Playing Backgammon: Is it all about mathemati...

Playing Backgammon: Is it all about mathematics?
by Tavla Turk

Backgammon is a very old game, with a huge tradition in some parts of the world. Traditionally it is a board game played by two, using a pair of dice. The game is not really complicated, and the role of it is to remove all of the figures from the board according to the rules. Many became very fond of online backgammon due to the strategies used in it, and even though at first site in might seem a game based only on luck, a good strategy can be the key of success, no matter how lucky or unlucky the player is.

As mentioned above, the game is played using a board. The board has two parts, divided at the middle section. On the board 24 points can be found in two different colors, usually black and white, but several color combinations can be found in use, important is to use one lighter and one darker. The arranging of the board is symmetrical, as the beginning arrangement of the figures will be. These figures are called checkers and the goal of the game is to remove every one of it before the opponent does.

These checkers are moved along the board according to the numbers indicated on the pair of dice thrown by the players. Usually a player can move two checkers, according to each number indicated on the dice, or only one, if possible, which is the sum of the numbers on the dice. This depends on the player and the players’ strategy used during the game. The checkers can be moved only on free points, or on points where the same colored checkers are. This means that if the opponent has checkers on a point than it is not possible to move there, with only one exception: if there is only one on the point. If so, than the checker is removed from the board but it must be placed again to the place where the player started. This means that the player has to start again from the beginning with that particular checker. If there are no possible moves on the board than the opponent will throw again. A player must move each time the checkers, unless he or she is in the upper mentioned situation.

At first sight the game might seem to be based only on luck, but it really involves a great amount of strategy and tactics. A professional player will know in advance what moves will he do with what number combinations. There are situations though, where a bit of bad luck might put a player into a clear disadvantage, but usually those situations can be avoided. Usually the first great advice what anyone can give to a player is not to risk and hope for the other’s bad luck. This is a situation where "Murphy’s law" always kicks in. In backgammon a risk is a real threat because the game can be turned around within seconds.

Let’s see for example some strategies. Usually players have their favorite starts. For example if they throw small numbers than they move with the furthest checkers, but if they throw for example a 6 and 4, than they will try to create a gate, in order to restrict the opponents possibility to leave with the checkers. This is a very good strategy which if played well can bring home some good money. In the same time, many try to avoid hitting out the other player’s checkers, and others are going for this in particular. This is because the place where one player is starting to remove their checkers is the starting point of the other. For example if the opponent has in my starting point every point occupied, than I should probably do everything I can to avoid leaving a checker alone at a point. On the other hand, there are situations where I might want to place my checkers in a certain way, to force the opponent to take it out. This strategy is used in disadvantage or when it is better to insert a checker between the other players’ checkers.

Since there are millions of situations it is very hard to describe the best strategy. But as in every game studying the movements of the opponent in order to predict moves is a very effective one. By doing this a player can place itself in an advantage and take measures or countermeasures during a game.

But no matter what we do and how we create strategies, when it comes to playing backgammon for money there is a certain risk which can’t be removed. Bad luck can influence the game, even though the game isn’t based on luck. I’m sure everybody can remember some point where something perfect was ruined because of bad luck. This is how it is, but all it will be always. But something is certain, that if someone is putting his money on pure luck will lose it at a point. Those who are always thinking and calculating will surely be in advantage.