This article is from the Backgammon FAQ, by Mark Damish email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
BG books [summary] by Marty Storer
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Larry Hunter)
Date: 21 May 92 20:11:35 GMT
Sender: email@example.com (usenet news poster)
One more for the FAQ. Before Marty Storer left the list, I pestered
him for an annotated bibliography. He came through in grand style.
Here it is:
Paul Magriel, NY Times/Quadrangle Press, New York 1976.
The best introduction to the game. Covers basic checker play
very well. If you read and thoroughly understand this book,
you'll play a decent game. Weaknesses--skimpy treatment of the
Genud vs Dwek: The 1981 World Backgammon Championship_ (or similar
Bill Robertie, The GAMMON PRESS, Arlington, Mass. 1982.
Very thorough coverage of the 25-point finals of the 1981 Monte
Carlo tournament. Goes into quite a bit of detail about ins and
outs of match play. Excellent section on backgames. I've
referred to this as Robertie(red) since it has a red cover 8-).
Backgammon With The Champions
Kent Goulding, ~1980-82.
Series of annotated matches between good players. Forget how
many in all. Excellent material, giving very good insight into
how top players think. Commentary by Goulding, often in
collaboration with Kit Woolsey; both of these guys are very,
very strong players. Let's see, the matches are Seidel vs.
Hodis; Magriel vs. Sconyers; Genud vs. Posner; Pasko vs.
Motakhasses; two (?) 5-point matches in one volume: Lester vs.
Horan and Woolsey vs. Pasko; Robertie vs. Senkiewicz; Goulding
vs. Maxakuli; Dwek vs. Chafetz; Ballard vs. Lubetkin; Eisenberg
vs. Magriel(?); and more I can't remember. I can't recommend
this series too highly (though Genud vs. Posner was a lousy
Advanced Backgammon (2nd edition; two volumes)
The GAMMON PRESS, Arlington, Mass. '91. I haven't seen this
yet--only the first edition of one volume. Series of problems,
giving very good introduction to truly advanced concepts.
Errors in first edition are supposedly corrected. The first
edition is what I call Robertie(blue); the second is
Backgammon Times , all back editions.
This was a very good backgammon newspaper that was around in
about '82-'83. A lot of interesting articles by top players and
analysts. Probably hard to get these days.
Bill Robertie, The Gammon Press, Arlington, Mass. 1987.
Two annotated matches from the very strong Reno tournament of
'86. Semifinal match is between Nack Ballard and Mike
Senkiewicz; an excellent match, well annotated. Finals between
Ballard and Howard Markowitz. The book is in quiz format, so
you can test your skill against Ballard's (well, kind of:
Ballard had to find his moves over-the-board under great
pressure--nothing like the finals of a big tournament to get
the adrenalin flowing!). I've only found a couple of mistakes
in the annotations. This book is referred to as
World Class Backgammon, Move By Move
Roy Friedman, 1989 or 90;
forget other publication info. Annotated matches between
Robertie and ``international star'' Rick Barabino (Barabino is
strong, but ``international star''--I dunno...). Three 9-point
matches with some excellent games (check out the second game of
the first match particularly). Annotations are very good;
Friedman put a lot of work into rolling out many of the
diagrammed positions. The annotation style is terse; Friedman
takes a very scientific approach.
Vision Laughs at Counting (two volumes)
Danny Kleinman, ~1978.
-all other material by Kleinman is "must have"--write to him at
5312-1/2 Village Green, Los Angeles, CA 90016 and tell him I
Seminal work on match play, money play, doubling cube, races,
and more. Kleinman is very prolific. His analyses are often
more mathematical than the average reader can handle, but Real
Mathematicians [tm] and even the layperson with math aptitude
shouldn't be fazed. A Real Mathematician wouldn't call
Kleinman's math "deep", but it sure is accurate, and you won't
find anything similar anywhere else. He does the important work
of formulating the right problems the right way, where many
Drawbacks: his books are self-published with lousy layout and
graphics. He's supposedly not that great a player (I've never
seen him play), so his analyses often lack the world-class
insight into the thought processes of the strong practical
player that you could get from a Goulding or a Robertie. In
particular, his middle-game intuition seems less than
world-class. But these drawbacks are more than made up for by
the wealth of information in his books, which I still haven't
completely soaked up after many years. Kleinman is a subtle
thinker and a meticulous analyst of the countable, and he does
a lot to develop backgammon "vision." His stuff is often
uproariously funny, but sometimes one gets impatient trying to
filter out what's relevant to the practical player from the
I repeat--all his books are "must have's" for the serious player.
