5 Ways to Improve Your Backgammon - Backgammon Blog

5 Ways to Improve Your Backgammon

5 Ways to Improve Your Backgammon

by Sean Williams
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1. Learn the opening moves and responses

Position Analysis

Position #1

Checkers

1 24/21 8/7*

69.23% MWC

-0.17
2 8/5 6/5

69.22% MWC

-0.171
3 13/10 8/7*

68.84% MWC

-0.236
4 8/7*/4

68.49% MWC

-0.294
5 24/21 6/5

68.29% MWC

-0.329
6 24/20

68.15% MWC

-0.352
7 24/23 24/21

68.13% MWC

-0.355
8 24/23 8/5

68.08% MWC

-0.363
9 8/7* 6/3

67.92% MWC

-0.391
10 24/23 13/10

67.91% MWC

-0.392

Cube

Backgammon Board: 4HPhQSDgc/ABMA:cInlAAAAGAAA

It would be a shame if you did not know the 31 simple moves at the beginning of the race

Reply charts such as Top 15 Opening Rolls can be extremely useful.

2. Learn a few reference positions

A small number of reference positions can go a very long way.

Position Analysis

Position #2

Cube

Cubeless Equity: 0.632 MWC: 0.7402 Money: 0.572
Win 71.6%G19%BG1.2%
Lose 28.4%G6.1%BG0.2%
Cubeful Equities
  • 1No double
    0.859 Eq.75.37% MWC
  • 2Double, pass
    1 Eq.76.21% MWC
  • 3Double, Take
    0.964 Eq.75.99% MWC

Proper action is double,take NaN%

Backgammon Board: mGfwATCwu8EDIA:cAngAAAAGAAA

If you know that the above position is a borderline take for money then the cube action for these positions is easy:

Position Analysis

Position #3

Cube

Cubeless Equity: 0.705 MWC: 0.7445 Money: 0.661
Win 77.7%G13.9%BG0.6%
Lose 22.3%G3.7%BG0.1%
Cubeful Equities
  • 1No double
    0.932 Eq.75.81% MWC
  • 2Double, pass
    1 Eq.76.21% MWC
  • 3Double, Take
    1.294 Eq.77.96% MWC

Proper action is double,pass NaN%

Backgammon Board: mGfwATCwu8GDAA:cAngAAAAGAAA

Double / Pass

Position Analysis

Position #4

Cube

Cubeless Equity: 0.607 MWC: 0.7387 Money: 0.549
Win 70.8%G18.6%BG1.3%
Lose 29.2%G6.4%BG0.2%
Cubeful Equities
  • 1No double
    0.812 Eq.75.09% MWC
  • 2Double, pass
    1 Eq.76.21% MWC
  • 3Double, Take
    0.892 Eq.75.57% MWC

Proper action is double,take NaN%

Backgammon Board: mGfwATCYu8EDIA:cAngAAAAGAAA

Double / Take

Position Analysis

Position #5

Cube

Cubeless Equity: 0.633 MWC: 0.7402 Money: 0.568
Win 70.9%G20.6%BG0.8%
Lose 29.1%G6.2%BG0.2%
Cubeful Equities
  • 1No double
    0.846 Eq.75.29% MWC
  • 2Double, pass
    1 Eq.76.21% MWC
  • 3Double, Take
    0.955 Eq.75.94% MWC

Proper action is double,take NaN%

Backgammon Board: mGfwASiwu8EDIA:cAngAAAAGAAA

Double / Take

Position Analysis

Position #6

Cube

Cubeless Equity: 0.678 MWC: 0.7429 Money: 0.613
Win 72.7%G20.4%BG1.4%
Lose 27.3%G5.7%BG0.2%
Cubeful Equities
  • 1No double
    0.9 Eq.75.61% MWC
  • 2Double, pass
    1 Eq.76.21% MWC
  • 3Double, Take
    1.074 Eq.76.65% MWC

Proper action is double,pass NaN%

Backgammon Board: mGfwATCwu4kDIA:cAngAAAAGAAA

Double / Pass

3. Learn some racing and bearoff formulae

Non-contact races / bearoffs come up a lot in backgammon – if you know how to handle the cube correctly in them then you will be at a considerable advantage.

