by Jake Jacobs
20 July 2016
Try as the bots might to turn backgammon players into chess players with better table manners the players' roots are in gambling. Some of the most interesting bets have been made by players. The famous Weight Bet a few years ago, where Falafel and MCG crossed body weights was an example. Heard of the Man With the $100,000 Breasts? He was a backgammon player who won a bet from another prominent player. (If you haven't heard of him, there is a book with that title by Michael Konik which tells the story.) There have been bets which required one party to live in a toilet, or to spend twenty-four hours in a sleazy gentlemen's club, or take tennis lessons eight hours a day, or run the mile in under eight minutes, backwards. Those were all bets attempted. There were others even more fanciful that never came off. The late Howard Ring once tried to organize a group IQ test at a Vegas tournament. There were reasons it didn't happen, including the fact that the people doing most of the betting were not the test subjects. Many years ago Tim Wisecarver offered Craig Chellstorp 10,000 to 1 odds on a game of Classical Greek Scrabble. Too bad it never happened, as perhaps Timmy could have written a play around it, a combination of "The Wasps," and "Chess."
Recently Timothy Chow began a thread on BG Online about learning third-roll positions. A third-roll positions is just as it sounds: opening roll, response, and then the opener's second turn. The discussion was long and involved, and no money made it to the table, but along the way a proposed bet was that Stick Rice be given ten thousand third-roll positions to memorize, and when ready be given a randomly selected subset of one thousand, which he'd have to answer perfectly to win the bet. It occurred to me that there was quiz potential here.
The following ten positions are all third-roll. I can't claim they are random, as I generated them off the top of my head. But there is no deliberate theme. Some are close plays, and some are not so close, but I considered a position a keeper if I thought a player might reasonably consider at least two plays. They are not necessarily the product of two preceding best-played rolls, but if a play wasn't best, it was plausible. These are positions you might actually encounter, may already have. If you get a perfect score, or memorize the correct answers, you will be .1% of the way to glory.
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