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Giants List - Candidates etc...(long)

Posted By: Stick
Date: Thursday, 19 November 2009, at 9:31 a.m.

While there are many flaws with the Giants list and it's virtually meaningless in some people's eyes, it's still entertaining to discuss the who's who in the world of bg. I'm going to try to tackle my list now, publicly, listing possible candidates, their pluses and minuses, and wanting feedback from others on people I list or those I may have forgotten.

The first thing I have to take issue with is the amount of inactive players on the list. How you define active is a personal choice but for me allowing it to mean even the last two years, the span of time between the voting, is too broad. What sports/competitions can you really be considered active if you haven't participated within' the last year? So for me I'm going to needle it down to those who are active in the past year. Even the level of their activity may affect where I place them on the list. Let's take a couple of examples.

Gus Hansen. Has he played in any tournaments in the last year? I don't think so. I know two years ago while he was being sponsored he participated and this year he was in Monte Carlo but he didn't play, only cash games. If he was active he'd be on my list in a heartbeat, as it is, unless I hear some good reasoning why he should be included, he's likely to be left off completely.

Nack Ballard. Nack only made it out to one tournament in the past year I believe, Vegas. He played in the Open and in the Jackpot and he had to skip the most recent Vegas tournament because of other engagements. The year before that I know he made it to both Vegas tournaments and I think that's it. Nack, unlike Gus though, is constantly doing something with/for backgammon. I know he still actively works on his books and puts a lot of effort into organizing his project and keeps up on things like the forums, current bots, etc. I'll discuss his merits as to where to place him on the list later but I think I'll include him even though before I was undecided if I should or shouldn't.

Francois Tardieu. Another player lost to the poker world. Francois attended two major tournaments this past year and skipped out on Paris, a phenomenal tournament, which is in his backyard for a poker tournament. Even if he didn't have something better to do he may not have played/attended because of the clock time controls. He writes poker articles now and is fairly removed from bg as I understand it. He did show up at the local Paris tournament while I was there though (we even played). I'm not sure how often he goes to these though...I think rarely at best. I attended a few of them while I was there and he was only there once.

Some people try to create a formula for assigning rankings. This is possibly as good as any random method used but has serious flaws in it to. Perhaps Chuck will post how he determines who gets placed where again, I believe he looks at the tourney results over the last 2 years and assigns points to those who cashed somehow. I'm going to take an easy example here in the US where going off these type of results is not as meaningful as it may appear to be. ABT leader right now, Ray Fogerlund. In 2007 he won the ABT, in 2008 he was 5th, and in 2009 he is the favorite to win it again. Before that I'm not sure about Ray's attendance because I was new on the scene so the fact he isn't on the lists doesn't mean much to me, maybe he didn't attend hardly any events, idk.

What we have is a solid player who shows up to every event. I'm not sure what Ray's magical error rate is on average, but he's certainly in the top part of the open field so if he shows up to every damn tourney on the ABT guess what is likely to happen? He's bound to win something or another. I'm not trying to downplay Ray's expertise only pointing out a flaw in assigning points. I don't know offhand how many touranments on the ABT tour Ray will have attended at the end of this year but I know I will have attended 10, including Cali next month. That's 10/20 ABT events and I'm currently 4th on the list. Should Ray being 1st and his results while he has likely attended nearly two times as many ABT events as me somehow be worth more in voting? Of course not. I could have used others as an example, John O'Hagan has attended about the same as me and he is ahead of me, but since I don't know his biography I stuck with myself.

This is more of a problem for other players who can't get out to nearly as many events as a Ray Fogerlund, a Neil Kaz, a Sticky Rice. I wouldn't be hurt by this system because when I wasn't attending US events I was at majors on the other side of the pond but that's not how it is for normal players. I think Sander only made it to a few events this year, had decent results, but would be punished by such a points system. This system would punish donkeys like MCG who attended like 13 events this year and couldn't scrape together but 9 ABT points and has Jedi mind tricked people into thinking he doesn't suck.

Another obvious problem of letting everyone in the Open division, TDs, whatnot, vote for who they think is the best player is how is someone who isn't among the best players supposed to vote for who the best player is other than word of mouth from a bunch of other donkeys who wouldn't know shit from shinola either? I only mention it because it still lingers in my mind when I started actually playing on the ABT and I was told this person was good, that person was good, I had a false sense of respect for these players who I soon came to realize upon seeing them play, they were nothing more than mediocre.

My last current gripe with the list, until I think of my next gripe, is that there are far too few players who know enough players to make an informed vote. Wherever you're from your list will be saturated with that particular milieu. Americans will flood their list with Americans out of need to fill a 32 vote, Danes will onslaught the list with Danes, and so forth. There are not enough of us who get to travel for backgammon, meet the other players, see them play, and discuss the game with them. I was lucky enough to make it overseas this year and meet a lot of the players and get a better feel for who is good and who is great. Still, I don't feel myself qualified to make an accurate vote but probably one of the more accurate ballots that will be made.

