And the Giants Slumbered...
by Gregg Cattanach - 9 July 2006


The Michigan Summer Championships in Novi were back in fine form again on Friday through Monday of the 4th of July holiday weekend. This outstanding 31st annual event always draws one of the biggest crowds on the American Backgammon Tour (ABT).

Attending were a total of 206 players with 89 in the Open division, 64 in the Intermediate and 29 in the Novice - 24 additional players took part in some of the many side events. Players in the main divisions vied for 100% return of entry fees.

Michigan Summer Backgammon Championships in full action.

There is always a very strong field in Novi and this year was no exception. Seven of 32 Giants of Backgammon list and seven more from the top 64 Giants were in attendance. I don't know if this was some 'changing of the guard' or not, but not one of these 14 players managed to cash in the main of the Open Division. Quite a few new faces were seen on the prize list this July.

Friday's activities started with the Michigan Masters one of the toughest Jackpot events on the Tour. As usual a bracket of 32 was filled at $500 per entry and most of the aforementioned 14 Giants were on the draw sheet. Fred Kalantari prevailed on Sunday night over Brent Cohen of Pennsylvania to take the $10,000 first prize. Brent was definitely one of the Giant-killers throughout the weekend, winning this substantial second place prize and going very deep in the Open main event, eventually finishing third in the double-elimination format.

Here's a position that came up for me against Steve Brown of Minnesota in our first round Michigan Masters match:


Red to play 61

Red: Gregg Cattanach, score 4
White: Steve Brown, score 6
Match to 11.

I seemed to roll a lot of 61s this weekend, many of which were either jokers or anti-jokers. I missed a good chance here to make the correct bold play. I made the bar point which seems pretty straightforward, but the 8 and 7 points have nearly equal value here. As I was going to leave a shot anyway, I may as well do something useful with the ace like splitting the back men. Blotting the bar instead of the 8 point is a lot better as you get to play 24/23. The top play is 13/7 24/23. Advancing both back men comes up second best.

The doubles heated up on Friday as well, fielding 32 teams in the main event, 12 teams in the overflow event and 8 more in the Limited Doubles. The consulting was deafening! After the dust had settled on Monday in the 32-team event, Harvey Gillis and Ken Fischer prevailed over Ray Fogerlund and Marianne Gatenby. Ken has been winning pretty much everything this year, and Novi was no exception. He also was second in the $50 Warm-up on Thursday. This suspicious (but effective!) redouble came up in the final match:

Red on roll, cube action
Doubles event
Red: Ken Fischer & Harvey Gillis, score 2
White: Ray Fogerlund & Marianne Gatenby, score 2
Match to 7.

Ken and Harvey figured they were winning by a lot with eight to nine checkers and being on roll. However, this isn't a 4-roll to 5-roll position at all. Red can afford to miss twice, but the inefficiency of most of his doubles is a huge problem while competing with White's 100% speed board. They are a favorite winning 61% of the games from here, but would do much better to wait a roll. Even a good roll like 54 will leave them with a strong double that White still should take. They redoubled and won the 4-point game, and coasted home from 6/2-Crawford.

Ken Fischer & Harvey Gillis ponder a move in the Doubles event.

Tournament Director Carol Joy Cole has devised a fun side event called the Summer Freeze-Out. The premise is pretty simple, you play a series of money games and the first person to be five points ahead of the other is the winner. After each set of five games, the cube starts on the next higher number, eventually forcing a winner with the cube starting on 8. But the match can end in the first or second game as well. It is fun to figure out some of the cube possibilities, with some interesting automatic and dead-cube situations as the cube escalates. I've done well in this event before and managed to eke out a second place finish this year. This was a position that I had against Kit Woolsey:

Red on roll, cube action

Red: Kit Woolsey, score 0
White: Gregg Cattanach, score 0
Summer Freeze-Out to get ahead by 5.

Kit has the thinnest of doubles, but does have a few market losers and is a solid favorite with a good race lead. I saw I had an easy take as Kit would continue to have a fair amount of shot jeopardy for many rolls to come. I hit a fly shot on the second roll and was able to double Kit out with an 8 cube. Three games later I secured the victory with a score of 8-2.

