Pat Gibson, A Gift to Backgammon

Pat Gibson, A Gift to Backgammon

Pat Gibson, A Gift to Backgammon

Interviewed by Phil Simborg

Patrick Gibson is best known as a tournament director and organizer, and he’s been doing it over 30 years, primarily in the L.A. area, but he’s been involved throughout the US, Europe and the Caribbean as well. He’s directed over 3000 tournaments in L.A. since 1977! Patrick has organized training seminars, charity events, and major ABT events of all kinds. You will soon see him as Director of the New Mexico State Championships in Santa Fe at the end of January. Anyone who has been to a Patrick Gibson tournament knows how smoothly, efficiently, and fairly it is run. Patrick has also distinguished himself as a player, cashing in many events, and capturing the number 3 ranking on the ABT tour in 2007 after winning the prestigious Michigan Summer Championships that year. But the main reason I wanted to recognize him is that his very presence is always such a plus to any backgammon event. His humor and good spirit is infectious, and I wanted to know more about him, and I thought my readers would too.

When did you start playing?

In 1977 we would play games at lunch time at my data processing job at Ross-Loos Medical Group. We played cribbage—I won. We played Cubic (3-D tic tac toe)—I won. We played hearts—I won. Most of the time, whatever we played, I won. Eventually a co-worker asked if I knew how to play backgammon. I said no, and that was the beginning of the MFIC of backgammon.

Who are the people in backgammon you admire, and why?

I admire Norm Wiggins as “the consummate gentleman of our game”, always calm and cool, never raises his voice, willing to help anyone with a backgammon problem or question. He takes all of our “teasing” and just keeps beating us, but he’s also gracious when he does manage to get beat.

Another admiree is Carol Joy Cole. She is our “lady of backgammon”. Created the Backgammon Boutique, with everything one might need or want to obtain. Maintains the backgammon Calendar, giving visibility to competitions around the world. Soft spoken but a fierce competitor. Produces the Michigan State Backgammon Championship, our most attended and competitive backgammon event each year. And, how could we live without the Flint Area Backgammon News for reports, stories, world-wide results, pictures, and and and.

What is your favorite backgammon book?

Backgammon Boot Camp, by Walter Trice is awesome! He explains the concepts and strategies with great prose and clear examples. Even though I have a huge backgammon library, over 100 books, Boot Camp is a real gem, both for review and expanding my knowledge.

What is your biggest backgammon victory?

I have discovered that I have a 13-year periodic big-win history. My first major victory occurred in 1981 in the Intermediate division of the California Open (Sid Jackson’s event at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles). Thirteen years later (1994), I won the Open division of the San Diego Grand Prix and thereby won 2nd place in the ABT.

My biggest was, thirteen years later (2007), winning the Michigan Summer Backgammon Championships in Novi (defeating my good friend and mentor, Ray Fogerlund, in the finals—the biggest event in the U.S. that year—and I took 3rd place in the ABT that year. So I am looking forward to 2020 for my next big one.

What is your favorite type of backgammon?

I love to play “tournament” backgammon, face to face. It is more difficult than heads-up money play or chouette play. But more importantly to me, it measures your focus, endurance, and surviving the vagaries of both dice and opponents.

What is your favorite side event at tournaments?

I really enjoy playing in the Doubles at tournaments. Sharing tactics and strategies with your partner and negotiating when necessary the occasional differences of opinion. I always learn from and enjoy the rapport with my partners that I have played with (e.g., Ray Fogerlund, Steve Sax, Norm Wiggins, Harvey Gillis, Doug Mayfield and Azzam Masarani—all of whom I have cashed with in the Doubles).

How long have you been competing on the ABT?

When the ABT began in 1993, I directed two of the tour’s events, definitely played in at least two (the San Diego events) plus probably 1 or 2 others (Michigan and/or Midwest). The ABT was a great idea and we are indebted to Bill Davis for his leadership and creativity.

Who are your heroes outside of backgammon?

John Wayne (any movie) and Johnny Wisemuller (as Tarzan) were my heroes growing up. The CIO (Chief Information Officer) at Kaiser Permanente, Tom Fleishman, will always be my hero. He practiced his philosophy, when something went wrong: “We do not need a head to roll, but rather let’s find the problem and put prevention in place to keep it from happening again”; e.g., he was constructive not punitive.