They're a bit expensive since I think he bears all the production
costs himself, but for the serious player they're worth every cent.
Pretty Good Books But Not "Must Have's":
Backgammon For Profit
Joe Dwek, Stein and Day, New York 1975 (out of print)
Problems that would now be considered fairly basic. Almost all
solutions are right. Tables of replies to opening moves show
how badly people played in 1975.
Paradoxes and Probabilities
Barclay Cooke, Random House, New York 1978.
This is almost a "must have." 168 problems, most of which are
very interesting. Current thinking is that solutions to about a
third of them are wrong, but the analysis gives very good
insight into how Cooke, a first-generation world class player,
thought about backgammon.
The Doubling Cube In Backgammon
Jeff Ward, Aquarian Enterprises, San Diego 1982.
Goes into basic doubling-cube concepts and gives some benchmark
positions with equities derived from rollouts. Gives some
bearoff tables, etc. Analysis of benchmark positions is pretty
good but sometimes skimpy; Ward only admits to having done
100-200 rollouts to derive his equities. Worth having.
Backgammon Master Games
Bill Kennedy and Chuck Papazian, 1982 (forget other publication info).
Annotated games and positions from master match play. Analysis
is largely based on intuitive concepts, and isn't well grounded
in match-equity considerations etc. Not well supported by
rollouts; a fair amount of errors, but the analysis overall is
Other books that I've read aren't worth much, including Competitive
Backgammon Vol. II, Mike Labins, Marty Storer, and Bill Tallmadge,
Competitive Backgammon Publications, Syracuse 1981. (It was good for
the time but would be considered lousy now.)
As I mentioned before, you can reach Gammon Press at (617)641-2091,
fax: (617)641-2660 or PO Box 294 Arlington, MA 02174 USA
Lawrence Hunter, PhD.
National Library of Medicine
Bldg. 38A, MS-54
Bethesda. MD 20894
(301) 496-0673 (fax)
[Note: Fax number edited to reflect the current number.]
BG books [summary] by John Bazigos
Article: 1666 of rec.games.backgammon
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (MIKA JOHNSSON)
Subject: BG BOOKS INFO
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1993 10:20:19 GMT
Many people (last Snoopy) have asked about good BG books, well here is
and answer that i got from John Bazigos (Doc), when I asked him about
BG BOOKS BY JOHN BAZIGOS
The two best introductory books are Paul Magriel's ``Backgammon'' (New
York Times Quadrangle Press; New York, NY; USA; 1976) and Enno
Heyken's and Martin B. Fischer's ``The Backgammon Handbook'' (The
Crowood Press; Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire SN8 2HE; Great
The advantages of Magriel's ``Backgammon'' are, first, Magriel was a
clear-minded, distinguished mathematician at the top of the backgammon
world when he wrote it; second, it was the only truly analytic book on
backgammon since Oswald Jacoby's and John R. Crawford's ``The
Backgammon Book''; third, it rendered all backgammon texts preceding
it (including ``The Backgammon Book''), and even some subsequent
backgammon texts, obsolete as introductory texts; fourth, it
systematically elucidates backgammon strategy, from fundamental to
intermediate to advanced; fifth, it does great justice to its topics
in its well-diagrammed over-400 pages; and sixth, it has passed the
test of time as an introductory text, having been commonly referred to
as ``The Bible'' of backgammon. Its disadvantages are, first, some
important details of some advanced topics (e.g., desirable back-game
points), and even some major points of some beginning/intermediate
topics (e.g., tradeoffs between positional and racing equity) are
obsolete; second, the prose, though very readable, is structurally and
stylistically weak; third, the text has been out-of-print since some
time last year, though is well worth a search of *all* your local
used/out-of-print bookstores; and fourth, though the publication price
was $24.95, the only mail-order list on which I have found it prices
it at $80, which makes a used/out-of-print bookstore an even better
source -- since it is typically discounted to about $15 there, in my
experience (here in the San Francisco Bay Area).
