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BWW November Newsletter



A New Peer Coaching Program from Backgammon. Winning. Women.

Adam Grant, a great thinker, has just released his latest book, Hidden Potential:The Science of Achieving Greater Things. In a recent interview, Adam discussed The Raging Rooks, a Harlem chess team comprising economically disadvantaged students of color in fourth through sixth grade. In just two short years, The Raging Rooks rose to become National Chess Champions, defeating private schools that had held the Chess National Title for decades. These private schools had the best teachers and received incredible support from their families, making them the most successful chess players in the world. Adam Grant aptly stated, "they were up against kids who were chosen for their ability and put in Olympic training centers since they were five years old."

Grant was intrigued by their success and wanted to uncover their secret. This led him to the coach of The Raging Rooks, Maurice Ashley, a Jamaican immigrant and chess master who implemented what he called 'scaffolding' for the kids. Scaffolding, as we know, is a structure that enables people to climb higher on a structure they can't conquer alone. So, what did this scaffolding entail? Ashley taught the students to review each other's games, engage in discussions on how to play better, and share notes. They formed a community where they lived and breathed chess together. Ashley referred to this as a teamwork exercise, and it went beyond just playing matches with teacher instruction. The results were remarkable. The students surpassed their circumstances and achieved phenomenal growth.

Karen, stumbled upon a similar approach before realizing it was a tried and true methodology documented in Adam's book. It all started when she offered to play a match with an up-and-coming player named Marianne Bowen in the Washington DC area.

They played on Heroes.BackgammonStudio.com, and Marianne introduced Karen to playing in "Consultation" mode. In this mode, Heroes displays any checker errors in green (small error), yellow (major error), or red (blunder) after the move is made. It also provides feedback on cube decisions, including failures to double correctly on previous plays. Having the "right" checker and cube decisions displayed gave Karen the confidence to become a Peer Coach.

She agreed to play a weekly match in Consultation mode with two Intermediate players. Together, they would discuss potential decisions before making moves and review any errors or blunders afterward. Karen shared, "Stepping up to be a Peer Coach benefits me as much as the mentee! I can see my own mistakes as they happen and gain an understanding of what I'm doing wrong. It's time well-spent, not just for the mentee but also an investment in my own improvement."

We are excited to offer a Peer Coaching program for any woman who wants to be coached, become a coach, or even participate in Peer Coaching with fellow players to enhance their skills. This program encourages playing matches with each other and discussing different approaches afterward. We invite you to be part of our initial program. If you are interested, please email us here, and we will be in touch. We will also keep you updated on the program's progress. Let's come together as women, supporting and learning from each other to become better players. Let's build scaffolding for ourselves within the realm of backgammon competition and elevate ourselves collectively beyond what we can achieve individually.

Lastly, let's not forget Maurice's impact on the parents of The Raging Rooks team. He changed their perception of their children, enabling them to see their potential and greatness. These children were not chess prodigies; they were kids who learned to love the game and learn from each other. It's no surprise that these kids went on to achieve great things in fields such as computer programming, writing, raising families, and law. We are truly inspired by their success and extend our heartfelt congratulations to the team.

-Karen Davis & Christine Merser, co-founders, Backgammon. Winning. Women.





Winning Women

Women are increasingly placing in American Backgammon Tour and international events. In September-October they included:

St. Louis Gateway – October 2023

ABT Open – Linda Rockwell, 2nd

ABT Intermediate – Tiffany Van, 1st; Paulette Duong, 2nd

BMAB – Irina Litzenberger, tied for 1st with Julius High, John O’Hagan,

Gerry Tansey

Speedgammon Intermediate – Tiffany Van, 1st

Phyllis Shapiro Intermediate Challenge – Jena Jennings

Doubles – Chris and Patty Knapp, finals

10th Merit Open International, Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus – November 2023

Ladies Tournament – 1- Gülderen Gücavli (Turkey); 2- Laurence Sinitzky (France); 3rd/4th – Liz Granstedt (Sweden), E. Rad (Iran)

WBIF Women’s World Team Championship – Update

Top teams in first five rounds: Norway, Romania, Sweden; Top individuals in first five rounds: Ingrid Sonnabend (Germany) 4.06 PR; Pia Jeppesen (Denmark) 4.75 PR; Kara Schultz (USA) 4.90 PR


Upcoming Tournaments ABT: The Capital Classic will take place at the Dulles Marriott, Herndon, VA, November 16-19. View details here.

BMAB: November 16 in conjunction with the Capital Classic, Roberto Litzenberger, director.

ABT: The California State Championships will take place at the LAX Hilton, Los Angeles, CA December 7-10. View details here.

BMAB: December 6 in conjunction with the California State Championship, Ben Friesen, director.

