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How Good Are You at Backgammon?: 50 Challenging Situations for You to Rate Your Ability with the Experts
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Top Customer Reviews
The book presents a series of backgammon positions. Given a board position, a roll, and the cube, the reader is asked to find the best move. The authors then assign from one to five points to the reader's selection (assuming that the reader decided upon one of the authors' preselected moves, of course.)
Most of the introductory positions are uncontroversial. The authors quickly move on to more complicated board positions however, and here is where the trouble begins.
In many positions, they tend to favor the safe play. Certainly a recognized style, but stating that the safe play is the best play, without a discussion of the cube, the score, or any alternatives seems like hubris. In one problem, the authors state that "black is far enough ahead to run in this position", but they make no attempt to quantify what they mean by "far enough ahead", nor is there even any discussion of how to determine when one player is ahead. In another position, where they also advocate a safe play, they make no mention of the possibility of playing for a gammon, and the pro's and con's of that decision.
The book doesn't present enough basic principles to be of use to the novice: There are no discussions of pip counts, very little of bearing off, and only a muddled mention of hitting probabilities. The experienced player will find himself disagreeing with the authors without gaining any insight from them.
However, the book has a major flaw: the authors don't seem terribly good at backgammon themselves. The explanations of the problems sometimes miss important features of the position, such as the position of the cube or the match score. And sometimes the answer is just plain wrong. For instance in situation 6, the authors choose for the play that seems to win the most games, but miss the play that wins not only a lot more gammons, but even a few extra games as well. The answer which the authors present is actually a blunder. There are a couple of excellent backgammon programs on the market which let you analyse positions such as this, and when the authors would have checked this position, they would have noticed their mistake themselves.