May 03, 2012 - Claremont, Calif. - Backgammon champions Nathan Hall '15, Jonathan Schwartz '13 and Louis Ryan '12 with their coach, math Professor Art Benjamin.
“Harvey Mudd entered a strong team again this year and put in a lot of study and hard work the past few months preparing for this competition,” said event organizer Joe Russell, USBGF education committee chairman. “I was truly impressed by the high quality of play.”
The students prepared for the collegiate tournament by playing the game with each other and against backgammon software to hone their skills and identify areas for improvement. One free application, GNU Backgammon, challenged them to play at an expert level while analyzing their performance.
“I can think of no other game where knowing just a little bit of mathematics—basic counting and simple probability—goes such a long way in improving one’s game,” said team coach Art Benjamin, HMC professor of mathematics and member of the USBGF board of directors. “[Math major] Louis Ryan’s performance was especially noteworthy. He went undefeated in the tournament, never losing a single game.”
Nine teams, each consisting of three players, competed in the 2012 championship, which marked the collegiate competition’s second year of operation. HMC competed last year, but lost in the first round to UCLA, which ultimately won the 2011 championship.
“It was especially satisfying to beat UCLA in the finals of this year’s tournament,”
Held online, the tournament pairs each team’s players against players from an opposing team. Each pair plays until someone accumulates five points. When two, or all three, of a team’s members win their matches, that team advances to the next round.
Players are required to meet in a public place and have a faculty proctor. Susan Martonosi, associate professor of mathematics, served as HMC’s proctor as Benjamin was out of town.
Backgammon champions Nathan Hall '15, Jonathan Schwartz '13 and Louis Ryan '12 with their coach, math Professor Art Benjamin.
Media Contact: Judy Augsburger