The advantages of ``The Backgammon Handbook'' are, first, like
``Backgammon'', it systematically elucidates backgammon strategy;
second, it contains the complete score, with some annotations, of the
very illuminating, 26-game match between two-time World Backgammon
Champion and leading bg theorist Bill Robertie and now-inactive [as of
this writing] international master Nack Ballard (Reno, 1987) that the
former described as ``...perhaps the most interesting one I've ever
played in my life!''; and third, it is still in print with a
publication price of about $35. Its disadvantages are, first, Heyken
--though an International Master in chess-- does not have an
international backgammon rating, and Fischer does not have a master
rating in backgammon; second, it contains only about 60% as much text
as ``Backgammon'', while not being significantly terser; and third,
the authors' lack of qualifications is evidenced in some of their
misleading and/or naive analyses.
I think that you should search your local, or even not quite local,
used/out-of-print bookstores for ``Backgammon'', and pay up to about
$50 for it -- though if you find it in such a store, it is likely to
be discounted to about $15; and then, if you cannot find it at a
reasonable price, buy and read ``The Backgammon Handbook'' -- after
which your time won't be best spent reading Magriel soon thereafter.
The Backgammon Handbook is still in print and can be ordered direct from
the (very small) publisher:
The Crowood Press
SN8 2HE, U.K.
Or from any decent bookshop. The price is UKP 15.95 ]
> are you familiar with Danny Kleinmans books,
I have read most of his ``magnum opus'' ``Vision Laughs at Counting'',
which contains much sound advice on the practical aspects of bg play
(e.g., sections on bg hustlers, bg cheaters, chouette money
management), seminal advice on handling the doubler, and even a few
unprecedented mathematical characterizations of certain aspects of
certain positions (e.g., how many pips to penalize a player for having
one or more checkers on the bar).
> are they good ?
``Vision Laughs at Counting'' is generally insightful and often very
amusingly written, but not suitable as an introductory text, sometimes
obsolete, and sometimes simply wrong; and though it is the only text
by Kleinman that I have read, I have good reason to believe that that
judgment applies to Kleinman's other texts, as well.
Ok; then after finishing ``Backgammon'' or ``The Backgammon
Handbook'', study Jeff Ward's ``The Doubling Cube in Backgammon'' --
which has long been offered through Carol Joy Cole.
Magriel's ``Backgammon'' routinely used to be, and sometimes still is,
referred to as ``the Bible (of backgammon)''; but since the
publication of Robertie's three books on backgammon --i.e., ``Lee
Genud vs. Joe Dwek'' (1982), ``Advanced Backgammon'' (1984 and 1991,
the latter edition in two volumes), and ``Reno, 1986'' (1987)-- I
think that it's more appropriate to refer to ``Backgammon'' and
collectively those three as the Old and New Testaments of backgammon,
respectively. Given that you have already finished studying ``The
Backgammon Handbook'' and ``The Doubling Cube in Backgammon'', I think
that you should read one or more books of Robertie's ``New Testament''
fairly soon after finishing Roy Friedman's ``World Class Backgammon,
Move-By-Move'' -- which I, also, recently received a copy of from
Carol Joy Cole, and is the backgammon book that I intend to read
Well, from the quality perspective, I was significantly more impressed
with it when perhaps the only bg literature I had read was typical
junk from the 1970s (i.e., Bruce Becker's monumentally horrible
``Backgammon for Blood'', and Barclay Cooke's often-misleading ``The
Cruelest Game'' and slightly-better ``Championship Backgammon''),
``The Backgammon Book'', and Magriel's ``Backgammon''; and from the
price perspective, the decision is strictly yours, though I hereby
make the following three interrelated claims:
1. If you read enough backgammon books, there will quite possibly
come a time when ``Vision Laughs at Counting'' will be the best
book for to read next to improve your technique maximally.
2. You are probably at least seven books from that point: ``World
Class Backgammon, Move-By-Move'', the four volumes of backgammon's
New Testament, and both volumes of Kent Goulding's ``Backgammon
With The Champions'' are presently better for that purpose (and
you can perhaps most profitably read them in that order).
3. ``Vision Laughs at Counting'' is the most entertaining
instructional backgammon book that has been published to date.
> BTW are there other good bg newspapers or magazines ?
