Masters of Backgammon BiographiesMizban Host
Bill Robertie, U.S.A
Bill Robertie is a two-time Monte Carlo World Backgammon Champion, winning the world’s biggest event in 1983 and in 1987. He also won the Pro Am tournament when it was held in the Bahamas in 1993 as well as the World Cup in Istanbul in 1994. Robertie also won the International Cup at the 2001 Worldwide Twin Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada and was also one of the 25 Giants of Backgammon who played at the Atlantis Million event in The Bahamas in January of 2007.
An author of many backgammon books, several of which come highly recommended for players of all levels, Bill has been on every 32 Giants of Backgammon list since 1993 and has been ranked as high as #6. A graduate of Harvard University, Robertie has also been a chess master winning the 1970 U.S. Speed Chess Championship. He has written five books on Chess.
In recent years, Robertie has co-authored, with former backgammon player Dan Harrington (winner of the 1995 WSOP Main Event), a series of three Poker books on how to play Texas Hold’em tournaments called Harrington on Hold’em. Robertie lives in the State of Massachusetts and was organizing and directing a backgammon tournament there in the early 2000s called the Boston Open. From 1991 to 1999 he edited magazine called Inside Backgammon with Kent Goulding, another top player who wrote the Backgammon with the Champions series, and who was the creator of the KG Ranking List.
Bob Koca, U.S.A
Backgammon giant and math professor in Baltimore, Maryland Robert (Bob) Koca rise to fame began at the 2008 World Series of Backgammon tour, when he outplayed backgammon and poker master Gus Hansen at the Riviera Cup. This win guaranteed him a seat at the 16-players WSOB shootout, where he finished second, losing to a French fashion photographer named Frédéric Andrieu and earning €60,000 in cash.
2008 also saw Koca winning several ABT events including the Colorado States Backgammon Championships doubles event (together with backgammon giant #16 and ABT player of the year Ray Fogerlund), the satellite doubles at the Michigan Summer Championships (with Stick Rice), the 8th Carolina Invitational, and the second place at the California State Championships and the last chance of the Midwest Backgammon Championships. Koca continued to grab victories in 2009, when he won both the Memorial Day Masters and the Perry Gartner’s Quiz at the ABT Chicago Open. He also joined forces with the same Perry Gartner (#46 at the 2009 Giants of Backgammon list) to win the Doubles events.
Bob Wachtel, U.S.A
Born in New York and currently living in California, Bob Wachtel is a seasoned tournament backgammon player and the author of the backgammon book, In the Game until the End: Winning in Ace-Point End-Games (published in 1993), in which he analyzes a collection of positions of the type where one must decide to run off of the opponent’s ace point, and avoid losing the triple backgammon, or to hang in there waiting for a last chance shot to save the day.
Bob has travelled the world, from Japan to Monte Carlo, where in 2004 he was the Runner-Up of the World Championship, losing to Peter Hallberg of Denmark in a hard fought final that ended with a score of 25–22. He also played in a unique tournament in June of 2007 called the Crowns Cup. It was held at a secret location in Germany and featured 16 of the world’s top players that were to be presented as heavyweight champions, with a pretty girl on each arm. The players faced off one-on-one vying for a total guaranteed prize pool of $250,000 with $150,000 going to the winner, $50,000 to the Runner-Up and $25,000 to each of the semifinalists. The event was film for TV and broadcasted in Europe is sixteen 50-minute episodes. Leo Fernandez, current BG Giant #32, won the tournament.
In 2006, Bob Wachtel and his partner, Brigitte Dvorak of Austria, came close to capturing the WBA title of European Doubles Champions but they were defeated in the close and very exciting final match they fought against the remarkable French team of François Tardieu and Serge Rived.Amongst other victories over the years, Wachtel was the 2001 Nevada State Champion, won the 47th Gammon Associates Invitational, also in 2001, and the Pro Am Doubles in 1999 with his then partner, Joseph Russell, the 1989 World Champion.
Carol Joy Cole, U.S.A
Carol Joy Cole was formally renowned as the First Lady of American Backgammon after championing the 1st US Backgammon Open, held at the beginning of June 2009. Cole, who has been playing backgammon seriously for over 30 years while running the Flint Area Backgammon Club, represents an indifferent approach to being a woman in the seemingly masculine field of pro backgammon.
