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Paul Magriel in Vegas: Sloppy Technique, Illegal Moves

Posted By: Taper_Mike
Date: Sunday, 23 November 2014, at 9:19 a.m.

One of my backgammon heroes, Paul Magriel, showed poor form in Las Vegas this week. In his Super Jackpot match against David Presser he frequently used two hands to move his checkers, and on something like half his moves, he would have his hands over the board on his opponent’s clock. Typically, Paul would—literally—toss his checkers towards their destinations, punch the clock, and then straighten the checkers on his opponent’s time. Often, this meant putting his hands into the board where his opponent was trying to roll.

Another repeated impropriety had Magriel's hand hovering over the dice before the clock had been punched. All too often this happened while his opponent was still deciding what to play. Sometimes, Magriel’s hand was actually in the way of the checkers his opponent was trying to move.

One of Magriel’s moves reminded me of the incident in Connecticut a couple of years ago where Roberto Litzenberger was denied victory on a rules technicality. At 15:25 in part 3 of the YouTube video you can see what happened. Paul rolls a hitting number, moves his checker, punches the clock, and afterwards picks up the the hit checker, putting it on the bar. Someone will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Las Vegas is a holdout as far as legal-moves-only is concerned. Paul is lucky that his opponent did not try to get the hit overturned on a rules technicality. At the least, Magriel deserves to be called on his sloppy technique. This is also one of the plays where Magriel’s straightening of the checkers prevented his opponent from rolling. Magriel’s hand and arm covered the board where David Presser was waiting to roll.

All of this culminated in two illegal moves made by Magriel. The first can be seen at 7:27 in the video. Paul rolls 22, and quickly play five 2s. Fortunately, the error was caught by David Presser, so no harm was done.

The second misplay occurs at 27:21 of the video. This time Margiel moves (illegally) using two hands, and manages to bear off an extra checker in the process. When he is called on it, he resets the checkers to an incorrect position, with the result that his corrected play was yet another illegal move. This time, his error was not caught.

As a final bit of irony, Magriel calls David Presser on an illegel move, stopping the clock and saying, “Was that legal?” on a move that was, in fact, legal. Here, Paul did right. If he is not certain a move was legal, he should ask.


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