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BWW June Newsletter

The Burning Question:

Why do Women Need ‘Women Only’ Events


Women's World of Backgammon Mission Statement: To promote women's participation, place, and preeminence in competitive backgammon.


You will read in this month's newsletter that the first-ever Women's World Team Championship tournament will take place in Sweden in July. Why is this important? After all, women regularly compete in various events open to both men and women. Some might ask why women need their own separate tournaments to compete? We thought you might be interested in our response to the question, with the understanding and open-minded curiosity to hear anyone's input after reading our thoughts.


In the summer of 2021, when we (Christine and Karen) first discussed women in backgammon and the challenges faced in competing in a male-dominated arena, we set out to find out why only 12% of tournament participants were women. We asked women whom we met along the way why they didn't play in tournaments or register for the main Championship, Masters Jackpot, or BMAB events. We heard stories about intimidation, not feeling welcome, or being treated poorly. And we heard from men as well. One of the top players in the world brought his wife to compete, and she was treated so poorly by a competitor that she never played in a tournament again.


As we dug into the data, we were shocked to see just how few women are top competitors. Only 6 percent of Championship division players in the U.S. are women. Only 5 out of about 50 Backgammon World Champions are women. Only 6 out of almost 300 BMAB Grandmasters or Masters are women.


In 2022, we joined with Backgammon Galaxy to do a survey of backgammon players and asked survey respondents why they didn’t play in tournaments or as many tournaments as they would like. The number one reason women gave was that they felt intimidated. They also reported lower skill levels than men but were strongly interested in improving their game. They were equally enthusiastic about playing, as evidenced by the fact that they played online as often as men.


We’ve built on this interest in online play by creating the Women’s World of Backgammon Mixed Doubles tournament; our third year doing it online is in session right now. Thirty-five teams from 16 countries competed this year. The first year, some women partners were quiet or very deferential to their male partners. Two short years later, we are delighted to see women’s voices are stronger when playing, and women are stepping up to serve as commentators. The growth in women’s confidence is palpable.


But large-scale change doesn’t come without focused and dedicated effort. It’s interesting that Melinda Gates has just split off her funds from the Gates Foundation to focus her giving—more than $2 billion over the coming two years—on women's issues. Only two percent of charitable giving was to women-specific organizations, and she has acted to help correct that imbalance. 


When you are coming from so far behind that you can't catch up, you need the camaraderie, the safety, the support, and the mentorship of your own to catch up. If we have special events at tournaments, where a woman can show up for the first time to compete, without an additional burden of concern about her treatment and entry to the world of competition, she is more likely to take the plunge.

We've come a long way, baby! 

Our intention is not, and never has been, to give added advantage to women playing tournaments. It's to provide an introduction to tournament play in a fair and level playing field. And, let's face it, the results speak for themselves.


Women are clearly not starting from the same position as men. Our mission at Women’s World of Backgammon is "to promote women’s participation, place, and preeminence in competitive backgammon." To do this, we have a number of different initiatives, from peer coaching, lessons online, key speaker events, and women’s competitions. Many of these initiatives are open to men as well as women, but the women’s only tournament is meant to be a safe, respectful, and comfortable space for women to enter competition, especially when they are starting out. Having said that, we absolutely want women to compete in the mixed tournament events as they gain confidence. The women’s tournament is in addition to, not instead of, the main competitions.


We have had fantastic support from many men in helping with these initiatives, and when we have held learning sessions, there have been men leading these and other men attending. In our peer coaching, many of the coaches have been men. So we see this as a collaborative effort to further our mission. We hope men will understand this and continue to join us in promoting women in the game.


We look forward to celebrating the time when the transition from 12% participation to 50% takes place. We’re beginning to see modest progress – more women playing and winning in Intermediate divisions, more women moving up to test their skills in the Masters/Championship division. And, women are increasingly playing in BMAB events as well, both as a means of setting personal benchmarks against which to assess progress and to qualify for certification at higher skill levels.


