My favorite read this week: Raffi Khatchadourian's New Yorker article about the number one backgammon player in the world and the crazy scene of backgammon hustlers:
In 2008, during a snowy November outside Moscow, two strangers played on a board that one of them had carved in a labor camp. When the match ended, the winner got up, walked out of the room to get a knife, and then made good on their wager: "We had agreed to play backgammon—whoever loses dies," he explained at the time of his arrest. He was drunk-seeming, and probably a psychopath, but the story has come to serve as a parable in extremis of fortunes lost and won over the board. People have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in single sessions; one expert player lost his home. Brugel painted the game into his apocalyptic panorama "The Triumph of Death."