Women in Backgammon recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. We wanted to take stock, talk a bit about what we learned, what we think we can do moving forward, and to send out numerous thank you’s to numerous people who stepped up from the very beginning to help us.
Our goal in starting Women in Backgammon? To promote women’s participation, place, and preeminence in competitive backgammon. Such a simple goal. Such a complicated roadway. Oh the lessons we learned. We wanted to share some of our journey with you, and as always, we welcome your suggestions for moving forward in a way that will serve women as we move forward in the sport. First, our survey gave us the strongest insight into women and backgammon. But the takeaways worth contemplating? Women often feel intimidated competing in backgammon tournaments. Women would love more coaching to improve their skills but lack the resources. Women lack confidence that they can compete at the highest levels. And, of course, our takeaway is that if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. If we do not see women at the tournaments, and winning them, it’s hard to see ourselves at the top of the backgammon food chain. And, as we traveled the country and abroad and spoke to numerous women about their experiences competing and learning, we realized the more expertise and content we can provide, the stronger the women are in pulling up a chair at the tables. We know that every time we give out strategy, examples, anecdotes, and expertise women feel more empowered to show up.
So for the year coming up, we intend to greatly expand our efforts, through perhaps some changed endeavors, to provide us all what we need to feel like we belong. Both of us can see it, so we believe it. Women can do much better than the past moving forward to the future. Please know we appreciate each and every person who gave their time, money and expertise to our inaugural year. And, we will be back on your doorstep this year as we expand our endeavors. The following details our activities in 2022 and outlines our goals for 2023 and good match to us all. Christine Merser and Karen Davis Co-founders Women in Backgammon CMerser@BlueShoe.net 917.648.7182 firstname.lastname@example.org 917-488-5364
Progress in 2022
Women in Backgammon (WIB) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2021 to promote women’s participation, place, and preeminence in competitive backgammon. It was founded by Karen Davis, one of the top female players in the world, recent winner of the 2022 USBGF National Women’s Championship and one of four women with a BMAB Master rating, and Christine Merser, CEO of Blue Shoe Content, a social media strategy firm. Christine is returning to competitive backgammon after forty years, trained by Prince Alexis Obolensky in the 1970’s and currently coached by Zdenek Zizka, the youngest grandmaster certified by the Backgammon Masters Awarding Body and finalist in the 53rd Backgammon World Championship in Monaco in July 2022.
Why was Women in Backgammon formed? WIB’s goal is to overcome women’s underrepresentation at competitive backgammon tournaments. In 2021 women represented 14 percent of entrants in the American Backgammon Tour (ABT), and only 5 percent of women in the Championship division. Women are underrepresented in the ranks of the best players – only four out of 175 BMAB grandmasters/masters are women; only one is on the Giants of Backgammon top 32 list, and two in the Giants-64 list. Only four women have been backgammon world champions in over 50 years.
What Has Women in Backgammon accomplished to date? In 2022, its first full-year of operation, WIB made great strides in raising awareness about the underrepresentation of women in competitive backgammon, understanding the reasons why that is the case, increasing opportunities for women to compete, and supporting women in finding their place at the tournament tables.
In partnership with Backgammon Galaxy, the largest backgammon online server, WIB conducted the first ever international survey of backgammon players, analyzed differences among players by gender and skill level in playing experiences, and identified strategies for overcoming obstacles to women’s participation in competitive backgammon tournaments and improving their skill level. The survey was published in PrimeTime Backgammon, Fall 2022, as well as on our website.
In partnership with the World Backgammon Federation, WIB supported the inaugural Online World Women’s Championship from May-November 2022 and provided 500 Euros to the winning woman, Maral Tahori. It hosted a Zoom session on the final match between Maya Peycheva (Bulgaria) and Maral Tahori (Iran) with expert commentary. 110 women participated in the event including 30 women from the Americas. Ten women from the US advanced to the final 36, and 2 advanced to the final 12.
The top four U.S. women in the Online World Women’s Championship competed in a Playoff for the U.S. Online Women’s Champion, won by Mary Morse. WIB provided Zoom coverage of the semi-finals and final with expert commentary and provided $500 in prize money to the winner.
In partnership with the 53rd Backgammon World Championship in Monaco in July 2022 WIB supported the Ladies Event, providing 1000 Euros in added prize money, won by Annalisa Agosti from Italy.
In partnership with the U.S. Backgammon Federation, WIB supported the inaugural live U.S. National Women’s Championship in October 2022 in conjunction with the Sunny Florida Backgammon Championship won by Karen Davis. WIB provided $1000 in added money and WIB backgammon boards to the winners of the Championship and Intermediate divisions.
