If you have ever played at a live backgammon tournament, you know that there is nothing else like it. I’ve played in many, and my adrenaline goes up every time. One thing is certain, when I spend all that money to enter, get a hotel room, travel, and sacrifice such a great deal of my personal life and time to play, I don’t just go to fool around. I want to win, or at least do as well as I can.
I am sure everyone has their own ways of preparing, but here are some things that have worked for me.
The first, and most obvious things you can do are those things that clear your mind. Take care of what you need to take care of at home before you go to the tournament so that your mind is always present and over the backgammon board. How good can you play if you are worried about how your lawn looks? How good can you play if you keep getting calls on your cell phone from your kids wondering when you’ll be home?
Next, I make a mental commitment to excellence. I psyche myself to commit to giving everything I have to the event. I personally cannot play my best if I take the competition lightly. It is too easy to make blunders if you are relaxed over the board. For me, consistently playing well requires intensity. It requires my wanting to make the best play every play, no matter what the score or how far ahead or behind I am in the match or tournament. One of my favorite expressions is: “Excellence is a habit.”
As for study, I always brush up on the basics. The basics for every player depends on his level of play. A beginner needs to review the opening moves, some basic cube strategy, how to count pips, and what constitutes a double or a take based on the race. For more advanced players, the basics include studying match equity tables, cost of gammons at various scores, take points, advance racing formulas, and even studying some key positions to use as reference points.
I actually bring some of these items with me to the backgammon tournament and study them between matches. And between the matches, I always run to my computer and put in positions that I have either copied or photographed to learn what I have been doing right or wrong. Two things I don’t do between matches….play money games, because the strategy for money games is very different from matches; and watch other matches with intensity. To me, between matches is a time to study and to relax.
I know that what is right for me is not right for everyone, but I hope the above will give tournament players some helpful ideas, and I hope it will give non-tournament players some idea as to what tournaments are such an exciting way to spend an evening or a weekend.