The top 16 women in the Americas region of the WBIF Women's World Championship are competing for the title of U.S. Online Women's Champion. The first Round began November 7. It consists of best-of-three 9-point matches. Two points are awarded to winning and one point to best PR.

To see bracket, click here.

ABT: The 17th New York Metropolitan Open will take place at the Hyatt Regency, Jersey City, January 3-7, 2024. View details here.

BMAB: January 3 in conjunction with the New York Metropolitan Open,

Jeb Horton director.



Women Play Their Hearts Out in the Heartland


Women turned out for the St. Louis Gateway Backgammon Tournament, October 19-22, 2023, accounting for 14 out of 82 ABT entrants (17% of the field, up from 14% in 2021). Women are particularly at the playing table in the Intermediate division, accounting for over one-fourth of Intermediate players.

Women scored a number of sweet spots in the winners' circle. Linda Rockwell (IL) finished second to Hall of Famer Kent Goulding’s first place in the American Backgammon Tour (ABT) Open.

The final of the ABT Intermediate Division was an all-woman event, with Tiffany Van (TX) repeating her performance at the Texas ABT Intermediate event eight months ago by winning the Intermediate division. Paulette Duong (IL) finished second. Tiffany also took home another trophy for winning the Speedgammon Intermediate event. Irina Litzenberger (VA) tied for first in the Backgammon Masters Awarding Body (BMAB) event with a 4-1 Win-Loss record, along with Julius High (GA), director of the Novice workshop and tournament event, and grandmasters Gerry Tansey (MO) and John O’Hagan (IN). Gerry Tansey won on the basis of PR with a stellar 2.59. Irina was 6th in a field of 18 entrants on the basis of PR, with a respectable 6.17 Performance Rating. Phyllis Shapiro generously donated the trophy and prize for the Phyllis Shapiro Intermediate Challenge won by Jena Jennings in a field of 24 players. Kent Goulding (MD) and Mike Senkiewicz (NY) won the Doubles event with second place going to Chris and Patty Knapp (MA).


ABT - SAINT LOUIS GATEWAY OPEN BACKGAMMON TOURNAMENT October 19-22, 2023; Saint Louis, Missouri ABT OPEN (44): 1-Kent Goulding (MD), 2-Linda Rockwell (IL), 3-Ian Terry (TX), 4/7-Saba Bejanishvili (GA) / Ray Fogerlund (NV) / Bill Lonergan (NY) / John O'Hagan (IN). ABT INTERMEDIATE (38): 1-Tiffany Van (TX), 2-Paulette Duong (IL), 3/6-Scott Bailey (GA) / Robert Ellis (TN) / Mark Flannery (WV) / Thomas Rosandich (WI). ABT NOVICE (6): 1-Dilara Baltaci (IL), 2/3-Gordon Crispin (MI) / Tracy Parent (MI). BMAB-USA MISSOURI (18): 1/4: Julius High (GA) / Irina Litzenberger (VA) / John O'Hagan (IN) / Gerry Tansey (MO). PR winners: 1-Gerry Tansey (MO) at 2.49, 2-John O'Hagan (IN) at 3.66, 3-Kit Woolsey (CA) at 4.56, 4-Kent Goulding (MD) at 4.70, 5-Ray Fogerlund (NV) at 5.14, 6-Irina Litzenberger (VA) at 6.17. $1,000 GATEWAY JACKPOT (7): 1-Gerry Tansey (MO). MASTERS JACKPOT (24): 1-Saba Bejanishvili (GA), 2-Ray Fogerlund (NV), 3-Kent Goulding (MD). INTERMEDIATE JACKPOT (24): 1-Ken Carlson (GA), 2-Jim Hallers (TX), 3-Randy Armstrong (IL). SPEEDGAMMON OPEN (8): 1-Roberto Litzenberger (VA), 2-Rory Pascar (IL). SPEEDGAMMON INTERMEDIATE (8): 1-Tiffany Van (TX), 2-Brad Fisher (IL). GERRY TANSEY OPEN CHALLENGE (16): 1-Sam Ahmed (CA), 2-Sean Garber (IN), 3-Bill Calton (MI). PHYLLIS SHAPIRO INTERMEDIATE CHALLENGE (24): 1-Jena Jennings (IL), 2-Gordon Crispin (MI), 3-Jon Schoenecker (MO). DOUBLES (17 teams): 1-Kent Goulding (MD) & Mike Senkiewicz (NY), 2-Chris Knapp (MA) & Patty Knapp (MA). DMP QUICKIE (16): 1-Bill Calton (MI), 2-Keith Deisner (MO). WARM-UP (24): 1-Ray Fogerlund (NV), 2-Bill Lonergan (NY), 3-Bill Calton (MI). AFTER TOURNAMENT (18): 1-Ray Fogerlund (NV), 2-Larry Whittenburg (IL).


