(BMS : Backgammon Master Series)
As I mentioned in a previous article (Bragging Rights), the idea to record matches and use the achieved PR’s to list players according to playing strength comes from Rick Janowski. He founded the BMAB some years ago and this body has now gained recognition all over the world. I suggest you visit their website to learn more: www.bgmastersab.com.
On the most recent International Ranking List (November 2015) the two Japanese top players Mochi and Michi occupy spots 1 and 2 with amazing PRs of 2,85 and 2,95 respectively. They are followed by 17 players, mostly Americans and Danes, who can boast PRs below 4. Here is the current Top 10 (click on the table to enlarge):
I met Rick a couple of weeks ago in England and he very much supported our idea to set up a similar initiative in Belgium. By inviting (challenging?) players to play predesignated head-to-head encounters (called Series), record their matches and submit the XG-files, it is hoped that players will find an incentive to focus more on improving their game rather than on winning.
To take the bull by the horns, Geert Van der Stricht and I started a pilot series of 10 matches of 11 points (abbr. 10 x 11) when we got back from Budapest. We called it Autumn Series (AS). Our example was followed by Maurits Pino and Zsolt Tasnadi (AS 10 x 9) and by Bert Van Kerckhove and Robin Bilderbeek (AS 10 x 7). Maurits and Zsolt play one 9-point match every week and Bert and Robin play one or two 7-point matches at the weekly club evening in Gent.
Geert and I wrapped up our AS last Tuesday. We did not really care who won and who lost, but focused mainly on playing as well as we could, i.e. on making the decisions that maximised our winning chances. Winning was not completely irrelevant of course (there are after all BGFed.be ranking points and 15€ at stake…), so a bluff double or a slight adjustment in a no-skill position was sometimes considered. We filmed all 10 matches and saved the XG-files in a separate folder. An average PR was then calculated taking the number of decisions into account (we do this conform the regulations stipulated by BMAB). Here are the results:
Although both of us were disappointed by our PRs (we would like to think that we play around 4,6 or so), we evaluate the overall experience as quite positive. For one, it shows that we may have a slightly inflated idea of what our true playing strength is. True, we both played some high-standard matches with PRs around or below 3, but these excellent performances were uncomfortably counter-balanced by maverick results like 8 or 10 PR. These were of course matches where complex positions came up and our skills were insufficient to cope with the challenges posed. Still, amidst the blunders and serious miscalculations, there was a lot to be satisfied about. Seriously reviewing our matches also showed where we got it right. This is a valuable learning experience. Determined to improve our aggreagte PRs, we will now start a Winter Series on Tuesday 24 November (WS 10 x 15). Walter Meuwis and Ronny Conaert will take up the gauntlet and also start a Series early December.
So, why not play a Series yourself? Just provide the necessary information (opponent, number of matches, match length, time-frame) to BMS(BE) (email@example.com), adhere to the Conditions of Play, and you can get going. All you need is your laptop, a simple webcam (Logitech) and a cam-stand. At the Leuven Open on Sunday 29 November, you will be able to see several recording kits in use. If you want one hand-made, contact Robin Bilderbeek (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more info. He makes beautifully crafted wooden cam-stands for 50€ or so.
At the recent Brussels Friendly Day and BF55 we saw Johan Seghers transcribing his matches live on a tablet and some of you may have seen Paul Van Dijke transcribe his matches manually. For BMAB, these matches would not be taken into consideration since all videos need to be uploaded on YouTube. For BMS(BE), however, matches transcribed in this fashion may be submitted, but PRs can only be validated after discretionary approval by BMS(BE).
Below is the BMS(BE) Grading Table of 15 November 2015. Results achieved in international BMAB events are of course incorporated (click on the table to enlarge):