Position Analysis

Position #7

Cube

Cubeless Equity: 0.555 MWC: 0.7356 Money: 0.555
Win 77.8%G0%BG0%
Lose 22.2%G0%BG0%
Cubeful Equities
  • 1No double
    0.887 Eq.75.54% MWC
  • 2Double, pass
    1 Eq.76.21% MWC
  • 3Double, Take
    1.145 Eq.77.07% MWC

Proper action is double,pass NaN%

Backgammon Board: a7sPAAC35w4AAA:cAngAAAAGAAA

Black’s pip count = 52 Black’s adjustments: +4 (checkers on the ace) + 1 (checkers on the 2) +1 (checkers on the 3) +1 (gap on the 4). Black’s adjusted count: 52 + 7 = 59 White’s pip count = 63 White’s adjustments: +2 (checkers on the ace) White’s adjusted count: 63 + 2 = 65 Take criteria: 59 plus one seventh = 59 + 8 = 67 67 – 65 = 2 So Double/Take

Position Analysis

Position #8

Cube

Cubeless Equity: 0.474 MWC: 0.7307 Money: 0.474
Win 73.7%G0%BG0%
Lose 26.3%G0%BG0%
Cubeful Equities
  • 1No double
    0.79 Eq.74.96% MWC
  • 2Double, pass
    1 Eq.76.21% MWC
  • 3Double, Take
    0.946 Eq.75.89% MWC

Proper action is double,take NaN%

Backgammon Board: 27YBAODvDwAAAA:cAngAAAAGAAA

Black’s Effective Pip Count = 7n + 1 = 50 White’s Effective Pip Count = 42 + 10 = 52 Double/Take

Position Analysis

Position #9

Cube

Cubeless Equity: 0.546 MWC: 0.735 Money: 0.546
Win 77.3%G0%BG0%
Lose 22.7%G0%BG0%
Cubeful Equities
  • 1No double
    0.834 Eq.75.22% MWC
  • 2Double, pass
    1 Eq.76.21% MWC
  • 3Double, Take
    1.253 Eq.77.72% MWC

Proper action is double,pass NaN%

Backgammon Board: eQsAAM4OAAAAAA:cAngAAAAGAAA

Black’s Pip Count = 21 Black’s Adjustments = 0.4 X 3 + 0.8 X 2 + 2 X 3 + 4.5 = 13.3 Black’s EPC = 21 + 13.3 = 34.3 White’s Pip Count = 26 White’s Adjustments = 0.2 + 0.4 x 2 + 0.8 X 4 + 2 + 4.5 + 1 – 1 = 10.7 White’s EPC = 26 + 10.7 = 36.7 Double/Close Pass

4. Study basic match play concepts and learn Neil’s numbers

Tournament backgammon is different to money backgammon. A basic grasp of the different strategies at different scores in a match is needed to play well in tournaments.

Kit Woolsey’s article on 5-point matches is a must-read for any serious backgammon student. The score makes a big difference to correct cube strategy.

Position Analysis

Position #10

Cube

Cubeless Equity: 0.333 MWC: 0.7223 Money: 0.259
Win 56.6%G25.6%BG0.6%
Lose 43.4%G12.7%BG0.7%
Cubeful Equities
  • 1No double
    0.29 Eq.71.98% MWC
  • 2Double, pass
    1 Eq.76.21% MWC
  • 3Double, Take
    -0.164 Eq.69.27% MWC

Proper action is no double,take 39.03%

Backgammon Board: hmfwAQUzTuEBMA:cAngAAAAGAAA

The position above is a no double/take at 0 – 0 in a match to 5. It is a double/take at 1 – 1 in a match to 5. It is a double/pass if Black is trailing 1 – 3 in a match to 5. Neil Kazaross invented a simple system for memorising match equities. Kit Woolsey describes it here. In the position below it is 0-0 in a match to 11 and Black holds an 8-cube.

