How to Prepare for the Big Tournament
By Phil Simborg
If you have ever played at a live backgammon tournament, you know that there is nothing else like it. I’ve played in many, and my adrenaline goes up every time. One thing is certain, when I spend all that money to enter, get a hotel room, travel, and sacrifice such a great deal of my personal life and time to play, I don’t just go to fool around. I want to win, or at least do as well as I can, and I want to get the most out of the event even if I don’t win.
I am sure everyone has their own ways of preparing, but here are some things that have worked for me.
- KNOW THE RULES. If you take the time to read the rules, you will feel more comfortable about what to do and what not to do, and you can focus on your game, not on trying to keep from doing something wrong.
- KNOW THE FORMAT. Read the tournament information. Know what time you are supposed to be there, what to bring, how many points you are supposed to play to, what divisions there are, and what side events you might be interested in.
- CLEAR YOUR MIND. Take care of what you need to take care of at home so you can relax and focus on the event. Turn off your cell phone and take care of personal business between matches or during breaks.
- MAKE A MENTAL COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE. I psyche myself to commit to giving everything I have to the event. I personally cannot play my best if I take the competition lightly. It is too easy to make blunders if you are relaxed over the board. For me, consistently playing well requires intensity. It requires my wanting to make the best play every play, no matter what the score or how far ahead or behind I am in the match or tournament. One of my favorite expressions is: “Excellence is a habit.”
- BRUSH UP ON THE BASICS. I study the match equity and take points, price of gammons, make sure I understand the Trice Formula and Keith Count, and I look over my notes about things like the Doubling Cube Process and Rules of Thumb. Studying key reference positions is also most helpful.
- BRING THE RIGHT TOOLS. I bring a camera and my computer and I make sure I am ready to record key plays and study them after the match or during break times. I want to know what my mistakes are, not just so that I can learn from each play, but so I can see what kind of mistakes I am making so I can adjust.
- BRING A CLOCK. Many tournaments now require clocks for the main event. It can be confusing using someone else’s. If you don’t have a clock, and you borrow one at the event, take some time to learn how to use it before you start.
- COME TO LEARN. I make it a point to watch some of the best players when I have time, and even more important to listen to them, hang out with them, go to dinner with them, and learn from them. I have learned almost as much during dinner breaks at major tournaments as I have from all of the books I have read!
Most of the top players in the game are happy to share what they know with people who demonstrate they are eager to listen and learn.
- COME TO MAKE FRIENDS AND HAVE FUN. If you make your experience a fun and social experience, as well as an intellectual competition, you are getting a lot more for your time and money. Backgammon players not only have a passion for this game in common, but generally, they are all vibrant, intelligent, active people, and if you get to know them, you will find that many have fascinating and exceptional backgrounds and skills outside of backgammon. And they make great friends when you’re not playing them!