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The Independent Culture
ONE OF the best ways to learn backgammon, as with any other complex game, is to play through the games of experts. Harald Johanni, the German player, has for many years produced Backgammon Magazin. This is a bi-lingual publication that is issued four times a year for the very reasonable price of 80DM (about pounds 28). While it reviews books and products and has some theoretical articles, its main content is recorded games. Harald plays in all the main tournaments and painstakingly records key matches from the world's best events. The latest issue contains the 1998 World Championship final from Monte Carlo between Elliot Winslow (US) and Michael Meyburg (Germany).

For those with Snowie, the latest backgammon-playing computer program, life is even better, as the full 1998 World Championship match has been recorded in a format that can be downloaded from the Internet and played through move by move.

For each move Snowie gives the equities for all possible moves and highlights what it thinks is the best move. One can quickly get a feel for how well each player performed and what type of mistakes they made.

The best way to learn from an exercise such as this (or from playing through the game manually from Johanni's magazine) is to decide for each dice roll what move you would play and why, before you look at the move that was in fact played. Study of even one match in this way will considerably improve your own understanding of the game and, hopefully, your performance.

Over the coming weeks, I will use positions from the 1998 World Championship match to point out key playing principles. To start off with, how would you play a 52 as black in the above position? I'll give you the answer here next week.

Copies of 'Backgammon Magazin' can be obtained from: Edith Johanni, Emil-Nolde-Strasse 26, 90455 Nurnberg, Germany. The Johannis say that sending cash in DM is the easiest way to pay