Philip Vischjager is probably best known as the winner of
the 2006 World Championships in Monte Carlo, but Backgammon players all over
the world know he is always a formidable opponent. Instead of a true “interview” Philip agreed
to offer his thoughts in first person. (September, 2010)
I was born on 27 October 1958 in Rotterdam (50 miles from Amsterdam).
When I was two years old we moved to Amsterdam where I live now.
After finishing primary school I went to college in Amstelveen.
When I finished college I studied Economics (Marketing) in Amsterdam and then I became a business partner with my brother, Raymond, and we opened several casual clothing retail stores in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague and Utrecht.
We sold the stores in 1995 and we went into a leather garment production company. In 2002 we scaled back and I began having much more time for backgammon.
In the mid 70’s backgammon was extremely popular in The Netherlands. In coffee shops, discos, and beaches, backgammon was everywhere. At least once a month there was a tournament with over 64 players. We had a club that met twice a week and there were plenty of money games as well.
As a young player, I got to watch and play with top international players. I remember Gino Scalamandre and Richard Olsen coming to play Lewis Labrosse and Japie Vischchraper-- I watched them for many hours and learned much from them.
I was also doing a lot of playing and studying at the time and read Magriel, DeYong, and Oswald Jacoby’s books and articles.
The bonus came at the summer season as some 15-20 `Dutch Players` went to Monte Carlo to play the World Backgammon Championship.There were no computer programs back then, so watching the greats was the best way to learn. In Monte Carlo I could watch players like Magriel, Motakhasses, Robertie, Lester, Horan, Seidel to name a few.
I had no special mentors or teachers that time but watching the strongest players helped a lot.
Nowadays you have a lot of possiblities to study Backgammon including books, articles, excellent teachers, the bots of course, and excellent web sites like this one that offer positions and detailed discussions of them.
My favorite tournaments are the Nordic Open (Danmark), Portugese Open, European Championship (Velden), World Championship (MC) and The French Open (Paris) also I did enjoy to play (and visit) in Venice (Italy).
My most exciting win was, of course, The World Championship in 2006; it was like seeing a movie where you play (yourself) the leading role.
I do not think the Backgammon game has to change a lot, I feel that the tournaments matches should be as you (Phil Simborg) have advocated for some time—shorter sets of matches, say 3 two out of 3 to 7 points. I think the interaction between the players and organizers need to be improved so that they work together to promote tournaments and make them more interesting and profitable for all.
New players can become very strong through studying the game (books, magazines and the bots), they should analyze a couple of hours a week the top players matches and learning from mistakes by analyzing the matches they play themselves. A mentor or teacher can be very important as well.
Also a lot of problem solving (like your Backgammon site does) helps a lot to recognize the future problems.
My preparations for the tournaments are a) Opening moves 2nd and 3rd* b) Analyze matches from Gammonvillage c) Analyze my own matches d) Training with Rogier (5 pt matches) e) Training with the Bots f) Problem solving with the Bots.
Tips/strategies that help me when playing tournaments are:
a) Better concentration (restrain noise by putting hard plastic stuff in my ear),
b) Relaxing before the game,
c) Good night rest,
d) When opponent wins a couple of games take a time out,
e) Eat and drink enough.
The best lesson I have had is that it is impossible to do two things good at the same time: I had a tournament in South of France (Aix en Provence) and I agreed to drive to Saint Tropez (100 miles, mountains) after every playing day. It did not work at all, I was tired not focused and lost a lot of matches (lesson: Backgammon or something else but NOT both).
I almost never play on line (I prefer to socialize, meet people, drink coffee), as I am already a couple of hours a day on internet or busy with emails or with the bots I feel it is enough.
Tournaments this year to play are Nordic Open (April), Portugal Open (May), World Championship (July), Swedish Open (Sept), London Open (Sept), French Open (Oct).
3rd move for example 5-1 slot, then 3-3 (opp 4 pnt and own 5 pnt) and then 5-4???
Not many players can find the solution (In the computer I do have most 3rd moves solutions).
I think all together that I play about 15 hours a week (inclusive tournaments), roughly 10 hours a week studying BG.
For understanding backgammon I have read Paul Magriel book (70`s), also Kent Goulding was fun to read. I do remember I read 6 issues about Backgammon with the Champions where I match were analyzed between Al Hodis and Eric Seidel (for example).
Nowadays I do like the books from Robertie, Trice (Boot Camp) and Woolsey (New ideas in BG).
Aside from Backgammon I like to play Golf, do some fitness (twice a week), playing cards (gin), learning Spanish (we do learn English and German at school in Holland and for my work I did speak already Italian and French).
You also asked for more about my personal life.
I meet my wife in 1986 and married her in December 1989. She is 7 years younger than I am.
We have two kids. My 19 year old daughter studies at the Vogue Academie (design, fashion, styling, interiors) and my son who is 18 years old plans to study Business in the USA when he finishes college. Also we have one dog (terrier from Tibet).
My mother is still living (73 years old), unfortunately my father passed away in 2005 and I have one brother Raymond (50 years old).
Aside from Backgammon I am a reasonable Chess Player and Card Player.
To attract young players I think tournament organizers should create new divisions for girls and boys (for example under 21) and all players can add some money to sponsor.
The biggest problem today is that Poker is much more popular than BG and that nobody has implemented good ideas to promote backgammon in a similar fashion.
I have really some interesting ideas but the organizers are looking tired after all these years and don’t seem to be willing to try new things. Maybe we need some new blood?
You asked about clocks. I am very happy to see them and think they are a great addition to the game.
You asked about my Backgammon Heroes: Moshi, Mishi and Falafel as they are doing so much work and putting in so much time to master the game and you can see the results of their study.
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