Women’s Backgammon Tournaments/Events
The Backgammon News Facebook page in early August published a comment: “Why Do We Have Women's Tournaments in Backgammon.” It generated 133 comments within a few days. Nearly all were from men, and the large majority were supportive of the effort. But several argued that such events should be open to men as well. And, of course, the sexist comments also showed up. Our letter this month is our response to the question. You can read some of the comments here.
Why do we have women’s tournaments in backgammon? We have been instrumental in encouraging the growth of women-only events at major backgammon tournaments in the U.S. and worldwide. Our primary motivation was to find more seats for women at the backgammon tables. There is a severe underrepresentation of women in competitive backgammon. Women's tournaments/events provide opportunities for women to compete in a safe, women-friendly environment; gain visibility for top women players; and giving those wanting to try their hand at competition a comfortable, but challenging, place to compete. It fits with our mission to grow the competitive backgammon community by bringing women's participation, place, and preeminence on a par with men. We found that in 2021 women represented 14 percent of entrants in the American Backgammon Tour (ABT), and only 5 percent of women in the Championship division. Women are underrepresented in the ranks of the best players – only two out of 236 BMAB grandmasters/masters are women (with two more who have qualified on PR rating but are awaiting sufficient experience points); only one woman is on the Giants of Backgammon top 32 list, and three women are on the Giants-64 list. Only four women have been backgammon world champions in over 50 years. A Backgammon. Winning. Women/Backgammon Galaxy survey of online players in 2022 found that the major reason women do not participate in competitive tournaments as they would like is that they are intimidated. They also report lower skill level attainment and a desire to improve their game, particularly through coaching.
Actions to Help Bring Women to a Par with Men Backgammon Players In response to the survey findings and feedback from the backgammon community, BWW has increased the number of Backgammon Expertise Learning Sessions we offer on Zoom (open to all, men and women); hosting an annual BWW Mixed Doubles event; provided added money for women's events and funding for recording/transcribing women's matches at four major ABT tournaments annually. Since we founded Backgammon. Winning. Women. two years ago, progress has been slow but encouraging. Seven ABT tournaments have women-only events, up from two in 2019. There are now several tournaments recognizing women champions: the Women's World Backgammon Championship in Monaco in July 2023 (upgraded from the former 10 annual Ladies Events); the World Backgammon Internet Federation Online World Women's Championship in 2022 and 2023 (with BWW providing 500 Euros of added prize money); the 2022 USBGF National Women's Championship at the Sunny Florida tournament; and the 2022 and 2023 Online National Women's Championship. WBIF will host an Online Women's Team World Championship in September 2023. The US and UK backgammon women's teams played against each other in the Genud Cup in 2020 and 2022. Although we are in our infancy, we have examples of progress in several areas. Seven out of 26 entrants at the Atlanta BMAB event were women (thanks to active recruitment by Roberto Litzenberger). Women represent 30 percent of entrants at the Sunny Florida Boca Raton monthly tournaments, thanks to introduction of an Intermediate division and numerous women's only events in the Palm Beach area including the BWW Palm Beach Women's Classic. More women are moving up from the Intermediate to the Championship division in ABT tournaments; and women are increasingly capturing major prizes in ABT Intermediate division events, and on occasion ABT Championship division events. Looking to the Future We welcome the dialogue and exchange of views. We also welcome suggestions for activities the Backgammon. Winning. Women. organization we co-founded can support to help address the imbalance in women's participation, place, and preeminence in competitive backgammon! We will continue to learn as we go and redirect resources into what would most help women gain the skills, confidence, and trust that they will be able to play the game we all love in a welcoming, women-friendly environment.
-Karen Davis & Christine Merser, co-founders, Backgammon. Winning. Women.
Women are increasingly placing in American Backgammon Tour and international events. In July-August they include:
ABT Online! – The Big Freeze Out, July 16, 2023 – Terri Harmon (CA), 2nd.
54th Backgammon World Championship July 22-30, 2023; Monte Carlo, Monaco -- World Championship Main Martha Gjelseth (Norway), 4th/5th; Women’s World Championship 1-Maggie Diamantidis (USA/Greece); 2-Laurence Sinitzky (France); 3rd.4th, Annalisa Agosti (Italy)/Liz Granstedt (Sweden); 12th Monte Carlo Open Intermediate – Annalisa Agosti, 1st Consolation.
Wisconsin State Championship, August 10-13, 2023; Wisconsin ABT Open, April Mesich (MN), 3rd/4th, Leslie Lockett (IL), 1st Last Chance; Wisconsin ABT Intermediate, Amy Trudeau (IL), 2nd Consolation; Paulette Duong (IL), 1st Last Chance, Patty Knapp, 2nd Last Chance; Doubles, Steve Blanchard and Wendy Kaplan, 3rd/4th; $50 Sunday Jackpot, Carol Joy Cole (MI), 2nd.