The list is far from perfect, I'll take it for what it is, it is entertaining, merely pointing out some points to ponder before launching into my candidates.

These candidates are in no specific order other than roughly grouped near the top of my list, near the middle, near the end ...and even that is subject to change after discussion and reflection. I'm hoping to offend a large number of people by doing this and maybe even cost myself some precious votes.

  • Myself. The easiest place to start because it's the player I know the most about. I'm saturated in the bg world which means I've had to learn something along the way. I attend as many tourneys as I can and feel I've had decent results. So far this year I've been to 9 ABT events and cashed in the main in 5 of them. (according to MCG, I didn't double check) I've also scored well in a Jackpot or two. I think my doubles results for the American events is the worst to date, probably something to do with my suck partners though. My recent European adventures were a monetary success thanks to key money round hedging but a disappointment to me personally.

    I arrived in Nice, decided the beach and the sun was more important than backgammon and didn't play. That was only a minor tourney before Monte Carlo though. In MC I played in the main losing in the first round of every draw, main, conso1, conso2, last chance. All of these matches except the last I recorded and I outplayed all my opponents so all I can do is bitch, moan, whine, kick, scream, and complain. However, as I say, if you're going to have success in a tourney you need to string all your wins together and I was able to do that and cash in the Super Jackpot. Unfortunately, leading -5 -6 I took a center cube in a very standard 21pt holding game and got backgammoned for the match.

    In Cannes I played nothing but the main and reached the infamous round where the other participants received a buy into the money and myself and Steen had to play to decide who would get the 3k+. What was also tossed into the mix since the error was noticed was an entry into Prague. So, we battled, we got to dmp, we hedged a bit, and I lost a standard holding game v. holding game when he rolled nickels followed by another big set to tag me out.

    After this Chiva lured me to Georgia. It seemed ridiculous to travel so far for a tournament that would likely be small but the added money and the fact that I had nothing better to do sent me over. I partnered up with Falafel in doubles where the format favored us heavily, playing 4 singles matches and 1 doubles match, and we won though there were only 8 teams. In the main with only 18 players I got to the final 4 and lost but ended up winning the last chance. The massive flight was worth the trip, cash in pocket and a good time was had.

    Next on the list of things to do was Prague. I am drawing a complete blank on what happened in Prague. I'm looking at CP and remembering I split the 'freeroll' with Jan Jacobowitz which was an entry into the UK Masters in London (good decision on my part). That was worth something but other than that you all may have seen my demise when I played Filo. Backgammon is a fickle game sometimes.

    Since I skipped London because I was busy that day Paris (Enghien) is the last of my exploits in Europe this year. My doubles loss to Ray/Sassan still makes me want to stab myself in the eye socket with toothpicks til I never have to see shit like that again and I'm glad it happened with a day between that and the main because I wanted nothing to do with bg. Back to the main I got to the money round in the consolation, then to dmp, and then hedged with Sonnabend. We swapped 20% and he ended up winning the consolation for like 13k euros so it was a nice chunk of change to keep me ahead monetarily for my European and extended adventures.

    That was a lot of rambling to cover my results because I never did get around to specifically posting them and I had wanted to. I'll let others cover my strengths and weaknesses concerning bg.