Carol Joy Cole can be hardly found playing ladies backgammon tournaments (which are anyway rarer in the US comparing to Europe) and she often gets to play heads-on against top backgammon masters. At the final match of the US Open Backgammon Championship she played against Joe Russell, who won the Monte Carlo Backgammon Championship of 1989. In an interview to the local news site Fenton Press following her national title winning, she admitted being the underdog in that crucial match, yet did not underestimate her strength and stated that “I didn’t win just on luck.”
Carol Joy Cole, an American with Japanese origins, was born in the 1940s in internment camp in Salt Lake City, raised and spent all of her life in Flint, Michigan, where her famous backgammon club makes its weekly meetings every Thursday for over three decades. She started playing backgammon in the 1970s, when backgammon craze was at its peak, thanks to her children, who were tutored by their then babysitter.
“The game itself is very dynamic, no two games are alike. There’s always a different challenge.” Cole said in the same interview, and described the backgammon game as a combination of chess and poker, borrowing the strategy element from one game and the gambling aspect from the other. In addition, she particularly enjoys the sociable part of the game. The Backgammon Club
Flint Area Backgammon Club was founded by her in 1978, and the club still operates in the same format of weekly tournaments and zero membership fees. The only drastic change is in the number of participants. If in the late 70s and early 80s the average tournament capacitate about 50–60 players, now the number dropped to 20, even though backgammon popularity was “resurged with the birth of the Internet in the 1990s.” Perhaps the inaugural achievement of the backgammon club director would increase the number of its members. Either way, Flint Area backgammon meetings take place every Thursday at 7 pm at the Days Inn on Bristol Road.
Dana Nazarian, U.S.A
Dana Nazarian was born in 1966 and raised in Lexington, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston and the historic town where the American Revolutionary War began. Nazarian is the Vice-President at Cypress Semiconductor; a silicon valley based semiconductor company and runs one of the largest business units for the company, Synchronous SRAM Business Unit.
Dana says, “I don’t remember exactly when I started playing backgammon, but it was probably when I was about six or seven years old. I am 100% Armenian and backgammon is an integral part of Armenian culture. My dad played with his dad and his uncles during the Depression and he in turn taught me at a very young age. He showed no mercy too! He never purposely let me win and he taught me many things as a young child that are still part of my backgammon arsenal. Backgammon was a huge part of my childhood. I would estimate that my dad and I played three hours per day, seven days a week for 10 years straight.”
Dana has also played backgammon online, on the GamesGrid server, “but that site just dissolved and so I will be looking for a new site to play on soon,” he said.Despite playing hundreds of thousands of games with his father, Dana had never entered a live backgammon tournament nor really knew about them, that is, until he moved to Minneapolis in the late 1990’s and found out about the Minneapolis Backgammon Club. He began playing there and learnt about the various big U.S. tourneys — his first live event was the 1999 Pittsburgh Championship where he played Intermediate and lost in the semifinals. He has since played only in the higher Championship Division.
As for his opinion of the Giants of Backgammon poll, Dana says, “I agree with the intent and I am truly honoured to be included on a short list of extremely talented players. I appreciate all who recognized my ability, so I don’t want to sound disrespectful, but the process is severely flawed for many reasons. I realize that there is no perfect solution but in my opinion, if the world’s best backgammon players are going to be recognized, there needs to be some sort of quantitative criterion (e.g. error rates, ratings a la Kent Goulding, tournament results, etc.) as a major input to the selection process”.
Dana believes that, “Backgammon is the greatest game invented. I am passionate about the game and wish I could play and promote it more but work and family keep me pretty busy“.It is the first time Nazarian appears on the top 32 Giants of Backgammon list. Amongst many victories and money wins, Dana won the Super 32 Jackpot at the California State Backgammon Championship in 2007, and in the same year, first place in the Championship flight at the 29th Pittsburgh Backgammon Championships. At the 10th Minnesota Open Backgammon Championships in 2005 he won both the main Championship flight and first place in the Mystic Masters Jackpot.