Winning Backgammon: luck, strategy, and avoiding the most common mistakes
What does the result of playing backgammon depend on?
A novice player who has just been given an exclusive set of handmade backgammon as a present wants not only to admire it and show it to friends with pride but also to learn how to play backgammon well. Many of them initially think that winning backgammon is a matter of luck. But this is not the case at all.
The Game of Kings
Sophisticated connoisseurs and experienced players know that the game of backgammon is millions of years old, and this pastime was originally the prerogative of the aristocracy and kings. If the victory in this game depended on luck only, would the rulers and sages devote their time to it? Of course not. Only a completely different game depends on luck – dice.
Backgammon is an amazing game that is not inferior to chess in complexity. Its uniqueness lies in its apparent lightness and simplicity. But this is the pallium of Harun al-Rashid – a plain dark pallium in which the wisest, all-powerful ruler liked to wander around Baghdad, pretending to be a mere traveler. Just as the Great Sultan was hiding behind a simple cloth, the versatility and combinatorics of backgammon are hidden by the simplicity of the board, the shape of the chips, and the use of zars, that is, dice. But there is a hint that warns against assimilation: zars – sounds like “tsars”, “kings”, which indicates that this game is chosen and privileged, elevating it above other games where dice cubes are used.
There are two versions of backgammon: “long” and “short”.
The main difference between long backgammon and short backgammon is how the chips are placed on the game board at the beginning of the game and that you can not chop the opponent’s chips during the game. Even if there is at least one opponent’s chip in the cell, it is considered occupied and it cannot be beaten. Any number of checkers can be placed in any cell. If there are no opponent’s checkers in front, then you can not occupy more than 5 fields in a row with your checkers. This is done so that the opponent has the opportunity to make a move.
It is also important that in the final stage of the game of long backgammon when it has already come to removing checkers from the board, they are removed either by the sum of the number of points that fell on the cubes or by the number of points on each of the cubes. If the dropped combination does not allow you to immediately throw out the chips, then you need to move the checkers from a large position to positions that are closer to one. For example, if you threw 1:2, and you have all the checkers for 6, then you can either move one checker to 3 fields or 2 checkers to 1 and 2 fields, respectively. Thus, if the next move is 5:4, you will be able to throw out 2 checkers at once.
The game of long and short backgammon is characterized by the location of the chips on the board and the ability to chop the opponent’s checkers. You can do this in short backgammon, but you can’t do it in long backgammon. This requires different approaches and strategies for each of the types.
The goal of the game is to win. But each of the opponents goes his way to victory, and from the very first throws of the zar, an experienced player can see how good his opponent is in the game, which includes the following: how good he can think, analyze, anticipate, quickly make the right, thoughtful decisions and control his emotions.
Since playing backgammon is often a way to establish closer communication with business partners, and a lot of money can depend on this, the quality of your gameplay should make a favorable impression on them. If you want to succumb to an opponent, it should look natural, elegant, and appealing. The result of the game mostly depends on the skill of the players, and therefore, to achieve the best results, it is necessary to adhere to the strategic canons of the game and be able to correctly use tactical techniques.
To win, you should save your points and make your opponent lose his points. Recall that there are 2 sources of loss of points:
When it is impossible to completely make all the movements of the move, there is a loss of points. This happens when the opponent has taken a lot of points and created a position in which you can not go all that fell on the zars.
On an outlier. These losses are not related to the opponent’s play but are caused by your own mistakes. If you incorrectly start checkers in the house, make unnecessary movements in the house, you will lose points.
To play better than the opponent and in the case of a long match to win against him, you need to try to do 3 things:
- Make the opponent lose points by creating a position that restricts the movement of the opponent’s checkers.
- Don’t let your opponent make you lose points.
- Play correctly on the outlier, competently bringing checkers into the house and preparing the best positions in advance for the accumulation of your checkers in the house.
The one who succeeds better in these three points will have an advantage. This will happen due to those cases when, according to the principle of “randomness”, the game should have been won by the opponent, because he got more points, but he lost due to losses. This will shift the balance of winnings in favor of a stronger player.
The strategic principle of the game of long backgammon:
– play in such a way as to save all the points that have fallen on their zars, and make the opponent lose as many points as possible that have fallen on his zars.
Thus, the general strategic pattern of the game is as follows:
– we try to bring checkers into the game as quickly as possible and play in two directions at once – we occupy points in another player’s base and we occupy points in our own. Another player’s house at this stage of the game is used only as a transit space. It makes no sense to occupy points there. We must try to move the checkers as efficiently as possible to his base.
