With just under a year until the inaugural UK Backgammon Open, there is plenty of time to improve your game. Here are 5 things you can be doing between now and the UK Open to maximise your chances of winning it. In every example White is on roll.
1. Learn the opening moves and responses
It would be a shame to get to double match point in the final at the UK Open and not know how to play a simple 31.
Correct move: 24/21 8/7*
2. Learn a few reference positions.
A small number of reference positions can go a very long way.
If you know that the above position is a borderline take for money then the cube action for these positions is easy:
3. Learn some racing / bearoff formulae
Non-contact races / bearoffs come up a lot in backgammon – if you know how to handle the cube correctly in them then you will be at a considerable advantage.
a. Start with the Keith Count.
White’s pip count = 52
White’s adjustments: +4 (checkers on the ace) + 1 (checkers on the 2)
+1 (checkers on the 3) +1 (gap on the 4).
White’s adjusted count: 52 + 7 = 59
Black’s pip count = 63
Black’s adjustments: +2 (checkers on the ace)
Black’s adjusted count: 63 + 2 = 65
Take criteria: 59 plus one seventh = 59 + 8 = 67
67 – 65 = 2
b. After mastering the Keith Count, move onto Trice’s Effective Pip Count.
White’s Effective Pip Count = 7n + 1 = 50
Black’s Effective Pip Count = 42 + 10 = 52
c. Then master Matussek’s bear off paper.
White’s Pip Count = 21
White’s Adjustments = 0.4 X 3 + 0.8 X 2 + 2 X 3 + 4.5 = 13.3
White’s EPC = 21 + 13.3 = 34.3
Black’s Pip Count = 26
Black’s Adjustments = 0.2 + 0.4 x 2 + 0.8 X 4 + 2 + 4.5 + 1 – 1 = 10.7
Black’s EPC = 26 + 10.7 = 36.7
4. Study basic match play concepts and learn Neil’s numbers
Tournament backgammon is different to money backgammon. A basic grasp of the different strategies at different scores in a match is needed to play well in tournaments.
Kit Woolsey’s article on 5-point matches is a must-read for any serious backgammon student. The score makes a big difference to correct cube strategy.
The position above is a no double/take at 0 – 0 in a match to 5.
It is a double/take at 1 – 1 in a match to 5.
It is a double/pass if White is trailing 1 – 3 in a match to 5.
Neil Kazaross invented a simple system for memorising match equities. Kit Woolsey describes it here.
In the position below it is 0-0 in a match to 11 and White holds an 8-cube.
Black can pass the cube to be 8-0 down in a match to 11. Using Neil’s numbers we know that he will have 100 – ((8 X 5) + 50) = 10% winning chances if he does that. So Black needs to have more than 10% winning chances to take the cube. For Black to win White needs to roll a non-double and Black needs to roll a double. This happens 5/6 X 1/6 of the time or 5/36. 5/36 is greater than 10% so Black should take this cube.
5. Learn from your mistakes
Modern backgammon software allows us to recognise and learn from our mistakes in a way that was impossible 30 years ago. Playing against a computer opponent and then reviewing the match for errors is an excellent way to improve.
Backgammon software shows us mistakes that we would otherwise have missed. It also allows us to make small changes to positions to understand our errors and to develop a better positional feel.
In the position above White played 10/9* 6/1*. This is a mistake. White should just have made the 5-point – 10/5 6/5.
In the position above a White checker from the 8-point has been moved to the 6-point. Now playing 10/9* 6/1* is correct by a lot. This is primarily because White now has a direct cover for the blot on the ace-point if Black misses.
The position above represents a more subtle variation to our original position. Now Black has more threatening structure and another blot. This makes attacking more pressing for White and 10/9* 6/1* is the correct move.
There is plenty of time to improve your backgammon game in advance of the UK Open in September 2014. Areas to focus on include:
- Learning the opening moves and responses.
- Learning a few reference positions.
- Learning some racing / bearoff formulae.
- Studying basic match play concepts and learn Neil’s numbers.
- Learning from your mistakes.
What tips and strategies would you suggest? I look forward to reading your comments below.
Update: We have received the following email from Tim Chow:
Thanks for the heads up! That’s a nice blog post. There’s a slightly updated version of Neil’s numbers. In my opinion, the main thing that makes eXtreme Gammon worth the money is that it performs rollouts much faster. User-friendliness is in the eye of the beholder.