BMS : consistent progress at the top.

Recording your matches with a webcam (or otherwise), transcribing them in XG and afterwards studiously analysing your errors, is a very efficient and fun way to get ahead in backgammon. This is demonstrated by the significant progress made by those who invest time and effort in this exercise.

Geert Van der Stricht and Robin Bilderbeek played, recorded and transcribed six 13-point matches over the past month. Here is how they did :

PR Geert (MS 0043 6*15). Geert wins 4-2.

PR Robin (MS 0043 6*15). Robin loses 2-4.

It looks like the days of 5+ PR’s are over for Geert. Nothing more or less than the result of sustained study. The same can be said of Robin, who has taken spectacular steps forward in the past year :

Robin pondering a backgammon position at the recent Gent Open

Geert played another Master Series against Belgium’s star attraction, Marc Van Damme, currently our undisputed number one. They played ten 13-point matches :

PR Geert (MS 0046 10*13). Geert wins 6-4.

PR Marc (MS 0046 10*13). Marc loses 4-6.

Pretty solid stuff by both players. True, the absence of pressure (there is no pecuniary reward at stake) may cause these PR’s to be slightly inflated and thus a bit flattering, but it is my guess that they will not diverge by more than 0,3 PR from both players’ real playing strengths.

I also played a Master Series. I travelled to Dubrovnik (Croatia) and took part in the tournament there. I played two 13-pointers in the Main Flight, four 9-pointers in the Second Chance, and one 5-point match in the Last Chance. I filmed and transcribed all my matches and came up with this PR :

PR Michel (2*13, 4*9, 1*5).

One can always hope for more and better, but all in all that is a satisfying PR for matches played in tournament conditions.

Next challenge on the agenda is the 2nd Xmas Trophy, which will be held on Wednesday 27 December 2017 at the Sandeman Club in Gent. Among the contenders are almost the complete top-10 of the BMS GT and … the winner of the Dubrovnik Open 2017 : Tilman Söhnchen from Berlin (GER). Also attending is the German top player (GM?) Dirk Schiemann.






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Paulus wins Speedgammon event in Dubrovnik!

Paulus (l) with tournament Director Arda and opponent Vincent.

64 players entered the Speedgammon event in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In Speedgammon, players get 2 minutes  thinking time with 10 seconds increment for a 5-point match.

Paulus Van Rooijen (Brugge BC) was able to string 6 victories together, winning the final against Vincent De Nardi (Fr).  A more than noteworthy achievement!


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BMS : Johan Huyck launches Belgium Speedgammon (+ video).

For many years, speedgammon has been a side event in international tournaments. At the 2017 Nordic Open, speedgammon even replaced the traditional Last Chance event. Also in Monte Carlo (the World Championship) and Reykjavik (the European Team Championship), speedgammon proved very popular.

In Reykjavik, Johan Huyck reached the semi-final in speedgammon and made it his mission to introduce this fun but challenging backgammon variation in Belgium.

Johan Huyck, inspiration behind Belgium Speedgammon.

Johan : Speedgammon is exactly the same as backgammon, but with less time on the clock. Instead of 2 minutes per point and 12 seconds increment, players only get 20 seconds per point and 10 seconds increment. So for a 7-point match, each player only gets 2’20” in the time bank instead of 14 minutes. As a consequence, time management becomes of utmost importance.

M : So this means that you have to play backgammon without thinking?

Johan : Well, you certainly cannot spend 30 seconds doing a pip count or something. You have to manage your time well, which means that you have to feel intuitively where you can spend time thinking and where not.

M : So what did you do exactly when you came back from Iceland?

Johan : Well, I was able to convince the BMS Committee to introduce a Speedgammon Grading Table and a separate Speedgammon ELO Ranking. This was implemented on 1 November 2017. The main purpose of this initiative is to see in how far PR’s deviate from PR’s achieved under normal playing conditions.

M : Was anybody interested?

