A Brief History of the
World Series of Backgammon

by Will Cockerell - October 2009
Will Cockerell
The World Series of Backgammon (WSOB) was founded in 2006 and has since grown steadily to become one of the best known and highest profile organisations in the game today.

The goals of WSOB are simple: to give the backgammon community a platform on which to show the world their skills, on television, on the Internet, and of course live. The past two series have been pioneering and hugely successful in showing the world’s gaming community that backgammon is very much still alive and kicking, and that the poker ‘brain drain’ away from backgammon is something that can be reversed.

“For the past 25 years, backgammon has got spanked by poker,” thus spoke legendary games player Mike Svobodny this summer in Cannes. The time has come to act. WSOB’s visually magnificent shows have been broadcast in about 70 countries worldwide, and feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.

Mike Svobodny - 1984 World Champion

Mike Svobodny, 1984 World Champion, playing in the WSOB's
backgammon tournament in Cannes this past summer.

In the 2007-2008 series, players fought for the right to participate in a 16-player shoot-out for €160,000, with €80,000 added by WSOB. The three tournaments, which constituted a ‘points race’ were held at the UK Masters in London, the Nordic Open in Denmark and the Riviera Cup in Cannes. All events attracted the very best players in the world and provided scintillating drama. The roll call of names of great players who tried to qualify via the points races was top drawer: Falafel, Mochy, Tardieu, Trablolt, Lylloff, Holm, Bredahl, Jacobowitz, Wachtel... to name but a few.

Matvey "Falafel" Natanzon of Israel

Matvey "Falafel" Natanzon - the current #1 Backgammon Giant
plays in World Series of Backgammon tournaments.

The three tournaments were won by Britain’s John Hurst, Austria’s Tassilo Rzymann and Bob Koca from the States. The 16-seat shoot-out was played out over a gruelling Monday in Cannes, and all who were there will never forget it. At around 4 a.m. France’s Frederic Andrieu triumphed in a thrilling final over Boba Koca, and lay claim to the €100,000 first prize. He returned the following year to have another go – having spent the lot.

Frederic Andrieu of France winning €100.000 at the 2008 WSOB Championship at the Palm Beach Casino in Cannes.

WSOB 2009 has enjoyed more fields of incredible quality in Cannes and Prague, and London now awaits the players for the final stop which commences on Thursday evening, October 22nd. Our two event winners so far have been Salamzy Najibullah and Jan Jacobowitz, and the points race is drowning in quality. The final shoot-out will take place on February 5th and 6th, subject to diaries of the qualifiers and to a handful of “superstars” who will be buying in at 10,000 a pop.

Jan Jacobwitz of Germany

Jan Jacobwitz of Germany (L) won the final of the Prague event against Iranian-Norwegian Shahab Ghodsi (R). Scene from

worldwide webcast as Hanna Nilsson records the match.

WSOB has invested some €2 million into backgammon in the last three years, and its mission to make our beloved, although somewhat dormant game visible again to the general public, is well underway. Of course we need the faith and trust of the world’s backgammon players to realise this vision, and we are under no illusions that we must continue to deliver a high quality product now and in the years to come. We can only undertake to do our very best for you, and we hope in return to see you at a WSOB event live – or online – one day in the near future.

Tournament room at a World Series of Backgammon event

Just imagine it – the day could soon arrive when we have 500...1,000...1,500, 2,000+ players at a backgammon tourney, all played out in front on the worldwide web under the glare of the studio lights, with commentators and expert summarisers, with MILLIONS of Euros at stake. No dream – this is reality. Let’s make it happen.

Will Cockerell 19th October 2009

Visit the World Series of Backgammon website at www.worldseriesofbackgammon.com


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