Interview with Arda Findikoglu
12.08.2014 / 0
Tell us something about your youth, where you grew up, where you went to school, your family, where you live now?
My name is Arda Fındıkoğlu, I am 35 years old. I grew up in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey as the one and only child of my family. I went to preliminary and high schools there and I came to Istanbul to study in Istanbul Technical University in 1996, and I m living in Istanbul since then. I am a ms. civil engineer specially educated about earthquakes who actually never had an engineering career as i work as an organizer since I am studying my master’s degree. So, when I am asked about my profession, I answer “I am a backgammon engineer” J.
My house is in Istanbul, Turkey and I am owner of the company organizing backgammon events all around the country and in Northern Cyprus. Additionally, I am an expert level backgammon player with a career of 14 years with more than 100 national/international titles.
How did you get introduced to backgammon?
Like most of the Turks, I learned the traditional game “Tavla” (same game being played without the cube), from my father when I was 3-4 years old. I remember I was not enjoying to play at all as I was even unable to count from 1 to 10 and he was usually angry at me because of my miscounting during our matches J . When I was in high school, I had a chess career which didn’t last long as I was just an average player which bored me after some time.
I came to Istanbul to study in university in 1996 and one day, as I was surfing on the web, I found a gaming server by chance. There, I saw backgammon which I thought I could easily play and I met some players talking about probabilities, equities, etc. It was very surprising for me to see that Backgammon was a serious game for them as before I was taking it as a game of pure luck. The days I was playing chess, we had a saying “Those who are not wise enough to play chess, they play backgammon”.
The first thing i did was buying Magriel`s “Backgammon” book to understand what they were talking about. Then Robertie and others… I became ashamed of myself that i underestimated Backgammon for many years. I read many books trying to improve my gaming skills and became an online player.
What is your favourite tournament or type of game?
You can easily guess my favorite game is “Backgammon“ as I dedicated my life to develop the game in my country. Not an easy task though, as “Tavla“ the ancestor of backgammon is being played by everyone in my country as a street game and it was not really respected by Turkish population at first. After 15 years, it started to change though. And because it is a cruel game, i prefer the formats which give a chance for players to lose a couple of games without being eliminated, like Swiss & Round Robin.
I had been to many tournaments around the world and I can count Monte Carlo, Copenhagen, Las Vegas and Velden as my favorite venues.
What was your most fun, exciting win?
Between 2005-2012 I traveled to some international activities with my fiancé Seda Koc and we had a dream to win different categories in the same tournament. That dream came true in 2011 during European BG Championship in Velden. We both won the titles in Championship & Intermediate categories and both after very tough duels in DMP! I remember those couple of days were the most exciting and happy days of my career.
What are some of your pet peeves about backgammon players or tournaments?
I am a player and an organizer at the same time, so I have an advantage to see all the situations from the point of view of both sides.
When I m playing, the only thing I cannot stand is organizers/directors who have no idea what to do and trying to favour their friends. This I experienced just a few times. Apart from that, I can handle any situation by trying to be as polite as possible and I have some sportsmanship awards as a payback.
When I m organizing, most of the time I m calm, still I cannot stand players who behave rude to their opponents or to my staff forgetting all are equal and we are there to help and give them the best service.
What advice would you give to a new player that wants to become a top player some day?
My organizer career is above my player career and I don’t see myself as a top player. However, what I see in the top players is they take a loss so normal, which means when they lose a game or match, that definitely doesn’t affect them in bad way. Newbie’s, they try to find a reason for their loss: dice, bad organization, rude opponent, something else. And they cannot understand simple thing that it is normal in our game that a better player can lose to the underdog. And as long as you are busy with complaining “why you are the unluckiest player of the world” you cannot become a top player.
Apart from that, they have to invest their time on working on the game, books and analyzing programs are the best tools to improve themselves. Today, Backgammon is being played in a very high level so in order to catch the top players new players have to work very hard. Playing is enjoying, yes, but by only playing, it is impossible to improve.
