GammonLife Reporter Gregg Cattanach Wins 2006 Florida State Backgammon Championships
by Greg Cattanach - 25 August 2006
Greg Cattanach


The South Florida Backgammon Club under the direction of Elayne Feinstein hosted the 2006 Florida Championships over the weekend of August 18 to 20, 2006.

Elayne chose to move the date for this event. After last year's hurricanes she thought it was more prudent to play in August instead of the heart of hurricane season in September or October.

Fort Lauderdale certainly can be in the eye of the storm if a big one brews up. The August weather was hot but not intolerable, and several of the backgammon players enjoyed their downtime lounging around the outdoor pool on the roof of the hotel. The Marriott was quite nice and they are another hotel chain that is doing a great job of upgrading their beds to be extremely comfortable. For my money that is one of the key features of any hotel room, and we look forward to this new venue in the coming years.

Mike Corbett of Flordia gave a free lecture on Saturday morning. He highlighted several positions where Snowie will make the wrong play, but will show the correct one after a rollout. He emphasized that Snowie and other bots are very useful tools, but they clearly can make bad plays in some situations and cannot be depended upon 100% based on their initial evaluation. Rollouts are often needed to get closer to the truth of a position.

Thursday featured the Warm-Up tournament that was won by Dennis Culpepper (VA). The reports were that he was red-hot with the dice and moving those good numbers to maximum advantage. Dennis is an excellent player and would certainly post a lot more wins if he could play more often. He is a player to be feared if you draw him for your next match. He also won first place in the Championship Consolation.

Friday afternoon the Jackpots and Doubles got started. In the Palm Classic I got zoomed pretty quickly by Alan Martin (FL) who was one of the best players back in the early 80's. It was an exciting match, but I started off with a 0-7 deficit and just couldn't recover from there. Ray Fogerlund (CA), who always seems to be winning a big prize one way or another, eventually won the Al Tesauro Memorial Palm Classic. Ray also cashed in the main event taking second place in the Consolation.

Ray Fogerlund of California - Masters Jackpot Winner.

I hadn't planned on playing in the Doubles event, but at least four players asked me to play once I arrived at the hotel. I guess they think I know something about this game; I'm not sure! It is nice to have that kind of approbation. I ended up teaming up with Antoinette Robi (FL) and we won two matches before being defeated in Round 3. Even in this medium-sized tournament they managed to field 32 teams for the Doubles. Antoinette and I enjoyed playing together; she is very enthusiastic about the game and I predict will be a solid Advanced player quite soon if she keeps playing and studying.

But enough of the small talk, the real news is that I won the main event! My past trips to Florida have created a real hot and cold relationship for me with this tournament. The first two times I attended I went 0-3 in the Main event. The next year I lost my first match but rattled off six wins to take first place the Consolation.

In 2004 I went all the way and won the tournament. But in 2005 I showed up and on Friday afternoon before play began I managed to have a heart attack! The hospital in Ft. Lauderdale did a great job of taking care of me. I've made a full recovery and am doing fine. But apparently they have a rule that if you have a heart attack at their tournament they feel so sorry for you that they let you win the next year!

It certainly took away any ill feelings about Florida to come back and do so well.

Director Elayne Feinstein with Gregg Cattanach of Georgia
Winner of the Championship Division.

Here are some positions that came up for me along the way to the Championship.

In Round 2, I played Melvin Rappaport (NY) and we had a tough battle that came down to DMP. I was rolling home when an outfield checker got sent back behind a 5-prime and I was faced with this checker play:

Red to play 4-2

Red: Gregg Cattanach, score 9

White: Melvin Rappaport,  score 9

Match to 11.

Playing safe by clearing the 8 point must certainly be on the radar screen as a possibility. Getting a second checker sent back can't be a good thing. However, it's important to realize that I am losing this game and by a considerable margin (A rollout shows me winning only 34% of the games). White will happily hit with any 5, 7 or 11 and something aggressive is called for to seize the initiative. I chose to hit with 8/2* and this is much better than any passive play. But I missed the best hitting play. If I see that 4/2* is the first half of the play, it is cleaner to cover the 2 point with 6/2. This leaves one less blot, and as being hit is pretty much fatal anyway, giving up the 6 point temporarily and creating the smoothest home board position is better. The last piece of the puzzle is that with 8/2* I duplicate my sixes that I need to run the back checker. Mel cooperated by fanning. I made the 2-point and got the last man out safely to win the match.

In the Round 3, I faced Las Vegas Tournament Director Howard Markowitz. I had this rather simple (I thought) early game play to make with 1-1:

Red to play 1-1

Red: Gregg Cattanach, score 4

White: Howard Markowitz,  score 7

Match to 11.

I really didn't think twice about this, but the Snowie analysis of the match dinged me for a blunder. It seemed obvious to me to make the 5-point, make the 10-point and split the back men. Each piece of the play does something useful including the split back checkers that really forces Howard to roll well and make his 5-point. But the rollout shows I can do much better.

The key is the slotted 5-point. Howard will need to use half of his roll to make that all-important point. Because of this, leaving a bunch of indirect shots in the outfield has a very low cost. Making the 5 and bar point turns out to be much stronger than my play and gives a great chance to end up with a solid 4-prime instead of the Swiss cheese block my play creates. As a bonus it turns White's 5-4 roll into something completely useless; he would at least be able to point on the ace point after my play.

In the Final I had the better of the dice in nearly every game winning the match 13-4. Raymond Rickard was my opponent and gave me this cube early in the match:

Red on roll, Cube action?

Red: Raymond Rickard, score 1

White: Gregg Cattanach,  score 0

Match to 13.

Ray was pretty optimistic here. A rollout shows that Red only wins this 51% of the time. The fact that he's already buried a checker on the ace point is quite bad. There are some good rolls that start to clear the outside points, but he really needs to achieve that before venturing a cube. There is a large collection of blot leaving numbers from here, and he found one of the worst: 6-5. I didn't redouble after I got the quadruple shot thinking I might be too good, but it's just a sold redouble and pass from there. Several shakes later I finally doubled him out.

In other results Tolga Ece (FL) defeated Patty Geoffroy at DMP in the Advanced Division Final. They both agreed to split the prize money and play the last game for the trophy. This is the first ABT points earned for both Tolga and Patty. Patty is one of the directors of the popular GammonZone online tournament group and it's nice to see her do well in the live play world as well. Congratulations to both!

Tolga Ece of Florida - Advanced Division Winner

Melvin Rappaport (NY) ended up winning the doubles event (he didn't find a partner and played solo), and Phillippe Salnave (FL) won the Blitz. Chiva Tafazzoli (Germany) who directs several tournaments in Europe won the Amateur Jackpot. The Novice Champion was George Kierspe (FL).

It is really satisfying to set a goal and reach it. With five matches to win and five good players in my way, it's no small feat to get through each match and to have the dice cooperate enough to actually win a major tournament. I know I rolled well this weekend and I think I did a good job of taking advantage of those good dice.

Thanks to Elayne for running a good event and I'll definitely be back next year to defend the championship. The next ABT events are the Indiana Open (Sept. 1-4) and the Georgia State Championships (Sept. 15-17). I'll be able to attend both of these so I hope to see you there!

Gregg Cattanach's previous reports can be found in the News Section.


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