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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Technical issue rating list resolved

The technical problem that prevented last weekend’s update of the rating list has been resolved. Tomorrow’s update will span a two-week period, from March 12 to March 26.

— Johan

PS (In case you’re interested): The match results have been split into several files to reduce the file size, one per year, and the php script had to be adapted accordingly.

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Watch BMS matches on YouTube! (with XG-feed)

Watching a backgammon match can be fun and entertaining, especially when both players play at World Class level and  there is something at stake. When I am out of a tournament, I never play side-events.  I go and watch a match between two of the best players in the room. I ask them permission to sit down at their table and watch their every move, from first to last. It gives me a feel of how top players cope with both the brutal and benevolent swings of the game.

Do I learn from that? Not really. If Mochi (the best player in the world) makes a surprising checker-play in a backgame or takes a cube I would certainly have dropped, I can never be 100% sure that he was right and I was wrong. However, if the match is recorded and transcribed, I can later watch the transcript and find out if the Grandmaster was right, or if I was. That, in my opinion, is a great way to learn.

Similarly, watching a backgammon match between top players on YouTube can be fun, but you can only learn from it if the XG-feed is posted and you know what is the right decision.

But  why don’t you see for yourself? Below is the link to a 9-point match played between Marc Van Damme and Robin “Rain” Bilderbeek. It is an official BMS match (match 1 of MS1 0032), which means the performance ratings (PR’s) will be incorporated in the BMS Grading Table (click on BMS in the black banner above for current standings).

Thank you to Rain (= Robin Bilderbeek) for editing and posting the video.

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Rating update temporarily unavailable

Due to a technical issue, the rating update cannot be done for the moment. Your match results are still being recorded as usual, and the rating list with results up to March 12 is still available.

I believe I know what the problem is, but finding a workaround may take some time. I’ll get into it during the Easter break, two weeks from now. I apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.

— J.

PS: The problem is that the csv file containing the match results has become too large, and its contents can no longer be processed in php in one chunck. So I need to either reimplement everything using MySQL databases, which I would have to learn first, or to find a way to make the match result file smaller, for instance by cutting it into pieces, one for each year. I am confident that I’ll find a solution, but again, it will take some time. Any help would be welcome of course!

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Geert Van der Stricht becomes number 1 on BMS GT.

At the top of Belgian backgammon, there is little room for sloppiness. Playing a demanding Master Series of six 17-point matches with less than optimal focus can have unpleasant consequences.

I started off this MS1 with another clock violation. My reasonable PR of 5,20 was mercilessly converted into a 9,85, which meant that I could ditch any hopes of improving my overall PR in the coming 6 months. Fortunately,  supportive friends and family kept me from early backgammon retirement and I played the rest of the Series at my known skill level. Better still, I managed to dramatically alter my playing rhythm and have succeeded in avoiding time trouble since then. Even the darkest clouds have a silver lining if you look closely enough …

At times, Geert also flirted with time pressure, but was let off the hook this time. Of course, our new Number 1 can fall back on years of clock experience on the international chess scene, and mostly keeps his composure even with only a handful of seconds left. Noteworthy that  Geert’s PR in this Series is exactly the same as his current overall PR on the BMS Grading Table. Safe to say that it will be hard to knock this ambitious and hard-working backgammon Master off his newly gained top spot :

PR Geert Van der Stricht (wins 4-2)

PR Michel Lamote (loses 2-4)

Four new Master Series are due to start this week : Geert Van der Stricht v Johan Huyck (MS1 0028 : 6 x 17), Johan Huyck v Michel Lamote (MS1 0029 : 6 x 17), Robin Bilderbeek v Michel Lamote (MS1 0030 : 8 x 13) and Johan Huyck v Marc Van Damme (MS1 0031 : 8 x 11).

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Robin Bilderbeek wins 1st Belgium Championship 3-point matches.

At Longchamp, 26 players showed up to contest the 1st Belgium Backgammon Championship 3-point matches. The initiative was taken by President Guy Van Middelem, who also sacrificed his own chance for glory by acting as TD (Tournament Director).

The event was won by Robin Bilderbeek (Gent BC), who celebrated his return from a 2-month backgammon sabbatical by winning 13 out of 14 matches :

Robin “Rain” Bilderbeek with trophy.

This stunning result did not come as a suprise to the members of Gent BC, who have seen Robin make significant progress in the past year. Robin has played several BMS Series ( = pre-designated series of longer matches) and is in the habit of filming, transcribing and analysing his matches as a means to improve. Now hovering on the brink between Advanced and Expert level, Robin is poised to lift his game to an even higher level in 2017.

Closest on Robin’s heels was Maurits Pino (Brussels BC), who won 12 out of 14 matches. Maurits exerted pressure on Robin till the last rounds, but Robin ended his triumphant campaign with resounding victories over team buddy Bert Van Kerckhove (Gent BC) and former (and future?) backgammon master Marc Vandamme. Congratulations Robin!

The classy trophy was donated by and professionally presented by Master of Ceremonies Guy.

Next event on the calendar is the 12th Gent Open Backgammon (Saturday 8 April 2017), where 7 rounds of 7-point matches will be played. For info, contact :

See you there!


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