backgammon

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The Independent Online
Although backgammon has been around for thousands of years the international circuit is only 30 years old. The first tournament was organised in the Bahamas in 1964 by Prince Alexis Obolensky, a Russian expatriate. The winner, from a 32-player field, was Charles Wacker of Chicago who beat Porter Ijams of New York in the final.

The first world championship was held in Las Vegas in 1967 and was won, as were the next two, by Tim Holland, one of America's leading players.

Las Vegas remained the host until 1975 when the Championship moved to the Bahamas for four years. The winner in 1978 was Paul Magriel, nicknamed X-22 after his propensity for splitting to the 22-point early in the opening. Magriel has probably done more for backgammon than any other modern player. His books, though now out of print, are constantly in demand.

In 1979 the World Championship was held in Monte Carlo where it has remained ever since. The event is held in the third week of July in the elegant surroundings of Loew's Hotel. Since 1979 there has been only one two-time winner, Bill Robertie from the USA. There has never been a UK winner, although Joe Dwek, England's leading player in the 70s and 80s was the runner-up in 1981 to the only woman ever to win the tournament, Lee Genud.

Last year's championship attracted 200 players, each paying a pounds 600 entry fee, and ended in a final between Frank Frigo, a 32-year old natural gas trader from Louisville, Kentucky and Peter Jes Thomsen from Denmark. Thomsen won the championship in 1993 and was favoured to beat Frigo in the 25- point final. Frigo jumped out to an early 5-1 lead but Thomsen fought back to lead 10-9. Frigo regained the lead and then with the score 21- 17 in his favour reached this position:

Frigo, playing black, doubled. Thomsen correctly accepted the double. A few minutes later Frigo had a closed board and four of Thomsen's checkers on the bar. Frigo bore off smoothly to win a gammon and the World Championship by the final score of 25-17.

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