Sound engi­neer from Pilsen wins globe’s big­gest backgam­mon com­pe­ti­tion

Chicago Sun-Times - - CITY BEAT - BY TAY­LOR HARTZ Staff Re­porter Email: thartz@sun­ Twit­ter: @ Tay­lorJHartz

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

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