by Douglas Zare
1 March 2013
Most backgammon tournament rounds are single matches, shorter in minor tournaments and longer in major tournaments and later rounds. The final match in the world championship in Monte Carlo is to 25 points. However, in tennis, it is common to play a best of three sets, where each set is made of several games. A few tennis matches are best of five sets. Some backgammon tournaments also use best of three matches to determine the result. What is a better way to test backgammon skill, playing a best of three 11 point matches, or one longer match, say to 25 points?
There can't be a perfect answer to this, since there are many aspects of backgammon skill, and they are emphasized in different proportions in long versus short matches. If you only play short matches, there are some types of decisions you will never face, like the following from Kazaross vs. Koerner in the 1995 Nordic Open:
Should Red redouble to 16?
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Thank you for the fine article. I would like to know how close your estimation to the real backgammon. Because in a long match you sometimes face 16 cube (or 8 cube gammon) to shorten the match drastically. Also once the score is lop-sided, the side who is losing often doubles VERY early in the match, which also shorten the match time.
Those are good points.
If one side is eager to double early, that usually means the other will rarely find a redouble/take.
I don't think there is just one answer for backgammon. Some people play with a style which produces many large cubes in a longer match. Some people are very conservative. I think it would be interesting to collect a large amount of data from competitive play, but I don't know of a good way to do that.
I think the main advantage of a series is to reduce the influence of extreme scores (e.g. last MC final) and not only cubes. Sure a 12 point is huge in a series too, but not that decisive. Probably this effect evens out the lower efficiency. Very astonishing that the difference is so small.
Great article BTW.
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