On the other hand, it is impossible to allow a gap between the checkers. In particular, it is not necessary to move checkers from another player’s base further into your home, if the resources of the attack of his base have not yet been exhausted.
Here are some key points that are called 7 stratagems.
7 stratagems for playing long backgammon:
- You need to move with different checkers to occupy more fields. More specifically, at the beginning of the game: move one checker from the hand and the other one that is closer to the III and IV quarters of the board.
- First of all, it is necessary to occupy free points, if there are any.
- If it is not possible to create significant difficulty for the opponent, it is necessary to occupy the point that is located closer to your home but does not create a large “gap” from the nearest remaining checker behind you.
- If there is a choice, it is necessary to occupy the point that is adjacent to his checkers, creating (building up) blocks.
- The available free points are not equivalent. At the beginning of the game, the points in the I (own base) and III (someone else’s base) quarters are important. These items have a “tactical” meaning. In the middle and end of the game, the fields in the II(someone else’s house) and IV(your house) quarters are more important, they have a “strategic” value, allowing you to correctly bring your checkers into the house and forcing the opponent to bring checkers into the house with a loss of points.
- If there is a choice in the moves, but it is not possible to occupy free points, it is necessary to put the checker so that on the next move it has the greatest chances to occupy this free point. At the same time, remember that the best position for this is at a distance of 6 points from the desired point! If you can not stand at a distance of 6, then choose a smaller distance, i.e. within the “line of sight”.
- It is necessary to eliminate the “lack” of your moves and strengthen the”lack of moves ” of the opponent. First, you may not have a single move for 5, but many moves with a five (1-5, 3-5, etc.). Secondly, it also depends on your move, which, for example, may simply be forced. In addition, you need to be able to calculate which moves may become “scarce” by your next move.
The above stratagems are located (and numbered) by the degree of increasing priority. If there is a collision of stratagems, i.e. one move is good for stratagem 1, and another for stratagem 2, then it is necessary to fulfill the requirement of the senior (latter) stratagem. The ability to technically perform these stratagems characterizes the level of skill of the player. The more stratagems you have mastered, the closer you are to Mastery. The ability to use the “lack of moves” of your own and your opponent is the highest priority and is characteristic of the game of the most experienced and skilled players.
Approximately according to the same scheme – from 1 stratagem to 7, it is most advisable to learn to play, mastering everything in turn. When you can “see” on the board the “lack of moves” of your own and your opponent and can use it in the game, you can proudly call yourself a strong player.
Avoiding the most common mistakes
It is impossible to play backgammon perfectly. Even computers make mistakes. Sometimes even the most in-depth analysis does not allow you to determine the best move. There are simply too many factors that neither a person nor programs can assess.
Let us look at the misconceptions that can lead to big mistakes. If you manage to avoid the mistakes discussed here, then perhaps you will get closer to perfection in the game.
1) Missing a good option
Most mistakes do not occur as a result of an incorrect choice between moves – they occur when the player does not even see the best move. This is true for players of any level: from beginner to champion.
How can this be avoided?
Don’t play too fast. This does not mean that you need to think about each move for 5 minutes. Just take your time and don’t make the first move you see before you’ve checked out other possibilities.
How do you find these opportunities? Let’s say you threw 3-4. Look at the board and check the moves 3 and 4 for each checker. Do not forget about the possibility of making two moves with one checker. Of course, many of the moves are absurd, but at least they should be seen before being discarded. In fact, before the move, it is advisable to think about where you would like to move your checkers. You have seen how many experts make moves almost instantly. How can you anticipate all the throws in advance and choose a move so quickly? The secret is that the position is analyzed even before the throw.
Do not make a half turn until you are 100% sure that this half will be played.
We have seen how strong players, having thrown, for example, 6-2, first go 6, and then look for where it would be better to play 2. We do this ourselves, this is a good way to see the final position better. But this is true only if you are firmly convinced that the first half of the move is obvious. If this is not the case, then you can easily miss the best move.
When choosing a move, do not eliminate the options immediately simply because they contradict any basic principles. Each position is unique and an unexpected move may turn out to be correct. More often, as a result of analyzing the position, the player comes to the correct move. However, if a move is immediately excluded from consideration, it will not be analyzed.
