Seven Bad Backgammon Habits 70s Players Must Unlearn

by Mary Hickey
13 November 2017

Mary Hickey

Even if you weren’t born in time for the 1970s backgammon craze, surely you have heard stories about that legendary heyday of our favorite game, before the books and the bots took so much of the mystery out of it. Do you ever wish for a return to those simpler times? If so, first put on platform shoes and something made of rayon. (Not a leisure suit, though. If you still own one, or even if you ever did, please don’t tell me.) Then get your hair permed, cover your ears if you hate disco music, stay away from those gigantic strawberry daiquiris, and let’s take a trip back in time!

This list of habitual errors made by the players of that fabled era is not comprehensive. If any others stand out to you, bring them up in the forum! If you readers come up with enough additions to the list, then I can write a sequel, "Seven More Bad Backgammon Habits 70s Players Must Unlearn".

Most of the examples here are from vintage matches, not necessarily from as far back as the 1970s, but definitely from the pre-bot era. They come from early games in long matches, so I changed them over to money play without Jacoby to keep it simple here. The Jacoby Rule is in use only in the first problem, so that we could take advantage of XG's opening book.

1. Opening rolls played differently than today.

The benefit of making one's home board points in order was well understood in the 1970s, but overdone. Problem 010 below shows that the 1970s play of bringing two checkers down from the midpoint with a 53 was not even the second choice, according to what we know now.

The reasoning at the time was that the 3 point was "too deep" in one's home to make on the first move. The time to make it was after making the 5 or 4 point, or even better, both of them. Now we know that out of order or not, it's still a point, points are assets, and assets matter.

is Player 2

score: 0
pip: 167
Unlimited Game
pip: 167
score: 0

is Player 1
to play 53

1.xgBook18/3 6/3eq: +0.079
51.58% (G:16.47% B:0.81%)
48.42% (G:13.76% B:0.69%)
Conf.: ± 0.007 (+0.072...+0.086) - [100.0%]
2.Book124/21 13/8eq: +0.032 (-0.047)
50.66% (G:14.39% B:0.80%)
49.34% (G:13.83% B:0.56%)
Conf.: ± 0.008 (+0.025...+0.040) - [0.0%]
3.Book113/10 13/8eq: -0.007 (-0.086)
49.48% (G:15.39% B:0.85%)
50.52% (G:14.49% B:0.74%)
Conf.: ± 0.007 (-0.014...+0.001) - [0.0%]
4.Book224/16eq: -0.010 (-0.089)
50.21% (G:12.03% B:0.55%)
49.79% (G:13.81% B:0.53%)
5.Book213/5eq: -0.026 (-0.105)
49.24% (G:14.49% B:0.71%)
50.76% (G:14.27% B:0.75%)
1 Generated by GameSite 2000, Ltd on 2/26/2011 using eXtreme Gammon 2.00
10368 Games rolled with Variance Reduction.
Dice Seed: 38613390
Moves: 2-ply, cube decisions: 3-ply Red

2 No details are available

eXtreme Gammon Version: 2.10

And of course, making the 2 point early with a 64 was unthinkable back then. The 2 point was often sarcastically named for some pigeon at the club who always insisted on making that play. Maybe they were ahead of their time, who knows at this late date? Current rollouts have that play essentially tied with 24/18 13/9, with a slight pull toward the latter.
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