Marc Van Damme baffles international backgammon community in Gibraltar.

The international backgammon event in Gibraltar (8-10 February) ranks among the most prominent tournaments in the world. Top players from all over the globe compete for victory. Several grandmasters from Denmark are present (Trabolt, Noehr, Myhr, Bredahl, …), as well as the crème de la crème from Germany (Orlowski, Papachristopoulos, Jonas, Söhnchen, Sonnabend, …), the UK (Wilkinson, Bennet, Hurst, McAlpine, …), the USA (McLaughlin, Edilson, Bauer, Matig, Neagu, …), Japan (Akiko, Kenji), Norway (Snarheim, Liby, Farewag, Kritikos, …), and other countries like Switzerland, France, etc.

Marc in the semi against Jack Edilson (r)

In this eminent and tough field, Belgium’s number 1, Marc Van Damme, succeeded in excelling. He won 5 matches in a row in the preliminary round of 11-pointers, thus gaining a bye in the final sheet of the last 32. There he eliminated the recent winner of the New York Metropolitan Open, Kimon Papachristopoulos in a crazy 15-pointer which took 21 games and culminated in a thrilling DMP-game. In the 1/4 finals Marc swept Rune Farewag (NO) off the table with exciting, aggressive play (and some luck, of course…), only to succumb to Jack Edilson (USA) in the semis. Marc reached a 15-11 lead (match to 17), but eventually saw victory slip away.

Marc’s matches against Farewag and Edilson can be watched on YouTube.

Great job, Marc!



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Metin Ates defeats Johan Huyck in final of BIC 2017

Twenty-five players registered for BIC (Belgium Individual Championship) 2017, eight of which qualified for Division 1 through 2016 results, while the others (17) joined Division 2,  divided in groups A & B. After playing a lot of 13- and 11-points matches at home and/or away throughout the year till September, the best four from D1 and D2 qualified for the BIC play-off. There, the slaughter begun : in the ¼ finals, two-times overall winner Walter Meuwis fell surprisingly to Metin Ates, who qualified narrowly in D2 group B ; ranked n°1 Michel Lamote lost from Johan Huyck, easy winner of D1 group A ; Guy Van Middelem, ultimate survivor from D2, beat Paulus van Rooijen, 2nd in D1 in Vlissingen (NL) and Johan Segers, vice-president, won against 1st ever champion Geert Van der Stricht. The slugfest continued in the semi-finals : Johan H. beat deservingly Guy and Metin had his share of luck at the right moment against Johan S.

Finalist Johan Huyck (left) en winner Metin Ates (middle) of BIC 2017. Maurits Pino (right) represented

The big BIC final 2017 (best of 3 till 13-points) would be Metin Ates against Johan Huyck on Saturday the 16th of December, in Longchamp (Brussels) in front of an interested crowd. There was really no match : Metin emerged 2-0 with some checker play magic and could lift the trophy despite outstanding play by Johan in the second set.

Congratulations to the 4th winner of the 5th BIC competition : Metin Ates.

BIC records :
2017 : Metin Ates ;
2016 : Walter Meuwis ;
2015 : Michel Lamote ;
2014 : Walter Meuwis ;
2013 : Geert Van der Stricht

Looking forward to BIC 2018 !

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BMS : Dirk Schiemann (GER) wins PR prize at 2nd Xmas Trophy.

Spurred on by Tournament Director Geert Van der Stricht, the 12 participants transcribed all thirty 9-point matches within 48 hours, an unprecedented achievement. Here are the results :

The field consisted of 7 Belgian players, 3 Dutch players and two German players. It was Dirk Schiemann from Germany who took the PR prize with a grandmasterly performance of 3,85 PR. Marc Van Damme and myself did our best to play like a grandmaster… but could not quite pull it off. Still, our PR’s promise good things for the future.

All in all, the level of play at this tournament was very decent. The average PR of all players combined was 6,01. Most players played slightly better than their current BMS rating, which deserves praise. Funnily, the bottom 6 players on the PR list scored the most wins, namely 16 versus only 14 for the top 6. Most victories were scored by Paul Van Dijke (4 wins : winner of the Xmas Trophy) and Johan Huyck (4 wins : runner-up).

Playing conditions in the Sandeman Club in Gent were excellent. The schedule was meticulously respected and the catering and service were top. BMS(BE) would like to thank all participants for their sportsmanship and transcribing zeal. Many thanks also to Geert and his team (Johan Huyck and Paulus Van Rooijen) for making this great event happen. The 3rd Xmas Trophy will be held at the same location somewhere in the last week of 2018.

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BMS : Marc Van Damme in grandmaster form!

Days before the last important BMS event of the year, the 2nd Xmas Trophy, Marc Van Damme en Geert Van der Stricht wrapped up another Master Series. They played, recorded and transcribed nine 9-point matches. Marc produced some high quality backgammon and came up with this groundbreaking result :

PR Marc (MS 0049 9*9). Marc loses 4-5.

This is by far the highest level of backgammon ever played in Belgium by a local player. Undoubtedly the result of hard work and daily practice. Marc hereby confirms his unchallenged number 1 spot in Belgium and looks poised to aim for Grandmaster status in 2018. Congratulations, Marc!

Geert was not able to match this ferocious form and failed to improve on his BMS standing. Still a very worthy performance of course :

PR Geert (MS 0049 9*9). Geert wins 5-4.

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BMS : fine PR’s by Marc and Michel.

Marc Van Damme is currently the highest ranked player on the BMS Grading Table. Only spectacular improvement by his two closest pursuers, Geert Van der Stricht and myself, could pose a threat to Marc’s dominant position.

Some cracks in Marc’s armour showed in our most recent Master Series (MS 0049). In six 13-point matches, Marc played a bit below his known skill level, whereas I was able to slightly outperform myself :

PR Marc (MS 0049 6*13). Marc wins 4-2.

PR Michel (MS 0049 6*13). Michel loses 2-4.

The 2nd Xmas Trophy, which will be held on Wednesday 27 December, will pit the vanguard of Belgian backgammon against each other at the Sandeman Club in Gent. 12 players will play five 9-point matches. Start of the first round is 10am. A report on ALL players’ performances will be published on this website before 10 january 2018.

Keep learning!

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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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