Day 3: Strategy

There are two types of people who play backgammon.  People who play the game casually and, when playing with another person of the same caliber, will probably win more or less as many as he loses.  Then there are the people who have studied the game, the strategies, the odds.  I remember as a teenager trying to teach myself the game… I would play hundreds of games every night, sometimes playing with others but more often playing against myself and against computers.  I studied the dice, the points, the advantages.  When I lived in the Middle East I shocked a lot of people who did not expect a North American to be able to defeat them.  I wouldn’t say that I won a lot of money playing backgammon when I was in the army… but I did win some.

The third day at sea was just that… a day at sea.  After breakfast Theresa and I went up to the Lido deck to sit by the pool, and there was an older gentleman sitting with a backgammon set and a sign inviting others to play.  Harry was forty years my senior, a retired auto worker who had moved from Detroit to Arizona.  We did not have a lot of common ground to talk about… but we were very well matched adversaries.  I might have had a slight advantage over him – I won four Best-of-Nine matches out of six – but it was only slight.  Theresa could not understand why at a certain point in the game we would just set up the next game.  I explained that when you have the respect for your opponent you did not have to beat a dead horse once the numbers were clear.

Of course there are aspects of Backgammon that do not rely on skill.  When you rely on the numbers on the dice sometimes the best player will lose and sometimes the worst will win.  That is why odds and strategy are so important, and why experience and feeling is so important.  I used to have a friend who swore that if you needed to roll a ‘one’ that you increased your odds by rolling against the middle partition – something not possible on some boards.  Short of loading the dice there is truly nothing that you can do to ensure any dice.

While I cannot fix dice, I do believe there are a few very critical strategic spots on the board that by doubling-up on them you can really cause your opponent issues.  Want to know what they are?  Play me sometime and you’ll find out.  As I told Harry I only give pointers and advice when I am winning Winking smile

I do believe strongly in building a wall.  A wall means that you have six spots in a row that are protected, which means that your opponent cannot pass them.  If he (or she) has a stone in your house your wall is your assurance that they cannot win… at least, until you break your own wall (an eventual necessity).  Simply put, no stone can move more than six points because that is the highest number that can be rolled on a single die.  That wall can give a player a real strategic advantage.  Want to learn more?  Play me sometime!

I spent the day at the pool, most of it in the hot tub speaking with other people.  We met some really nice folks, and finally connected with a couple that we have been trying to meet since we came on board.  Jenna and Nick are from Pittsburg, and we connected on the on-line forums before we came on board.  We left each other messages for two days, but never connected.  During the afternoon today there was another couple in the hot tub who said they were from Pittsburg, and when I asked if they were Jenna and Nick, their eyes went wide!  We’ll have dinner with them and see how compatible we are… looks good!


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