Peter Hallberg
World Backgammon Champion 2004

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July 2009

Doing better

Jul 27th by Peter Hallberg

The second 7 point training match was played much better with an error rate of 2.7 which is below the 3.5 mark where I don't expect to be. Most of the errors came from stupid cube actions which I'm not going to dwelve further into. Going to the third training match a couple of interesting positions came up. The match was played well again with an error rate of 2.5 with no cube error at all. The first position is trivial but never the less I totally missed the right play. I didn't even consider it.

Position 1: Snowie (white) leads 1-0/7
Peter (blue) to move 4-3
GNU Id: bDfBgAwyzxsGAA

Basically I just want to play safe and avoid getting hit because white has a really strong position. Unfortunately all I could focus upon was either making the 5 point or covering on the 2-point. The right move is of course to play 8/1 without hitting. This is really the kind of mistake you don't want to make. It costs a lot of equity and it's clearly the best move if you notice it at all. The second blunder is more interesting. I'm (blue) leading 6-2/7 post crawford with center cube.

Position 2: Peter (blue) leads 6-2/7 post crawford
Peter (blue) to move 5-3

Here I have to decide whether I want to prime or attack. Attacking on the ace point looked bad at first glance. It strips my 6 and 4 point and removes the builders I need for making the higher points. That's why I made the 3 point. I just forgot about this move giving white a really good opportunity to gain the initiative and launch an attack on my lone checker on the 22 point. At this point I have changed my mind and would make the ace point but I still can't believe it's a blunder to make the 3 point.

Anyway, this was a good reminder of how important initiative-theme is.

Out of the gate

Jul 22nd by Peter Hallberg

I just finished the first training match against Snowie. We played to 7 points and my goal was to play at a decent pace with time to think about tough decisions. I played 5.1 which I'm not thrilled about, but definitely within the expected range. Strangely enough most of the errors were made in checker play which is unusual for me. There is a clear theme trough out the match where I misplay moves in positions where both sides are waiting for a good turnout to advance their position. Here are two positions from the match:

Position 1: Snowie (white) leads 2-0/7
Peter (blue) to move 5-2
GNU Id: sOeMAxDM1sgABw

Position 2: Snowie (white) leads 2-0/7
Peter (blue) to move 4-3

Both positions are in balance and neither side is threatening to double in the near future.

Let's take a look at position 1. I would like to prime or attack. 52 doesn't allow me to prime and I automatically go for the attack not realizing I have much better alternatives.

If I get hit I'm in a much worse position than before. Now I have even fewer checkers to prime/attack with. Should the attack go well I still need to cover and be ready to further contain/attack when he enters at a later time.

Let's take a closer look at the position. White would like to escape with his last checker and blue is not in really bad shape even if white succeeds due to his 4-point anchor. Blue can take to lines here. He can choose to give himself better defensive chances should white escape or give himself better attacking chances should white fail to escape soon.

The first alternative is to play 21/16, 7/5 giving better outfield control and potential activating an extra checker either as an escape point or building block for blues outfield points. If white hits back on his 16-point he will either leave blots or stay back with his last checker.

The second alternative is to 11/6, 7/5 putting extra pressure on whites lone checker.

Both alternatives are far superior to my blunder-move even though they don't seem to 'do' much right now. In chess I'm about an 1800 ELO skilled player and I recently realized that what often makes the better players better is that they can uphold and strain the tension of a position much longer than weaker players. If they somehow fail they go for an all out attack often winning them the game anyway. Position 1 is an example of putting more pressure on white by straining the tension of the position even further.

I'll leave position 2 as an exercise for you. If I had gone through the thought process described above I would certainly have made the right move in position 2 but I didn't.

When least expected

Jul 21st by Peter Hallberg

To be honest I really got bored with backgammon. Yes, it absolutely had something to do with not being able to win anything meaningful. I lost the urge for learning things and that certainly didn't make me play better. All that made me take a break from backgammon but of course something good is bound to happen when you finally decided to throw in the towel - and thank god for that.

First, I stumbled upon 2+2 which is a really big (if not the biggest) poker forum on the internet. They recently started a backgammon forum where world champion Bill Robertie is the moderator and also an active participant in the ongoing debates. Not much was going on in the beginning but it seems that more people have found their way in there. Reading about backgammon and trying (unsuccessfully I might add) to solve the weekly problems made me realize how much I miss working with my game and trying to improve.

Second, my team in the CUP team tournament played live in Denmark made it to the semi final where we lost a very close match. We performed well above expectations due to our seeding as the 12th best team in the tournament. Our team consisted of 5/5 world championship top flight players with my win and Flemming Storgaard's quarter final as the best results.

We have the same team with a couple of improvements (also championship players) for that national team tournament which is one of the most important backgammon events in Denmark. The teams are divided into divisions were you can move up or down once a year. We are struggling in the 3rd highest division which we are the favorites to win almost every year but we can't deliver and has to stay put.

Finally we got a little luck and merged with another club having a team ranked in the 2nd highest division where we're going to participate next season starting in September.

Now, following the world championship from my living room made me really sad not being where the action was. Congratulations to Mochy and Trabi for writing another chapter of the backgammon history. I decided to make an effort to go Monte in 2010. Of course the financial aspect of it is the hardest part to overcome, but it is certainly easier to gather funds if you play well. When I play as little as I have done the past years my skill level is around 5 +-1,5. Cube action is defiantly the biggest challenge and if I can make a little less of the really big blunders my average error rate will improve significantly. My goal is to reach a skill level of 4 +-1.

My plan is to play a training match every day and focus on one type of error. I hope to see my work paying off by playing better and better.

I'll write some blogs with my findings so you can get the feeling of how to spot errors and try to work on them.

Over the coming months I have some spare time and I'll begin working on some interviews with players from backgammon community.

Have fun!

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