Position Analysis

Position #11

Cube

Cubeless Equity: 0.722 MWC: 0.7455 Money: 0.722
Win 86.1%G0%BG0%
Lose 13.9%G0%BG0%
Cubeful Equities
  • 1No double
    0.722 Eq.74.55% MWC
  • 2Double, pass
    1 Eq.76.21% MWC
  • 3Double, Take
    1.727 Eq.80.55% MWC

Proper action is double,pass NaN%

Backgammon Board: DwAA4AEAAAAAAA:cAngAAAAGAAA

White can pass the cube to be 8-0 down in a match to 11. Using Neil’s numbers we know that he will have 100 – ((8 X 5) + 50) = 10% winning chances if he does that. So White needs to have more than 10% winning chances to take the cube. For White to win Black needs to roll a non-double and White needs to roll a double. This happens 5/6 X 1/6 of the time or 5/36. 5/36 is greater than 10% so White should take this cube.

5. Learn from your mistakes

Modern backgammon software allows us to recognise and learn from our mistakes in a way that was impossible 30 years ago. Playing against a computer opponent and then reviewing the match for errors is an excellent way to improve.

Gnu Backgammon is very strong and is free or Extreme Gammon is very strong, is user-friendly and is reasonably priced.

Backgammon software shows us mistakes that we would otherwise have missed. It also allows us to make small changes to positions to understand our errors and to develop a better positional feel.

Position Analysis

Position #12

Checkers

1 10/5 6/5

74.11% MWC

0.648
2 10/9* 8/3

73.87% MWC

0.607
3 10/9*/4

73.81% MWC

0.598
4 10/9* 6/1*

73.37% MWC

0.524
5 13/8 10/9*

72.53% MWC

0.384
6 8/7 6/1*

71.29% MWC

0.176
7 24/23 6/1*

71.2% MWC

0.159
8 10/4

70.91% MWC

0.112
9 24/23 10/5

70.43% MWC

0.03
10 24/23 8/3

70.31% MWC

0.01

Cube

Backgammon Board: jLfBESBszhMDIA:cInmAAAAGAAA

In the position above Black played 10/9* 6/1*. This is a mistake. Black should just have made the 5-point – 10/5 6/5.

Position Analysis

Position #13

Checkers

1 10/5 6/5

75.01% MWC

0.799
2 10/9* 6/1*

74.58% MWC

0.727
3 10/9*/4

74.29% MWC

0.678
4 10/9* 8/3

74.07% MWC

0.641
5 13/8 10/9*

72.93% MWC

0.449
6 24/23 6/1*

72.14% MWC

0.317
7 8/7 6/1*

71.87% MWC

0.273
8 10/4

71.44% MWC

0.201
9 24/23 10/5

70.81% MWC

0.094
10 6/5 6/1*

70.42% MWC

0.029

Cube

Backgammon Board: jLfBESBsnhMDIA:cInmAAAAGAAA

In the position above a Black checker from the 8-point has been moved to the 6-point. Now playing 10/9* 6/1* is correct by a lot. This is primarily because Black now has a direct cover for the blot on the ace-point if White misses.

Position Analysis

Position #14

Checkers

1 10/5 6/5

73.91% MWC

0.614
2 10/9* 6/1*

73.81% MWC

0.598
3 10/9* 8/3

73.76% MWC

0.589
4 10/9*/4

73.62% MWC

0.566
5 13/8 10/9*

72.55% MWC

0.386
6 8/7 6/1*

71.47% MWC

0.204
7 24/23 6/1*

71.4% MWC

0.194
8 10/4

70.64% MWC

0.067
9 24/23 10/5

70.23% MWC

-0.002
10 24/23 8/3

70.1% MWC

-0.025

Cube

Backgammon Board: jNvCESBszhMDIA:cInmAAAAGAAA

The position above represents a more subtle variation to our original position. Now White has more threatening structure and another blot. This makes attacking more pressing for Black and 10/9* 6/1* is the correct move.

About the Author
Sean Williams
Sean Williams
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