Do you have any special tips or strategies that you think have really helped your game?
I m trying to read new books by well known names players, trying to use the analyzing programs when I m stucked on a position. There are some reference positions which I memorize and they help a lot. Apart from that, I try to keep calm no matter I m far ahead or far behind or I m playing a giant. When you are calm, you can keep your motivation and succeed easier.
What’s the best backgammon book or article you’ve ever read?
There are many but my favorite is Paul Magriel`s “Backgammon“ which he wrote in 1974, before i was born, still very valuable and helpful which is very surprising as those years, there were no analyzing programs to prove the theory. I believe all must read that book if they want to start a career in our game.
Do you have any philosophies of life you care to share?
Today`s world is a mess, wars, fights… Especially in Middle East where I live… And I believe peace is our only savior, because there are no winning sides in a fight, both sides get damage anyway. I am a big fan of Ataturk, father of Turks, and my motto in life is his words “Peace in yourself brings peace in the world“.
Game is the chance to bring people from different countries and cultures to come together, share the time and be friends. There are many examples I experienced, and it is my biggest motivation to be the reason of such gatherings where people from fighting cultures become friends.
Aside from backgammon, what are your other hobbies or interests?
When I first started, backgammon was my hobby, not any more J I enjoy traveling and observing different cultures which I can achieve because of my business. Apart from that, i m interested in learning new languages, I could speak 6 until today without any education, just by traveling and observing.
What is your favourite side-event or alternative form of backgammon?
There are many variations of Backgammon, as long as I know, there are 18. For me, the most enjoying one is the one we play, however the variation called Gul Bara is my second favorite, it’s a pity, that it is not easy to find many people who know how to play it. And as a side event, with no question, my game is Speedgammon as I m normally a fast player which helps me in this side event a lot.
How did you start to play tournaments and why did you decide to be involved in WBF?
Actually, it was a series of coincidences. After being introduced to modern backgammon, I searched for a club in Istanbul where I can play this modern variation of the game live, reaching no results as in those years, there were only a couple of players who play with the cube between themselves for money accepting no others. I was still studying in university, telling my friends that I take backgammon as a serious mind sport, making them laugh.
But one day in 1999, one of them called me to say he saw an advertisement of an online event being organised for a grand opening of a new gaming site, actually a Russian server by Alexander Vikulin called VOG, with no entry fee and some prizes for the winners and he had registered my name too.
I played and won the title there between more than 200 players defeating some well known ones along the road to victory. The winner`s prize was a CD of Snowie 2. Next day, I got an email from Mr. Michael Strato, the editor of the magazine GammonVillage, asking for an interview.
When the interview was published, I remember I printed it to show to all those laughing at me before, saying I am the new world champion J Actually, that showed them Backgammon is not a middle eastern street game any more, being played all around the world.
And after some time, I got an email from Mr. Marco Fornasir, the general secretary of WBF, who had read that interview, interested in my words that there were no existing clubs to play live in my country, offering me his help to form the very first one myself with his support as he was able to see the potential in Turkiye.
At first, I was not really interested as I was busy with my studies in university but after sharing some emails, I decided to give it a try at least as a hobby. I went to some tournaments he runned, and on 28th October 2001, I ran my very first event with 13 players (12 of them were my close friends). It was fun after all and they all encouraged me to repeat it so I held a second one, then third and so on. Because Marco was encouraging me for all those work, I decided to use WBF name in all of our activities, believing it could help his organization too in long term, calling ourselves WBF-Turkiye and I am very glad that we are a leading society in WBF community today.
As we were playing, people around were getting interested so our society started to grow everyday. This growth was so fast, it spreaded to some other cities too. After some time, I was graduated from university and it was time to make a decision, to start a career of engineering or to leave it completely… Turkish backgammon society was about 1000 players those days, this organization was like a child for me and players, they didnt let me leave so I left my profession forming an organization company, running events as a professional work to make my living.
