We can’t all be top backgammon players for many reasons. To become a truly top player requires three things:
- Natural ability, including great gaming skills and an amazing memory for reference positions and numbers;
- Knowledge. There are many things that must be learned and memorized in order to fully understand the game. (Fortunately, the top players and teachers have shared their knowledge with all of us, and you can find everything you need in the many excellent books and articles on every area of the game.)
- Backgammon experience. No matter how talented you are, and no matter how much you study, unless you have put in a tremendous number of hours and years over the board and in studying the numbers, you will not know how to apply your knowledge and skills properly.
MOST of us do not have what it takes to become a top player. Either we don’t have the natural ability (at the very high level required to excel), or we don’t have the time, or are not willing to devote the time it takes to study the game and gain the experience over the board and computer.
So most of us who play this wonderful game of Backgammon have little desire or chance to become one of the Giants of the game. But I do believe that in spite of that, most of us who play this game would like to play as well as possible given our natural skills and the time we are able to allot to the game. It’s simply more fun to play if we keep improving, and the more we improve, the more we win…and that’s fun too! For many, like myself, the learning process is an intellectually stimulating and fun process in itself, and that’s a major reason to try to improve your game.
What amazes me is that there are so many people who play backgammon for many hours a week and they do not improve at all! They continue to make the same bad plays and the same bad doubles and takes they made 20 years ago. These people are easy to identify…they’re the ones who walk away from the board shaking their head and complaining about the dice. They’re the ones who keep saying “backgammon is all luck…you’ve just got to have the dice.” When these people lose, they don’t examine what they might have done to contribute to their opponent’s opportunities to get good rolls, and when they win, they don’t look back and try to figure out what they might have done wrong or done better so they can play even better in the future.
If you play backgammon 6 hours a week and don’t spend at least 1 hour trying to improve your game, to me, that’s just a silly use of your time. With just one hour a week reading a good backgammon book, or some articles (many great ones are free on line), or looking at positions in Snowie or GNUBG, or even taking a lesson from a pro or a better player, those other 5 hours can be much more fun. Everything you need to know is out there, and much of it is free!
Some players are simply lazy, and they take the attitude that they just play for fun, and study is work. Too bad, because, again, the study itself can really be enjoyable, and the game is much more fun if you play better and win more.
Another reason many average players have not done more to improve their game is that many of the books and articles are simply too complicated and are aimed at the higher level players. If you happen to be a beginner or intermediate player and you dive into these books and articles, often they will seem very complex and way over your head, simply because you haven’t studied some of the basics needed to understand these concepts at a higher level.
The good news is, I can help. I have written and collected dozens of articles on virtually every area of the game specifically designed to help the average player. These articles explain the basics of backgammon and give you insights into the more complex area and tell you how and where to find more detailed information when you are ready. I explain checker play and cube strategy in logical ways that the average player can understand.
And more good news…there’s no charge. I will be happy to send you articles on the basics of checker play or cube play, or whatever areas of the game are of interest to you, at no charge. Of course, I am also available for private and group lessons and have been giving them live and on line for over 20 years…but there is a charge for that.
For more information or articles, or advice on where to get good books or information, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Phil Simborg is Play65’s resident teaching professional. Phil has been playing for 45 years, teaching for 20 years, lives in Chicago, and has been ranked as high as No. 2 on the United States tour.