4 Cubes 2018 – Leuven 2 keeps the trophy (again)

Geert (Gent) shaking hands with Odette (Leuven 1). Their match was one of the nine matches between their two teams in the final round of the 4 Cubes 2018, the Belgian backgammon team competition.

All six teams came together to play the last of five rounds of the 4 Cubes 2018, the team competition organized by BGFed.be. In the tennis club Longchamp in Uccle, Brussels 2 met Leuven 2, Leuven 1 met Gent, and Brugge met Brussels 1. The main area and the room upstairs were packed with backgammon sets, some cheap and some luxury, clocks, and recording equipment. Players from all over the country (and even from across the border) enjoyed an evening of playing and camaraderie, until the late hours.

The encounter between Brussels 2 and Leuven 2 was the de facto final of the competition: the winner of the encounter would be first in the final ranking and earn the right to hold and display the precious 4 Cubes trophy throughout 2019. Around midnight, it was Leuven 2 that came out on top. Congratulations for the team, who already won the 2016 and 2017 editions. Full results can be found in the Tournament Book.

We would like to thank all players and team captains for their participation, sportsmanship, and fair play. Fixing dates and motivating players was not always an easy task, but some team captains showed remarkable patience and gentlemanship. The organizing committee has listened carefully to the feedback and suggestions formulated by the captains and will soon come up with a proposal for the 2019 edition.

Keep on rolling!

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10th Leuven Open – 30 Participants and a Triple Winner

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Johan Huyck is off to Cyprus with good PR’s under his belt.

The 6th Merit Open International Backgammon Championship is a monster event in Cyprus (40.000€ added prize money) which starts on Wednesday 31 October. Johan Huyck will be the only BgFed.be member present. The strike by the luggage handlers in Zaventem forced him to make a costly detour to Warshau, but there is no doubt Johan will be well-rested and eager to perform when he appears at the board on Day 1 (Wednesday, 2 pm).

Johan has been making progress lately. Long stranded with a 6+ PR on the BMS GT, he is now slowly making his way to the 5,50 PR region. Over the past two months, Johan played two Master Series, assembling 188 EP in the process. Here is how he did in the first one, against Paul Van Dijke :

PR Johan MS1 0061 (6*13). Johan wins 4-2.

PR Paul MS1 0061 (6*13). Paul loses 2-4.

These PR’s are a clear indication that Johan is establishing a significant skill gap between himself and his his closest pursuer, Paul Van Dijke.

In the same period, Johan played another Master Series against Geert Van der Stricht, currently Belgium’s second-highest ranked player (PR 4,81).  This series consisted of ten 11-pointers:

PR Johan MS1 0063 (10*11). Johan draws 5-5.

PR Geert MS1 0063 (10*11). Geert draws 5-5.

Again the skill difference is clear. One PR point is close to indisputable in a Master Series of 110 EP. Johan again manages a below-6 PR and seems to have found some solidity in his performances. So has Geert, of course, who will surely dip below 4,50 PR in the months leading up to the European Team Championship in Montenegro next year (8-10 April 2019).

Johan is now firmly positioned on spot 4 on the BMS Grading Table with 5,60 PR.

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BMS : PR’s from BMAB event in Nottingham (UK)

On 15 and 16 September 2018, 26 players competed in a BMAB event in Nottingham. Typical for these BMAB events is that ALL matches are filmed by the tournament organization (i.c. Rick Janowski) and that the overall PR’s of all players are incorporated in the International BMAB list.

Eager to make progress on that list, Geert Van der Stricht and I made the trip. Geert took a Friday night flight and I went by ferry and car on Thursday. Afterwards we were both happy. Geert won the event with 5 victories out of 5 matches (Geert was tied first with Lawrence Powell, but won the 1-point decider for the trophy) and I shared 2nd prize in the PR contest with a morale-boosting performance. Also part of our satisfaction was the fact that the hotel is supremely located close to Midlands Airport, offers great rooms  for about 65€ (with English or continental breakfast) and is organized with strict adherence to the schedule.