Johan : I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response. 7 players have already taken up the gauntlet and accumulated 422 EP, which is equivalent to about sixty 7-point matches. Geert Van der Stricht and Paul Van Dijke even played a 49-point speedmatch [16 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock], but since the maximum match length is 21, this match could not be validated.

M : And the PR’s?

Johan : It looks like PR’s will deviate from normal PR’s by about 1 to 1,5 PR-point. For the moment Marc Van Damme is the only exception. He managed to play 4,82 PR over 63 EP, which is very close to his acknowledged skill level under normal playing conditions. But all in all it is way too early to draw conclusions.

M : Ok, thank you Johan for this initiative.

Note : The Conditions of Play for Speedgammon are the same as for the BMS Grading Table and can be found by clicking on BMS(BE) in the black banner above.

Also : watch the video below to get an impression of Tuesday evening backgammon action at the Sandeman Club in Gent. The video was made by Robin (‘Rain‘) Bilderbeek :

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4 Cubes 2017 – Leuven II prolongs title

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Serge Alard, with Guy Van Middelem, is 1st of 32 participants at 9th Leuven Open

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BMS : great PR earns Marc Van Damme victory at Brussels BG Day.

Marc Van Damme is the only player in Belgium who currently holds a Master (Class 1) grading (< 4,75 PR). At the most recent Brussels Backgammon Day his performance over ten 5-point matches was almost exactly the same as his ranking on the BMS Grading Table reflects :

PR Marc Van Damme (10 x 5)

Marc was one of 6 players who won 7 matches out of 10. The others are : Akhbar Soltani, Nick De Ruyck, Leonidas Sotiriadis, Dan Pascu, and Serge Alard.

Dan Pascu was close to winning the event convincingly with 8/10, but in his final match he saw the decisive dmp-game slip through his fingers against a hard-battling Leonidas. Bad luck for Dan, as the computer programme awarded the victory to Marc based on the Buchholz criteria.

Marc (middle) with Nick (l) and neutral observer Alain Chif.

The event was a success. Tournament organiser Guy Van Middelem kept a tight rein on proceedings, making sure matches started on time and the playing schedule was respected. The catering was excellent, with croissants in the morning and sandwiches and three kinds of homemade soups for lunch.

BMS-participants were slightly dismayed, however, to find out that only 8 minutes were allotted for a 5-point match, instead of the standard 10 (i.e. 2 minutes per point). This whimsical approach stems from the wish to schedule “more matches”, but comes at the cost of valuable thinking time. 5-pointers are notoriously difficult, since take-points and gammon values are skewed from game 1. It is not like in a longer match, where the opening games have normal take-points (25%) and gammon values (0,5). Have a look at this position, for instance : Marc Van Damme is faced with a difficult cube decision in his match against me :

White redoubles. Can Black take or should he pass?

Let us have a look at the same position “for money” (or : in Unlimited Games):

White redoubles. Can Black take or should he pass?

With three blots floating and faced with a stronger board, Black faces a huge amount of gammons (45%). This results in a clear pass, not just “for Money”, but also at a 0-0 score in a 11-point match. Accepting this cube would be a clear blunder :

However, in a 5-point match, things become very complicated. After the cube is turned, it will have a value of 4 and with the gammon price being only 0,25, the 45% gammons only have a value of 11%, instead of 22% (for Money). Moreover, should Black ever have the chance to recube to 8, the gammon price would become 0 ( = zero) and all White’s gammons would evaporate. Here is the correct cube action ats ( = at the score). Suddenly, not accepting the cube would be a clear blunder :

(!!) Needless to say that this is a fantastic, world-class take by Marc. I think most players, even very good ones, would drop with a sigh of relief, myself included.

This shows that 5-point matches are very difficult from Game 1, especially the cube actions. Marc’s Cube PR (10,24) should illustrate that abundantly. I therefore urge tournament organisers to allow the EUBGF-approved and BMS-conform 2 minutes per point even for shorter match lengths.

