I know many players who take backgammon seriously. By this I mean they really care about improving their game and they want to play at the highest level they can. By the way, I consider myself to be in that category.
What I find really interesting is that some people in this category are clearly getting better year after year, while others don’t seem to be making much progress at all.
Of course, part of the difference between these two categories of players is that the ones who are really improving just might be more skillful at games or simply might be smarter. But after giving this a lot of thought and after discussing this with some of the world’s best players, I believe there are two other factors that contribute greatly to a person’s ability to improve: proper backgammon strategies, and proper attitude.
I don’t care how much you play or study this game, unless you employ strategies that will truly help you remember and internalize information in a way that will stay with you, looking at positions in Snowie and reading books about backgammon won’t be any more educational than a cat watching TV.
You don’t improve by looking at positions and memorizing the right moves. Of cours that works for backgammon opening moves, and maybe even the second move of the game. I can tell you, from memory, every opening move and what the proper response would be on the second roll with every combination of rolls after the opening move. It is possible to memorize, from study and repetition, early game moves and many “reference positions.” But that’s not learning…that’s memorizing.
Learning the Backgammon Moves
When you memorize, you are nothing more than a robot moving the pieces. The right strategy is to understand why each move is the best move–why you win more games or more gammons with one play over another. When you understand why, not only will you be more likely to make the right play in the future, but you’ll be able to make more right plays in similar situations that you haven’t studied before. There are simply too many variations of positions and match score situations for anyone to simply memorize what to do in every situation. You must combine reasoning with everything you learn.
When I discuss a difficult play with one of the top players in the world, he doesn’t say that play A is better than play B simply because you win more games that way. He is able to explain why you win more games that way. It’s the why that is the key, and many of us simply look at the rollout results and see what play is better without thinking about why one play ends up with more wins than another play.