Home Kurzvorstellung Backgammon Links Site Map Kontakt/Impressum

Backgammon Words of Wisdom


Backgammon is [...] a gambling game which requires both luck and skill. [...] Luck keeps the game interesting, but skillfull play will always be rewarded.
Paul Magriel 1) 
The way to become a good player is to learn to make good moves. If you make better moves than your opponents, you will win in the long run.

In the short run, there are no guarantees. You may become an excellent player and still loose a 100-point session to a clod, or get knocked out in the first round of six consecutive tournaments, or reach the final of the biggest tournament of your life and loose 0-25. Those are the breaks. If you can't handle that much uncertainty, tough. Go play chess.
Bill Robertie 2) 
The best way to improve at backgammon is to get your hands dirty and really work to learn to understand this game.
Neil Kazaross, 1994 3) 
In any case, the best way to learn backgammon is to play it.
Paul Magriel, 1976 33) 
In all gambling games there is a loser's syndrome which keeps people to keep on when behind and to go further into the hole. The doubling feature in backgammon makes this syndrom far more dangerous.
Oswald Jacoby & John Crawford 4) 
I find streaks, in general, can last for a couple years at a time, good or bad, and I am serious. Way more of a streak than one would think possible.
Neil Kazaross 22) 

How to Play

There are three steps that should be taken EVERY time it is your turn to play:

1. Have a plan. - 2. Consider the cube. - 3. Choose the best move.

Thinking about these three things, in the above order, should become second nature.
Kent Goulding, 1991 25) 
At every stage of the game you should constantly be evaluating and updating your game plan. To have no plan at all will leave you lost on the back roads of mediocrity forever.
Kent Goulding, 1991 25) 
You cannot be a top tournament backgammon player if you do not know what the match equity is. Believe me.
Neil Kazaross, 1994 5) 
I win so many games because I'm ahead in the race, it's shocking. People just think I'm lucky, I roll doubles and my men run around the board. I want to be ahead in the race almost no matter what.
Neil Kazaross, 1994 5) 
Every turn is a new cube decision. Always. Never forget. The biggest error you can make is to fail to double at the appropriate time.
Kent Goulding, 1991 6) 
I can hardly over-emphasize the importance of the cube, its influence on play. In simple terms I would say that I will give any opponent any opening move he wants so long as I can start with with the cube on my side. Handling the cube correctly is a major part of backgammon it must be since it determinates the end of eighty percent of all games.
Joe Dwek 26) 
In general, when the decision is otherwise very close you should lean towards a race when you own the cube, but lean towards contact positions when your opponent owns the cube.
Kit Woolsey
The doubling cube holds the key to being a winner or a loser. Good checker play will never compensate for serious errors of judgement on doubling. A good part of the skill is accepting or refusing doubles lies in being able to recognize which positions are gammon prone and which are not. In any position where you are under attack and have no anchor in your opponents board, you risk being closed out and gammoned. Many seeminly inferior positions can be taken when you have an anchor.
Paul Magriel, X22
One of the reasons I've done so well in matches is my understanding of how to use the cube at different scores.
Neil Kazaross 11) 
A player who is savvy with the cube will have an advantage over an opponent who moves the checkers slightly better but makes inferior cube decisions. Thus, it is vital to understand cube decisions in order to be a winning backgammon player.
Kit Woolsey, 2002 14) 
Winners are people who expect to win.
Walter Trice, 2004 17) 
Some Winners tend to play rapidly, but most play a little more slowly than everage. Even the fast players among them don't rush things, though, and if an unusually difficult play comes up, they will take the time they need.
Walter Trice, 2004 17) 
[..] In a backgammon match, anybody has a reasonable chance to beat anybody else. The player who doesn't respect his opponent is likely to get greedy, to take risks when he shouldn't and to fail to take risks when he should.
Walter Trice, 2004 17) 
With correct cube play, I believe that at least 2/3s of initial doubles should be taken.
Kit Woolsey, 1991 18)  20) 
Many, possibly most, inferior moves are made not because the best play was considered and then rejected, but because the best play was completely overlooked.
Kit Woolsey, 1991 19) 
Never, ever, grab the first good looking play you see. There is often a better move around the corner. Go look for it.
Kit Woolsey, 1991 19) 

