Modern technology has not only opened new online backgammon playing opportunities and modes, but has also created ways to help players improve their game skill. Special backgammon software were developed in order to assist backgammon players sharpen their strategy thinking and strengthen their decision making process through the game.
A previous article has reviewed backgammon history, up till the first neural net backgammon software as Neurogammon and TD-Gammon.
Jellyfish was the first commercial neural net backgammon software to be released, created by Frederik Dahl. Its name implies the low intelligence of the program, and still it certainly was a milestone in backgammon evolution.
Jellyfish had a very good user interface and although it was far from being perfect, it had attracted many players, who could have learnt from it the rollouts for many types of positions.
The next big leap in the backgammon software world was the launch of Snowie, invented by Olivier Egger from Switzerland. The backgammon software initial name was ‘Snow White’, which unlike Jellyfish has seven neural nets (as in the seven dwarves), making it much more powerful. The name was changed after a short while, due to possible copyrights with Disney. The latest release of Snowie is version number four; a much stronger with an improved interface backgammon software. The one big disadvantage of Snowie is its high price, which makes it beyond the reach of the average player.
Not long after Snowie appeared, the GNU Project developed free neural net backgammon software, called GNU Backgammon (GNUBG). The GNU application can play, analyze and teach backgammon and can compete in a championship level.
Both Snowie and GNU have technical areas they should improve, but the fact that they have no emotional distractions, gives them a significant advantage over the best human players. GNU and Snowie backgammon software are very much alike, with no essential difference in strength, apart from the price, which makes GNU our chosen backgammon software.
Building your Backgammon skill
In the past people used to learn how to play backgammon from a family member or a friend, and then kept playing with the same circle of players that was in their close surrounding. Players who got hooked to the game started seeking for different rivals in local backgammon clubs or backgammon tournaments; as they quickly discovered that playing with the same group of people seldom improves the backgammon skill.
In the golden eras of modern backgammon, in the 1920’s and 1970’s, it was relatively easy to find backgammon fans to play with, even in local bars and coffee shops. These days, although backgammon is flourishing again, it is not so simple to find strangers to play with. Times have changed; people are less accessible to one another, are more time conscious and look for instant gratifications; yet, the last decade has grown much skilled and professional backgammon players than ever before. Sounds paradoxical? Not if online backgammon is taken under consideration.
Online backgammon has opened new possibilities to both beginners and advances backgammon players. Backgammon websites offer people theoretical knowledge, learning tools, numerous optional opponents and a wide range of backgammon variants, modes of play and tournaments.
Beginner players who are new to the backgammon world can learn the basic rules and strategies from the internet or take backgammon lessons, offered by the larger sites. Average players who want to sharpen their skill, can study backgammon books and articles, watch experts matches and use analytic backgammon software, all available both online and offline.
Parallel to accumulating information and understanding the foundations of probability calculations behind wise backgammon decisions, players should practice their game as much as possible. A real progress can be obtained only by exercising; not to mention the enjoyment that is derived from the actual experience.
Backgammon online enables players to participate in matches 24/7, choose their opponents out of a huge community of backgammon fans from around the world, and even allows players to learn in advanced their rivals’ skill level.