Women's World of Backgammon has a clear, attainable mission: to promote women's participation, place, and preeminence in competitive backgammon. Right now, that includes sponsoring and supporting events where we can gain confidence with the support of each other to get to the Master's class that some aspire to hold.


And, we'd also like to thank so many backgammon directors and players for their support in our efforts. They want a larger, more highly skilled competitive field. 


So do we.


As always, we welcome your thoughts.


Karen Davis, Melanie Hughes, Irina Litzenberger, and Christine Merser


WBGF Women's World Team Tournament

The World Backgammon Federation (WBGF) has announced its first-ever Women's World Team Tournament. This groundbreaking event will take place from 8-10 July 2024 at the luxurious Grand Hotel Saltsjobaden in Stockholm, Sweden, setting a historic precedent in the world of backgammon.


The inception of this tournament is the result of the tireless efforts of the World Backgammon Federation (WBGF) President Bernhard Mayr, the tournament producer Jörgen Granstedt, three-time world backgammon champion and Chairman of the Swedish Backgammon Federation, and the tournament director Arda Fındıkoğlu, one of Europe’s foremost backgammon tournament directors. The Women's World of Backgammon (WWB) co-founder Karen Davis serves as the WBGF Deputy General Secretary and has been a strong advocate for the event. The result of their efforts is this landmark event, which promises to be a thrilling showcase of talent and competition.


Teams from Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the USA, and the UK have already confirmed their participation, with more countries expected to join soon. This diverse international representation highlights the growing global enthusiasm for women's involvement in the mind sport of backgammon. Each team brings its own unique flair and strategic prowess, promising an exciting and unpredictable tournament.


The event will run concurrently with the WBGF World Team Championships, which have been held since 2018. It will also include the WBGF Individual Championship. This scheduling allows for a unique opportunity to witness the best of backgammon, showcasing leading men and women in the mind sport and fostering a spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect among all participants.


Immediately following the Team Tournaments, the 42nd Swedish Open will commence from 10-14 July 2024. This prestigious event will continue the celebration of backgammon in Stockholm, offering even more opportunities for players to showcase their skills and compete at the highest level.


Karen Davis, reflecting on the journey to this point, expressed her excitement: "This tournament is a dream come true. It's incredible to see how far we've come in promoting women's participation in backgammon. The passion and dedication from players around the world have been truly inspiring."


As the date approaches, anticipation builds. The first-ever Women's World Team Tournament by the WBGF is not just a competition; it's a celebration of progress, inclusivity, and the enduring allure of backgammon. Whether you're a seasoned player, an enthusiastic newcomer, or a devoted fan, the Grand Hotel Saltsjobaden is the place to be from 8-14 July 2024. Join us in witnessing history in the making and supporting the remarkable women who are shaping the future of backgammon.


Let the games begin!

Thanks to Mel Kelf on the World Backgammon Federation Team for her article on the WBGF website from which this is drawn.


Semi-Final Round 1 of the WWB Mixed Doubles Tournament

Viewers were treated to a thrilling semi-final round of the Women's World of Backgammon Mixed Doubles tournament on June 11! If you weren't able to make it live, don't miss reviewing this YouTube video of the match between Karen Davis, WWB co-founder and Giant of Backgammon (#62), and Kent Goulding, American Backgammon Hall of Famer, against Steve Bibby, winner of multiple UK Championships as far back as the 1990s and the Nordic Open Doubles in 2002, and Jay Hayter, a newcomer to tournament backgammon with hugely impressive wins at Brighton and Manchester.


Extensive expert commentary was provided by Grandmaster Tim Cross from the UK; Tim has served as UK Backgammon Captain in numerous successful team championships. He was joined by co-commentator Kit Woolsey, Grandmaster from the US; noted bridge and backgammon author. Kit Woolsey is one of backgammon’s leading experts on the doubling cube and tournament play. Also chiming in was Marty Storer, Grandmaster and Executive Editor of the stellar quarterly PrimeTime Backgammon.

