Matvey Natanzon, world backgammon champion, died February 14th, age 51. Matvey was born in Russia, spent his early childhood in Israel, and moved to Buffalo with his family when he was around 14. He loved chess and initially hoped to make a living playing chess until he moved to New York and noticed that hustling backgammon, playing tourists who were wandered through New York's parks, was easier. So backgammon became his consuming passion. Like chess, it was a game of strategy, but it's also a game of luck thanks to a pair of dice and a doubling-cube. 

I got into backgammon in a big way in the summer of 1977. I was twenty-two and had just graduated from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto. I was working as a construction laborer during the day, played backgammon at night and on weekends, and when I didn’t have anything better to do, I looked for work in my field of study; management and marketing. One Sunday afternoon I went to visit my friend Jennifer, a lifeguard, at a local pool. While I was waiting for her to finish her shift, I got into a game of backgammon with one of her friends, Rick Pudwell, who was a Sales Representative for Marquee Magazine at the time. Before I left Rick gave me his card and asked me to call him on Monday. He promised to put me in touch with a few people who could help me get a job in advertising. On Monday he gave me three names.

  • Bill agreed to see me although he didn’t have job for me. The hour Bill gave me was invaluable because he helped me understand what to say and what to ask in my next two interviews. 
  • Mary didn’t have a job either but was so impressed with my performance in the interview (thanks to Bill’s brilliant coaching) that she promised to create a position for me if I didn’t find work elsewhere soon.
  • Peter didn’t even look at me in the interview. But a few days later he offered me my 1st white-collar job as a Media Estimator at Foster Advertising, Toronto.

The rest is history. I’ve been in the advertising agency business, on the agency and supplier side, in Canada and the U.S., in Media, Account Service, Creative Services, Management and Consultant capacities for forty-three years now. 

It’s been a very long + interesting journey. It began by chance over a frivolous game of chance with Rick - who I’d never met before. 

Rick decided to take a chance on me.

It was a long shot for him that is still paying dividend for me.