Forum Archive : Learning

Practice/study plan

From:   Marcus Brooks
Address:   brooksm@ix.netcom.com
Date:   4 November 1995
Subject:   Re: practice
Forum:   rec.games.backgammon
Google:   47f3aq$5v7@ixnews4.ix.netcom.com

> Suppose i wish to devote n hours a day to practicing backgammon
> What would be a good plan?
> For the pros: Is there a set practice/ study plan you follow?

I'm not a pro, but I can tell you the best practice is to watch, watch,
watch.  When you watch you will see plays that you have never seen
before, and add to your knowledge of the game as a whole, whether the
play made was better or worse than the play you would have made.  More
importantly, when you see different plays you will start to wonder, why
did my opponent do that?  Some of the most marvelous moves I have ever
seen I have off-handedly rejected until I viewed the position in a
different light.  Often this can only be done while watching a match as
you are impartial to the results of the match and not clouded by the
emotions of playing a match for whatever stakes be it money or rating
points.  Remember:  If you can't *see* all the plays to begin with,
then how can you pick the best one?  And when you watch matches, you
will see new plays every time.  Each time you see a new play, the
better you will become.

Good players always have a reason behind their moves, whether it be to
run, leave the least shots, threaten a blitz and a gammon, or play for
timing.  Learn your opponent's strategies and you will be well equiped
to defeat them.  One of the most satisfying moments in backgammon is
when you can predict your opponent's play regardless of the move you
would have made.

So watch two matches for every one that you play.  It's hard advice to
follow;  I know if I followed my own advice I'd be a much better player
than I am *grin*.

And in the matches that you do play, experiment.  Try different
strategies, especially those that you have seen but never used.  How
will you know their value if you never try them?

Good luck and happy backgammoning...


Albert Steg  writes:

While I'd agree that watching good players is a useful part of learning, I
doubt that there is any substitute for playing many many many games.  Most
really strong players are people who spend many hours at a (real)
backgammon table, playing for $ both head up & in chouettes.  Reading good
books can help a great deal, but the knowledge in them doesn't really
become "your own" until you have put it into uses over the course of
hundreds/thousands of games.

Because there are many different criteria (racing chances, shot equity,
timing, prime architecture, etc.) to bring to bear on any given play, it
is difficult to learn how to the *weight* of the various considerations
from reading alone.  Experience develops your feel for what is most
important in a given situation.

After reading the fundamental books, and perhaps taking notes on the bits
you find "new & useful,"  I'd spend 5-10 hours playing to one hour
studying.  Write down interesting positions that arise when you play and
study them, perhaps rolling them out by hand later.

Play in chouettes as often as possible, in which you are neither the
strongest nor weakest player.  Learn from your betters, and earn from your

Wonderful as it may be in many ways, I still think FIBS is a "second best"
playing option -- you just don't get as many games per hour played.


Jim Wallace  writes:

I started playing played BG about 1978 and thought I was getting good then.
WRONG!! My best education came in chouettes, albeit at a price. I was
fortunate to find a strong local game that had some advanced players.
You see who's making money and why and the discussion, when it doesn't
break down into arguing, can teach you a great deal.

Lesson 2. Play in tournaments, preferable regional ones that attract top
players. If you watch as much as you play, you see when top players stop
to think and can learn to get a good understanding of their style of game
and why it is successful.

Even better, start recording matches. Not only can you watch but you have
a chance to replay these matches and study crucial positions and plays.

Lesson 3. Read books. Get your hands on as many as you can. Read them all
good or bad. Start at the beginner level and read most advanced ones.
Pay whatever it costs for Magriels's book. Read everthing by Robertie and
for education and fun find and read Danny Kleinman's soft cover writings.

Subcribe to BG newsletters and magazines. Inside Backgammon, Chicago Point,
Flint Area Backgammon are all good and have probelms/discussions every

If you are already doing all this how do you get better still.?

Some ideas for improvements...

Roll-outs (by hand or by computer) both are good but by hand teaches more
I feel.  Play propositions.  Playing props with my Calgary friends Hal
Heinrich has been a excellent teaching device. You can have props as to
takes/drops, doubles/no doubles, play A v Play b etc. and the pressure of
losing a few bucks is a strong incentive. we expanded our props to include
"prop chouettes" where the chou breaks into sides and we contract for a
fixed number of games for each position. Teaching and chouette, the perfect

Learn match equities. Start by working with a pencil or calculator.
(sorry not in live play!) You will get good enough to do it in your head
in a while.

Lastly. Play Play Play. The better your opponent the more you learn.
Always try to play stronger opponents on Fibs.  You can always play weaker
ones when you are at the top of the list..:-)
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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



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