BMS : Marc Van Damme dips below 5 on BMS Grading Table.

In the more rarefied regions of Belgian backgammon, persistent efforts are being made to notch up the level of play. Marc Van Damme and Geert Van der Stricht, the current numbers 1 and 2 in the BMS realm, scored ringing PR’s in their respective Master Series.

Marc played eight 11-point matches against top-5 player Johan Huyck :

PR Marc (wins 5-3)

This strong performance was sufficient for Marc to break the symbolic 5-PR barrier and comfortably land on 4,94 on the Grading Table. With an EP of 173 behind his name, Marc has now achieved official Master Class 2 status.

Geert, in full preparation for the 2017 World Championship to be held in Monte Carlo (1-6 August), confidently equalled Marc’s performance in a tough 6 x 17 Master Series (also against Johan Huyck) :

PR Geert (wins 5-1)

Geert is now only a breath away from below-5 status. His current PR on the BMS Grading Table is 5,06.

The opponent of both players was Johan Huyck, trailing the two pack leaders by about 1 PR (currently 6,02 on the BMS GT).  Against Marc (8 x 11) Johan let things slip a little,

PR Johan (loses 3-5)

but he did better against Geert (6 x 17) :

PR Johan (loses 1-5)

Johan is showing great tenacity in his efforts to raise his game and his sustained diligence should soon bear fruit.


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BMS : Guy and Alain show signs of progress in Master Series (8 x 9).

If you play a pre-designated number of medium-length matches, say eight matches to 9 points, you can be pretty sure that your overall PR will give a reliable idea of your true playing strength. That is, if you make an honest attempt to play your best game.

This is what Alain Chif and Guy Van Middelem did over the past month. Both are seasoned bridge players with a subsidiary intrest in backgammon. They play frequently, go through their matches to learn from their mistakes, struggle through  the occasional backgammon book, etc. In short, they are competitve players with a keen intrest to improve their level of play.

Guy Van Middelem

Alain Chif

Here is how they did :

PR Guy  (wins 5-3)

PR Alain (loses 3-5)

These performances will certainly earn both players appreciative nods in the BMS community. Both Guy and Alain scored PR’s below-7 in five of the 8 matches, which is great. Guy even played 2 matches below-4 (!).

Unfortunately, these heartening PR’s are polluted by some disturbing slip ups. In this demanding and mentally challenging format, consistency is key. You  cannot allow a couple of PR’s of 10-plus to mar your overall result.  Sure, backgammon matches can have widely varying levels of difficulty, but PR discrepancies of 6 or more (i.e. the difference between PR 4 and PR 10) do not occur in the Master category, where performances are significantly more solid.

In this Master Series, Guy and Alain have displayed unmistakable signs of expertise. If both players put their mind to it, they could lift their game to Expert level ( PR < 7,50) in a matter of months. Progress, however, is not like manna. It does not miraculously appear out of nowhere. Continued study and dedicated practice are vital ingredients of a backgammon player’s regimen, without which no steps forward can possibly be made.





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Reykjavik hosts 2017 European Backgammon Team Championship.

  • intends to send ambitious team.

In  Budapest (2015) and Helsingor (2016) Belgium competed with grit and determination. In both campaigns the qualification for the Final Four was missed by the smallest margin.

Belgium’s Best in Helsingor (left to right : Maurits, Walter, Johan Huyck, Johan Segers, Geert and Alain. Bottom : Michel.

This year the EUBTC will take place in the capital city of Iceland, Reykjavik (5-6 October 2017).  This team event is prestigious because it reflects the current standard of a country’s backgammon community. Achievements in previous European Team Championships  have earned Belgium a good reputation (prestige). This is what is at stake in Reykjavik.  Therefore, hopes to be represented once again by a motivated and competitive team (4-7 players) :  Belgium’s Best.

  • Selection criteria.

Selection of players will be based predominantly on empirical data, i.e. conglomerate PR’s as reflected in both the BMS GT (Grading Table) and the BPR RT (Ranking Table).

Since (a) skill in backgammon dominates as match length increases and (b) the BMS GT reflects PR’s obtained in longer matches, a higher weight will be given to BMS gradings than to BPR gradings.

In the case that Candidate Players have no official BMS or BPR grading, selection may be considered based on data available in the BMS(BE) archive.

Should the difference between two players be too close to call (0,15 PR), factors like international experience with longer matches will be taken into account.

  • Selection procedure.

Candidacies must be submitted by e-mail ( at the latest on 30  June  2017.

Candidate players should :

a) be member

b) have the Belgian nationality or be bona fide resident in Belgium

c) demonstrably play at Advanced level or better

d) have an official BMS or BPR grading  or be BIC player.

A first list of Candidate Players will be published on the website on 15 July 2017.

