Kalantari Wins 10 Straight Matches in Victory at 54th Indiana Open
by Gregg Cattanach - 10 September 2006
Fred Kalantari


The 54th and final Indiana Open was an outstanding swan song for Butch and Mary Ann Meese who have been directing this fine event since 1984.

They decided earlier this year to retire from the backgammon directing business, and we certainly will miss all of their hard work and excellent directing skills. The local club will continue its weekly events under the direction of Sean Garber, but this will be the last American Backgammon Tour (ABT) event in Indianapolis. Attendance for this event was excellent with 76 playing in the Open, 51 in the Advanced and 29 in the Intermediate and Novice flight.


Howard Markowitz prepared a nice plaque for Butch and Mary Ann honoring them for all their hard work. The couple got a standing ovation when they were presented with the award.

Butch and Mary Ann Meese
Directors Mary Ann and Butch Meese.


Honorary award presented by Las Vegas Director Howard Markowitz.

One of the things that we won't have to miss is the outstanding 'Indy Swiss Movement' format of the main event. The Wisconsin Club will be adopting the format and take over the Labor Day weekend in 2007.


This format has eight rounds of play (9-point matches) where the pairings are set so each player plays someone else that has the same record. After eight rounds this leads to a set of successful players with 8-0, 7-1, 6-2 and 5-3 records. Everyone with two or fewer losses is seeded into the Championship playoff bracket, and the 5-3 players are entered into the Consolation bracket. Having a record of 8-0 or 7-1 gives you extra byes in the bracket seeding.


Generally no one manages to go undefeated through the 8 rounds, but Fred Kalantari of Minnesota did manage this impressive feat at this event. Because of this best record, he automatically cashed and was seeded as one of the semi-finalists. Bob Glass of California was the only player to post a 7-1 record so he was entered into the quarter-finals.


Nine players at 6-2 filled out the rest of the bracket with one bye available, and yours truly managed to win the random bye. Doubling my chances to win the tournament with this bye was great, of course, and it paired me up with Bob Glass for my first playoff match.


Bob sent me this large cube during our match:

White on roll, cube action?

Red: Gregg Cattanach, score 6

White: Bob Glass,  score 3

Match to 11.

After the match I commented to Bob that I wondered if he was even winning in this position. A rollout shows him as a 52% favorite, but the point is that with this lopsided score he doesn't have to be. As soon as White is at 57% Red should drop and White's doubling window opens at a ridiculously low 13%. These two facts highlight the main reasons that my previous redouble to 4 was extremely wrong. This is a very good double and a good player like Bob knew that he needed very little to spin this cube. I took the 8-cube and did get hit on the bar point, but survived to tell the tale and win the match.


This win put me into the semi-finals. I ended up being paired with David Todd Missouri on Monday morning. David plays a very aggressive game with lots of slotting with no fear of playing a backgame. The style is reminiscent of the way the game was played in the 70's and 80's, and though the current bots won't like some of his plays, it often leads to difficult positions that are 'out of the book' for the opponent.


Luckily I was able to steer clear of a lot of those pitfalls in this match, though David had defeated me earlier in the Swiss rounds. I had this checker play decision in my match with David.

Red to play 2-2

Red: Gregg Cattanach, score 2

White: David Todd,  score 4

Match to 11.

I tried out several plays moving pairs of checker to various places. Making the 5-point looked pretty good, but that left the last two checkers a long way to get home. Just bringing the back men all the way to the 11 point had some promise as well, as those checkers would only be exposed to a future 7-shot. I finally chose a 'compromise' play moving a pair to the 13-point and a pair to the bar point. This turns out to be very weak, and the best play wasn't even on my candidate list.


The simplest approach is to just move 15/9 and make the ace point with the last deuce. This only leaves a current 11-shot, and being 6-away from the landing spot on the 9-point makes it easy to safety that checker on the next roll. Also, this has the added bonus of making the ace point which could be important if there is an exchange of hits.


I managed to win 11-8 against David so the finals were set between Fred Kalantari and me. As I failed to enter the side pool, Fred already had that prize envelope in his pocket. Fred has been into backgammon for a very long time and always plays an outstanding game. I felt like I was not a large underdog to Fred and had a pretty even chance to prevail, but the dice were extremely uncooperative. He did slip up on this checker play, but I think many others would as well.

White to play 4-3

Red: Gregg Cattanach, score 1

White: Fred Kalatari,  score 6

Match to 13.

It seems like the only play is for White to step out to the bar point and take his chances. After making the solid 5-prime, most players will risk a lot to avoid breaking that up. However, in this position this is wrong and wrong by a lot. Red is on the offensive and White must do something more aggressive to seize the initiative. According to a Snowie rollout the only good play is to enter and hit, bar/22 8/4*. The swing on the nine fanning numbers is tremendous (White wins with a double and pass), and anything that doesn't hit back leaves White with a solid attack. Passively moving to the bar point is almost a triple blunder.


Fred walked away with the winner's trophy and will always be the reigning Indiana Open Champion! Congratulations to Fred who had a perfect undefeated tournament, winning 10 straight matches. I know he was thrilled with the win and the substantial prize money from this large tournament.

Fred Kalantari - the 54th Indiana Open Champion.

In other competition I also did very well in the Indy 300 Masters Jackpot. I managed to gather three wins on Friday against these excellent players: Petko Kostadinov (SC), Frank Talbot (MI) and Perry Gartner (NJ).


I had to face Kit Woolsey in the semi-finals, and stole the match (a little bit) with a dodgy cube when I was 2-away, 3-away. I'm glad that one worked out!


GammonLife Columnist Mary Hickey and I played the final match of the Masters on Sunday night, but again I had no luck in the 13-point match, losing with the exact same score as my loss to Fred at 14-3. I've won several matches against Mary in the past, but we've been matched in Jackpot finals three times, and I've lost all three of those. I'm hoping for a fourth chance soon!

Mary Hickey - Indy 300 Masters Winner.

I was unable to attend an informative lecture Perry Gartner gave on Friday afternoon. I'm sure he had some interesting situations to discuss and some good outlooks on all of them. He is always studying the game with the aid of Snowie and continues to learn a lot from his play as he records and studies all of his live matches.


In the Advanced Division, Lee Wood of England topped the field of 51, defeating Joe Miller of Ohio in the final. The Intermediate winner was Bob Frynell, and Michael Moellinger was the best of the Novices. Other notable results were David Rubin (IL) winning the Championship Consolation and Yancho Hristov of Bulgaria winning the Advanced Consolation. I'm pretty sure we need to push Yancho up to play with the big boys at the next tournament!

 Indy tournament room in action.

Butch and Mary Ann can certainly be satisfied going out with a great finish for an excellent string of tournaments. We definitely will miss going to Indianapolis. Mary Ann will still be around helping on the staff of other ABT events in Las Vegas and Detroit, so we'll still get to see them there.


Thanks again, Butch and Mary Ann, for all of your fine work and years of dedication!


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


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