The Team

Meet our team of qualified experts

Phil Simborg is the world’s first “Professor of Backgammon” teaching backgammon in an accredited college course he helped establish and teach. Phil has been teaching over 20 years, has published over 200 articles, lectures at many US tournaments, and leads seminars to groups all over the world via the internet. No one in the history of the game has given more private lessons than Phil, and many of his students have won major tournaments around the world. He is a full-time backgammon playing and teaching professional and volunteers much of his time to bringing new, young players into the game. Phil is co-founder and co-director, with Mochy, of the International Collegiate Backgammon Championships. In 2015 Phil finished the American Backgammon Tour as No. 5.

Masayuki Mochizuki (Mochy) is currently ranked the No. 1 Giant in the world, a World Champion, and winner of far too many tournaments to name. A resident of Tokyo, Mochy’s Under 25 club and Backgammon University has made great players of many your Japanese players, and through the Backgammon Learning Center Mochy will expand his teachings to people around the globe. Mochy currently holds the No. 1 Performance Rating in the Backgammon Masters International Rating List.

David "The Rock" Rockwell is respected throughout the backgammon world for his consistent world class play. He has won many tournaments including ABT events, has been the top player at the Chicago Bar Point Club over the past 7 years and is co-author of the Rockwell-Kazaross Match Equity table.

John "The Computer" O'Hagan is famous for his ability to do difficult calculations over the board. He has won far too many tournaments to list, and he is currently ranked No. 11 on the World on the Giants list. He recently took 1st place in the Howard Ring Memorial Quiz, which was a pure test of backgammon knowledge and skill. John has retired and is now devoting his time to playing and teaching backgammon–he has placed 2nd in the World Championships and was the No. 2 player for 2010 on the US ABT Tour.

"Stick" is currently ranked No. 10 Giant in the world. He is a respected teacher and lecturer, an active member and supporter of the USBGF. Stick runs the most popular free online backgammon forum which draws some of the strongest players in the world at

Marty Storer is a well-known player and author who is currently ranked #21 on the Giants list. He has been playing since 1975. He won his first big tournament in 1983, was the first American Backgammon Tour champion (1993), and has won many tournaments since then. Marty is the author of Backgammon Praxis (2005), a detailed two-volume analysis of three matches played by Malcolm Davis. In this book Marty breaks down the way experts think at the table. With two-time U.S. Open champion Mary Hickey, he co-authored What's Your Game Plan? (2011). Both books received rave reviews by top players and analysts. Marty serves on the USBGF Board of Directors, and regularly writes articles for the USBGF's magazine PrimeTime.

Bob Wachtel has been rated as one of the top players in the world on the Giants of Backgammon list for the past 12 years. He is currently ranked No. 7 in the world in Performance Rating by the BMAB rating organization. Bob has won many tournaments around the world and has written two classic backgammon books. He has served for the last 6 years as the editor of the USBGF flagship magazine, PrimeTime Backgammon. We are proud to have Bob as a consultant to the Backgammon Learning Center. Bob will assist with lesson material and curriculum and will advise the BLC on the latest backgammon strategies and tools./p>

Perry Gartner, President Emeritus of the US Backgammon Federation is a co-founder of the BLC. Perry has won many tournaments in the US and overseas. He was a semi-finalist in the World Championships two times, won the World Championships Consolation, and was ranked as high as No. 2 on the US Tour. He is a noted author, lecturer and teacher.

Fernando "The Prodigy" Neumark is known for his cunning and sharp play that developed at the young age of 12. Stationed out of Argentina, Fernando has aquired a deep understanding of backgammon over many years and has been putting his opponents to the test at tournaments around the world. Having already made his mark as the best player in Argentina, he looks to continue this trend in the US and abroad.

Tobias Hellwag is an accomplished tournament champion. He has won 7 international tournaments across four continents. Tobias enjoys sharing his expansive knowledge to students and watching them grow in backgammon.

Steve Sax is one of the top rated backgammon players in the world. He has been near the top of the giants list for many years and won many tournaments in the interim. Known for his world class ability to analyze positions, Steve is a natural teacher as his understanding of backgammon enables him to explain complicated positions to all skill levels of the game. He has a long list of accomplished students and has been teaching for many years.

David Presser, from Israel, is a highly-respected player with many major victories under his belt over the past few years. David resides in Israel and will specialize in teaching in Hebrew, but his English is also excellent and he has students in both languages.

