Backgammon Strategy

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Basic Backgammon Strategy: What you need to Know

This is the “basics backgammon strategy” for all levels of play.

The number one thing to know, no matter how good you are, is that YOU DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING! Even the best players in the world must study what backgammon beginners study in order to improve their game.

If you want to get better, you must read books and articles, practice, take lessons, and constantly enter positions you don’t understand into Snowie or JF or GNUBG and find out what is right, and then get a good explanation of what you don’t understand from an expert- getting great backgammon tips from him and reading about backgammon strategy as much as possible.

Here are the backgammon strategy basics to get you going on improving your game, for every level of play.

Backgammon Strategy for Beginners:

First, you need to understand that while there is luck in backgammon, the more skill you have the less luck you need. You can greatly tip the odds in your favor by playing well, and to play well, you need to first understand the basics of backgammon.

Backgammon strategy Basic No. 1: Backgammon is basically a race, a checker play strategy. The winner of every game is the one who gets his checkers off first. Everything that happens in between the first roll and the last roll is just positioning to get your last checker off before your opponent. Even if you win by turning the cube and getting a drop, it’s because your opponent has determined that you will get your checkers off first. So if backgammon is a race, you must learn to count pips and to estimate pip counts. This is covered in virtually every basic book on backgammon, but you can also find some help about race equity in my article in the backgammon.org/forum article entitled: The Best Racing Formula.

Backgammon strategy Basic No. 2: If you don’t start out making the right opening moves, you will immediately give up a major advantage. The best moves have been absolutely proven, statistically, to be right, so you must simply learn them and memorize them. You can find the latest opening moves at backgammon.org article entitled Opening Moves.

Backgammon strategy Basic No. 3: You must understand how to use the cube. Again, many books have been written on this subject, and I strongly recommend the basic backgammon books by Robertie and Magriel. You can find some basic insights about doubling in the backgammon.org/forum in two articles: Woolsey’s Law, and Double or Go For Gammon.

Intermediates Backgammon Strategy:

Intermediates of course need to understand everything above, but must take it to the next step. You need to more fully understand the nuances of position, of making primes, of when to run and when to go into a back game. For match and tournament play, you need to understand Match Equity.
Calculation of Match Equity is complicated, but with practice, it will raise your game immensely. The latest, accepted Match Equity Table can be found at the backgammon strategy section of backgammon.org/ forum.

I also recommend you look at the Simborg’s Blunders section of backgammon.org/forum as this brings up interesting and tough positions, each of which illustrate an important point or principle that every intermediate and advanced player should memorize and fully understand.

For the intermediate player, I strongly recommend you find a teacher or guru to work with you to help raise your game. While I was in my intermediate stages, I had the benefit of constant help and coaching from some of the best teachers and players in the game, and it saved me hours, even years of pain trying to figure out some of the more complicated nuances of the game for myself.
Fortunately, thanks to the internet, these gurus can be found no matter where you live. If you need help finding someone on line to give you lessons or help, feel free to email me at psimborg@sbcglobal.net and I will be happy to recommend and put you in touch with someone qualified.

It's All About Backgammon-Backgammon Org
It’s All About Backgammon-Backgammon Org.

Advanced Players Backgammon Strategy:

Advanced players must get Snowie, or Jellyfish, or GNUBG. You simply need a bot as a tool to constantly check your play and to alert you to possible errors and weaknesses in your game.

Virtually every match or game I play on line I run through Snowie to see if I made any errors, and I can assure you, though I am a highly-ranked player, I rarely play without some errors. I look to see what the error is and I try to figure out why my play is wrong, and I try to remember the situation and the lesson learned so I don’t repeat the error in the future. If I don’t understand why my play is wrong, I roll out the position, and if I’m still wrong, I send a copy of it to some of the best players in the world to explain to me why I am wrong.

I have been doing this for close to 10 years, and though I work hard and I am a fairly intelligent person, my game is far from perfect…that’s how much there is to know and learn about this game. No matter how good you are, you’ve got to keep working and studying if you want to improve.

I believe Advanced Players will also enjoy Simborg’s Blunders, as these tougher positions and plays not only stumped me, they stumped many of the best players in the world, so you can learn from them as well.

Advanced players can elevate their game greatly by attending live tournaments and playing against other advanced players in the Open and Advanced Divisions. If you are not located in a place that is convenient for you to make live events, you can find on-line play challenging only if you challenge yourself and run your matches through Snowie. I strongly recommend you play on those sits that allow you to save your game log and download to Snowie (Gammon Empire, Play 65, Gamesgrid, True Money games – all allow you to do this).

My most important message to you all is summed up in one of my favorite sayings: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” If you want to get better, you must read, you must ask questions, and you must keep your eyes and ears open, so you can always improve your backgammon strategy and learn how to play backgammon better.