Geert (r) and Lawrence (l) present their BMAB certificates.

The PR prize was won by GM Sebastian Wilkinson from England (aged 28) with a PR of 3,2 or thereabouts. For Geert, cube actions in lopsided scores against inferior opponents proved to be a delicate balancing act and this is reflected in his PR. As we can see from the Player’s Profile below, Geert’s cube play suffered greatly from the fact that he was mostly far ahead in matches against weaker players. Adjusting with the cube is the first thing you should consider if there is a significant skill disparity and you play to win, but if you play for PR at the same time, this can have a ruinous effect on your Cube PR. Also Geert’s Checker Play PR, while very strong, is slightly below what he is capable of :

PR Geert (5*13). Won 5/5.

In that respect, I had an easier task. I lost my first round match and could bury my hopes of winning the tournament. I could take the factor “winning” out of my decision-making process and focus solely on making the objectively optimal choices. This benefitted my PR greatly :

PR Michel (5*13).  Won 4/5.

After this event, Geert and I remain in close proximity on the BMS Grading Table. We are both about 0,4 PR point behind Belgium’s uncontested number 1, Marc Van Damme.

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BIC 2018 – arrest Beroepscomité

The early withdrawal of Walter Meuwis from BIC 2018 Division 1 after 4 out of 7 encounters (8 out of 14 matches) had as side effect that the ranking of the first four players in that division, the ones that are qualified for the play-off, depended on how Walter’s partial results would be taken into account.

The BIC 2018 rules do not cover such a situation. Since Walter had played more than half of his matches, the BIC 2018 comittee’s decision was to keep Walter’s result in the table and to declare the 3 remaining encounters as 2-0 victories for Walter’s opponents. This decision is not uncommon in other sports.

This decision, however, was to the disadvantage of Michel Lamote, who thereby ended 5th with 7 victories out of 14 matches, while Paulus van Rooijen, receiving a 2-point forfait bonus, ended 4th with 8 points out of 14.

On September 17, 2018, Michel wrote to the BGFed.be board to introduce an appeal. The same day, the board appointed an appeal committee to settle the matter.

Today, September 30, 2018, the appeal committee has come to a decision [free translation of the Dutch original]:

Given the high impact on the ranking of 6 forfaited matches out of 56 (more than 10%) in a double round-robin tournament without home and away stages, and given the fact that not all players in the running for the four qualifying places in Division 1 have had to do the same program, the appeal committee has ruled that all of Walter’s results need to be removed from the ranking.

The extensive and detailed argumentation (in Dutch) can be read here.

The appeal comittee’s decision is binding and, at least within the federation, no further appeal is possible.

In line with the decision, the BIC 2018 committee will calculate the new ranking in Division 1 and inform the players involved, so that the tournament can proceed.

In the name of the federation, I would like to say a big and warm THANK YOU to the appeals committee for a thorough and efficient job. In less than two weeks time, they have exchanged numerous messages, investigated what happens in other sports (cricket, chess, correspondence chess), crossed the country to meet in person, and crafted an extensive and well-structured document, answering not only the initial question but also making extremely useful recommendations for the future. Kris, Luc, en Nick, dank je wel!

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BMS : Nick, Paul, Geert and Michel complete Master Series.

Nick De Ruyck and Paul Van Dijke played, recorded and transcribed six 13-point matches over the past months (MS1 0053). Here is how they performed :

PR Nick (6*13) loses 1-5

A great PR for Nick, who is currently ranked as an Intermediate player on the BMS GT. This corresponds to a 10+ PR. Scoring an Advanced PR of 8,64 in six 13-point matches can’t be coincidental. Nick has been filming and transcribing his matches for more than a year now and it is encourageing to see that all this hard work is paying off. If Nick can keep up this consistent dedication, he will surely join Belgium’s small group of Advanced players in the near future. And who knows where he will go from there…

Marc Van Damme (middle) gives Nick (left) a well-deserved thumbs up!

