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Interview with Vikings (17. December 2007)

Why do you think Czuch Chuckers selected you for this interview?
I'm not sure, perhaps it's because we have similar political views and have backed up each other in the debate club, or perhaps it's because we were both big boss of the "Ponds Plus" fellowship.

If this was your site what would be the first thing you'd change? (if any)
Well the first thing that I would change is the account numbers that all the membership fees get deposited into. Other than that I would just have some feature request such as a personal note box in pond games and the ability to prioritize our favourite board and fellowship lists.

How did you find about BrainKing? What made you stick around?
I believe it was mentioned on a IYT board, I was having a dyslexic moment though, I kept typing BrainKing in the address bar which kept taking me to an airplane site, Had I not done that, I would have been ID # around 75 instead of 264, But if anybody is looking for a Piper, look it up lol

I can see you are one of the veterans - you're here almost since the beginning of this site. When you first arrived did you ever imagined the site would be what it is today? How do you feel about BrainKing's evolution?
There's no way that I thought it would be this diverse, when I started here all there was was chess and I think reversi, no discussion boards, Fellowships, moderators, tournaments, statistics, in game discussions etc. etc.. I think it was rare to have much more that 10 people on line at a time, While other sites are cutting back on games allowed to be played, Fencer is always adding to the features here, is receptive to our ideas, and he was very eager to do so, that is why this is the first site that I thought was worth paying for. There are now features here so numerous that I am sure that I will never use them all.

Who are your favourite Brainking friends and/or opponents and why?
I'll start with opponents, I really miss Pedro on this site, He was my main competition in wins in regular ponds, in fact he was beating me, I was going to pass him up any way but it would have been sweeter if he were here. The Alchemist is one gammon player that always gives me a challenge in gammon games, there are a few others but he is the hardest to beat that I can remember. As far as friends, I hope this doesn't sound to snobbish, or offensive to anyone but I try not to make a habit of getting to close to anyone here or anywhere else on-line, the reason being that I teach my kids not to do so with anyone they do not personally know on-line for safety reasons and I feel that it would be hypocritical for me to do so, that being said, I have had some nice conversations with Pbarb, she has lived nearby so there was some commonality involved as well as finding her to be very nice.

Which games do you like to play best? why?
I would put them into two categories of favourites, brainers and no-brainers. The no-brainers are backgammon and their variants, that’s not to say that there is no intelligence involved, it's just that after 35 years of playing the game, I pretty much make my moves rapidly without giving them a second thought. And as for the brainers, that would have to be the pond games because it is ever evolving and you have to change your strategies or formulas, along with opening bids every few months

How do you make your move in ponds? How long are you considering in average, and what is the process like? Do you usually review the pond step by step, and if so: what are the numbers/benchmarks that you look at?
This is going to be tricky, I'll try to answer as completely as I can without getting too technical or too specific on my moves.
The first thing I look at is the size of the pond, I put them into 3 categories small (16-20 players), large (21-39) and huge (40+). then I divide each game into 3 parts, beginning (drop out bid less than 150), set-up (drop out bid starting at 150 and ending at the drop out bid 1200 less that the person with the fewest points left) and the end game (the point where the drop out bid will most likely be the amount of the last place player).
In the small games I have a set bid that I use for my first 2-3 rounds, until I know that certain players will drop out because of their history over their first 3 rounds, that gets me to the set up part where I use a formula that I stumbled upon and have tweaked over time. I use that formula until the end game where the thinking comes in, If I am in first place, I try to think of what players that are within 500 points of me might bid and either let them kill each other off or kill them off myself, knowing the history of these players helps me think of what their strategies might be. If I am not in first place, I try to think of what the first place player would bid and try to out bid them slightly.
In the large ponds, and I think that these are the hardest, I use the same beginning strategy except a lower opening bid and it last a couple of more rounds, then for the set up I use a different formula based on the difference of drop out bids from round to round (you should study them you will find tendencies). The end game is the same as before in fact the end game is the same for all sizes.
As for the huge ponds, I personally think it is an advantage staying within striking distance to the top. The beginning can last sometimes 10 or more rounds. It makes no sense to me to bid over 100 in the second round when the first round low bids are in the 30's,40's or 50's. if you play too safe you will soon find yourself 500 or more points behind and out of contention. The set up uses the same formula as the large ponds but will result in lower bids and the end game is of course the same.
By the way, there is a player here that announced a long time ago the original formula that I used, he did it without saying that it was my formula and almost no one picked up on it and I have only seen a couple of people use that formula to their advantage.
A couple of other things that I take into consideration when I first look at a new round are 1.) are any of the players on a vacation or missing from the site. 2.) are there any persons who are now pawns. and finally 3.) are there any persons that are making crazy bids in other ponds.
As far as the time that I take to consider my moves, it usually takes me less that 5 seconds in the beginning and set up moves, and about 15 seconds in the end game moves. The exception being those 3 examples I gave in the paragraph before in which I wait until right before time expires to make those bids.
About rain ponds, these are a different beast altogether, These ponds are not my favourites and I usually simply bid a couple of points less than the second to the highest bidder in the round before