How much a week do you play backgammon?

I direct and play in two weekly tournaments. Have done so for over 30 years. In addition, I maintain the Gammon Associates website—master points, picture albums, tournament results, etc. (see our website at: With backgammon email, producing two ABT events and the Vietor Cup each year, as well as traveling to other ABT events, it is many many hours devoted to backgammon.

Where do you live now?

My wife of 41 years, Carla, and I bought our home in Van Nuys, California in 1976, just before the real estate market took off. We still live here and enjoy the many options that exist in Southern California (weather, entertainment, restaurants, recreation, and all four of our grandkids).

Are you retired?

I retired from the “data processing” (now called “information technology”) world in 2005. Much of my career was in the “healthcare” computing industry (pharmacies, hospitals, laboratories, and outpatient services). My last 22 years was with Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest non-profit HMO.

How do you prepare for tournaments?

Review whichever backgammon book I have been studying. Get out my tournament “kit” containing lots of one-page articles or notes that I have culled over the years. When I prepare best, at which I am not consistent, I play practice matches, of the same length that will be at the tournament, against Snowie and go over the analysis of those matches.

What is your best advice for Intermediate players who hope to improve?

Get the key backgammon books (Magriel, Trice, Woolsey, Wiggins, Ballard, Kleinman, Robertie and others), study them, play face-to-face in local events, ask questions of the strongest players that play locally (Sax, Wiggins, Russell, Nunez at our Gammon Associates weeklies). Take pictures or mark position-cards of the tough decisions that arise, then run 粗m through your favorite bot.

What are your favorite hobbies and interests outside of backgammon?

Scuba diving on shipwrecks (my wife says “our house is decorated in early American shipwreck”); I play competitive cribbage (local club) and occasionally travel to regional events; I go to track meets, basketball and ballet recitals with my grandkids. I read a lot of fiction, nonfiction and some sci-fi. (Some favorite authors: Patterson, Cornwell, McCaffrey, Cussler, Baldacci, Wilbur Smith, Michael Gear.) We also go to the movies almost every week.

What are your thoughts and hopes about this new backgammon federation?

Help the USBGF to become the vehicle to promote the study and knowledge of backgammon (teaching, learning tools, competitions, ratings/statistics, etc.) for its own sake as an art and enjoyment. Become the player’s advocate and supporting standardization of rules and procedures.

You are known as a “strict” director. What are your thoughts on that?

As a director, one must be fair, firm and consistent. I hope that I am. As a player, one must be respectful, punctual and have good self-control. Yes, as a player I do get excited sometimes, and with my big voice, can get pretty loud. As a director, I am working on keeping my voice at a lower volume, hopefully inducing a more calming effect on the players (and me).

How do you change your game when you play one of the best players in the world, and how do you change it when you are playing someone you know to be much worse than you?

When I play Steve Sax at our weekly tournaments, I remind myself to keep focus and concentrate (sometimes very difficult due to the many interruptions that occur as I am also the director). My “A-game” is definitely needed. With the rare, much weaker players, it is really easy to get lax. Therefore if I get behind in the score (5 and 7 point matches), I will tend to complicate the positions more—hopefully giving them more chance for errors in their play.

What are your pet peeves at tournaments?

Tardiness with scheduled times and having to track down missing players when their next match is ready to begin. It is really difficult to keep the big tournaments (e.g., ABT and multiple day events) on schedule. I feel strongly that it is a lack of respect for other’s playing time; e.g., all about themselves, not the whole picture.

What are your plans for the future?

Carla is retiring in January 2010 and we plan to do some traveling, possibly a Panama Canal cruise, probably visit family in Idaho, North Carolina, see Mystic Seaport Museum, see the fall colors on the East Coast. For backgammon, I have been hired to direct the New Mexico State Championships in Santa Fe at the end of January 2010. It is a wonderful location and I recommend it highly. I am considering changing one of my two annual ABT events to a different format (currently both are Double-Elimination with Progressive Consolation)—maybe Swiss or just the standard Main-Consolation-Last Chance.

Please remember, I am the MFIC (my friend in charge?) at least in Southern California backgammon. We could not do it without you the players and, yes, you do need my firm, consistent hand to make it work well. By the way, MFIC came from my working career, which in the 1980’s was used as a password. As my backgammon directing history began, it was to become my mantra—I am the MFIC. Thanks for asking!


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