Forum Archive : Learning

Three steps to better play

From:   David Montgomery
Address:   monty@cs.umd.edu
Date:   6 July 1998
Subject:   Re: 1680--What's next?
Forum:   rec.games.backgammon
Google:   6npjc6$jfp@krackle.cs.umd.edu

ESIMON writes:
> I have a 1680 rating on FIBS. Play JellyFish very often. It's been a
> great teacher. Read the usual books although found them less useful
> than JellyFish. What's the next logical step to become a better player?
> What for instance, does a play[er] with an 1780 rating do better?

A player with a 1780 rating makes fewer and smaller mistakes.

Here's how you get better:
1) Identify your mistakes
2) Understand your mistakes
3) Quit making those mistakes
Repeat as necessary.


1) Identify your mistakes

You don't mention if you have JF tutor or player.  If you don't have
the tutor, get it.

Play games against JF.  I prefer to play a game with comments turned
off, logging it to a file, and then review the game with comments turned
on.  Print out your large errors.

Play matches on FIBS.  Log the matches to a file and convert the file
to a JF .mat file.  (Go to fibs.com for more info on logging a fibs match
appropriate to your software.)  Review the match with JF.  Print out
your large errors.

"Large" depends on your level of play, and how much time you have to
study.  At 1680, I think you could start out by just printing out positions
where JF says you make a .10 mistake -- my guess is that in short order
you would have a large stack of positions.


2) Understand your mistakes

Now study these positions.  Use your printouts like flashcards.
Cover up the JF evaluations and decide on your play.  Check against JF.
Go over and over your mistakes until you wouldn't make them anymore.
Try to understand why your move is wrong, and JF's is better.  Try to
think of how you would need to see the position differently, in order
to make the right play.  Try to figure out what concepts you are
overvaluing, and what concepts you are undervaluing.

JF is great at identifying where we are making big mistakes, but not
at telling us what the concepts are that we need to get plays right.
For the concepts, you need human help.

You mention that you have read the "usual" books.  I'm not sure what
these are, but here is what I think you should read to get the concepts
that stronger players use.

Paul Magriel's _Backgammon_
Kit Woolsey's _Matchqiz_ annotated matches.  There are a few books
  available, but better is to get the software from Hal Heinrich,
  and buy the most recent year or two of annotated matches.

I think for someone at your strength the above texts are the best
things to read (and reread (and reread)) to become grounded in the
concepts you need to play at a higher level.  Note that you read these
to understand how to think about the game -- not to learn the particular
play recommendations made.  Many of Paul and Kit's suggestions in
these texts are wrong, but that isn't important.  They show you how
you should be thinking about backgammon.

If you get through the above and want to read more, all of the
following are very good and each will add some concepts to your

Kit Woolsey and Hal Heinrich's _New Ideas in Backgammon_
Bill Robertie's _Advanced Backgammon_, _Reno 1986_,
        and _Lee Genud vs Joe Dwek_
Roy Friedman's _World Class Backgammon Move by Move_
Ortega et al.'s _Costa Rica 1993_, _Cost Rica 1994_,
    and _Cube's and Gammons Near the End of the Match_.

The last three, by Ortega and his co-authors, are the best texts
for getting into match strategy.

Beyond this, if you have problems understanding and correcting your
errors, you may want to get lessons.  Having someone to whom you
can present your mistakes, whom you can ask questions and who can
ask you questions, can be the most valuable thing.  A number of players
give lessons online.


3) Quit making those mistakes

We're all trying!

David Montgomery
monty on FIBS
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

  Book Suggestions
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


Return to:  Backgammon Galore : Forum Archive Main Page