Australian backgammon is about to bid farewell to one of its greatest players as Saeed Nourmohammadi embarks on an exciting scientific research adventure in sunny California.
Consistently in the top two players in the country, Saeed has been a revelation since joining the serious backgammon ranks less than a decade ago. He has been an outstanding player throughout that time, even though his work in Biomedicine research demands much of his time.
The current SA Open and Eva Bitel Tournament champion, Saeed’s ranking sits at around 1850, more than 150 points ahead of the 1700 mark that normally determines an elite Australian player. His winning strike rate of 70.6 per cent is the best of any Australian and New Zealand player to have played more than 100 matches.
So what got this remarkable player into the game in the first place?
“Well,” Saeed recounts with his trademark smile, “back in Iran, where I hail from, backgammon was considered a gambling game and didn’t get the recognition it deserved. So, I turned to online platforms to satisfy my cravings for this strategic game.”
Little did he know that his passion for the game would lead him on a globe-trotting adventure. During his time pursuing his Masters in India, Saeed not only delved into his studies but also joined forces with other Iranian backgammon enthusiasts from around the world. Together, they formed an Iranian national backgammon team and took part in the first-ever online World Team Championship. Against all odds, they finished in fourth-place out of 37 nations. Saeed later played as part of the Australian team to participate in the World Team Championship 2021 and 2022.
“When I got to Australia, I wasted no time and joined the SA Backgammon Association” Saeed recalls. “I remember thinking the upcoming Spring Tournament (one of the three major tournaments in South Australia at the time) was too rich for me but one of the top players encouraged me, telling me it was triple elimination and I was up to the standard. I ended up winning and the prizemoney helped me buy my first Australian car.”
What’s more, as fate would have it, Saeed crossed paths with an Adelaide University professor who happened to be married to one of the players. She recognized his academic potential and urged him to apply to the university, ultimately setting him on the path to a rewarding job and a PhD at the prestigious University of Adelaide. Talk about a game-changing move!
Saeed is set to continue his research at Stanford University as a postdoctoral scholar but is ready to travel to Melbourne for the ANZBGF tournament as one of his last events before heading off.
In Saeed’s own words, “Australia has been an incredible springboard for my dreams, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunities it has presented me. I look forward to repaying these favours in the future.”
So let’s wish this backgammon maestro safe travels, some scientific breakthroughs and – once he finds a local club on the San Francisco Peninsula – plenty of strategic moves and the odd perfect double when he needs it.