Jun 23, 2011

How to get better at backgammon

Today we'll have a break from the usual posts with discussed positions to talk about improving our game.

The beauty of backgammon is that you can play it without knowing much about strategies, game plans, reasons behind moves, etc. Many players all around the world play the game that way, and that's perfectly alright.
But if you're reading this blog, I assume you want to improve your game.

From my experience, I can guarantee you: more you know about backgammon, more you will love it.

I will divide improvement tools into two groups: free resources and books.

Free resources:

  • GnuBG - GnuBG is a free backgammon software that plays and analyses your matches at world class level.
    If you haven't done it yet, you can download it and start playing against it. But don't fall in a trap - GnuBG doesn't cheat, it just plays at world class level, better than any human. Don't waste your time and energy on claims it cheats. It doesn't.

    At the beginning, I would recommend playing unlimited match (set match length to 0), let's say 10 games per session. Skip the match play (to certain amount of points, say 5 or 7) for now.
    Also, you can set up a tutor to warn you when you make a bad play. I recommend setting it (Settings - Options - Tutor) for both checker and cube play to "very bad" level - when it pops-up, try to see if you can find a better move (without a hint).

  • bkgm.com - bkgm.com is a site run by Tom Keith, where you can find a lot of information about backgammon: articles, books, newsgroup archive, variants, glossary, etc.

    In the articles section you can find more than 500 articles - for free! The authors of those articles are backgammon giants and well-respected names, such as: Walter Trice, Kit Woolsey, Bill Robertie, etc.

If that's not enough for you and you want to read more about backgammon, here are my book recommendations for beginners and intermediate players, based on the books I've read.


I can highly recommend Carol Joy Cole's Backgammon Boutique for ordering a book or backgammon equipment.

  • Paul Magriel: Backgammon ($40)

    The book was first published in 1976 and it was revolutionary at the time. It is usually called "The backgammon bible". The book is a good reading for players of all levels, as it covers broad range of topics: from fundamentals to advanced topics, from opening moves to bear-off.
    The famous "Magriel's safe vs bold criteria" will be covered in one of the next posts here.

  • Robertie: 501 Essential Backgammon Problems ($20)

    For only $20 you can get a book with 501 problems, divided in 26 chapters, from opening to bear-in and bear-off. Probably the best bang-for-buck when it comes to backgammon books.

    The book was written before the era of backgammon bots (computer software), so there are some errors, but backgammon community has done computer rollouts of all problems.
    Regardless of those errors, you can learn a lot from the (somewhat short) explanations of the problems.

  • Trice: Backgammon Boot Camp ($40)

    Trice's book is a favorite book for many players all over the globe, myself included.
    I would not recommend it to beginners, but intermediate players can learn a lot from it.
    The book has a lot of topics about cube handling, so if you want to improve your cube skill this book is worth reading.

There are many other valuable books not mentioned here, but I wanted to keep this list compact.
If you have read some other books and would recommend them for beginners or intermediate players - leave your recommendation (with short review if possible) in the comments.


  1. Puto el que lee ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  2. Backgammon is an ancient board game that is prevalent from the discovery of Mesopotamia. The sport is played between two players.