Last year was an unprecedentedly good one for backgammon periodicals,
in that it saw the first issues of what I strongly believe were and
still are the two best periodicals for backgammon theory ever --i.e.,
Bill Robertie' and Kent Goulding's bi-monthly ``Inside Backgammon'',
and Roy Friedman's almost bi-monthly ``Leading Edge Backgammon''. The
former is still being published (I recently received my copy of the
fourth issue of its second volume), and publication of the latter was
suspended at the end of last year (due to some personal problems that
Roy was having); but it was possible to order either or both of them
from Carol the last time I checked (Please inform me if you need
ordering information on either or both of them).
Those are the only three backgammon periodicals to which I (have ever)
subscribe(d), though that may change soon; more on that in a
forthcoming e-mail message from me.
> Do you know any technical papers about BG,
One of the best features of both ``Inside Backgammon'' and ``Leading
Edge Backgammon'' is they consist mostly of (what I would consider)
technical papers on backgammon.
>I have read Keelers and Spencers "optimal doubling in BG"
So have I, but I have also read a paper co-authored by Zadeh, titled
``On Optimal Doubling in Backgammon'', that explicitly rendered that
paper obsolete. I'll provide you with more information on both that
and other technical papers from the 1970s in a forthcoming e-mail
> and in one AI-magazine was an article about Tesauros TD-gammon
(about 20 p)
The second volume of ``Inside Backgammon'' contains about one article
per issue on TD-Gammon, two of which document (recent) sessions that
Robertie, Magriel, and at least one other bg master had against it;
more on that, also, in an forthcoming e-mail message from me.
How to play tournament BG [book]
``How to play tournament BG'' by Kit Woolsey
This is an excellent introduction to how play and particularly cube
handling varies in games. It shows how to compute push and cash
points, recube equity, how to figure gammon costs, etc. It gives Kit's
latest match equity chart and gives a method for remembering most of
it fairly well. If you play matches games and don't immediately
recognize any of these terms, I strongly suggest reading it.
-michael j zehr
Here is an outline of the book:
1. Crawford Game Strategies
2. Post-Crawford Play
2.1. The Free Drop
2.2. Mandatory Doubling
3. The Two-Away versus Two-Away Score
4. The Match-Equity Table
5. Learning the Table
5.1. The Janowski Formula
6. Using the Table
6.1. Gain-Loss Tables
6.2. The Doubling Window
7. Initial Cube-Decisions at Various Scores
8. Redoubles and Cube-Leverage
9. Cube-Leverage in Gammonish Positions
10. Gammon Potential and Checker Play
11. Five Practical Examples
12. An Illustrative Game: Woolsey-Robertie, Reno 1993
-- John Bazigos (``doc'' on FIBS)
Backgammon (Robin Clay) [book]
Backgammon by Robin Clay $7.95 NTC Publishing Group
I was surprised to see this book for sale recently at a local book
shop. This book was 'skimmed' by two intermediate players, and both
immediately found that the some of the concepts and advice given were
grossly incorrect. One of these 'reviewers', went as far as to say:
"If your opponent says that he has just read this book, immediately
raise the stakes!".
In The Game Until The End... [booklet]
In The Game Until The End: Winning In Ace-Point Endgames by Bob
You've played an ace-point game; Your opponent is down to his last few
checkers. Should you run? Should you stay? If your opponent wants to
settle, what's the game worth? How aggressively should you try to pick
up a second checker?
If you don't know the answers to these critical questions, you need
this book. In Chapter 4 alone you'll discover the secrets of the
famous "Tino Road Position," an endgame so complicated that - once you
know how to play it - you can take the position from either side and
win. Olympiad Champion Bob Watchel has thoroughly analyzed hundreds of
ace-point game positions to generate a complete picture of what's
really going on in these common yet widely-misplayed situations.
Soft bound, 112 Pages. Level: Advanced and Serious Intermediate.
Available from The GAMMON PRESS. US$25 + Shipping
[From a flyer from The GAMMON PRESS]
Learning From the Machine... [booklet]
Learning from the Machine: Robertie vs. TD-GAMMON by Bill Robertie
For years, computer backgammon was a languishing sideshow, with the
best computer programs barely able to rise to the intermediate level.
This all changed in 1991 with the emergence of TD-Gammon, an
experimental neural network program developed at IBM's research labs.
