Seven More Bad Backgammon Habits 70s Players Must Unlearn

by Mary Hickey
8 January 2018

Mary Hickey

The more we think back to the 1970s, the more changes we recall from the game as it was played in most places then, compared to the way we have learned to play since the bots came along. The bots brought more than knowledge, though. They also facilitated the transition to a more open culture, where players exchange knowledge freely instead of guarding whatever they learn lest their pigeons get hold of it.

It's hard to keep something quiet for long if another player can learn the same thing with a few mouse-clicks. All they have to do is ask the right question, which may not be as easy as it sounds. It's a different world indeed, now that answers are in easy reach, but well-thought-out and carefully worded questions are the scarce commodity! Perhaps this is part of what Picasso meant when he said (back in 1964) that computers are useless because all they can give you is answers. We still need humans to ask the questions.

In a forum post following my first article about the Seventies Players here at GammonVillage, Phil Simborg said that some old-time players remain slow to adapt to the coming of the "bots". I don't know anyone now who hasn't left their cave, but perhaps the players Phil knows still remember the earliest backgammon computers, which were a joke.

The old-time champion and author Barclay Cooke once told me about how he demonstrated one for Bloomingdale's department store back in the Seventies, and that it played hopelessly. No doubt Picasso was smiling from somewhere! But if Cooke were still around, I'm sure he'd be using XG now the same as the rest of us. He would be quick to see that the bots have been studying hard, and they're not sub-novices any more.

Phil also noted some other differences that he's seen between the 1970s and now. One of them, a default preference for the bar point over the 5 point, will be discussed below. The numbering of the headings and problems here continues where the first article left off, so we will begin presently with # 8, not # 1, and the problem numbering will start with 080.

As in the first article, I have ditched the Jacoby Rule except for early game problems where using it allows us to take advantage of XG's opening book. Whenever you see a printed XG diagram that does not say Jacoby on the right side of the board, it means it wasn't used. In this case, absence of evidence actually does connote evidence of absence.

Now, on to our regularly scheduled programming:

8. Responses to Opening rolls played differently than today.

In my first article about Seventies players, I noted that they often played the opening rolls differently than we do now. Responses to opening rolls differed too, often as the result of plausible theories that have now been shown to be wrong.

In Problem 080, the opponent brought two down from the mid with a 43. The Seventies player now gets a 21:

is Player 2

score: 0
pip: 160
Unlimited Game
Jacoby Beaver
pip: 167
score: 0

is Player 1
to play 21

1.xgBook113/11 6/5eq: -0.175
46.89% (G:13.12% B:0.68%)
53.11% (G:18.70% B:1.41%)
Conf.: ± 0.008 (-0.182...-0.167) - [100.0%]
2.Book124/23 13/11eq: -0.222 (-0.047)
45.37% (G:12.30% B:0.58%)
54.63% (G:18.40% B:0.84%)
Conf.: ± 0.007 (-0.229...-0.215) - [0.0%]
3.Book213/10eq: -0.251 (-0.076)
44.42% (G:11.98% B:0.60%)
55.58% (G:18.33% B:1.05%)
4.Book224/22 6/5eq: -0.262 (-0.087)
45.06% (G:11.01% B:0.51%)
54.94% (G:19.65% B:1.06%)
5.3-ply24/23 6/4eq: -0.263 (-0.088)
44.25% (G:11.01% B:0.53%)
55.75% (G:19.64% B:1.05%)
1 Generated by GameSite 2000, Ltd on 2/26/2011 using eXtreme Gammon 2.00
10368 Games rolled with Variance Reduction.
Dice Seed: 77390818
Moves: 2-ply, cube decisions: 3-ply Red

2 Generated by GameSite 2000, Ltd on 2/26/2011 using eXtreme Gammon 2.00
Analyzed in XG Roller++

eXtreme Gammon Version: 2.10

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