Indoor: Backgammon

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The Independent Online
In this column I recently awarded myself the hard luck story of the year award. However, that particular story pales into insignificance against a well-authenticated position from a money game played in Michigan. Imagine yourself as Black in the position above, with White on roll.

How would you like to lose this game? Even worse, how about losing the game with the cube on 16? Highly improbable? Yes. Impossible? No - as Jeff Star found out to his cost.

While Black bore off two men at a time White fanned (stayed on the bar) four more times. When Jeff finally left a blot on his 1-point his opponent, Joanie Ross, rolled a 1 to hit it. The odds against this particular sequence are 3,572,100 to 11. After hitting, White will manage to close out Black's lone man probably 50 per cent of the time. One man closed out is a well known position which the side with the closed board will win 7 per cent of the time. Putting all these percentages together gives winning chances for White of approximately 1 in 10 million.

To add insult to injury, during the bear-off Joanie managed to get in a redouble which Jeff had to accept; thus he lost 16 points in a game where he expected to win either 16 or 24 points. Rumour has it that Jeff has not played a game since this dramatic reverse of fortune. On the assumption that the average club player plays no more than 5,000 games a year, then you can expect something like this to happen to you once every 2,000 years!

I find it difficult to believe that anyone has experienced anything worse than this. If you have, write to me and I will be happy to publish it.