It is the last minute of one of the semi-final matches last month at the 2007 World Backgammon Championship in Monte Carlo, played between Richard Munitz of the USA and Alvaro Savio of Brazil. In the 23-point match, with Savio ahead in the score 22-18 (Crawford), Savio rolls a 3-3, watch it carefully and then read our notes on what happened further down...
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What Happened in the 3-3 Video
The video shows the final minute of the 2007 World Backgammon Championship semi-final match between Richard Munitz and Alvaro Savio; with the score at 22-18 (Crawford) in the 23-point match and Savio rolling a 3-3.
Here is the actual position before Savio begins to move the checkers:
(Savio is playing the Red checkers and has a 3-3 to move.)
Savio is gin, he can’t lose the match because he should only have two checkers remaining to bear off after moving a 3-3 while Munitz has five checkers to bear off and not even a 6-6 can save the day.
However, as you saw in the video, Savio moves the checker on the 5 point four pips to the 1 point and then attempts to take off three checkers, whereas, to avoid confusion, he should have just moved the checker properly from the 5 point to the 2 point and then take off three checkers.
Munitz sees something is wrong with the move and asks Savio to put the checkers back to the original position. Savio does so, at first, putting one back to the 4 point instead of the 5 point.
Then, confusion sets in and prevails, and after much shuffling back and forth, in the end, Savio makes the move from the position Munitz indicates and now has three checkers left to bear off instead of just two.
Hypothetically speaking, with three checkers remaining, Munitz now has a chance to win the game and possibly go on to win the match, if he rolls a big double in the next two moves and Savio does not roll a double.
However, when we spoke to Savio after the match, he said he went along with Munitz’s request because they both agreed to review the video if Munitz did win the game. But, Munitz then rolls a 2-3 and cannot bear off a single checker and Savio is declared the winner.
So take this as a lesson; always focus on playing your checkers correctly, and watch to see that your opponent does too. Even the finest players in the world make unintentional mistakes when making moves and so can you or I, especially when under pressure of a clock, or at a very intense moment, such as this one for Savio, when you’re just one roll away from a seat in the final for the world’s most prestigious title.