World Number One 'Giant of Backgammon' Masayuki Mochizuki AKA 'Mochy' spoke exclusively to WSOB about what it takes to be a professional backgammon player
Japan’s Masayuki Mochizuki is the 2010 World Backgammon Champion, the world number one “Giant of Backgammon”. Mochy is also known for his regular expert seminars held at tournaments around the world. Visit his website www.back-gammon.tv to watch educational expert videos.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to WSOB today, what have you been up to these past days?
I was working very hard on organizing Japan Open which went very well, having more than 130 players.
What’s it like being a full time touring pro?
It’s all about self-management. You have to discipline yourself. You have to study, practice and win. You need to know what you are doing. You have to manage your bankroll, but you must gamble at the same time.
How do you pay for it all, is it possible to make a living playing backgammon full time?
There are bunch of ways to make a living from backgammon. I know many people who make a good living by playing backgammon online. For people who likes to play live games, it is very important to have a good connection with wealthy people to have a stable income (it does not necessarily mean playing $game with them). Either way, you need to be a strong player. There is NO luck in backgammon in the long run.
What does it take to be a professional or play at your level, are you gifted at mathematics?
What you need to be good at backgammon are; Logical thinking, good memory, mental and physical toughness and flexible mind.
How would you rate your temperament, you always seem cool over the board, but in reality is your heart pounding inside when you play the big matches like the World Champion final?!
During the match I am basically interested in finding the best move in given situations. It is an intellectual challenge. It is far more interesting than size of the prize money or glory.
Who are your favourite players and why?
I have many favourite players, but one of them is Falafel. He is fun, nice and generous guy but very opinionated at the board. I enjoy the gap.
Can you tell us some key tips for developing one’s game and some key strategy points?
Whenever I face a tough decision, I always imagine next 21 possible rolls and how it would be. This process will help a lot to find the best action. Initially it takes a lot of time but it will become faster and more precise as you practice.
How do you count races?
I usually count pips while my opponent is thinking. Once I have done, then I keep tracking pip differences by subtracting and adding the dice roll. If I have short time on the clock, then I would do it from the very beginning of the game.
How often do you do a pip count during a game or do you know the count all the time?
I usually count the difference of pips, which I almost always know unless the one side is up too many.
Do you prefer to play with the doubling cube?
The doubling cube always reminds me how stupid I am, so yes I prefer to play with it.
Tell us about your online educational videos?
Back-Gammon.tv is the name of the site I started last year. People can download backgammon lecture videos created by world class players such as me, falafel, and more. My favourite video is called “Priming formation and Blitzing formation” in which I explain what a current structure demands.
Can you tell us what using the cube is about and why it is such an exciting part of the game of backgammon?
It adds so much dynamics to the game. I don’t know any sport that allow player to win 8 times more points in the same single game. That’s ridiculously volatile. However we all know how sweet to win 8 cube when you are down 0-7!
Do you play any poker?
I rarely play poker because I know I am a steamer in poker !
Do you think poker players will begin to play backgammon more as it becomes harder to make money in poker?
One thing I am certain is that backgammon is far more strategic and complex game. Backgammon elite might make more money by playing poker but I don’t think Poker failure make money in backgammon.
Can you tell us about your International Backgammon Championship?
It is the newest event brought to the circuit by presidents of Japan, Denmark and US. Participating nations will choose 1 to 4 representatives who will compete in the Grand Final. Players from the same country won’t play until it is unavoidable. We have 10 nations participating and 26 players playing in the grand final, which I took as a great success for the first year!
Please visit our website: www.bgchampionship.com
Finally, do you see backgammon growing in the next few years or even seeing a renaissance in the game like we saw in the 1970s and early 80s?!
There is the reason why backgammon survived more than 5000years. If we all worked hard together to promote the game, I am sure we will see big rise in the future.
Thanks again Mochy for talking to us.
copyright WSOB 2012