Backgammon

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The Independent Culture
ONE OF the great advantages computers have over humans (at least when playing

backgammon!) is a complete lack of emotion. The best human players can turn off their emotions and concentrate purely on the game. Computers don't remember that in the previous game they lost an outrageous gammon, nor does that loss affect their future play.

The position above is a good example. No good computer program would forget to redouble here. Despite the fact that black is on the bar against a five-point board, his position is strong. If he enters with a 2, or white enters next roll with a number that crashes his home board, then black's position becomes so strong that white must drop the redouble.

Most good players would analyse this correctly as a double and a drop. Over the board though, that funny old thing called emotion comes in to play. "What if I stay on the bar, then white enters with a 16?" thinks black. "I'll give it one more roll for safety." He does just that, and next roll finds white dropping his redouble. Instead of winning a possible 8 points (if white mistakenly takes) he has won 2. Emotion has clouded the decision-making process. Save the emotions for St Valentine's Day: they have no place at the backgammon board.

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