To round off : BMS(BE) welcomes 5 new players on the BMS GT. Dan Pascu, Kristoffer De Weert, Leonidas Sotiriadis, Antoine Demey and Serge Alard decided to take advantage of the newly introduced CoP to play their match against Marc under ‘mutual PR agreement’ and thereby gained access to the BMS GT. Antoine Demey managed to do so with a Master (Class 1) result! Thanks for participating, guys.



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BMS : revised Conditions of Play come into effect on 1 November 2017.

In an effort to facilitate participation and make procedures more transparent, BMS(BE) has revised the Conditions of Play ( = CoP). We asked Geert Van der Stricht what the revisions entail :

Geert Van der Stricht, BMS Committee Chairman

Geert :  An important change is the fusion of the BMS Grading Table and the BPR Ranking Table. When the two tables were conceived we expected a significant discrepancy between both tables because of match length. This has turned  out not to be the case. After processing the data of more than 1000 matches the average PR of the 11 players represented on both tables appeared to be less than 0,01 PR.

M : So now there is only 1 tabel?

Geert : Yes, the BMS Grading Table.  A lot of work went into the merging of both tables, but it is done. By the way, another improvement is the change of the rolling EP to 750. This decreases volatility and is more accurate.

M : Anything else?

Geert : Yes, something important.  From 1 November onwards, opponents of BMS-applicants [ = players who film for BMS-validation] will have the option to have their PR’s incorporated in the BMS GT, if they so wish. We call this ‘Mutual PR agreement’. That means that if you are a member who is not yet listed on the BMS GT and you play an official match in a tournament, Four Cubes encounter, or BIC match, against a BMS-applicant, you can  gain a spot on the BMS GT by saying so to your opponent, the BMS applicant. That means that your PR will be mentioned on the GT and you will be considered a BMS participant from then on. This was done to lower the access threshold and allow players who do not film themselves to gain access to the table. There was quite a lot of interest for that

M : Sounds good. More things members need to know?

Geert : Well, because the BPR RT has merged into the BMS GT, all applications for Master Series or other PR matches need from now on be sent to Johan Huyck, and no longer to Walter Meuwis. This can be done by mail ( or even with a text message (0496/644872), no later than 5 minutes before start of the recorded match.

M : Ok, so one table instead of two and one person who processes the data instead of two. That sounds like simplification to me.

Geert : We hope so. We have also added an extensive appendix covering what to do in cases of ‘technical failure’. We needed some rules to guide us in cases where recordings were flawed.

M : Where can people find these revised Conditions of Play?

Geert : By clicking on BMS(BE) in the black banner above.  A printed copy will also be available for perusal at the Brussels Backgammon Day of 1 November 2017 since that is the day when the new CoP come into effect.

M : Ok, thank you, Geert, for the update. Good luck further with BMS(BE)!



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9th Leuven Open, Sun 12 Nov 2017, Heverlee

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BMS : signs of progress at the top.

Four of Belgium’s top-5 players finished another Master Series. With very encourageing results.

Marc Van Damme (2) and Geert Van der Stricht (3) played, recorded and transcribed ten 15-point matches in the course of 2 months. The encounter ended in a 5-5 draw. Here is how they did :

PR Marc Van Damme (10 x 15)

PR Geert Van der Stricht (10 x 15)

Johan Huyck (5) and Michel Lamote (1) chose a slightly less demanding format. They played six 13-point matches of which Michel won 5 and lost 1. Both players managed to do well :

PR Johan Huyck (6 x 13)

PR Michel Lamote (6 x 13)



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EUBTC 2017 : Did Belgium fail?

In Reykjavik last week, the Belgium Backgammon Team played 24 matches to 13 points against 6 other countries : Greece, Norway, France, Sweden, Gibraltar and Turkey. We only won 11 of those. That’s bad, right?

Not quite. Let’s hear what Johan Huyck has to say about this. Johan is a professional math teacher and responsible for data processing in the BMS Committee.

Johan (middle), setting up his recording equipment against Norway.

Johan : We can look back on the tournament with pride. Sadly, Lady Luck was not on our side.

M : Isn’t that an easy way out? Saying the dice were against us?

