Game, Set, and Match

by Douglas Zare
1 March 2013

Douglas Zare

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:

Red leads 16-away 18-away.
Should Red redouble to 16?

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