You're listed as #1 in Anti backgammon. I admire your patience - I've managed to finish only one of those. Double question - is there any strategy in this game you can recommend? And what was the longest game you ever played?
First of all the longest game, in number of moves is somewhere around 300, I have heard of some games going more that double that. In time, right now I am involved in a game that started last October and 5 more that started last November, one of which is only on move 36. As far as strategies, there are 2 that I have seen that work, the first is to set up blocks in the 7,8,9,and 10 in hopes that your opponent is forced to send his checkers home into blocks rendering them useless, this strategy makes for a short game and usually comes down to a one roll make or break situation whether or not your opponent can roll a 5 or a 6 at just the right time. The second strategy that I have seen work is to spread your checkers individually in your 19-24 spots (home), and then start spreading them in the 13-18 spots to use as replacements, at the same time you want to double your checkers in the 1-6 spots (opponents home). When you get your pieces set up like this, start taking your opponents pieces off two at a time if possible and as close to your home as possible, these are the games that take many moves and usually seems like you are loosing at times when if done right your are in fact setting up your opponent, I think that this strategy works more consistently, but even so the luck of the dice do come into play

Did you get your name from a team, old Kirk Douglas movie, or do you dress as a Viking on weekends?
I got my name from the Minnesota Vikings football team, Is the movie your thinking of "The Oddyse" or "Ullyses" (not sure of the spelling)? If so, wouldn't he have been a Greek? Viking outfit, I'll have to run that past my wife, I wonder what she would think of me wearing nothing but the hat with the horns?

How did you get your name, when did you think of it and what picture/story did you have in mind at that time?
As I stated in the previous answer, I am a fan of the Vikings football team, I use the nic Vikings as almost all of my user names, the only thought I put into is was what password to use

are you interested in the Vikings or the countries they came from ?
Other than the fact that Lief Erickson being the first European that really discovered America not really, Even though they went out quite a bit from their homeland, they were from a time and place in history that I am not overly interested in.

Do you watch the NFL and if so, are you a Vikings fan?
Although as I age, I am more and more preferring the college game, but yes I am a Vikings fan, growing up in Iowa, people are usually either a Vikings, Bears, Packers or Cheifs fan. When I was young, they were on t.v. almost every week, I remember watching Scramblin' Fran getting out of trouble and The Purple People eaters gobble up qb's. I met Jim Marshal once, I shook his hand and my hand disappeared.

I've seen you post on boards from time to time but I barely know you. What's there to know about you? Are you witty or are you dull? Describe yourself in a couple of lines.
I am really a reserved person, I have 4 kids which is a large family these days so I tend to be a home body family man. My computer is in the family room so that I can play around with the computer in between messing with the kids. as far as a sense of humour, I like joking around, I don't mind being the butt of any joke no matter how big or small, that’s why I sometimes get into trouble joking too much with others that are more sensitive, that and sometimes my sense of humour can be a bit dry.

What is your favourite breakfast, how often do you get it and who makes it for you?
When I was young, My grandparents owned a cafe, it was actually a truck stop, there’s nothing like food cooked on an old griddle that never gets scrubbed, it just gets scraped off and is kept oiled (kinda like you don't scrub a coffee brewer). Anyhow I liked eggs, sausage and pancakes smothered in real butter off of that griddle, but it is hard to find those cafes nowadays. I look for them in small towns when I travel.

Where do and did you live? Which countries did you visit? Can recommend any country to visit or live in? Can you recommend any country not to visit or live?
I live in and was born in Des Moines, Iowa. It is located pretty much in the middle of the U.S. Besides here and other small towns in Iowa, I have lived in Minneapolis Minnesota where I went to college and also in Los Angeles California. While I was in Los Angeles, I went to Tijuana Mexico which is just across the border of California. So you can see that I haven't travelled abroad much. I do recommend for places to visit, the western U.S. From Glacier park in Montana south to the boarder of Mexico the scenery is beautiful.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Without being there, I would have to guess for religious reasons that the chicken came first

What question(s) did you hope would be asked, and what would your answer(s) have been?
"Do you have any goals as far as your gaming experience here?"
Besides playing games in a relaxing atmosphere, I have the goal of first place in wins in all three ponds and also having the highest BKR in all three at the same time, It's something that I think is not completely unattainable as right now I am safely in the lead in wins in two of the types and I have been rated 1,1 and 3 and 1,3 and 3 at the same time before, so I have been 2/3 of the way to that goal before,

What question were you secretly hoping that nobody would ask?
I was really hoping that no one would ask any in depth questions about strategy in the pond games, it's getting harder and harder to win as it is.
I was also hoping, and am glad that no one asked me any political questions,

Which question would have been too ridiculous?
Well the chicken and the egg comes to mind first of all followed by sitting around in a Viking outfit

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