TD-Gammon taught itself to play, starting with a knowledge of the
rules of the game. After playing thousands of games against itself,
the program reached strong Open player level; within months, it became
world-class. TD-Gammon plays like a strong human player in many parts
of the game. In some areas, it plays quite unlike what has generally
been accepted as "correct strategy" leading increasing numbers of top
players to begin to experiment with some of TD-Gammon's unconventional
plays. Here is your chance to see for yourself.
Bill Robertie played two long matches against TD-Gammon as part of its
evaluation process. "Learning from the Machine" is the complete
account of the 31 games of the first match, with annotations by
Soft bound, 56 Pages. Level: All. Available from The GAMMON PRESS.
US$20 + Shipping
[From a flyer from the GAMMON PRESS]
[Note: This is most likely TD-GAMMON Version 1.0]
Kit Woolsey's "Tournement Series Backgammon"
In December 1994, The GAMMON PRESS announced its publication of the
first three (of 18) volumes Kit Woolsey's Tournement Backgammon
Series. These are text versions of Kit's instructional Match Qiz
software. There are many diagrams, which means a board is not required
to study the material. The typesetting is elegant. The comments are
Book 1: Joe Sylvester vs. Nack Ballard 150 pages US$20
Book 2: Philip Marmorstein vs. Michael Greiner 240 pages US$25
Book 3: Mika Lidov vs. Hal Heinrich 220 pages US$25
The Backgammon Book
[Authers: Oswald Jacoby and John R. Crawford]
There are many who will be quick to dismiss _The BG Book_ because it
was written in 1970 and knowledge has come very far since then.
However, I recommend this book to players who are just beginning to
study the game seriously because it offers an excellent overview of
several central features of backgammon thinking and analysis. Although
the anaysis doen't go very FAR, a reader will get clear introductions
* Basic probability (how dice work)
* Pip Counting (the basis for evaluating racing chances)
* Doubling Cube theory (the 25% rule)
* Settlements (useful concept even if you never settle)
* general strategic categories (backgames, etc).
I think this book is a fine place to start, but if you hope to get
anywhere you will need to follow up with some more sophisticated
books. Magriel if you can find it, of course. Dwek's _BG for Profit_
is a good next step, too. Avoid Barclay Cooke's _Paradoxes &
Probabilities_ and _Championship BG_, though, because those books are
wrong in their evaluation of many common positions.
Good luck in your studies!
Playboy's Book of Backgammon
One of my favorite books on BG is Lewis Deyong's _Playboy's Book of
Backgammon_, becasue he alternates chapters on tactics and strategy
with sections recounting various stories from major tournaments all
over the world : California, Las Vegas, Munich, Athens, Johannesburg,
Reading it, you get a pretty vivid picture of the BG "scene" in the
60's and 70's. You also get some understanding of how Calcutta
Auctions work, and may learn some good anecdotal lessons about the
psychology of the game: steaming, taking insurance, etc.
-- Albert Steg
Other books seeking write-ups:
* Fascinating Backgammon by Antonio Ortega, Edited by Danny
Klienman, forwarded by Carol Joy Cole and Neil Kazaross (English
* Backgammon For Winners by Bill Robertie. $6.95 Cardoza Publishing
* Costa Rica 1993 (Wilcox Snellings vs. Mike Senkiewics) by Antonio
Ortega, Max Esquivel, Mario Madrigal, and Neil Kazaross (185 pages
Kit Woolsey reviewed this book in the June 95 Chicago Point and
wrote that it contains the most accurate and thorough match
analysis he had ever seen in print.
Danny Kleinman Books
A list of Danny Kleinman books (Backgammon)
Pages Price (US$)
VISION LAUGHS AT COUNTING with ADVICE TO THE DICELORN 438 $64
WONDERFUL WORLD OF BACKGAMMON 132 $18
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE CHOUETTE 142 $20
DOUBLE-SIXES FROM THE BAR 135 $19
IS THERE LIFE AFTER BACKGAMMON? 148 $21
HOW CAN I KEEP FROM DANCING? 134 $19
THE DICE CONQUER ALL 228 $33
HOW LITTLE WE KNOW ABOUT BACKGAMMON 168 $25
THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT 142 $20
... BUT ONLY THE HOGS WIN BACKGAMMONS 244 $37
A Backgammon Book For Gabriel. 144 $24
The Long Road To Gammon. 176 $32
[Note: Danny will be raising the price of his publications shorty (9507)]