Years ago Barclay Cooke wrote a book called, “Backgammon, The Cruelest Game.” In his book he pointed out how nasty the game can be if you get some bad dice. I’ve recently come to believe that Barclay was wrong, and that backgammon is really a very kind and nice game, especially if some backgammon sportsmanship policy is applied.
Take, for example, the position below. I was playing someone for considerably large stakes, and I was black, holding a 2 cube, and it looked pretty hopeless for me. Especially with white on roll, I didn’t have much of a chance. In fact, according to the computer programs, white is favored to win this game about 93% of the time, and just about all of those are gammons, with about 14% backgammons for extra fun. But can you guess what white rolled?
If you guessed 6-6, you’re right. That’s exactly what he rolled, and he left me two blots. Can you guess what I rolled? Right, I rolled a 6-1 and hit both blots and I went on to redouble him to 4, and then I won a gammon!!! So instead of losing 4 points, I won 8.
Now, how could anyone say that backgammon is a cruel game when wonderful things like this can happen?
Well, maybe my opponent didn’t see the humor of this situation as well as I did, but it was quite fun for me. The point is, everyone gets their turn at really great rolls and really bad rolls, and if you only remember the times where you got unlucky, of course it seems like the cruelest game. The trick is to only remember the times when you got lucky.
To quote Albert Schweitzer, “happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.”
Note: Phil Simborg is our resident pro here on backgammon.org. Feel free to contact him for backgammon questions or lessons. Phil is a top-ranked player living in Chicago. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org