The Sunny Florida Backgammon Championship will be held at the Hilton Marina Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, FL August 16-20. View more details here.
ABT Online!: The Big Freeze-Out, August 26. Played online on Heroes BackgammonStudio.com. View more details here.
Viking Classic & BMAB, August 30-September 4 in Bloomington, Minnesota. View more details here.
The World Backgammon Internet Federation World Women’s Team Championship will start September 1 with co-organizers Karen Davis (US) and Julia Hayward (UK). View details here.
ABT Online!: The Big Freeze-Out, September 10. Played online on Heroes BackgammonStudio.com. View more details here.
Las Vegas Open, September 20-24 at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. View more details here.
U.S. Online Women’s Championship, the top 16 women in the Americas region of the WBIF Women’s World Championship will compete for the title of U.S. Women’s Champion. The event will take place in the Fall. More details to follow in the coming weeks.
Upcoming BWW Zoom Sessions
Introducing Backgammon. Winning. Books.
Backgammon. Winning. Women. is offering a new series, the first of which will feature Joe Urso walking us through a chapter of one of his favorite backgammon books. This series, called Backgammon.Winning.Books., will start on Monday, September 11, at 8 pm Eastern. It will feature Walter Trice’s Backgammon Boot Camp.,”33 Opening Blitz Doubles,” chapter 28, pp 162-166.
If you have a copy or can borrow a copy from your backgammon club’s lending library or a fellow player, read this short chapter in advance. If you’d like to purchase the book, it is published by Fortuitous Press and available from BWW Sponsors: The Flint Backgammon Boutique and Roadkill Books.
A Little Bit about Joe Urso…
Joe credits the improvement in his game to reading most of the top backgammon books three times! He learned to play as a child from his family, but only started serious backgammon play 6 years ago, playing in the Championship division of the Cherry Blossom Championship in 2017. For two-three years he mostly read books to improve rather than playing a lot. Now he records all his matches and spends more time analyzing his blunders in match play.
He recently gave a seminar “How I Went from Novice to Championship” for the Women of Backgammon group summarizing the key points he learned from each of several books. It is available on YouTube.
Books he has read three times over include:
Walter Trice, Backgammon Boot Camp, 2016 edition.
Bill Robertie, 501 Essential Backgammon Problems, 2022 edition.
Paul Magriel, Backgammon, 2004 edition.
Jeremy Bagai, Classic Backgammon Revisited, 2005.
Michy Kageyama and Roland Herrara, Opening Concepts, 2016; Endgame Technique, 2019; Back Checker Strategy, 2021.
Bill Robertie, How to Play the Opening in Backgammon: Part 1 A New Way of Thinking, 2019; How to Play the Opening in Backgammon: Part 2 Everything Matters, 2021.
Kit Woolsey, Backgammon Encyclopedia, vol. 2: More Cube Reference Positions, 2017.
Marc Brockmann Olsen, Cube Like a Boss: Patterns, Intuition, and Strategy, 2019.
Joe is serving as Guest Editor of the PrimeTime Backgammon magazine for the Fall 2023 issue. He has recently joined the Calendar Committee for the U.S. Backgammon Federation. He is an attorney based in New York, NY.
World Women's Championship
What an exciting 54th Backgammon World Championships (BWC) held in Monaco, July 22-30. For the first time, it featured a Women’s World Championships, replacing what was called the Ladies Event. It was an exciting event worthy of its new title with 24 top women players from around the world.
The first official Women’s World Champion is Maggie Diamantidis, an American, who has recently taken up residence in Greece. To earn the trophy for this historic occasion, she won five straight 7-point matches including matches with two top Japanese players (Tatsuko Mochizuchi and Kazuko Numazawa), Natalia Pantea (Ukraine, living in Paris), Liz Granstedt (wife of three-time world champion Jörgen Granstedt), and an exciting final match with Laurence Sinitzky (France). Third and fourth place went to Annalisa Agosti (Italy), the winner of the Ladies Event at the BWC in 2021 and 2022) and Liz Granstedt (Sweden).
There have been 10 previous women winning the BWC Ladies event: Scarlett Serrero (France, 2008), Sara Utku (Sweden, 2009), Zoe Cunningham (UK, 2010), Lynn Ehrlich (USA, 2011), Laura Monaco (Italy, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015), Cecelia Sparke Rogers (UK, 2016), Anna Clark (UK, 2017), Alexandra Knupfer (Romania/Switzerland, 2018), Antoinette-Marie Williams, 2019), and Annalisa Agosti (2021 and 2022).
