Jorge Pan of Argentina is the 2007 World Backgammon Champion
by Michael Strato - 16 July 2007
MONTE CARLO: Jorge Pan of Argentina beat Alvario Savio of Brazil this past Sunday to earn the most exalted title in Backgammon on the planet, here at the 32nd annual World Championships at the Fairmont Monte Carlo Hotel in Monaco.
“It feels great,“ the new World Champion told GammonLife, “I always said that if I ever won this tournament I would stop playing Backgammon, but now that I have, I don’t think I want to stop.”

The 53-year-old lawyer said he has played backgammon since he was 30 and has come to these World Championships for the past 17 years. Other tournaments Pan has attended in the past are those held in Paris, Cannes, Venice and Las Vegas. He also told us he has played money games live in Argentina.

Pan has cashed often in Monte Carlo and Vegas – he was a semi-finalist at the 2004 Las Vegas Backgammon Open and, in the same year, the Runner-Up at the 10th International Cup Backgammon Tournament, also held in Vegas. Last year, Pan won the €1,000 Super Jackpot at the Nations Cup & Riviera Backgammon Festival 4 in Cannes.

Pan said that because of his work, he might not have much time to help promote our game, and upon receiving his trophy at the Awards Ceremony Sunday night, other than saying “thank you”, chose not to take the microphone to make a speech... we believe it was because he prefers to express himself in Spanish and perhaps many would not understand him.

Alvario Savio is the manager of a consulting company in Brazil and has also organized tournaments in that country. Savio has cashed in Vegas several times and was the semi-finalist of the Super Jackpot here in Monte Carlo in 2005.

Both Savio and Pan usually play extremely fast, and it was no different in most of the final although the pace decelerated at times towards the end of the match. We recorded the final match and analyzed it using Snowie 4 Professional software. Both players were rated Advanced by Snowie, with Alvaro Savio playing at an error rate of 6.1 and Pan at 7.5. Snowie said the Savio was a 65.71% favourite to win and the bookies were offering 1.75 for Savio and 1.95 for Pan.

The final was played in a private room and was refereed by Luigi Villa of Italy, the first Monte Carlo World Champion (1979).

Luigi Villa (L) was the judge in the final.

In one of the large tournament rooms, players could watch the final on two screens, one displayed a view from one side of the table, with the players facing each other...

...and right next to that screen, another showed the overhead view of the board...


Players watching the action in the final.

Live commentary on the final was provided by Matvey “Falafel” Natanzon, Backgammon Giant #4, with the assistance of Hanna Nilsson, who provided Snowie analysis to Falafel on the fly while also recording the match for GammonLife. (Here is a link to the full match).

Hanna and Falafel at work.

In the last game of the 25-point match, things begin to happen that left the commentator and virtually everyone else totally astonished...

Savio, leading 23-22, doubles at a score where one should just try to win the game. Here is the position; it is Savio’s third move in the game and they have reached this position with Savio playing 3-1, Pan 6-2, then Savio 4-4, and Pan 3-1:

Pan (White checkers) takes and naturally must double back to 4 for the match on his very next turn, which he does, and Savio takes and they’re now playing for the title. For some strange reason, the cube is removed from the board, apparently by Savio, when it should remain there so that people watching the screen, and see the score, know that it is the last game of the match.

Then, on the sixth move in the game a most extraordinary event takes place...

In the move above, Savio (Green checkers) actually rolled a 6-3. The die with the 6 showing had landed on the triangle of his 4 point. When Savio moves the checker from his 10 point to his 4 point, he uses the checker in an upright position to nudge the die showing the 6 off the 4 point, and the die makes half a turn to one side, and is now showing a 5.

It appears clearly unintentional as it goes unnoticed by Savio, Pan and referee Luigi Villa since nobody attempts to put the die back on a 6, which should have been done immediately.

Savio continues to move the checkers around trying different plays but still using a 6 and a 3... however, when he then tries to move a 5, he is told to put the checkers back to the original position. Then, according to Savio after the match, Villa tells him he must play the numbers showing on the dice, a 5 and 3 and not a 6-3. The audience goes wild, crying foul, everyone is totally amazed at what has just happened!

As we said, there was no bad intention by Savio, as you will see in the video, but rather simple confusion by the players and the ref. Although Savio now hits with the 5 and Pan eventually gets stuck behind a 6-prime, Savio rolls badly when trying to escape his last two checkers and is eventually forced to break his prime giving Pan some leeway.

Pan later hits a checker (all to the sound of the crowd loudly cheering him on two rooms away) and then completely escapes his checkers to safety and gets to bear one off while Savio danced eight times on a 4-point board (1 to 4 with the 5 and 6 point open)...

... and only comes down from the bar when there is no further contact possible...

... and Jorge Pan of Argentina is declared the new World Champion of Backgammon by Tournament Director James Ballie...

The official results of this World Championship are now published in the GammonLife tournaments section at this link. We will soon prepare photos from the Awards Ceremony and some video from Sunday as well.

Eric Guedj, Director of the Partouche Gammon Tour and the man behind the World Series of Backgammon poses with new world champ Jorge Pan.
Buddy Ricardo Malas of Spain (R) celebrates with Jorge Pan.
Jorge Pan with the Champion's trophy.
Marjorie Serrano Blanco of Costa Rica with Jorge Pan. Marjorie manages ibgdb.com and has provided invaluable assistance to GammonLife during our coverage here in Monte Carlo and as well as from Nice last week .

By the way, the final of this year’s World Championship Super Jackpot was played after the Awards Ceremony Sunday night and was won by Sven Rumcker of Germany over Ed O’Laughlin. Ed said he lost a game in which he should have won at least four points (gammon on a 2 cube) - having only one checker remaining to bear off, and Rumcker waiting on his 1 point, hits the blot and although Rumcker has his 4 point open on the other side of the board, and no big prime, O’Laughlin just doesn’t roll well enough to come around on time with that one last checker and loses the game. That’s backgammon!

Ed O'Laughlin and Sven Rumcker pose with a trophy just

before they play the final of the Super Jackpot.

We’re a bit delayed with our updates because we had to travel from Monte Carlo to Cannes yesterday, get settled in our hotel room and prepare to do coverage of the Partouche Gammon Tour’s 5th Riviera Challenge and Nations Cup happening at the Palm Beach Casino in Cannes, an event that will be filmed for the World Series of Backgammon. Watch for updates all this week.

Alexandros Kolonias, who participated in the Atlantis Million event in The Bahamas in January, will team up with GammonLife Editor Michael Strato Liberopoulos to represent Greece in this Nations Cup event.

Michael Strato with Alexandros.

Pictorials and videos from the last day's action and the Awards Ceremony will be published soon.


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