Forum Archive : Learning

Most efficient way to learn

From:   Stick
Address:   checkmugged@yahoo.com
Date:   10 May 2007
Subject:   Most efficient way for learning backgammon?
Forum:   BGonline

What is the most efficient way for learning backgammon?  Chuck just
mentioned it in one of the other threads and it sounded like a good topic.


Stanley E. Richards  writes:

Read two quality introduction books. Those which teach the basics but also
explain advanced concepts. My favorites are Lamford's "Starting Out in
Backgammon" and Robertie's "501 Essential Backgammon Problems." Afterwards,
play a Bot for two weeks. Snowie's tutorial is superior with instant move
and cube equity tables option after each move. Afterwards, one may be ready
to play at a low advanced to high intermediate range.

This is not how I started in February 2004. I played at some free money
site for two weeks against horrible players. I thought that I was good
because I have strong mathematical skills and I read "Backgammon for Blood"
twenty years ago. Thus, I started playing $1 and $2 games at
TrueMoneyGames. I found out quickly that I was not very good. I lost
several hundred dollars and thought that perhaps I should see if there were
any new books about backgammon. I read the aforementioned books and things
got much better. I started to lose at a much slower rate. Then, I purchased
Snowie. Played Snowie for two weeks exclusively. Afterwards, I returned to
money play and became a winner.

Geoff Arnold  writes:

I started by reading a couple of books. Did not help me that much. I broke
down and payed the $$ for snowie 3.2 and then the snowie 4 upgrade. I
learned more about bg from the neural net bots than anything else by far. I
analyze every match and have for 6 years. I look at my mistakes; it's that
simple for me. I am not as religious about it as perhaps I should be. When
I practice (outside of playing humans) I play bots 1 pointers. For me it
tends to sharpen up my moves.

Stein Kulseth  writes:

I always recommend going through the Woolsey-Bagai match
(http://www.bkgm.com/matches/woba.html). It goes through all the important
concepts as applied in a real situation. It is fun to read, and it is free
to boot.

If one reads it thoroughly enough to understand and remember what has been
said, then that person is ready to play anyone without making a fool of

Then GNU and books, and play and study etc, etc.

Misja  writes:

I really learned a lot about the cube by playing propositions.
The nice thing is that you not only remember afterwards what the right cube
decision was, but also you learn a lot about the position because you have
been playing it so many times.

Chuck Bower  writes:

I've tried the play-analyze-play-analyze method (i.e. recording my matches
and then analyzing them with a bot) and it hasn't seemed to help much.
Maybe I don't make the same mistakes repeatedly -- possibly I right some
wrongs and wrong some rights. But the bottom line is that my error rate
hasn't changed much over the last few years.

For cube play I don't see any way to get around the fact that there is a
LOT of memorization of reference positions. That is very hard work, but
it's a must as far as I can tell. Kit's book (Cube Reference Positions) is
a good place to start. He really only scratches the surface but you have to
start somewhere and I suspect it will take a good 100 hours to memorize the
info in this book. I don't think you need to memorize every position. IMO,
commit to memory the borderline positions (borderline double/no and
borderline take/pass). If you are a matchplayer (like most of us) you also
need to memorize the %-age wins and %gammons (W and L) for the key
(borderline) positions. That's still a ton of work. And when you're done
you're still maybe 10-20% of the way to mastering the cube.

A good technique I've learned from Neil (and also Perry Gartner) is to
fiddle around with a position using a bot, seeing how small changes affect
the outcome. This works for both cubeplay and checkerplay. For example, say
you made play A but play B turned out to be right. Change the position in
as small of increments as possible (e.g. move just one checker) and see
what it takes to make play A right. (Sometimes you can't no matter how hard
you try. :( )

I think the old method of playing a position over and over can be a good
technique too. Again, you'd better be willing to invest some time to have
this bear fruit.

