Book Review

Jeff Ward's Winning Is More Fun
Kent Goulding, 1982

From Backgammon Times, Volume 2, Number 1, Winter 1982.

Winning is More Fun
by Jeff Ward
166 pages, $17.95.

Published by Aquarian Enterprises,
3272 Via Bartolo,
San Diego, California, 92111

Compared to most other games, backgammon is seriously lacking in literature that is instructive and well-written. For the most part, Jeff Ward's Winning Is More Fun is both.

This book is a collection of seventy-five articles, most of which appeared in Ward's syndicated newspaper column. Each article contains one position, usually from an actual tournament game, with a discussion and analysis of alternate solutions. The problems are principally on the intermediate level, and the analysis for that level is quite accurate.

But Ward is trying to write for all levels of backgammon players, and the results are somewhat unsatisfying. To the more advanced players, much of the material is familiar or trivial. At the other end of the spectrum, Ward's attempts at advanced analysis are not consistently convincing. While I was fascinated by Ward's "rule of seven" and his "zone count," I was disappointed to find highly reasonable solutions to some of his problems dismissed, without explanation, as clearly inferior.

A shining strength of the book is its entertaining writing style. Rather than Black versus White, the combatants are real live players. For example:
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
White doubles.
Should black take?
Isn't it more fun to know that White is Nick Ballard, Black is Kent Goulding, that Black wins roughly 45% of the games, that Black properly accepted the cube, and that he promptly got gammoned! Ah, yes, winning is more fun, but as Ward soberly observes, "losing is part of the very essence and fabric of backgammon."

Winning Is More Fun is an enjoyable and eminently readable book. Beginners and intermediate players who can readily afford the price should buy it. For those players looking to get the most for their backgammon dollar, though, it is priced to compete with the authoritative treatises on the game at a level it never quite achieves.

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