On 22-23 July 2017  a BMS tournament will be played to ensure Candidate Players an ultimate opportunity to improve their BMS grading. This tournament will be played in Brugge and will consist of six 13-point matches.

The final selection for Reykjavik 2017 will be made once the performances (PR’s) in this event have been incorporated in the BMS GT.



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Bert wins 12th Gent Open.

Seven victories in a row guaranteed success for Bert Van Kerckhove at this year’s Gent Open. This is quite a feat since Bert organised the event and had to take care of all kinds of practicalities in between and during matches :

Bert (l) stoically shuffling checkers. Wife and son in full admiration. Maurits Pino (r) undergoing the onslaught.

As always, the event was held at the Sandeman Club in Gent. Amid the medieval brickwork, 25 players signed up to play seven 7-point matches with only 12 minutes on the clock :

The playing area at the Sandeman Club.


Kristoffer De Weert in deep thought

When the dust settled, Bert was the last man standing with 7/7.  Closest on his heels was Johan Huyck (6/7).  Marc Van Damme, Paulus Van Rooijen and Ronny Conaert scored 5/7 :

Johan Huyck (l) congratulating Bert (r)

This edition of the Gent Open was a success. Sandwiches kept coming all day through and quite a lot of players stayed on till long after the prize giving ceremony discussing the future of Belgian backgammon, the bad luck they suffered, the merits of Leffe blond, and plenty of other banalities.

In short, it was a fine backgammon tournament.



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4 Cubes 2017 — Round 2

Results of Round 2 of the 4 Cubes 2017, played in April:

Brussels vs Leuven I : 9-3
Gent vs Brugge : 7-5
Leuven II : Bye

For detailed results and standings, please check the tournament book (link in the menu).

Round 3

Round 3 will take place in June : Leuven II vs Brussels and Gent vs Leuven I.

The four team captains are kindly asked to fix the dates and the line-ups are quickly as possible.

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BMS : milestone performance by Walter at Nordic Open.

The Nordic Open attracted about 270 players who competed in 3 divisions. 95 of  them appeared in the Advanced Flight. If there is one tournament Walter Meuwis (current 5,67 PR) desperately likes to win, it is this one.

After winning three 15-point matches in the Main Flight, Walter lost. In the Fighters bracket, however, Walter won three hard-fought 9-point matches in a row before losing to the Danish champion (!) Lars Nielsen, a player one would expect in the Champions Division. This defeat beat Walter up hard but he can find solace in what follows.

Walter’s matches on YouTube

Walter filmed all his matches. I recommend all members to click on one of the YouTube links below to witness one of Belgium’s best players compete in high-pressure surroundings.

Performance rating

Walter also transcribed his matches. Here is how he did :

Stunning! For some reason (determination, focus) Walter played at stellar level. His checker play (3,73 PR) proves accuracy and consideration, and his cube actions (7,37 PR) have a remarkably high level of timing and efficiency.

It looks like only the fewest of Belgium’s top players can realistically hope to better this MS2 result (Master Series Type 2. See: Conditions of Play) in the near future.

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Nordic Open 2017

Tournament website (including a link to the livestream)
Detailed results spelers at the Nordic Open:

  • Champion division: Michel Lamote, Maurits Pino. In the main bracket, Michel lost his first match against Tilman Söhnchen. In the fighters’ bracket, he defeated Michihito “Michy” Kageyama (JP) but then lost to Lars Hammersgren. Maurits had an even shorter run: he was defeated by Matt Reklaitis (US) in the main bracket and by Peter Lego Fursund (DK) in the fighters’ bracket.
  • Advanced division: Walter Meuwis. Walter won three matches in a row in the main bracket and lost the fourth one. He continued with three victories in the fighters’ bracket, but ended up losing against the Danish Champion Lars Nielsen in the last round before the Final Eight.
  • Advanced Division: Marius Hentea. Marius played in Belgium for several years and now lives and works in Göteborg.  He lost in the first round of the main bracket, but strung together 5 (6?) victories to reach the Final Four. There he was defeated by the later winner.
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BMS : the comeback of Marc Van Damme.

Back in 2001, when I was a novice to the game, Marc Van Damme (47) was already a player of some stature. In Paris, where Marc had shown up with Bert Van Kerckhove, Marc reached the finals of the Advanced flight and it was there that we met. There was no ExtremeGammon in those days, but Marc used Snowie (the predecessor of XG) with keen interest. This already made him a formidable player back then.

Then Marc mysteriously disappeared from the backgammon scene. We will have to wait for his autobiography to find out the how and why, but now Marc has resurfaced. With a splash…

Marc Van Damme at the Sandeman (Gent)










On four consecutive Tuesday afternoons in March, Marc and Robin played, recorded and transcribed eight 9-point matches. The 50 € question before start of play was : has Marc’s talent grown stale, or is class perennial?