Matt Cohn-Geier  writes:

The short answer: Play bots and other strong players. Read books. Read
forums, obsess about backgammon. Bot recommendation is GNU (or Snowie, if
that suits you better). Book recommendations are Magriel's Backgammon,
Trice's Backgammon Boot Camp, Robertie's Advanced Backgammon and Modern
Backgammon, Woolsey's Cube Encyclopedia, Storer's Backgammon Praxis, and
Woolsey's New Ideas in Backgammon, in roughly that order.


My story: in a little more than a year's time, I've gone from Completely
Inept to Fairly Decent Player. I played backgammon with my friends and
family once upon a time, and I knew that you were supposed to make your 5
point with 31 and bar point with 61, but nothing beyond that. Actually
counting up pips (or worse, rolls) was a completely foreign concept to me.

I played a few games against the computer program MaxGammon, and started
becoming interested in backgammon. After just playing it for awhile I began
to develop some skills, simply through repetition. It had huge problems
with its RNG, though. It was decidedly non-random. I searched around for
various websites. Backgammon Galore was the best of these, and after
reading for awhile, I felt like I could actually understand what was going
on, the ideas involved in a backgammon game, and so on.

Eventually I found the Jellyfish 3.0 Demo. Jellyfish was a whole lot better
than MaxGammon. I played against 0-ply a lot. I read a couple books which
weren't very good (the only one I can remember was Robertie's Backgammon
for Serious Players, but maybe I also looked at Jacoby's Backgammon Book).
I read Magriel's Backgammon, which was excellent. Now I really felt that I
could recognize most concepts of a backgammon game, although I still had
problems applying them. I had big problems with more complex games when
there were several conflicting goals and prioritizing among them, and often
made huge blunders in these situations. But I understood the strategic
concepts involved and that it was all part of a game plan. This appealed to
my chessic nature. Chess was a good game, full of intricacies and beauty,
but it was also frustrating and demanding as hell.

Somewhere around this time, the local club showed up to play a chouette
while I was playing chess. I have no idea why they decided to change venues
for a day, but I watched them for awhile, although I didn't want to play--
the way they played, they looked like they would eat me alive. They
explained the concept of a chouette to me, although I didn't understand it.
It took until I had played in a couple of chouettes to really understand
what was going on. I read Advanced Backgammon (vols 1. & 2), which is to
date the best book on backgammon that I've read. Now I was absolutely
possessed. I had to know more about the game. I hungered for backgammon

I found the Snowie Demo, which was even better than Jellyfish, and started
playing against that constantly, even though it beat me mercilessly. I
started playing on online sites, Yahoo, GE, PG, etc. Eventually I found
gnubg, which remains my bot of choice. I read a few articles by Kit
Woolsey, which were very clear and well-written, and joined GammonVillage.
I read 501 Essential Backgammon Problems, Backgammon Boot Camp, Classic
Backgammon Revisited, and the Cube Encyclopedia by Woolsey, which were all
pretty great resources. I joined the local club, and found that I could
actually play an okay game of backgammon (time from first playing MaxGammon
to date: about 5 months). I was pretty nervous when I first started playing
IRL, but I calmed down eventually. I joined GammOnLine and read the forums
and articles there. I read Backgammon Praxis (excellent), Modern Backgammon
(excellent), Backgammon with the Giants: Neil Kazaross (good), Boards,
Blots, and Double Shots by Wiggins (good), Understanding Backgammon
(decent), Tournament Backgammon by Woolsey (mediocre), Can a Fish Taste
Twice as Good? (too math-theoretical for my taste), the MatchQiz series by
Woolsey (decent), Vision Laughs at Counting vol. 1 by Kleinman (okay, but
disappointing), and New Ideas in Backgammon (excellent).

Since then, I haven't read any more books, just more forums and articles.
The largest factor in my development has been playing bots and simply
getting maximum backgammon exposure. Repetition and recognition are big
parts of the way I approach things. That can work against me in unfamiliar
positions, e.g., I find it difficult to estimate winning chances in crunch
positions. But it seems to have worked out well so far, for the most part.
My results have been decent.