The other semi-final match took place Sunday, June 17 at Noon EST. Kara Schultz, winner of the 2023 World Women's Online Championship, and David Vakil, BMAB Master Class 2, won a tough match against Bernhard Mayr, Grandmaster and President of the World Backgammon Federation, and Christa Groll from Austria.


In the Intermediate Division, Yvonne Dalpay and Richard Battin from South Florida will play in the final against Cristi Frisk and Daniela Antonescu from Romania on Friday, June 21.


The final of the Championship division between Kent Goulding/Karen Davis and Kara Schultz/David Vakil will be held on Sunday, June 30 at 2 pm Eastern.


Twenty-three teams have competed in the Championship Division and 12 in the Intermediate Division. Sixteen countries had players in the event. The winners of both the Championship and Intermediate Divisions will receive WWB backgammon boards as well as awards from the prize pool of entry fees.

If you have friends or family that love backgammon as much as you, or maybe they are just learning to play, you can use the link below to forward this newsletter to them and ask them to subscribe! 

Historical Women in Backgammon

Meet Emma Darwin, Wife of Charles

She was Charles Darwin’s first cousin, and the granddaughter of the famous potter Josiah Wedgewood. The two had ten children. Emma was a pious and observant Christian, and Darwin was carefully respectful of her faith. For the duration of their marriage, the two were in the habit of playing backgammon every night.  Charles kept a running tabulation of their respective wins and losses. When she died, he had won 2,795 games to her 2,490.


Winning Women Around the World

Women are increasingly placing in American Backgammon Tour and international events. In May/June they included:



May 17-20, 2024; Niedernhausen, Germany



May 22-27, 2024; Rosemont, Illinois



June 5-9, 2024; Los Angeles, California

Women Take Center Stage in Los Angeles

Women starred at the 47th Los Angeles Backgammon Open held June 5-9 at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton. Candace Mayeron produced the fabulous event.


Kara Schultz, who has been on a skyrocketing journey to the top since winning the 2018 California State Novice event, played in the Championship division and finished tied for 4th in a field of 102 players, including buy-backs! Last year, Kara won the 2023 World Women’s Online Championship hosted by the World Backgammon Internet Federation. Kara demonstrates that focused study and lessons from a great coach pay off!


An Australian woman, Tatiana Infinity, is following Kara’s path to success. We first met Tatiana in February when she participated in a WWB Peer Coaching Clinic. She went on from that training session the next day to win the Intermediate division of the Australian Gold Coast Summer Championship (see article in WWB March 2024 Newsletter). She’s now taken center stage in Los Angeles by winning the Wonder Woman’s Jackpot at the 2024 LA Open.

Women Winners in the Windy City

For the first time the Chicago Open included a National Women’s Championship event with 32 entrants including re-buys. It was a great format – 9-point matches in the Main and a full Consolation for all Main event losers. The final match between Wendy Kaplan (IL) and Elena Evans (IA) was streamed, with commentary by Tiffany Van (TX) and young Hannah DeRosier (LA). Marcy Kossar (MD) won the Consolation, with Paulette Duong (IL) finishing second in the Consolation.


Women also made their mark in the Chicago BMAB Players Cup. Four out of 44 entrants were women – rising to the occasion to set a personal benchmark for future improvement. Karen Davis (Master Class 2) tied for second on the basis of Win-Loss with a 4-1 Win-Loss record. Other entrants included Leslie Lockett (Intermediate Class 1) and newcomers Terese Flynn and Melanie Hamblin.

Karen (FL) and Leslie (IL) also finished 1st/2nd in the Unlucky Dice event – open to the 27 players who lost four matches in their ABT division play on the first day.