WIB provided over $12,000 in added money, backgammon boards, recording equipment, and other prizes to provide recognition to women in the winners’ circle at major U.S. and international tournaments. Sponsored events for women to gain experience, confidence, and heightened visibility of women champions, Winners included:
NY Metro Lady Liberty Cup – Kara Schultz, January 2022
Cherry Blossom Awards – Carol Joy Cole (Championship), Marcy Kossar (Advanced), Clare Phelps (Intermediate), Emily Hathaway and Slick McNeil (Novice), April 2022
Palm Beach Women’s Classic – Katie Scalamandre (Championship), Lisa Speer (Intermediate), April 2022
Los Angeles Wonder Woman Cup – Laura Granger, June 2022
Michigan Women’s Fireworks Cup – Tiffany Van, July 2022
53rd Backgammon World Championship Ladies Event – Annalisa Agosti July 2022
USBGF National Women’s Championship – Karen Davis, October 2022
World Backgammon Internet Federation World Women’s Championship (Maya Peycheva/Maral Tahori), May-October 2022
U.S. Online Women’s Championship – Mary Morse, November 2022
California State Wonder Woman Cup – Alice Kay, December 2022
WIB helped market coverage of the Genud Cup competition between the U.S. Women’s Team and the U.K. Women’s Team, won by the U.S. 150-106.
WIB hosted 12 Backgammon Expertise Learning Sessions on Zoom pairing top-performing women around the world with expert backgammon teachers with 30-50 viewers per session watching live; recorded sessions were converted to YouTube videos averaging over 8000 views per video. Participants included:
Art Benjamin, Chris Bray, Kent Goulding, Michy Kageyama, Roberto Litzenberger, David Presser, Bill Robertie, Jonah Seewald, Marty Storer, Kit Woolsey
Carol Joy Cole, Karen Davis, Daphne Downs, Lee Genud, Irina Litzenberger, Candace Mayeron, Maya Peycheva, Kara Schultz, Safiya Tracey, Antoinette Williams, Eva Zizkova.
WIB conducted a Mixed Doubles event with 32 teams between January-June 2022 open to a Zoom audience of men and women, recorded key matches, and converted to YouTube videos. The winning team of Eva Zizkova and son Zdenek Zizka received a Women in Backgammon board in addition to prize money.
Offered opportunities for women backgammon players to network and share experiences at six networking breakfasts in conjunction with the largest backgammon tournaments on the American Backgammon Tour.
Conducted research and a fielded a survey jointly with Backgammon Galaxy to better understand how to close the gap in women’s participation, place, and preeminence in competitive backgammon.
Published six articles in PrimeTime Backgammon, the quarterly magazine of the U.S. Backgammon Federation, on activities and events of Women in Backgammon reaching a premier backgammon playing audience. Topics covered included:
WIB-Backgammon Galaxy Survey of Backgammon Players
Profile of Zdenek Zizka by Christine Merser
Women in Backgammon Mixed Doubles Event
Inaugural Palm Beach Women’s Classic Tournament
Women in Backgammon Learning Series with Michy Kageyama and Daphne Downs
Women in Backgammon USBGF Corporate Sponsor
Created a WomeninBackgammon.com website with information resources including local backgammon clubs, new backgammon books and book reviews, and news on women’s participation, placing, and preeminence in competitive backgammon.
Raised funds to provide networking breakfasts, lessons/match recording, and support and recognition for women in competitive backgammon.
Why are women underrepresented in competitive backgammon? The WIB-Backgammon Galaxy survey found that:
Women often feel intimidated competing in competitive backgammon tournaments.
Women want more coaching to improve their skills.
Women need safe spaces such as women-only events to build confidence that they can compete at the highest level and see successful women role models.
2023 WIB Plan of Action in 2023
Informed by its survey findings and its experience in 2022, WIB will seek to better target its support and activities in 2023:
We will concentrate our support on four American Backgammon Tour tournaments providing WIB backgammon boards and prizes to the winner of women-only WIB Cup events at four major tournaments (NY Metro, Cherry Blossom, Michigan, Sunny Florida).
We will continue but reformat our Zoom Backgammon Expertise Learning Sessions, featuring matches between top women players, such as the Most Valuable Players of the Genud Cup and winners of WIB sponsored events with commentary by leading backgammon coaches and grandmasters such as Michy Kageyama, David Presser, and Zdenek Zizka.
We will continue successful events from 2022 including the Palm Beach Women’s Classic, the Mixed Doubles online event, and support of women’s national and world championships.
We will expand our educational offerings, especially for rookies and promising novice/intermediate women players.
How Can You Help? We welcome your help as we pursue this ambitious agenda.
Share the links with your network of friends sharing our passion.
Watch the Women in Backgammon monthly Backgammon Expertise Learning Sessions on Zoom or YouTube.
Participate in WIB sponsored tournaments and events, including those with WIB added money and/or prizes.
Join the Inner Circle of Sponsors by providing financial or volunteer assistance and encourage your network of friends to contribute as well. Tax-deductible Donations to the US Backgammon Foundation PayPal account email@example.com earmarked for the Karen Davis/Women in Backgammon fund are appreciated.
Email us to volunteer to serve as a buddy/best friend for women new to tournament play, and teach/mentor women who want to start to compete.