At Deluxe Backgammon we are a mixture of intermediate, social players who enjoy a regular game against human opponents. The social element is just as important as the competition. During the coronavirus lockdown the face-to-face element has come to an end. We are now playing via Zoom. It’s certainly not as enjoyable as playing at the local pub, but given the current situation it’s the next best thing. During last Monday’s session we recalled one of the great games we had last year that involved an amazing comeback. Now, we are sure it is not the biggest comeback ever, we are certain there have been greater, but this was the biggest any of us had seen.
Alan was a gambler. His pockets were always full of betting slips. He was known to rarely decline a double, but in contrast his play was always defensive. He was very reluctant to ever leave a blot. Despite being a gambler, he was also a nervous character. As games got tight, he would noisily slurp from his pint. Richard on the other hand, was a bit more calculating and very aggressive with his play. He would pause before every decision and calculate the best play. They were contrasting characters, but they kept us entertained over the upcoming half hour.
Richard started strongly and had secured four points in his home board, but left his back checkers a long way from home. There was one other checker that was living dangerously in the middle of the board.
Alan had his checkers more evenly spread with high stacks on a handful of points, although two were in his home board. Richard took a sip of his pint, scanned the board and doubled. All eyes turned to Alan, he shrugged and muttered ‘it’s only a game’ and accepted. At this stage it looked like Richard was well ahead, and if only he could clear the solo checker in the middle of the board, he was looking the likely victor. Of course, that didn’t happen.
The loose checker was hit and failed to re-enter on no less than six attempts. By this time Alan had moved nearly all of his checkers home. Alan now doubled. Richard paused, eye darting across the points, and then nodded. He made an attempt to run one of his back checkers. He figured his best chance was to sacrifice his checkers in the hope for a chance to hit when re-entering. Maybe it was a good idea in a losing cause. A minute later it looked like a catastrophe.
Richard had three checkers on the bar and his opponent had begun to bear off. Time and time again, Richard failed to re-enter. All of a sudden, the 20 point was clear and a six freed one of the checkers, next the 22 point was cleared and another checker escaped. Still Alan continued to bear off and the single checker remained on the bar. Finally, there was a glimmer of hope. Alan was forced to leave a single checker on his 3 point. Seven checkers had already been borne off and the remainder were spread across the 1 and 2 points. Alan leant back and stared nervously at the lone checker.
Richard took another sip from his pint and rattled the dice. His eyes lit up when he rolled a three and suddenly, the game was back on. Alan slurped from his pint and then rolled and failed to re-enter from the bar. Richard rolled well and covered a fifth point in his home board. Two more failed attempts to enter by Alan allowed Richard to move his checkers down into a building position. Another two failed attempts to enter gave Richard the six-prime.
Richard cautiously bore off his outer checkers, careful never to leave a blot and Alan kept rolling low, keeping him on the bar. Before too long the 19 and 20 points were clear for Alan to escape, but he kept rolling low, but he still couldn’t escape from the bar. Suddenly, the 22 point was clear after Richard bore home two more checkers and Alan escaped with a 3-2 roll. The game was on, with Alan slightly ahead in the race, but he still slurped nervously from his pint.
A few rolls later and Richard had closed the gap. Alan had a series of low rolls, meaning he couldn’t capitalise from his slight lead in the race. Down to the penultimate roll, Alan needed a double, any double, to win. By now he was trying to slurp from an empty glass. He rolled 5-2. Richard came away with an unlikely, but spectacular, win in almost 30 minutes of play.
Richard had narrowly won from a decidedly poor position, with a combination of luck and strong tactics. The people watching were on the edge of their seats, there were smiles all around, even from Alan. Overall, it was a great advertisement for the game of backgammon. We are sure that there have been greater come-from-behind victories and we are happy to hear about them in the comments below. So, take out your luxury backgammon set and enjoy a game, remembering that victory can be snatched from the jaws of defeat.