Nick’s opponent was Paul Van Dijke, ranked 6 on the BMS GT. Paul’s current overall PR is 6,25, which gives him Master Class 3 status :

PR Paul (6*13) wins 5-1

Not a bad PR, but probably slightly disappointing for an ambitious player who is determined to improve. Paul has already scheduled a couple of other Master Series, so we will know soon enough if he can make a step forward.

Paul in recreational mode at a BMS event in Brugge.

Geert Van der Stricht and I also wrapped up a 6*13 Master Series (MS1 0058) :

PR Geert (6*13) loses 2-4

Another top-notch PR for Geert, who keeps performing at World Class level. He has now tentatively established himself as Belgium’s number 2 on the BMS GT.

PR Michel (6*13) wins 4-2

Lackluster performance by me and a serious setback ( “for an ambitious player who is determined to improve”). I was hoping to consolidate my Master Class 1 status, but things are going the other way… Hopefully my next MS1 (10*13 against Robin Bilderbeek) will be better.

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10th Leuven Open, Sun 11 Nov 2018

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Johan H. and Michel confirm current status in Master Series.

Johan Huyck and I played, recorded and transcribed ten 11-point matches over the past months. This is how we performed :

PR Johan (10*11). Johan loses 2-8.

Johan has nestled himself in pole-position to turn Belgium’s below-5 trio into a quartet. Some consistence will be required to achieve this, of course.

PR Michel (10*11). Michel wins 8-2.

As for me, I will have to keep putting in the dedicated practice if I want to continue making progress. Needless to say that this is true for all of you readers out there…

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Great stuff by Geert and Johan in 56th Master Series.

One of the best ways to learn and improve your game is to record your matches, transcribe them into XG and study your mistakes carefully. This is what the best players in Belgium have been doing for some years and the results are there for all to see.

Over the past month, Geert Van der Stricht (BMS GT : 4,67 PR, ranked number 2) and Johan Huyck (BMS GT : 5,67 PR, ranked number 4) played, recorded and transcribed six 19-point matches. This 56th Master Series ended in a 3-3 draw, but more important is how  both players performed :

PR Geert (6*19)

Geert’s dedication and hard work are bearing fruit. XG’s evaluation (“World Class”) is not just a flattering epithet. It is a reliable and accurate reflection of a player’s skill level. True, in a Master Series, there is not much at stake and players can approach the challenges on the board in a purely academic fashion, but have a look at how Geert did in Monte Carlo, during the most recent World Championships :

Geert’s overall PR at the World Championship in Monte Carlo 2018 (67 EP)

This is a pretty strong PR, bearing in mind that these matches were played under high-pressure conditions with the prestigious title of World Champion at stake. It was certainly not for lack of skill that Geert was eliminated in the early rounds of the Championship…

Also Johan Huyck excelled in this Master Series :

PR Johan (6*19)

After some months away from the game, Johan seems to have come back refreshed and eager to improve. This encourageing PR may well be the boost Johan needed to continue his progress towards the 5 PR boundary. Especially his Cube Play in these long matches is worth noting.



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Sonja Custers becomes Beginners World Champion in Monte Carlo.

Four consecutive victories (9-point matches + 11-point final) gave Sonja Custers (Leuven BC) the title of World Champion (!) in the Beginners Division.

The final against a female player from Russia was a particularly tense affair. Sonja was able to come back from 0-6 down to reach equality at 9-9. In an unbearably exciting DMP-game, Sonja was able to keep a cool head under time pressure and eventually won after some gruelling swings of fortune.

Although the playing field was small and the opposition modest, this title has a prestigious ring to it and should give Sonja the motivation and confidence to continue her dedicated efforts to improve her game. She will of course from this day forward no longer be allowed to compete with the Beginners, but will have to defend her colours in the Intermediate divisions. Surely a fine achievement after barely one year of study.

Congratulations, Sonja!

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