that affect attendance (Stick, Oct 2009)
- "Fighter's bracket" (Chuck Bower+, Sept 2010)
- First backgammon tournament (Mislav Radica+, May 2007)
- First backgammon tournament (Ed Collins+, Dec 2006)
- Hedging (Jason Lee+, Apr 2009)
- Hedging (Marv Porten+, Feb 2009)
- Hedging (Tad Bright+, Jan 2003)
- Hitting clock instead of rolling (Bob Glass+, Mar 2010)
- Keeping score during a match (Gregg Cattanach, June 2007)
- Links to tournament rules (Daniel Murphy, Oct 2009)
- Major tournament attendance 1998-2008 (Daniel Murphy, July 2008)
- Making notes during play (Randy Pals+, Aug 2008)
- Manually recording a match (Kevin P+, Apr 2007)
- Manually recording a match (gammonus+, Feb 2006)
- Manually recording a match (Daniel Murphy, Aug 1999)
- New U.S. Rules (Gregg Cattanach+, Dec 2007)
- Newbie questions (Donald Kahn, Oct 1999)
- Playing at Monte Carlo (Achim, July 2007)
- Playing-off 3 remaining players (Gregg Cattanach+, Apr 2007)
- Recording matches (Robert Maier, May 2009)
- Recording matches (Chuck Bower+, Sept 2003)
- Recording matches (Sean Dakin+, Aug 1999)
- Round robins (Hank Youngerman, Nov 2001)
- Rules for doubles play (with a partner) (steve+, May 2012)
- Seeding (Roland Scheicher+, Dec 1998)
- Skill level (Kirk J. Rupnik+, Nov 1998)
- Skill levels (Leonardo Jerkovic, Aug 2012)
- "Stop pots" (Chuck Bower+, Sept 2010)
- Swiss format (Osman Guner+, May 2001)
- Swiss format (Osman Guner, Oct 1998)
- Swiss format (Hank Youngerman+, Mar 1998)
- Tournament formats (MikeMadMonk+, May 2003)
- Tournament rules (Daniel Murphy, Apr 2001)
- Tournament rules links (Daniel Murphy, Oct 2009)
- Types of events (Daniel Murphy, Nov 1997)
- Uniform rules and procedures? (Michael Crane+, Mar 2003)
- Variable side pools (Art Grater+, July 2011)
- Vegas trip report (fall 2004) (Gregg Cattanach, Nov 2004)
- Vegas trip report (spring 2005) (Gregg Cattanach, May 2005)
- Videotaping matches (André Nicoulin+, Nov 2000)
- What is a "Monrad format"? (Daniel Murphy, Sept 2000)
- What is a "side pool"? (Daniel Murphy, Nov 1997)