2) “Not seeing the forest behind the trees”
For a great game, you need to see the entire board as a whole and not just individual checkers. But players often can’t or don’t want to do this and are buried in unnecessary details. Faced with a difficult move, many players try to somehow justify their decision. They can count hits, count pips, watch duplication, anything else that you can start from. Sometimes these factors are important, but they often do not play a special role. Usually, the most important thing is the position itself, and you can make a decision only based on experience and intuition. If you focus your attention on some detail, then the move is likely to be wrong.
3) Incorrect assessment of priorities
It is easy to make a move if it solves all the problems at once. But with a complex solution, there are usually several options, each of which has its pros and cons. The correct assessment of these pros and cons is the key to choosing the right move.
When making a move, think about what task you want to solve now. Of course, there are often several good ideas, and only the cast chooses one of them. However, even before the throw, it is useful to set goals and divide them into main and secondary ones.
Play by position.
There are many examples here. If you are ahead in the race, try to simplify the position and come to a simple race. If you are lagging, keep maximum contact. If the opponent has one checker left in your house, do not let it go. If the opponent builds a prime in front of your checker, bring it to the edge. If the opponent threatens to attack, make an anchor. Sometimes several goals contradict each other, but then common sense will help you.
4) Ugly moves
When playing backgammon, we cannot influence which dice fall out, but we can use any dice that fall out as wisely as possible. They impose significant restrictions on the moves, and therefore we are often forced to walk quite differently from what we want. But it is important to position the checkers so that the number of successful throws is as large as possible. This is called position flexibility. A strong player gets fewer bad shots. But this is not just luck. It’s just that he makes moves to get as little trouble as possible in the future.
Keep the checkers in the game
We all know that” burying ” checkers is bad. But we often don’t understand how bad it is. Of course, sometimes you have to do this. When we start checkers in our house against the anchor, and the opponent’s house is strong, then safety is the No. 1 priority. But at the beginning of the game, this is not the case.
Think about the future
The idea is to keep the ability to play bad shots while waiting for good shots. This does not always lead to beautiful positions.
Avoid ugly structures
We have a rough idea of what “ugliness” is in backgammon. Three or more checkers on a deep point. A bare 6th or another important point. Such defects lead to a loss of flexibility, which means more unsuccessful throws. Every time you see that the chosen move leads to a similar ugliness, stop. Return the checkers and see if there is anything better. Sometimes there is no choice, but quite often you can find the best move.
Let all the numbers play
Every time you make a move, it is useful to watch how you will play on the next move, especially 4s, 5s, and 6s. It is bad when one 4 or 5 can destroy a position. Sometimes there is no choice, but sometimes you can simplify your task significantly.
5) Don’t show the cube in time
There are several types of errors related to the cube, but this is the most common and severe. Let’s see what we can do with it.
Each roll is a new decision about the cube
This is the most useful advice. If the cube is in the center or near you, then every time before throwing, you should think about whether to double or not. Before each throw! Of course, in most cases, the decision not to double is trivial, but such a train of thought will allow you not to forget about the cube at the right moment.
No need to wait
Quite often we find ourselves in a situation where one successful throw gives a huge advantage and chances for Mars, while an unsuccessful series leads to problems. Many players are in no hurry to show the cube and wait for the position to be determined. If things go well – we will play for Mars, if it’s bad – it’s good that we didn’t double it.
Don’t miss the chances
The sharper the position is, the stronger is the cube, if you have an advantage. After all, if you are lucky, you will immediately miss the moment. The previous position is a good example. Compare it with a simple game against an anchor. Let’s say the opponent has a take, but the position is calm and is unlikely to change significantly in one move. Not showing the cube will not be a big mistake. In acute positions, for example, in blitzes, the situation is different. If you throw well, and the opponent is unsuccessful, the equity soars to the skies.
Keep an eye on the position
If you decide to play on Mars, this decision is not final. Each roll is a decision about the cube. Before each roll, think about whether it is worth continuing to play on Mars. If the opponent has achieved some success, it may be better to show the cube and win one point before he can say take. Such an opportunity can be very short, perhaps just one move. If you miss it, you risk losing a game that seemed obviously won.
Summing it all up, backgammon is a game in which you need to think through absolutely everything, analyze the situation on the field, and each time, depending on the numbers on the zars, instantly make the most profitable decision, looking a few moves ahead. The game greatly develops the skills of rulers, which are extremely important for everyone who manages and makes decisions. If you enjoyed the new facts you’ve learned, you can choose a nice handcrafted backgammon set in our store and experience playing like a sage or a King. Good luck!