Four women have won the Backgammon World Championship: Carol Crawford (USA, 1973), Lee Genud (USA, 1981), Katie Scalamandre (USA, 2000), and Akiko Yazawa (Japan, 2014 and 2018).
Meet Maggie Diamantidis, Women's World Championship
Maggie Diamantidis, the first winner of the newly renamed Women’s World Championship in Monte Carlo, Monaco, is a relative unknown in backgammon circles, but not new to the game. She has competed in the Merit Open in Northern Cyprus, as well as major U.S. tournaments such as the Los Angeles Open under her maiden name Maggie Donnell.
Since moving to Greece a couple of years ago with her husband Tony, she and Tony have graciously opened their home named Margaritaville on the coast of Athens to backgammon players visiting Greece, viewing it as a backgammon play place where players can socialize, play first-rate backgammon, and enjoy warm companionship. Art Benjamin, noted mathemagician and world-class backgammon player, performed his magic show at a toga party for an enchanted gathering at their home in 2022 before the Merit Open in North Cyprus.
Maggie grew up in Wisconsin, and met Tony in 1990 when he was visiting on a business venture with the University of Wisconsin where she was a graduate student. They married shortly afterwards in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and raised their family in the San Francisco area. They have four lovely daughters (Katy, Hilary, Mary (manager of their business), and Sophia St. Helen (a singer and songwriter), two sons (John a pilot for United Airlines) and Tom, a pilot in training as well as stage performer extraordinaire, two granddaughters (Juliet and Clare), and a grandson on the way. Tony is Senior Director, Chemical Safety Software, a privately-held firm that provides Environmental Management Systems software and customized solutions and consulting services.
Kick-off to WBIF Online Women’s World Championship – Karen Davis & Joe Russell
The World Backgammon Internet Federation (WBIF) is hosting the second Online Women’s World Championship. It was launched in mid-July and the first two rounds have now been completed. There are 94 women competing worldwide including 56 in Europe/Africa; 32 in the Americas (North, Central, South); and 6 in Asia/Australia/Oceania. It consists of a first phase of three regional qualifiers and a final worldwide competitive phase. In addition, results for US players will determine sixteen players to compete for the title of U.S. Online Women’s National Champion. The tournament is directed by Joe Russell, Chair, Board of Directors, U.S. Backgammon Federation.
First Phase of the Women’s World Championship
The first phase of the Women’s World Championship takes place in three regions: the Americas; Europe and Africa; Asia/Australia/Oceania. The format of the qualifying phase is Swiss Format of five rounds. Rounds 1 and 2 have now been completed.
Eight players from the U.S. have 2-0 win-loss records in Rounds 1 and 2: Antoinette-Marie Williams; Marcy Kossar; Lynda Clay; Seda Eflanli; April Mesich; Teri Harmon; Marjie Harbrecht; and Marianne Bowen. The top six Performance Ratings (PR) were achieved by Kate Elmore (5.67); Irina Litzenberger (6.39); Leyla Zaloutskaya (6.85); Karen Davis (6.85); Kara Schultz (6.87); Antoinette-Marie Williams (6.99).
The top European players with 2-0 win-loss records in Rounds 1 and 2 include: Yuliia Tkach (Ukraine); Cecilia Rogers (UK); Ingrid Sonnabend (Germany); Pernille Rosendal (Denmark); Svetlana Timina (WBIF-no flag); Anna Price (UK); Tetiana Riazanova (Ukraine); and Julia Haward (UK). Top PRs were accrued by:
Pia Jeppesen (Denmark) 3.26; Ingrid Sonnabend (Germany) 5.22; Eva Zizkova (Czechia) 5.44; and Martha Gjelseth (Norway) 5.53.
In Asia/Australia/Oceania players with 4-1 win-loss records in Rounds 1-5 include: Sepideh Ghanadi from Iraq; and 3-2 records: Maral Tahori from Iraq, the winner of the inaugural 2022 WBIF Women’s World Championship; and Cynthia Belonogoff (Australia).
Read about the remainder of the tournament on our website.
Wisconsin State Championship
Women turned out in record numbers for the 20th Annual Wisconsin State Championship! Six women entered the Open division in a field of 49 players, with two women making it to the winners’ circle: April Mesich and Leslie Lockett (pictured below).
Sixteen women competed in the Intermediate division in a field of 45 players, with three cashing: Amy Trudeau, Paulette Duong, and Patty Knapp. Women represented 12 percent of 49 entrants in the Open division – compared with 5 percent of all ABT Open division entrants just two years ago in 2021. They represented over a third of Intermediate division contestants. Together they constituted 22 percent of Wisconsin ABT entrants, compared with 14 percent of ABT entrants in 2021 -- early encouraging signs that more women are sitting down at the backgammon tables and holding their own!
