Pip Counting

Forum Archive : Pip Counting

Mental shift

From:   Stephen Turner
Address:   sret1@statslab.cam.ac.uk
Date:   3 October 1996
Subject:   Re: Help On Pip Counting Methods
Forum:   rec.games.backgammon
Google:   32538352.1AC0@statslab.cam.ac.uk

NYCGuy wrote:
> [how to count pips]
> I would like to know, from experienced tournament players, which method(s)
> they employ, which are easiest to learn and use, and any other thoughts
> and/or observations they have on this subject.  TIA.

Well, I'm not sure whether I count as an "experienced tournament player",
but for what it's worth (and I don't think you're going to like this), I

Out of preference I slide the pieces around in my head, adding and
subtracting the number of pips moved, until the pieces all match up. (Is
that what Magriel calls "mental shift"?). It's important when using this
method to make sure that you don't add when you mean to subtract or vice

There are circumstances in which I just count them, however. These are

  1) When the positions are sufficiently dissimilar that "mental shift"
     turns into "mental contortion";
  2) When the cube decision is sufficiently close that you need to check
     the length of the race (you then need to count at least the leader's
  3) When I want to do a Thorpe count (let's leave that for another day).

Top tips for doing a direct count.

  * Start at the high end; it's easier to do 3 times 23 and then add on 4
    times 4 than do 4 times 4 and then add on 3 times 23.
  * Count one side, and then store the answer on your fingers in your lap
    to save having to remember it while counting the other side. It's
    really easy to do this. Record the 10s on your left hand, one finger
    down for 10, 2 for 20 etc.; one down curled up for 60, 2 for 70, etc.
    Same for the units on your right hand. Ignore the 100s; you know them.
    [Computer scientists might prefer to store up to 1024 on their fingers
    by representing the
    number in binary].

Hope at least some of that helps.

Stephen Turner   sret1@cam.ac.uk   http://www.statslab.cam.ac.uk/~sret1/
Stochastic Networks Group, Statistical Laboratory,
16 Mill Lane, Cambridge, CB2 1SB, England    Tel.: +44 1223 337955
"Collection of rent is subject to Compulsive Competitive Tendering"
Cam. City
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Pip Counting

Casting out crossovers  (Mark Denihan, Oct 1996) 
Cluster counting  (camelx+, May 2005) 
Counting half rolls  (Bob Hoey, Apr 1998) 
Half-crossover method  (Douglas Zare, Mar 2002) 
Live play versus online  (Stanley E. Richards+, Apr 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Live play versus online  (Rich+, Mar 2006) 
Mental shift  (Stephen Turner, Oct 1996) 
Modified direct count  (Daithi, Mar 2011) 
Opposing sums and differences  (Donald Kahn, Apr 1998) 
Running pip count  (Rodrigo Andrade+, Apr 1998) 
Symmetry method, Grouping men  (Brian Sheppard, Jan 1997) 
The 51/21 count  (kruidenbuiltje, Mar 2011) 
Tips  (Patti Beadles, Dec 1994) 
Tips for counting pips  (neilkaz, Sept 2010) 

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