Books and Reading

[..] In my opinion there's no book so bad I'd advise everybody not to read it.
Gary Wong, 1998 30) 


I have no doubt that GNU Backgammon 2-ply would show a positive result if given enough time vs. any human player in match play.
Neil Kazaross
Anyone can do computer rollouts; the trick is the analysis.
Herb Gurland 31) 

The Perfect Backgammon Player

From the cradle to the grave Egyptians play Backgammon, the game of the great Pharaohs. They play well, they play rapidly, they play quietly; they smile and talk a little and they never complain of their luck. They smoke their narguilés and drink their café turc. They believe that luck and skill is the just, the inevitable, reward of the skillful.
Georges Mabardi, 1930 7) 
Get a job, and improve the image of Backgammon worldwide. There are too many freeloaders and penny ante hustlers ruining this game.
Raymond Fogerlund, 2007 32) 

Backgammon Tournaments

Tournament directors seem to look more stressed under the Swiss system.
Douglas Zare, 2001 8) 
What I know helps during a tournament is getting enough sleep before a playing day, taking advantage of breaks between matches to rest (or even nap), avoiding heavy meals, having light snacks for quick energy as needed, and rationing those cups of coffee so that the boost comes during a match when you need it.
Walter Trice, 2004 17) 
I would also like to see many more Swiss tournaments. Forget single and double elimination. In a Swiss tournament the better player will almost always place.
Neil Kazaross, 1994 23) 

This and That

[...] If you must put a drink on the table (hard or soft is all the same) be careful not to confuse it with the dice cup. Dice don't quench your thirst in the slightest, and if you roll the drink it's even more frustrating!  
Oswald Jacoby & John Crawford 4) 
As a rough guide, I suggest that you enter a chouette prepared to win or lose as many as 200 points comfortably. Arm yourself with a thousand-dollar bankroll for the Five Dollar Chouette. Even if you play only for dollars, be ready to to pay out two hundred dollars cheerfully.
Danny Kleinman, 1980 34) 
It's often more fun and challenging to find the Cooke play than it is to find the right way.
Jeremy Paul Bagai, 2001 9) 
Sometimes I think I've created a Frankenstein's Monster! Young players are really more interested in what they do rating-wise than what they do across the board.
Arpad Elo 10) 
Life, like backgammon, is constant decision-making under uncertainty.
Neil Kazaross 11) 
Backgammon is truly the cruellest game. [..] Save the emotions for Valentine's Day, they have no place over a backgammon board".
Chris Bray, 2000 13) 
Maybe I am a little schizophrenic, but the checkers actually talk to me. They say "put me here, put me here, put me in these nice places". And I listen to them talk to me. [..] Put the checkers in nice natural strong play - that should be your first instinct.
Paul Magriel, 2005 21) 


Chess, Draughts, Backgammon, Whist, and most of the card games, are better played for amusement than for money.
G.F. Pardon, 1889 12) 
To play at night it is necessary to have two small candelabras. The backgammon set should be large and chosen of the finest ebony and ivory combined. Ebony and ivory are better than mosaic because the pieces are easier to move. Ladies prefer the ivory to ebony men, but the choice of colour should be left to the elder player.
L'Academie Universelle des Jeux, 1786
Backgammon is certainly a diversion by no means fitted for company [..]
Joseph Strutt, 1801 24) 
Backgammon is probably both the oldest and the most youthful game in the world.
Lelia Hattersley, 1930 27) 

Curiosities and Absurdities15)