Today, after 15 years, we are about 3000 players from 38 different cities of the country, running big tournaments in those cities every 20 days, having a national league which is running in 8 different cities at the same time with the help of local directors. And most important, we are sending national delegations to international events being a phenomenon of world backgammon society.
Did you enjoy to run a big tournament like Cyprus? Why not play yourself?
After running and participating in more than 200 local/international events in the passing 15 years, I was known in Turkey as the “crazy backgammon organizer”, and I had met with tens of players worldwide becoming friends with them. I ran some international scale events too in Istanbul and Antalya which welcomed some of those, making me proud to see they were mostly there to support me in those tournaments with no money prize. And one day, I was contacted to run a giant event by MERIT, the biggest casino chain in Northern Cyprus, I thought we can achieve it. I have to say we worked very hard but the result was a big success after all even surprising for me with 144 players worldwide and 144 smiling faces in the awarding ceremony. That’s our main motivation, to get those sincere thanks, which cannot be expressed with any money value.
The idea of that project was introducing MERIT to backgammon world making the event one of the top 5 tournaments of the world in 2-3 years, but that goal was reached in first year. So, we decided to go for the big hit in 2014, doubling the added money prize to 30000€… The dates are 29th October-2nd November and we will do our best to welcome our guests as good as always.
There are still more than 3 months before the start and we have reached a pre-registration of more than 200 players from all around the world, which seems we have already achieved our idea to make that event one of the top ones of the world. Now it is time to reach to the top and hopefully we will make it in this October.
Regarding your question about the reason I don’t play in my own events, it is like this since I started this business as I don’t see it ethical to try the chance to become the champion of an event I run myself. Even if I can defeat a single player who came all the way and paid us to play, I don’t enjoy the idea to get the payment and kick him out myself. So I prefer to stay out. On the other hand, I am a real backgammon lover, and I play in side actions in which I am very dedicated to win!!! J
WBF-Turkiye is a great example for many federations, can you explain us how you created such a success?
Thank you for the compliment. There are many reasons for sure. Firstly, I was not alone, I got support from many backgammon lovers who were in need of such an association in Turkey. When it comes to organizational success during events, mainly, I believe it is our big chance that in my country, everybody believes they are good in backgammon and it is big personal pride to be a backgammon event winner. So, they keep on coming and we always play with huge number of players which makes our events more enjoying for all.
There are many players, who are together for more than 10 years in our society, their existence makes our events more friendly and newcomers are mostly affected by this fact, trying to become a part of our big family.
Additionally, as i am a player myself at the same time, i know the needs of players and what they wait from a good organization.
And lastly, since the beginning, i see the players as my guests in my house instead of a customer. If you can pass that feeling to them, making them believe your sincereness, welcoming them as comfortable as possible, they become very understanding and friendly. There are many who are trying to help us to make it a better organization during an event and that makes me motivated to work more and more for them.
What are your plans for the future?
As we all know, Backgammon is losing its popularity in the world everyday. I tie this fact to 2 main reasons, it is a very cruel game and favorites can lose very easily and especially after the invention of analyzing programs, most of the players play in a reasonable level which makes luck more efficient during tournaments.
On the other hand, there are some countries like Turkey where the game is still very popular. It is a big shame that there is no collaboration between world organizers which would bring so many positive results, but instead most of them are trying to finish the others today. I have been faced some problems in the passing years by those means too. Competition must not be understood as war. It is not a plan for today but better said, a dream of mine to use the popularity of the game in my country to be able to bring all world directors together finding a way to reach to a collaboration between all, which would bring Backgammon to its old worldwide popular days and to a place where it really belongs as i believe it is the best invented table game of all.
I can see that i m not alone who has such a dream though. There are many dedicated organizers who i am already in contact with, like Jakob Garal from Ukraine, Marco Fornasir from Italia, Steen Groenbech from Denmark, Leonardo Jerkovic from Croatia and some others and as i can observe with my own eyes how they all dedicate themselves to welcome their guests as good as they can like we do here, those will be between the first ones which i will contact to ask for such a collaboration if we can reach to such a date, someday, someway, somehow J
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