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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EUBTC : R6 : Belgium goes for broke against Turkey.

Some unfortunate swings of fortune left Belgium needing a 4-0 victory against Turkey to qualify for the Final Four. Chances of this happening are small, but stranger things have happened in backgammon…

Sadly, despite being the better player on every board, we only managed a draw : 2-2.

Here are the team PR’s :

PR Belgium v Turkey (4 x 13)

Every player excelled in this team effort and this resulted in a high-class performance, our best of the tournament. Sadly, outplaying your opponent is never a guarantee for victory in this fickle game, as was amply demonstrated in the 6 encounters we played in Iceland.

PR Turkey v Belgium (4 x 13)

Michel Lamote (PR 3,60) wins against Arda Findikoglu (PR 7,52)

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

Johan Huyck (PR 6,19) loses to Cumhur Bekture (PR 7,15)

Walter Meuwis (PR 4,82) wins against Gokhan Kazandag (PR 12,91)

What conclusions can be drawn from this event? Come back to this website tomorrow and find an interview with Johan Huyck, who will shed his light on the data.


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EUBTC : R5 : Gibraltar pull one out of the fire against Belgium.

We needed a 4-0 victory against this dwarfish backgammon nation, but failed in our mission. Sometimes even an 8+ PR difference is not enough to guarantee victory, as Johan S. experienced in a gruelling match against his sympathetic, but endearingly incompetent opponent.

Here are the PR’s of both teams :

PR Belgium v Gibraltar (4 x 13)

PR Gibraltar v Belgium (4 x 13)

Michel Lamote (PR 3,36) wins against Gilbert Licudi (PR 13,52)

Marc Van Damme (PR 4,63) wins against David Frier (PR 10,92)

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

Walter Meuwis (PR 6,83) wins against Michael Pitaluga (PR 14,40)

We now need a 4-0 victory against Turkey in the last round. Unlikely, but not impossible…

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EUBTC : R4 : Belgium rolls up its sleeves against Sweden … but loses.

After losing to France on Thursday night, we badly needed to score some points against Sweden. It was imperative not to squander equity in this encounter and I can say that we all appeared at the boards very focused. This resulted in a very fine team performance :

PR Belgium v Sweden (4 x 13)

PR Sweden v Belgium (4 x 13)

This is the best team performance by Belgium so far. Marc and I were the better of two of Sweden’s top players and both Johans kept a cool head in high-pressure conditions :

Michel Lamote (PR 2,71) loses  against Kare Aronsson (PR 3,88)

Marc Van Damme (PR 3,67) wins against Thomas Tenland (PR 5,18)

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

Johan Segers (PR 6,49) loses against Aron Tendler (PR 7,87)

This undeserved defeat leaves Belgium with 6/16. We can still qualify for the Final Four, but will have to score heavily in R5. Our opponents are Gibraltar, the weakest participant in this tournament. Surely a 4-0 victory is possible?

To be continued.



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EUBTC : R3 : Belgium and France play equally well.

With two draws under our belt, Belgium badly needed a win against France. Unfortunately, things turned out sour for us as we were beaten 1-3. Both teams came up with similar PR’s :

PR France v Belgium (4 x 13)

PR Belgium v France (4 x 13)

Marc Van Damme made his maiden appearance on Board 1 and did not disappoint. He won his match and scored an excellent PR :

Marc Van Damme (PR 3,66) wins against Vincent Nardi (PR 5,80)

Johan Huyck (PR 5,61) loses against Olivier Croisille (PR 5,26)

Johan Segers (PR 7,69) loses against Eric Maillebiau (PR 8,45)

Walter Meuwis (PR 5,77) loses against Aurélien Bionnet (PR 3,27)

After this defeat, Belgium was left with 5/12. We needed to score heavily on Day 2 if we wanted to qualify for the Final Four. Will we be able to lift our game a notch or two?

Come and see next week!

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EUBTC : R 2 : solid performance by Belgium versus Norway.

After drawing 2-2 against Greece in Round 1, we faced Norway in Round 2. Norway is a strong backgammon country, but amateurish selection procedures prevent some of the very best players to be part of the team. Hence their slightly disappointing performance against us :

PR Norway v Belgium (4 x 13)

The Belgium Team did slightly better :

PR Belgium v Norway (4 x 13)

I seldom perform well during siesta hours, and my PR  certainly hurt the team performance. Walter, however, got rolling  and also Johan Huyck outplayed his opponent :

All PR’s :

Michel Lamote (PR 6,40) loses to Dagfinn Snarheim (PR 4,78)

Johan Huyck (PR 4,71) wins against Jostein Flood (PR 9,19)

Johan Segers (PR 7,40) loses to Rune Hallvorsen (PR 8,15)

Walter Meuwis (PR 2,99) wins against Beate Siglem (PR 5,20)

Can we keep this up in R3 (or even do better?). Check this website and you’ll soon know.

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EUBTC : Round 1 : Belgium v Greece : below-par performance by Belgium.

The European Backgammon Team Championship was won by Norway after a thrilling finish. In the semi finals, Norway drew against Denmark (2-2), but won a team consultation match to 7 points. They repeated that feat against Germany in the final by first winning two encounters and losing two and then winning a team consultation tie-breaking match to 7. Congratulations to our Norwegian friends on behalf of BGFed.be!

You can see pictures of the jubilant winners here :

Closing ceremony European backgammon championship Reykjavik 2017

The Belgium Team recorded all its matches. In the upcoming days, BMS Belgium will publish the Performance Ratings of all our matches. Here is how we did in the opening round against Greece :

This is not good. Everybody played at least one PR-point above their skill level, with myself ending up with an uncharacteristic 7+. Remarkably, the Greek GM Konstantinos Mitrellis scored an even more shocking PR, at least 3 PR points above his acknowledged skill level. These PR’s are surely an indication of the complexity of the match.

Check this website for our results in R 2 versus Norway.


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5th Brussels Backgammon Day, Wed Nov 1, at Longchamp’s

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