By Phil Simborg
In my 45 years of playing backgammon, I have been fortunate to have been given lessons and tips from some of the best players who ever lived. Here is the second part of 10 best lessons, summarized for you.
backgammon lessons 3 – 5:
3. Joe Sylvester. One of the all-time greats lived with me in Chicago for several months. I didn’t charge him rent, but I did make him teach me the game. Joe’s mind is so advanced, so mathematical, that I often couldn’t follow him. One day I got angry and asked him to summarize the strategy of the game in simple, layman’s terms. And he did. He said, when it comes to checker play, you generally should look at three things, and generally in this order: Can you hit? Can you make a point? Can you safety a checker? And when it comes to doubling or taking a double, again, consider these three things: race; opportunity; threats.
4. Neil Kazaross. I often played Neil in live tournaments, and he was always most generous with his help and advice. Once I asked him about a double I took that turned out to be a terrible decision. Instead of just giving me the answer, he asked me what my “take point” was at the particular match score. I had no clue. Neil went on to explain that in order to know whether or not to take a cube, you needed to first estimate your odds of winning vs. losing and odds of gammons, and see if that is more or less than your take point. And to calculate your take point, you simply must memorize the match equity tables. Since Neil supplied the match equity tables to Snowie and other software, he was clearly an expert. Neil taught me that if I want to play with the big boys, I needed to study more and learn about match equities.
5. Perry Gartner. One day, after playing with Perry, one of the top players in the game and a true perfectionist and student of the game, we were discussing a double. I was proud to explain my take, pointing out that it was well within my takepoint. But then Perry asked me if I had considered the price of gammons. I drew a blank. The point is, sometimes gammons don’t mean a thing, and sometimes they could win you or cost you the match. So when you are estimating your odds of winning or losing a game, you must also factor in the price of a gammon, for and against you, to truly see the whole picture.