The Most Common
Fallacies in Backgammon—For all Levels of Play
By Phil Simborg
can learn the game by playing.
NOT TRUE. You can learn how
to move the checkers around the board, and you can learn the rules, but if
you want to truly learn the game you must study. You will not figure out the best opening
rolls, cube strategy, and overall checker strategy on your own. The game is simply more complicated than
it looks, and if you want to learn how to play well, you have to read
books and articles or get lessons and help.
game is mostly luck. NOT
TRUE. The game is odds, and in the
short run, there is luck. The
better you play, the better your odds.
The better you play, the better you roll. If you play well, there are simply more
good rolls you can get and fewer bad rolls, and when you play poorly, you
give your opponent more rolls that are good for him and fewer rolls that
are bad for him.
don’t need to count the pips…you can estimate. NOT TRUE. Even the best players in the world often
stop to get an exact count on the race.
The race is CRITICAL in almost all cube and checker decisions, and
looking at the board, particularly for less-experienced players, can be
deceptive. You need to know if you
are winning or losing and by how much.
It’s hard work and time consuming to count pips, but the more you
do it the faster and easier it becomes.
is better to take the win than to risk it going for gammons. One of the most common mistakes
intermediate players make is turning the cube when they should play on for
a gammon. Understanding when it is
right to play on and when it is not takes practice, study, and skill, but
unless you think carefully about gammon possibilities you are missing out
on one of the major factors of the game.
in doubt, don’t double.
Truth is, it’s JUST THE OPPOSITE.
If you are thinking about doubling, you should FIRST put yourself
in your opponent’s shoes and try to decide if he/she should take or drop. If you are not sure if he should take or
drop, that is often THE BEST TIME TO DOUBLE. Only by doubling do you give your
opponent a chance to make the mistake of either taking or dropping when he
shouldn’t, and even if he makes the right decision, it might well have
been a double.
you can hit, hit! Not
always true at all. Hitting is
often a good thing to do, but far too many players go for hits, single
hits or double hits when there are better plays. Top players like to play what is called
a “pure” game when possible. Pure
games are games that make points in a row.
6 in a row, or a 6-prime, is the golden position we all strive for,
but short of that, 5 and 4 primes are also powerful, and top players will
often pass up the opportunity to hit or switch points to keep primes together.
to get into back games.
Back games should be a last resort, but because they are fun to
play and win, many players start out way too soon trying to establish a
back game, and many players try to continue to stay in a back game far too
long. Even excellent, well-timed
back games simply get gammoned too often.
In the long run, you will do much better trying to avoid back
you have played long enough and have enough experience, you have learned
most of the major strategies of the game. FALSE.
The best players in the world are learning more about the game
every day. They study positions,
theory, and strategy all the time.
(I have been playing 45 years and have studied the game seriously
for the past 20, and I learn new
concepts and strategies all the time.)
don’t have to study and memorize match equity tables and take point--if
you are good, you can estimate.
FALSE. If you really want to
excel at backgammon, the difference between a take or a drop could easily
be just a couple of percentage points, and if you don’t do the math, you
are giving equity away to those players who do.
computer programs are not to be completely trusted. Yes, they do make mistakes, but most of
the time they are right, and they are probably better than all but a few
of the best players in the world.
Just because we know they do make some mistakes, and have some
kinds of positions they don’t get completely right, do not discount the
value of ExtremeGammon, Snowie, GNUBG, and Jellyfish. They are great teachers and learning
tools, and if you really want to sharpen your game, you will use them a
you are playing a worse player, you should make a lot of changes in your
game to take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses. False!
Well, at least not entirely true.
If you double very early hoping to get a drop, you are in far worse
shape if you guess wrong than if you guess right. And if you intentionally make the wrong
checkers plays to try to manipulate the game into something too
complicated for your opponent to understand, by definition, each bad play
costs you equity. Most of the time,
you are far better off making the right checker and cube decisions. If your opponent is truly worse than
you, his mistakes will show themselves more than enough to give you the