I'm not really sure where to go now. When I was training for chess, I
constantly did 1) tactical problems, and 2) game analyses, either those of
GMs or those that occurred in my own games. There were FAR more than enough
chess games to do those until I died of old age (on the order of, let's
say, 5 million tournament games). That's not the case in backgammon,
because players generally don't record their games. I'd like to analyze my
own games, but collecting them is hard, since most of what I have is
playing bots. I cashed out after the legislation, and have started trying
to play on GG, but I'm not really into it yet. It's difficult to
psychologically create tournament conditions when you're playing on a
computer. I'm open to suggestions, though.

I had originally intended to have a longer answer to learning methods (how
people learn in general, what conditions one ought to create in order to
learn), but this post is running long enough as it is.

Thomas W. Hansen  writes:

(August 2009)

Recently some of my friends and I have been playing "challenge" money
games.  The concept is that you can call your opponent on all mistakes,
discuss why you think you have a superior alternative, and then put the
position up in Snowie, which acts as judge. The stronger the players you
play the better the discussions are, and your understanding of the game
rapidly improves.

We have been playing a couple of variants, but I prefer the straight up
one where all bets are 10 points and with no option to pass a challenge.
Typically we operate with a margin of 0.020, anything under is a wash,
and for checker plays you have to choose #1 to win.

Been playing like this for a couple of months, and everybody I've played
agrees that it is a great way to develop your game. The only requirement
is a computer nearby to put the positions in immediately, since the
value of discussion decreases if you don't resolve the questions right
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     



Advancing beyond intermediate  (James Eibisch, July 1998) 
Beginners' mistakes  (Alan Webb+, Nov 1999)  [Long message] [Recommended reading]
Best way for a beginner to learn  (Koyunbaba+, July 2007)  [Long message]
Committing to memory  (RobertFontaine+, Feb 2011) 
Getting better than "awful"  (Morph+, May 2004) 
How to excel in backgammon  (Max Levenstein+, Aug 2011) 
How to improve  (N Merrigan, Jan 2007) 
How to improve  (Albert Steg, Feb 1996) 
How to improve cube handling  (RealNick+, Jan 2011) 
How to learn and improve  (Hristov, Aug 2005) 
Lowering your error rate  (Stick Rice+, Apr 2009) 
Maintaining your game  (Robert-Jan Veldhuizen, Apr 2005)  [GammOnLine forum]
Matchqiz and Jellyfish  (Gilles Baudrillard, May 1997) 
Missing candidate plays  (Klaus Evers+, Apr 2009) 
Most efficient way to learn  (Stick+, May 2007)  [Long message]
Practice and preparation  (Ian Shaw+, Mar 2004)  [GammOnLine forum]
Practice/study plan  (Marcus Brooks+, Nov 1995) 
Reference positions  (Chuck Bower, July 1999) 
Study Methodology  (Phil Simborg, Dec 2012) 
Study method  (Jason Lee+, Jan 2012) 
Study plan  (Tenland+, Nov 2012) 
Taking your game up a level  (CW+, Aug 2002) 
Taking your game up a level  (Ron Karr, Aug 1996) 
The backgammon cake  (Daniel Murphy, Nov 1997) 
The best way to learn  (Chuck Bower+, Oct 2003)  [GammOnLine forum] [Long message]
Three steps to better play  (David Montgomery, July 1998) 
Using Jellyfish tutor  (Stephen Hubbard, Sept 1997) 
What more can I do?  (Alison Wylie+, Apr 2000) 
Zen in the art of backgammon  (Robban+, Aug 2009) 

[GammOnLine forum]  From GammOnLine       [Long message]  Long message       [Recommended reading]  Recommended reading       [Recent addition]  Recent addition

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Computer Dice
Cube Handling
Cube Handling in Races
Extreme Gammon
Fun and frustration
GNU Backgammon
Luck versus Skill
Magazines & E-zines
Match Archives
Match Equities
Match Play
Match Play at 2-away/2-away
Opening Rolls
Pip Counting
Play Sites
Probability and Statistics
Source Code
Strategy--Bearing Off
Strategy--Checker play


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