Morten Holm Lassen was a full-time professional backgammon player in the 90’s and 2000’s while living mostly in New York. Morten is a native of Copenhagen. He became well-known around the world as one of the best players in the game and was ranked in the Top 10 on the Giants of Backgammon list. Morten moved to Portugal where he heads a sports trading company and has now found time to become active in Backgammon once again. Watch out world! Morten has kept up with the game over the years continuing to hone his skills on line and with eXtremeGammon, and has offered to share his knowledge with students and is available to offer lessons on line in both English and Danish.

Born in Riga, Latvia, in 1979, Dmitriy moved to Michigan, USA, in 2000. He started playing Chess in 1992 and became a USCF National Master in his mid 20s. In 2009, he discovered Backgammon and in 2010 he obtained XG, finding his PR to be just over 5.0, giving an early sign of his very exceptional natural gift for the game. Dmitriy has had notable successes. In Cleveland in 2011, he was second in the Consolation, and in 2012 was second in the Main and won the Masters. In doubles, he was second in Peoria in 2012 and winner in Chicago in 2013. He joined Mochy’s Under 4.0 Club in 2014.Online, he won two IIBGF ranking events. He won the Russian Premier League in 2013 and 2014. In 2014 he was second in the USBGF Online Championships. In the 2014 EBIF European Championship he won all 9 matches for runner-up Latvia. He is top 5 in the EBIF ranking list. His GridGammon nickname is Lyurix.

Ido Levi, from Israel, is known for his world class ability to analyze tough and complicated positions over the board. He is a passionate and dedicated student of the game and, as a result, continues to improve and grow as a player. As a teacher, Ido is able to break down complicated positions and provide very educated yet easy-to-understand explanations of various aspects of the game to players of all skill levels.

Grant Hoffman lives in New Zealand and won the 2015 and 2016 Australian Open Backgammon Tournaments. He has won the New Zealand champs twice and came 2nd five times. He recently came 2nd equal in the 2017 Chicago Open. Grant invented the "Rule of Four", a technique for determining when to double in holding games. He gave weekly seminars to three students who, with him, took out the top four places in the 2015 New Zealand Backgammon champs.

Fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese, Roberto has been playing live open level tournament backgammon since 2010. An avid student of the game, Roberto has read and studied most of the great books and articles. He taught backgammon for several years before joining the BLC. Roberto has a Masters of Backgammon designation from BMAB, a title based strictly on a high level of performance in actual tournament conditions.

Dirk Schiemann was the No. 3 Backgammon Giant in the world in 2003, but like many great players, went to the "dark side" and took up poker. While quite successful in poker, Dirk missed his favorite game and is now back and you will see him on the backgammon circuit. He has developed many excellent theories and approaches to studying backgammon and we are pleased to have him as both a teacher and advisor to The Backgammon Learning Center. Dirk lives in Germany and speaks fluent German, English and Spanish and provides live and online lessons in all three languages.

Gary Koscielny began playing backgammon in 2014 with the Connecticut Backgammon Club and immediately became enthralled with the game. He began taking lessons with the BLC team and rose from a novice in 2014 to an open level player in 2018 winning three intermediate ABT tournaments (among others) along the way and finishing in the top 20 ABT in 2017. Gary graduated from Princeton University in 1984 magna cum laude.

Frank Talbot has been playing competitive backgammon for almost 40 years. He is currently ranked 14th on the all time ABT points leaderboard and won U.S. player of year in 2004. He was listed on the Giants of Backgammon numerous times and was ranked as high as 21st. He has won tournaments on 4 continents and to many to count in the U.S. He is currently a USBGF director. Recently retired, he plans on devoting much more time with the game helping others enjoy this fascinating game.

Nick only began playing backgammon casually a few years ago, but quickly found a passion for the game at his local Austin club. With a lot of study, he's become a strong open level player in a very short amount of time, having success in both ABT and International events. He credits his very quick improvement heavily on lessons with the Backgammon Learning Center, study habits, XG analysis, and excellent organizational skills. He's an example of what the BLC approach can do, and specializes in sharing the same habits and lesson organization that helped him become a highly-ranked player in a relatively short period of time.

Ben Friesen started playing with the Flint Area Backgammon Club in 2008 and has studied diligently in order to become a championship level player. He is an avid tournament and chouette player with accomplishments including back to back runner up finishes at the Michigan Summer Championships and two top twenty ABT finishes. Ben specializes in streaming and transcribing matches as well as teaching beginner and intermediate players.