You can influence the law of probability with your mind.
Baron Vernon Ball, 1980 16) 
[..] If every double made were perfect, none would be accepted, if every acceptance were perfect. We must conclude, then, that accepted doubles can only be the result of imperfect play on the part of one adversary or the other.
Georges Mabardi, 1930 28) 
Two expert players will never disagree. Knowledge at Backgammon, after all, is finite.
Georges Mabardi, 1930 29) 
1) Magriel in "Backgammon", introduction, page IX

2) Robertie in "Advanced Backgammon", preface

3) In "Costa Rica 1993", page 10

4) Jacoby/Crawford - The Backgammon Book, 1970

5) In an interview by Mike Fujita, 04 Dec 1994

6) "Inside Backgammon", Jan/Feb 1991

7) In Vanity Fair's Backgammon to Win, 1930, 1974

8) Newsgroup rec.games.backgammon

9) Jeremy Paul Bagai in his "Classic Backgammon Revisited", about what was taught by James Cooke (i.e. in "Paradoxes and Probabilities"); typical for the playing style of the 70s.

10) Arpad Elo (*25.8.1903 †5.11.1992), ungarian physicist, statistician und good chess player. Developed the Elo-rating-system for chess, which today is also used for other games like Backgammon or Go.

11) In an interview for CHICAGO POINT. Date unknown.

12) In Backgammon and Draughts or "Checkers".

13) In one of his backgammon columns in the british newspaper "The Independent", 2000.

14) Woolsey in his book The Backgammon Encyclopedia Volume 1: Cube Reference Positions

15) The quotes in this section were really said or written, the authors also really ment what they said. But those quotes are only good to smile about. Don't take things said here serious!

16) In his book "Alpha Backgammon - With An Exculsive Section On How To Win Through Silva Mind Control"

17) In his book "Backgammon Boot Camp"

18) "Inside Backgammon", Vol. 1, No. 2, March-April 1991

19) "Inside Backgammon", Vol. 1, No. 1, January-February 1991

20) In my match collection of 240 top matches there are in total 3734 doubles of which 1795 (=48,1%) were accepted. When concentrating on matches from 2000 on only there remain 2738 doubles, of which 1374 (=50,2%) were taken. So perhaps Woolseys estimated ratio of 2/3 is maybe a bit high?

21) During his live commentary of the Monte Carlo World Championship 2005 final match between Dennis Carlston and John O'Hagan.

22) In an Interview with Gammon Village, 2002.

23) In an interview in the Chicago Point Newsletter, September 1994.

24) In his book "Sports and Pastimes of the People of England", 1801

25) "Inside Backgammon", Vol. 1, No. 1, January-February 1991, Article "Better Road to Backgammon"

26) Joe Dwek in his book Backgammon for Profit, p. 13

27) Lelia Hattersley in her book How to Play the New Backgammon, p.9

28) George Mabardi in Vanitiy Fairs Backgammon to Win, p.121 . This statement is definitively very, very wrong. Just one small example: Say the doubler is 70% to favourite to win a single game, his opponent will win 30%, with no gammons on both sides. By doubling the 70% favourite is increasing his equity from +0,4 (0,7 - 0,3) to +0,8 (2 * (0,7 - 0,3)). So he is correct to double. If his opponent would always drop, his equity would be -1. If he takes his equity is -0,8 (2 * (0,3 - 0,7)), which is significantly better than passing. So actually many correct doubles are correct takes!

29) George Mabardi in Vanitiy Fairs Backgammon to Win, p.121 .

30) Gary Wong in the newsgroup rec.games.backgammon, 20 January 1998. The complete thread can be read in Tom Keith's Forum Archive.

31) In a commentary about Jeremy Bagai's book Classic Backgammon Revisited.

32) In his players profile at the Internet Backgammon Database.

33) Magriel in "Backgammon", chapter 3, page 20.

34) Kleinman in his book "Vision Laughs at Counting - with Advice to the Dicelorn", Section I.
Last update: 20th January 2008