CHICAGO’S WORLD CHAMPION
Sound engineer from Pilsen wins globe’s biggest backgammon competition
Carter Pfeifer Mattig first learned to play backgammon in a Gold Coast hair salon. While waiting for his mother to have her hair styled, a stylist taught the 8- year- old how to play the game he would come to master across the globe.
Since then, the game has brought Mattig to tournaments in nearly 30 countries, and most recently, to the biggest backgammon competition in the world. On Sunday, Mattig took home the title of “Master Main Winner” at the 5th Merit Open International Backgammon Championship in North Cyprus.
“It was absolutely the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Mattig said about his success in the game. He added that his daughter, Lindsay, is his best prize outside of the backgammon world.
He won more than 10 matches over five days at the Merit Park and Hotel Casino before facing off against friend and competitor Lars Trabolt, of Denmark, for the $ 77,600 grand prize. Trabolt, who won the world championship once, had to beat the undefeated Mattig twice, and Mattig was confident his opponent could do it.
“He’s one of the strongest players in the world,” Mattig said. “He’s the Michael Jordan of backgammon.” But to his surprise, a combination of strategy and lucky rolls of the dice gave Mattig a victory in both rounds. The first thing he did was call home to Pilsen, to tell his wife, Christina, that he “won the whole thing.”
Mattig, who works as a sound engineer in Chicago, said the hefty cash prize will go right back into the game. “It’s kind of like a timeshare,” he said. “I won a tournament, that means I can go to more tournaments.”
When he landed in Chicago on Tuesday, he went straight from the airport to the Tilted Kilt in Skokie to meet the Chicago Bar Point Backgammon Club, a group he’s been playing with since he was in his 20s.
“It was the first group I found,” he said. “It’s a really interesting community of like a lot of misfit toys.”
Mattig said when he first started competing with the local club, he learned that five or six of the world’s top players were based in Chicago. He credits them with helping him improve his game.
Carter Pfeifer Mattig celebrates winning the 5th Merit Open International Backgammon Championship Sunday. | SUBMITTED PHOTO