  • Falafelfish. Falafel travels to a lot of tournaments and has had good results recently that I know of. If you know Falafel you know how shy he is to give you his opinion even if you didn't know he was watching your match after it's over you'd better be ready to hear the lecture on the .03 you made in the middle of game 7. Falafel is a player, that's for sure. As far as a basic feel for the game or making tough decisions he'd be one of my top choices in that area. He loves betting on positions, playing out props, and is one of the few players that still looks for action. (or is he action?) Falafel is lacking in some certain technical areas that don't come up too often, this to me is the biggest detraction from his game. He lives backgammon though, and being #1 on the list is probably more important to him than anyone else who might be a candidate. He doesn't play with the lowest error rate on the planet but there are some things more important than ER, like winning. He can play very well also error rate wise, there's a fine line in knowing when that's the best route and when it isn't to winning a match.
  • Sander Lyllof. I'd heard Sander is a great player but never met him til this year when he's reportedly not as enthusiastic as he used to be with bg. Still, the matches I watched he played damn good. Two maybe three matches, I forget, I saw of his, recorded he played in the high 1s or low 2s on the ever important ER scale. I'm not sure of his weaknesses as I didn't get to see a lot of technical AtS decisions or any interesting openings (AtS or otherwise) that I certainly would have noted, but Falafel holds him in the highest regard and from what I've seen so far I can't argue with him. His results lately are good taking 1st in the consolation in Prague and 2nd in the Second Chance in Cannes even if he did get an extra bye or two on the way.
  • Mochy(Masayuki Mochizuki). One of the strong Japanese players. These guys are serious, some of them eating backgammon 3 meals a day. They record all their matches by hand and actually review them later, even on a clock they record! Mochy is the reigning world champion and is a player that deserves it. I recorded a couple of his matches in Monte Carlo and just the vibe a serious player gives off lets you know they're a serious player. I don't have a lot more to say but he hangs around tournaments that group of ppl who are discussing positions and that's usually another sign of someone who is greatly interested in the game.
  • Michy(Michihito Kageyama). One of the other superhuman Japanese players. He, too, had some recent success in Europe (Paris) where he took second. Same line as on Mochy, records his matches and knows the ins and outs of the game. He's less extroverted than Mochy so I don't know his game as much but I've seen enough to be colored impressed. I've heard him discuss a few things that should be basic but aren't, and he had the details down to a science.
  • Neil Kaz. Most of you here know enough about Neil to judge for yourself where he should fit into the grand scheme of things. The only detracting thing for American players in general after being to Europe is not many of us actively play for money/props. I know Neil used to play for money and when you're at a tournament and still in a tournament as he often is, it's wise not to stay up all night in the chou. I played doubles with Neil in MC and in both matches we played a 2 ER and only had one dumbfuck moment that I posted here on the forums where neither of us were awake to the situation at hand. His results on the ABT are known, winning last year, in the top 5 right now this year. As cautioned before though, with players like Neil, Ray, myself, whoever is able to attend the most tournaments and plays a decent game is a massive favorite to end up on top of the list. He plays a mean game, able to do the match equity calculations like nobody's business, strong opening game which will always impress me, the question is out whether Neil is the best American player or not. (not a question by me but often posed to me while I was in Europe)
  • Francois Tardieu. He's a machine, his greatest strength, his greatest weakness. I first played Francois back in a GoL tourney and he played a low 2 in the match we played and it was not an easy match. He's strictly a match player though and when he plays, from what I gathered, he doesn't play his opponent. He sticks to his raw calculations trying to make the technically correct decision at every corner. I recently played him in Paris too, the match was recored, but it was only a 5 pointer in like a middle of the week throwaway tourney that we weren't too serious over. He didn't play so well but never lend much stock to one match like this one. He has unfortunately drifted to poker as mentioned above ...only making it to one real tourney this year. Another player the other known great players hold in high regard.
  • Gus Hansen. I wish I knew something about Gus other than heresay. I've seen a couple of his recorded matches from back in the day when he played and I have little doubt that if he played he'd be the creme de la creme, but he doesn't. I'm not putting him on my list at all because he simply doesn't play.
  • PJT(Peter Jes Thomsen). I know little to nothing about him. I'm told he's a great player but inactive. If he is active please tell me when and where and anything else you may think of him as a player.
  • Nack Ballard. Many of the Europeans were hating on Nack while I was there when the Giants list was brought up. They told me they thought he hid his game so people wouldn't see his blunders. He always made his tables on Gamesgrid private and he didn't allow his matches to be recorded. I'm not sure how Nack was #1 for so long with the feeling I got from Europeans about him though I must also say on the whole, Europeans think the American players are overrated. (at least that's the impression I was left with) I defended Nack not because I have any idea if he did or didn't keep his tables private on GG (wgafs really?) or if he doesn't allow recording, which I'm basically totally for, but because his knowledge of the game is so deep in some aspects. Since I came along and hijacked his & Paul's idea of the opening phase of the game being so important and they wisely pulled me into their nest to help them with their work, I've had more correspondence with Nack than anyone else about general backgammon related stuff. Things I've never taken the time to understand or simply don't understand I know have a default, it's called "Ask Nack". I don't know how to figure out a proper settlement? Email Nack. I don't understand how Snowie figures out its live cube values? Ship Nack off another email. He has also created Nactation which we know I'm an enormous fan of and has made my life easier.

    It's too bad he doesn't come to more tournaments because I don't know how he would play now. Good? Obviousy ... how good is the question. To get players like this off the sofa we need more big money tournaments and they come out of the woodworks. The amount of work he puts forth for backgammon is astounding though most people don't get to see it. When he started emailing me I was like WTF ... if I received an email from Nack I'd have to put aside 45 minutes just to read it and try to understand it. As you may have seen in a couple of his recent posts (happy to have you hear posting!) he's thorough to the grind.

That's all I can do for now. I'm wiped out and will post my next batch of ten or so when I feel up to it again, hopefully tomorrow.


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