January 1, 2017

BLOWING UP:

America's Best Backgammon Player Works at Goldman Sachs (Troy Patterson, Dec. 9th, 2016, Bloomberg)

[2]016 has witnessed the rise of a new social media status symbol--a backgammon selfie with the creator of Hamilton. [...]

Backgammon descends from games played in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, but it assumed its modern character only in the 1920s with the introduction of "doubling" to raise the stakes rapidly. This device accelerated its popularity as a gambling game, thereby ensuring its somewhat louche glamour. The game's snappy pace and snazzy board suited the mood of the Jazz Age and Prohibition speakeasies.

In the late 1960s and '70s, when the game enjoyed its first renaissance, it was likewise considered both flashily posh and faintly risqué: Doubles, the new-money social club founded at New York's Sherry-Netherland in 1976, derives its name from the game, and Playboy's Hugh Hefner took a lot of pleasure from it in his wide-lapeled heyday.

Backgammon expert Chris Bray has written that the game "seems to flourish when there is disposable income." And yet, each apex of its popularity has followed a financial crash, as in 1929 and 1973. Therefore, I must warily guess that this game will really blow up if the U.S. economy does, too. (Just a hunch.) We should probably consult the most passionate players, who know far more about macroeconomics than I. The top-ranked player in America is Victor Ashkenazi, a vice president at Goldman Sachs.

Posted by at January 1, 2017 9:34 AM

  

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