The Calcutta Auction kicked off the festivities on Saturday, and some spirited bidding garnered maximum bids of $1000 in both the Open and Intermediate divisions. We'll have to quiz the guy who bid $1000 for one of the Intermediate teams, (the average bid was about $400). However, he seems pretty excited about his purchase, nonetheless!

For the first time I started videotaping my full matches at this event. Videotaping is actually the wrong word, of course, in this digital era. I was able to use my Pentax digital still camera with its built-in movie mode. Inserting a 2-gigabyte memory card allows me to take a 2-1/2 hour movie in a single sitting. The real effort, of course, is transcribing the video into Snowie. I'll have to see if I have the energy to do the post-tournament work of going through each video and entering all the matches. Here is something that came up against Bob Glass in my third Consolation match:

Red to play 33

Red: Gregg Cattanach, score 0
White: Bob Glass, score 1
Match to 9.

I liked the notion of being able to clear the bar on this roll by playing 7/4(2) 4/1 6/3. I thought about this for quite a while and decided the four shots I'd volunteer by not moving the 10-point checker would be compensated by the smoothness of the resulting position; all of my big doubles would play well. Not only is this wrong, but it's actually a rather large blunder.

Despite the smoothness of this play, (only 65 would blot next turn), the four shots just aren't worth it. Clearing the bar is the right idea but the safe and ugly 10/7 7/4(3) is the best play with no real second choice. The future blotting possibilities are much less risky than the immediate shots I left. Bob hit with 62 and played on for the gammon (correctly) after I exposed a second blot, but he never could hit that second man. I hit back with a super joker of 16 from the bar and went on to win a gammon in this game and the match.

As mentioned before, the Giants had a hard time dealing with the rest of the field this time around. Many of them lost their first two matches, leaving nothing but a wait for Sunday morning to start the Consolation rounds. Even Neil Kazaross managed to post a 0-3 record, apparently paying for the sins of his good dice and good play from last year. I had an average performance, ending up 4-3 after winning three matches in the Consolation. The double-elimination format with 89 players in the Open went quite smoothly with three days to complete the action.

The finals went off on time on Monday, with Peter Kalba in the catbird seat needing only to beat Richard Munitz of New York once in two 13-point matches. But that was not to be, and Richard is the new Michigan Summer Champion. Everyone was excited for Peter as he sat atop the undefeated bracket; he's certainly a popular character on the tour, an excellent auctioneer and always ready with a good quip in any situation. Congratulations to Richard who now is the leader in the ABT points race, garnering 29 points for this win alone. He also cashed in Pittsburgh earlier this year.

Richard Munitz, the 31st Michigan Summer Backgammon Champion.

In the Intermediate Division Michael Edge of South Carolina met Rose Sheedy of Indiana in the Final. Rose continued her undefeated run of matches for the weekend and won the first match and the 1st place trophy and prize. These were her first ABT points ever and she is another in a series of women cashing at or near the top in the ABT this year. Well done, Rose!

Carol and staff did their usual excellent job, and the Sheraton Novi is always a nice hotel. You have to love those Sheraton beds! There was a problem with the air-conditioning on Saturday with only 2 of 3 units for the grand ballroom working and the playing room was rather warm all day. I'm sure the heat may have had some impact on the error rates throughout the room. This was remedied by Sunday to the relief of everyone concerned.

TMG added sponsorship and Carol was able to give back 100% of all entry fees in the main events. GamesGrid added prizes and money to the Blitz event. It's nice to see more cash sponsorship in the ABT, and we anticipate many no-rake and positive equity situations in the coming months.

Florida is offering 100% return in the three main events, (August 18-20 in Ft. Lauderdale) and the Indiana Open (Sept. 1-4 in Indianapolis) is returning 101% in every event this Labor Day weekend. I hope to see you at an ABT tournament very soon!

Full results on this tournament are in the GammonLife Results Section.


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


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