The Backgammon. Winning. Women. (BWW)/Backgammon Galaxy Survey of Online Backgammon Players in 2022 found that 70% of backgammon players have goals for improving their game. Women are particularly interested in educational opportunities to improve their game as (83%) are novice/intermediate players. As a result, BWW has expanded its offerings of educational Zoom sessions and support for providing women players with feedback on strengths and areas that could benefit from focused learning. More sessions are being developed to assist novice and intermediate players.
This month’s poll seeks information and advice on what activities would be most appealing to these target audiences.
Please complete the poll and provide us with the benefit of your insights.
July 2023 Backgammon. Winning. Women. Poll Wrap-Up
Last month’s poll posed questions about use of clocks and settings for Intermediate players. See the results below:
The poll of Backgammon. Winning. Women. Newsletter in July 2023 had interesting results for tournament directors considering requiring use of clocks in the Intermediate division. The majority of poll responders (86%) preferred to require clocks for Intermediate players. Respondents were split almost equally between clock settings giving the same amount of time to Intermediates as Championship players and those supporting giving more time to Intermediates (42.9% each; 14.2% not sure).
BWW will share these poll results with American Backgammon Tour tournament directors and encourage requiring use of clocks in both Main and women-only events.
Should clocks be required for Intermediate players?
Not sure 0.00%
Should Intermediate players be given the same time as Championship players to play their match, or additional time?
Same time 42.86%
Additional time 42.86%
Not sure 14.29%
1. Unfortunately, some players have forgotten about the proper BG etiquette - and while the Director has enough on their plate managing all the details of the tournament, they are also managing safety and security. Aggressive verbal and/or physical abuse will not be tolerated. If a player prefers not to play with the opposite sex they can point their attention to the venues designed exclusively for same sex players. Civil Conduct should be required at all times. Intimidation is one thing - and can be managed with proper self-care. However, bullying, verbal and/or physical assaults will not be tolerated. Per incident I believe a fine and/or banishment could be imposed. While one would presume players need not to be reminded - Nowadays, most venues are advising their patrons that foul or abusive behaviors may result in removal and/or prosecution. Since backgammon has been a game played by peasants, kings, and queens, for over 5000 years, it is truly a gift to attend a well-organized venue where we can all celebrate the joy of playing the game.
Editors response: Excellent points. We will consider featuring this issue in a future poll.
2. Clocks are essential for tournaments to be run efficiently. But intermediate players should have more time, such as 15 second delay per play.
3. After playing for the first time in 30 years I found it difficult to adjust to the new rules. Most of the players were honest and helpful with my struggle with the time clock, tapping, and using one set of dice.
Let us know any other thoughts you have on the topic!
This month, we couldn’t help but be intrigued by the recent article appearing in the Guardian by Joel Snape, Forget Chess, Backgammon Teaches the Most Valuable Life Lessons: Blind Luck and Wild Unfairness.
Here's an excerpt from the piece:
"Which brings us back to backgammon. Life, as I’m not quite ready to tell my son yet, is a game of asymmetrical advantages and absolutely wild unfairness. It’s also filled with heaping dollops of luck, and mostly relies on us having incomplete information. This makes it a lot more similar to dice-based strategy games than chess – and arguably even more similar to poker, though I’m not quite ready to go there with a six-year-old.
Backgammon, arguably, is the best of these, with historical resonances that put chess to shame: boards representing older versions of the game have been found in the ruins of Mesopotamia, and Egyptian tombs.
And, as it turns out, backgammon is great with a small child: the rules are quick to pick up, and there’s a satisfying race-to-the-finish style to beginner-level play that’s a lot more satisfying than the grinding nastiness of an extended chess endgame. Meanwhile, the randomness of the dice rolls (alongside my own incompetence at the game) means that there’s a chance the boy can beat me without me exactly letting him win – and there’s an outside chance that if I don’t overdo it, I might be able to sneak a bit of entry-level probability in while he’s revelling in my strategic idiocy.” - Joel Snape
Presentation on Critical Cube Choices with Karen Davis & Kent Goulding
Now that we've wrapped up the 2023 Backgammon. Winning. Women. Mixed Doubles Tournament, doubles partners and 2nd place team Kent Goulding and Karen Davis presented on their Critical Cube Choices, an analysis of their doubling cube errors in the tournament. We invite you to watch their matches in the tournament with Joe Russell and Antoinette-Marie Williams; Steve Sax and Marianne Bowen; and Kate Elmore and Tal Siegmann. Kent and Karen covered key cube decisions from these matches as well as their match with Ian Terry and Tiffany Van. Karen and Kent spotlight the key cube decisions and analyze where and why they erred.