Book Reviews

Review: Boards, Blots, and Double Shots
by Martin Short
March 2002

Boards Blots and Double Shots
Norm Wiggins
Edited by Danny Kleinman
2001, 136pp, Self Published
In Boards, Blots, and Double Shots, Norm Wiggins presents a number of positions analyzed by Jellyfish rollouts. The book is targeted at the experienced backgammon player with an established base of knowledge and the desire to become an expert player. Wiggins claims that this book will help you develop "the ability to see and evaluate all the pertinent features of a position and decide which goals in the position must take priority over which others."

The author starts off by giving a little information on how he analyzed the positions, as well as some notation and terminology, and then gives some excellent general strategy advice. He then gets to the meat of his efforts, 129 problems rolled out by Jellyfish and analyzed. Most of these problems are delightful, demonstating key points and showing you what you should be thinking about in various situations. Note, however, that this is a collection of checker play problems and teaches you nothing about the cube.

One of the downfalls of this book is that the positions analyzed are not in any particular order or demonstrate any common ideas or themes, making it a little haphazard. The analyses are interesting, clear, and informative and certainly not without merit. One concept that was hammered home to me was the importance of boardage. Boardage amounts to some of the tactical criteria that help you decide whether to make a safe or bold play first introduced in Magriel's Backgammon. In the examples shown by Wiggins, boardage is a powerful determinant of how you should move your checkers.

I liked a lot of the problems, but there were several that were relatively useless showing "no brainer" plays that seemed like filler. There were also a couple of intriguing examples that showed radically different checker plays with near equal equity. They were interesting but since both plays were considered "correct" by Jellyfish, I'm not sure what I was supposed to learn from them.

This was a decent collection of problems but I wouldn't really call it a "book." As a collection of problems I thought it was valuable, and I certainly learned something from it. I just wish it was more organized around central themes and concepts or at least into stages of the game. You know, ... table of contents, an outline, chapters, headings, ... a book.

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