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10th Merit Open Intl. Ldies Tournament


Forty-seven women competed in the Ladies Tournament at the 10th Merit Open International held in Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus, November 7-12, 2023. The Merit Open, directed by Arda Fındıkoğlu, drew 366 entrants in the Masters and Intermediate divisions – one of the largest tournaments in Europe.

First place went to Gülderen Gücavli from Turkey who prevailed over Laurence Sinitzky from France in the final. Liz Granstedt from Sweden and E. Rad from Iran were semi-finalists.

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Irina Litzenberger - BMAB Master Class. 10th Merit Open Intl. Ldies Tournament


Congratulations to Irina Litzenberger for achieving the title of Backgammon Masters Awarding Body (BMAB) Master Class 3 in October 2023, with her outstanding performance at the BMAB event at the St. Louis Gateway. In St. Louis, she finished tied for first based on her 4-1 Win-Loss record and ranked 6th in a field of 18 based on her Performance Rating (PR). Her current PR stands at 6.22, which is below the 6.5 PR cutoff for Master Class 3.

In accomplishing this, Irina has become only the fourth woman in the world to attain the rank of Master. Others who have achieved this distinction include Karen Davis (US) in Master Class 2, Cecilia Rogers (UK) in Master Class 3, and Maya Peycheva (Hungary) in Master Class 3. Additionally, Eva Žižková (Czechia) has a PR of 5.05 at 70 experience points, which is at a Master Class 2 level but requires 100 experience points for official qualification as a Master.

This journey spanned six years, starting with Irina's participation in her first BMAB event at the Michigan Summer Championships in 2017, where she had an average PR of 8. She continued to compete in the Michigan BMAB event in 2018, 2019, and 2021, with no BMAB live events occurring in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Irina reached 200 experience points in September 2021, marking the beginning of her determined effort to climb to the top. By March 2022, she had doubled her experience points to 400, and her PR has continued to steadily improve ever since. In 2023, Irina participated in various BMAB events, including Atlanta, Ohio, Cherry Blossom, Michigan, Denver Wild West, and St. Louis Gateway, accumulating a total of 1297 experience points. She achieved remarkable results in these events, tying for top positions in Atlanta and Ohio based on Win-Loss records, and ranking well in terms of PR in Denver. In Atlanta, she tied for 2nd based on Win-Loss and placed 6th in PR. In Ohio, she tied for first in Win-Loss record. In Denver, she had a PR of 5.45 and ranked 7th out of 27 entrants based on PR. In St. Louis, she tied for first in Win-Loss and ranked 6th in PR with an average of 6.17.


BMAB-USA ATLANTA (26): 1-Philippe Salnave (FL), 2/9-John Brown (KY) / Karen Davis (FL) / Di Di (GA) / Eric Hiner (MN) / Scotty Kelland (CT) / Michael Klein (Cayman Islands) / Irina Litzenberger (VA) / Tiffany Van (TX). PR winners: 1-Di Di (GA) at 3.37, 2-Michael Klein (Cayman Islands) at 5.67, 3-Jeb Horton (NC) at 5.94, 4-John Brown (KY) at 6.42, 5-Irina Litzenberger (VA) at 6.69. BMAB-USA OHIO (22): 1/3-Ben Friesen (MI) / Irina Litzenberger (VA) / Larry Shiller (TX). PR Winners: 1-Dana Nazarian (CA) at 3.24, 2-Marty Storer (NH) at 3.36, 3-Nick Blasier (WI) at 4.59, 4-John O'Hagan (IN) at 4.68, 5-Bill Lonergan (NY) at 5.77. BMAB-USA SAINT LOUIS (18): 1/4: Julius High (GA) / Irina Litzenberger (VA) / John O'Hagan (IN) / Gerry Tansey (MO). PR winners: 1-Gerry Tansey (MO) at 2.49, 2-John O'Hagan (IN) at 3.66, 3-Kit Woolsey (CA) at 4.56, 4-Kent Goulding (MD) at 4.70, 5-Ray Fogerlund (NV) at 5.14, 6-Irina Litzenberger (VA) at 6.17.


Julius High showed up at an enlightening and lively zoom presentation around Analyzing Your eXtreme Gammon (XG) Match Files. Who knew? Julius serves as director of Tournament Services for the American Backgammon Tour and as co-director of Novice Workshops and Events for Backgammon for Everyone. The session explains a technique developed by Julius to categorize and quantify mistakes made in match play. It applied the technique to matches played by women in the Annie Oakley Event at the Wild West Shootout ABT tournament in Denver, October 4-9, 2023.