Johan : No. Let’s look at it objectively : over the 24 matches we played a PR of 5,52, which is very close to the PR of 5,40 that we could expect based on the current BMS rating. Belgium was the best team in every encounter. Only France came close. This means that based on performance, we could, or should, have won every encounter. None of the encounters yielded a fair result.

M : With fair you mean that the team who played best also won?

Johan : Right. Of the 24 matches we played, 20 times the Belgian player played better than his opponent. Still we only won 11 matches. Our performance was also very consistent. Our worst PR in 24 matches was PR 7,89, whereas in 10 ( = ten) matches our opponents played an 8+ PR.

M : I agree. I saw it happening on the boards with my own eyes. You cannot lose a match against a player who plays worse without having some brutal swings against you.

Johan : It is of course not unusual to lose matches against weaker players, but the frequency in Iceland bordered on the bizarre. Have a look at 5 of our losses :

Walter Meuwis (PR 6,87) loses to George Lazaris (PR 11,33)

Marc Van Damme (PR 5,72) loses to Nikos Dikaros (PR 7,98)

Johan Huyck (PR 6,16) loses to Johan Bynell (PR 9,01)

Johan Segers (PR 6,73) loses to Steve Blake (PR 15,32) (!)

Marc Van Damme (PR 3,64) loses to Kasuto Mahir (PR 7,10)

Losing these 5 matches is “very unlucky”, I would say.

M : Sure. Do you think we were among the best teams?

Johan : I think there is a fair chance that only Denmark and Germany performed better as a team than we did. Maybe France also deserved a place in the Final Four. But of Norway I am not so sure.

M : Hm… The UK maybe? And I think you are a bit harsh on Norway. A batch of 52 EP ( = four 13-point matches) is not really big enough to base a final evaluation on, right? And let us not forget that one of their very best players, Elias Kritikos, did not play against us.

Johan : OK, you have a point there. But let’s look at it in another way : if we were to award points based on performance and we agree that 2-2 would be a fair result if PR’s are within 1, we would be expected to have scored 19 victories out of 24. If a draw would be fair with PR’s within 2, we would have scored 18/24 and if we agree on a draw with PR’s within 3, we would still be expected to reach 16,5/24. In short, there is no doubt in my mind that 13 losses and 11 wins is a very unfortunate outcome, especially knowing that 14/24 would always have ensured a ticket for the Final Four.

M : I see. Anything else you want to highlight?

Johan : Well, Marc’s performance was really outstanding of course. His overall PR of 4,28 (!) surely ranks among the 10 best performances of the whole championship.

Marc (middle) before the Belgium v Turkey encounter.

And you did well too, of course, with a PR of 3,25 (3 x 13) on Day 2. Walter also played within his skill window, which is something of a feat if you know that his luggage had stayed behind in Brussels Airport. It is not easy to play well if your mind is burdened by worry. Me and Johan (Segers) feel we could have done better. We played slightly worse than our acknowledged skill level. All in all, I think we did very well as a team and have lots of positive things to take with us to the next EUBTC.

M : Any idea when and where that will be?

Johan : It was decided that Gibraltar will host the 2018 European Backgammon Team Championships in the first weeks of July 2018. We can be sure that the organisation will be excellent, as the organisers are quite experienced. Let’s hope we can send a strong team and play as well as we did in Reykjavik, maybe even a bit better.

M : How can we ensure this?

Johan : By keeping up the study and dedicated practice. And the good spirits. I feel that we stand a fair chance of reaching the Final Four, if we can only be spared some extreme bad luck.

M : I agree, although next year more strong teams may show up because the venue is more attractive. I’m thinking countries like Croatia, Italy, Russia, …

Johan : That’s true. We’ll see…

Ok, let’s conclude with a quote about ‘success’. Sadly, most have something to do with “overcoming failure” and I think it is clear that we did not fail in Iceland. Maybe Pele  sums it up best : “Success is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all love of what you are doing or learning to do”.

Thank you, Johan, for the insights.



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