Here is the answer :

PR Marc (8 x 9) (wins 5-3)

Jaws dropped as the first results became known : Marc played a couple of matches with PR’s below 3, which is about the absolute best a human can perform. Bystanders did agree, however, that Marc was not really challenged in those matches and that, faced with more complicated subject matter, his PR would probably deteriorate. In the end, this is what happened, but the overall result is still remarkable. Combined with the PR’s achieved in a Master Series with Johan Huyck, Marc has usurped the top spot on the BMS Grading Table : PR 5,10 (1) (!).

This convincing performance gives Marc provisionary Master Class 2 status. Why provisionary? Because a player needs 150 EP (Experience Points : the total of match points played) for his grading to be validated. Marc is still 45 EP away from that threshold. Consequently, the five 11-point  matches which remain to be played in his Master Series against Johan Huyck become extremely relevant. Sustaining this respectable level of play will instantly gain number 1 status in Belgium ( has proactively sent an order for laurels to Crete), whereas slackening performance might push Marc back to lower ground.

Robin played his dignified part in this high-level contest and stoutheartedly held his ground against his more skillful opponent :

PR Robin (8 x 9) (loses 3-5)

This PR appears to reflect Robin’s current level of play pretty accurately. It seems only a matter of time before Robin will reach Advanced Class 1 Expert level (current standing : PR 7,62 (11).



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BMS : Walter and Ronny tread water in Master Series (6 x 15).

Walter Meuwis and Ronny Conaert played, recorded and transcribed six 15-point matches in the course of the past 3 months. These matches were played in the cosy surroundings of Walter’s Hasselt home. With no money, shiny trophies or prestigious titles at stake, players could focus their attention fully on optimal decision making.

Here is how they did :

PR Walter (wins 4-2)

A heartening performance by Walter, comfortably within his Master Class 3 range. The rightful  jubilation of Walter’s many fans will be slightly dampened, however, when they see that this below-6 PR does not translate into a step forward on the BMS Grading Table (current standing : 6,27 (5)).  Culprit to that are the below-par performances by Walter in the 2017 BIC competition. Although Walter has been steamrollering all opposition, he has not done so by playing world-class backgammon. Or has he become a convert to the anti-dogmatic play-worse-to-win-more school of thought?

Anyway, Walter’s competitiveness and dogged determination are likely to keep him within sight of the top-3 spot in the coming months. Performing well in the upcoming Nordic Open (14-17 April) is infinitely more important than worrying about PR’s. Walter is on a winning streak, but should be aware that streaks, whether lucky or unlucky, are correlative with skill level. Playing better remains the best recipe for success, notwithstanding current obscurantist views to the contrary.

PR Ronny (loses 2-4)

Ronny played well in this demanding format. As is so often the case, however, one slip (a 7,90 in match 1) marred his over-all performance. A Master Class 3 level of play is certainly within Ronny’s reach (current standing : 7,45 (10)). Still, talent alone is seldom enough to make progress in this bewilderingly complex game. Ronny is one of Belgium’s many gifted players who, untethered from familial duties, job obligations and other distractions, would improve dramatically if they could muster the required discipline and dedication. Life is a patchwork of passions, however, and scaling priorities wisely is the mark of sensible men…

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BMS : Encouraging performances by Robin and Michel

Spread over four Fridays in March,  Robin Bilderbeek and I played eight 13-point matches, which we recorded and transcribed. Robin was eager to test his new-found skills against a better opponent and I desperately needed some better-than-average PR’s to give my corroding confidence a boost.

Before play started,  Robin put his aims on a piece of paper : he hoped for a PR around 6,40 (very ambitious for an advanced player) and while he was at it, prognosticated that I was going to score a PR below 4,60. Needless to say, such PR’s cannot be achieved by playing in a leisurely fashion. We would both need to be sharp and muster all weapons in our respective armouries.

Here is how we did :

PR Robin (8 x 13). Robin loses 3-5.

This is an excellent result for Robin and eerily close to his prediction. There can be no doubt that Robin’s dedicated practice (focused analysis using XG) is bearing fruit. Insiders will not be surprised to see Robin consolidate this Master Class 3 performance in the coming months.

PR Michel (8 x 13). Michel wins 5-3.

Not as I had hoped in my rosiest dreams, but good enough to draw confidence from. The boundary of Master Class 1 territory ( < 4,75) lies somewhere ahead, but it will still take some hard travelling to reach it.

Robin finishes another Master Series (8 x 9) against Marc Van Damme today (Tuesday, 4 April), while other MS1’s are in progress (Johan Huyck v Geert Van der Stricht, Johan Huyck v Michel Lamote, Walter Meuwis v Ronny Conaert). How about you, dear BGFed member?

Thank you to Johan Huyck (BMS Committee) for re-analysis and processing of the data.

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