Backgammon. Winning. Women. sponsored the recording and transcription of matches in the event, and supplied women entrants with copies of their XG match files.

Julius High showed up at an enlightening and lively zoom presentation around Analyzing Your eXtreme Gammon (XG) Match Files. Who knew? Julius serves as director of Tournament Services for the American Backgammon Tour and as co-director of Novice Workshops and Events for Backgammon for Everyone. The session explains a technique developed by Julius to categorize and quantify mistakes made in match play. It applied the technique to matches played by women in the Annie Oakley Event at the Wild West Shootout ABT tournament in Denver, October 4-9, 2023.

Backgammon. Winning. Women. sponsored the recording and transcription of matches in the event, and supplied women entrants with copies of their XG match files.

Julius's presentation was primarily geared toward the typical Intermediate player, but it contained valuable information for players of all skill levels. It covered the basics of downloading the XG match file onto a laptop or desktop computer using eXtreme Gammon software. The presentation also explained how to analyze matches at an advanced level referred to as XG Roller ++ and how to navigate through the match file using a right arrow to move from one mistake to the next. Mistakes were categorized as Errors (equity loss between .03 and .08) or Blunders (equity loss exceeding .08), with equity representing the percentage of games won. A blunder of .08, for example, indicates an equity of .57, meaning the player wins 8 percentage points fewer times. A more sophisticated explanation would consider gammons or backgammons won or lost, as well as the match score.

Julius then detailed how he creates a database of a player's mistakes from five or more matches, categorizing the mistakes by the type of game plan and the type of cube or checker mistake, along with the associated equity loss. He subsequently creates tables using an Excel spreadsheet to display the distribution of equity loss by the type of game plan and the type of error.

In his experience, the most common mistakes made by Intermediate players occur in Holding Games, followed by Blitzing and Priming Games. The most common Cube mistakes come from Missing Doubles, Doubling when it is Not a Double, and Doubling when it is Too Good to Double. The most common Checker mistakes include Leaving an Anchor too soon or not soon enough, Not Making an Inner Board Point (e.g., hitting or running instead), Leaving too many Blots or Slots when they should play safe, and Failing to Stay Back when behind in the race.

Julius then provided several techniques to reduce these types of mistakes. The most common cause of the mistake is failing to count the race when making cube and checker plays. A shortcut for Intermediate players is to Count Crossovers, which involves determining how many quadrants your checkers and your opponent's checkers need to cover to reach the player's Home Board. The player with the fewest crossovers is ahead in the race. While counting pips is more accurate, Intermediate players may find this shortcut easier to calculate and it serves as a good approximation of the race.

Another tool for Intermediate players to evaluate Cube decisions is Position, Race, and Threats (PRAT). Position involves having more inner board points than the opponent, having fewer checkers back in the opponent's inner board or bar point, and having a better prime (longer or fewer gaps). Race means being 10 percent or more ahead in the race or having one fewer crossover. Threat means having 9 or more rolls that hit a check or make a point. If a player is ahead in two of these three PRAT attributes, they should Double. If ahead in all three, the player is likely Too Good to Double and should continue playing. If an opponent has an inner board anchor or makes one, it's probably right to double. If an opponent has the advantage in at least one of the PRAT attributes, then the opponent should take. If the player has the advantage in one or zero of the PRAT attributes, it is a No Double/Take situation. Expert players may consider the Match Score in their decisions, generally being more conservative when leading and more aggressive when behind in the Match.

Julius emphasizes the importance of becoming a Backgammon Mechanic and consistently counting crossovers in a specific way (e.g., your checkers first, then your opponent's) and assessing the three PRAT attributes when considering cube actions.

Backgammon is a continuously fascinating game, and there is always more to learn for players at all levels. However, these simple techniques can significantly improve your game and lower your Performance Rating.


Understanding the BMAB. The Backgammon Masters Awarding Body. In people-speak? It's the ranking body that will give you where you stand in how you play, taking into consideration your play and luck. It's great for Intermediate levels and above, and you never lose your standing. Spend a few minutes with Christine Merser and Roberto Litzenberger, as he walks through the enormous benefits of becoming a participant. Big takeaway? You can compete with yourself; try and improve every time you compete - and, it's a great way to test the waters of competition. Bonus Cube: Roberto gives a tip at the end that is mind-blowingly fabulous.


Next up in our discovery of remarkable women in history known to have played backgammon is Empress Matilda of England.

Matilda, also known as Empress Matilda or Matilda of England, was a prominent figure in the 12th century. She was not only a skilled military leader but also a lover of backgammon. Despite the challenges she faced during her pursuit of the English throne, Matilda found solace in the game, using it as a means of relaxation and mental stimulation.


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