Sue Will tied for 4th in the Intermediate division, while Lynn Ehrlich (FL) and Kazuko Numazawa (Japan) tied for 10th in the Intermediate division.

Snarheim & Husum Make History at 16th German Championship

Backgammon-loving couples are making history not just as winning doubles partners but also excelling in their own divisional events. At the 16th German Backgammon Championship, May 17-20, 2024, the Norwegian couple Dagfinn Snarheim and Marianne Husum were the first couple to win both the Championship division and the Intermediate division. Katalin Veszeli (Hungary) also gave Dagfinn a strong challenge, finishing 2nd in the Championship division of the German Championship.


Both Dagfinn and Marianne have had considerable success in the past two years. Dagfinn captured international attention in 2023 when he finished tied with Dirk Schiemann (Germany) for third in the Ultimate Backgammon Contender tournament in Istanbul, with Mochy Mochizuki 1st and Zdenek Zizka 2nd. Dagfinn is a BMAB Grandmaster, Class 1, and a Giant of Backgammon.


Marianne has also had an impressive record performance in the last two years. In addition to winning the Intermediate division at the recent German Championship, she has placed in the Advanced division of the 2024 Nordic Open (4th/5th), the 2023 Gibraltar Open (2nd), the 2023 North Cyprus Arkin tournament (1st Last Chance), and the 2023 Skopje Speedgammon event (2nd). She has also entered and won or placed in women's only events at the 2023 Nordic (3rd), the 2023 North Cyprus Arkin (1st), and the 2023 Skopje (1st Ladies Overflow). She and Dagfinn placed 3rd/4th in the Doubles events at the 2023 Merit Middle East Grand Prix Invitational tournament and 3rd/4th in the 2023 Skopje Open Doubles.

Upcoming Events

May 22 – BMAB in conjunction with the Chicago Open, Dmitriy Obukhov

View details here.


May 22-27 – 42nd Chicago Open, Hyatt Rosemont O'Hare, IL. The 2024 Women's National Championship will start on May 23.   

Rory Pascar 617-699-9100. View details here.


June 5 – BMAB in conjunction with the Los Angeles Open, Roberto Litzenberger, director. June 6-9 – 47th Los Angeles Open, Hilton LAX, Los Angeles, CA Candace Mayeron, 310-422-1646. View details here.


July 3 – BMAB in conjunction with the Michigan Summer Championship, Novi, MI, Dmitri Obukhov and Roberto Litzenberger, directors. 

July 3-7 – 49th - Michigan Summer Championship, Sheraton, Novi, MI 810-212-9731View details here.


July 7-14 - WBGF Women's World Team Championship, Stockholm, Sweden. Held in conjunction with the Swedish Open. View details here.


July 27-August 4 – Backgammon World Championship, Fairmont Hotel, Monte Carlo, Monaco. View details here.


August 8-11 – Wisconsin Championships, Best Western, Madison, WI Jack Edelson, Director, 516-650-4329. View details here.


August 10-16 – World Backgammon Federation World Doubles/Backgammon Festival, Stadt-Palais, Aachen, Germany Marcus Reinhard and Jürgen Schettler, Producers. View details here.


August 28 - Sept 2 – Viking Classic and BMAB, Hilton, Bloomington MN, April and Michael Mesich, Directors, 612-703-3211. View details here.


Sept 26-29 – St. Louis Gateway Open and BMAB, Holiday Inn Airport, MO, 314-749-9687, David Todd and Jim Feher directors. View details here.


October 16 -- BMAB Denver, Ben Friesen director held in conjunction with the 6th Wild West Shootout, October 16-20, Embassy Suites, Denver, CO Dan Minardi Director, 303-356-3679. View details here.


November 5-10, Worldwide Backgammon Federation, 11th Merit International Open, Kyrenia, North Cyprus, Arda Fındıkoğlu


President WBF – Turkey; Marco Fornasir – General Secretary, WBF.

View details here.


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