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An idea to reduce variability of playing time in matches

Posted By: Tom Keith
Date: Monday, 5 May 2014, at 1:58 p.m.

A problem with backgammon tournaments is that some matches last a long time and others are over very quickly. This means some players spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for their next opponent. I've been trying to think of a way to reduce the variability in the time it takes to play backgammon matches so tournaments can run more smoothly. Here's one idea of how to do that. I'll give an example of how it might work for a 7-point match:

Every match lasts 40 minutes maximum. (All matches start at the same time and a bell goes off after 40 minutes, at which point play stops.) Time controls are 10 sec/move + 30 minutes of reserve time. If you finish your match by the time the 40-minute bell goes off, the winner of the match is determined in usual way (whoever got to 7 first); but if you don't finish your match on time, the winner is the player with greater reserve time left on his clock. It doesn't matter who is leading on the scoreboard, if your reserve time is greater and the match isn't over, then you win.

This can lead to some interesting strategy. You can play as slowly as you want as long as you are sure the match will finish on time. If you think the match is not going to finish on time, then you better make sure to complete all your moves within the 10-second-per-move time control. Of course, if both players are using a maximum of 10 seconds per move, then it is likely the match will finish on time. Players have to figure out the right balance between careful play (so you win the match) and fast play (so you maintain a higher reserve time).

If matches started every hour on the hour, players would get a 20-minute break between matches and know exactly when their next match would begin.

This is only a semi-serious idea. I don't imagine it will catch on because many players wouldn't like the added time pressure and the idea that the clock determines the winner. But it would be fun to try it out and see how it works.

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