Games: Backgammon

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The Independent Online
Despite its importance, there have been very few books devoted purely to the topic of doubling. Two books were published in 1982. If you ever come across a copy of Dynamic Cube Strategies by Gaby Horowitz and Bruce Roman my advice would be to tread warily, much of its content having been shown to be flawed. The second book was in an altogether different class and is still excellent reading if you can find a copy. It is The Doubling Cube in Backgammon - Vol. 1 by Jeff Ward. Intended originally as the first in a multi-volume set, it sets out very clearly the basics of doubling and redoubling, including the maths for those who want to delve that deep, and examines racing doubles in great depth. Ward's refinement of the Thorpe Count, known not unsurprisingly as the Ward Count is well worth knowing. It is a great shame he never found time to write the subsequent volumes.

A new book Backgammon: Winning with the Doubling Cube by Peter Bell has just been published by the Gammon Press. While more verbose than Ward's tome and despite some of the prose being somewhat transatlantic, it summarises in 200 pages the basics of doubling. It looks at doubling cube fundamentals, when and when not to double, how to evaluate winning chances, when to take, the psychology of doubling, and it provides a number of benchmark positions for typical game types. It also looks at how to change your play of the men depending upon who owns the cube, and includes some amusing anecdotes to illustrate points made in the text.

Bell also looks at the difficult problem of evaluating blitzes, backgames and prime v prime positions by the use of formulae. These formulae are as yet unproved, but in the complex world of doubling something is better than nothing and they are certainly a step forward. At times, the book goes a little fast for my liking but if you are going to cover the doubling cube in a short book then there will have to be some elements that can only be touched on lightly. At $30 plus $12 postage and packing this is not cheap, but if you are serious about improving and want to gain a better understanding of doubling cube theory then the investment is worthwhile. Like all backgammon books it will take several readings to get the best out of it and then will come the most difficult part: putting into practice what you have learnt. Gammon Press, PO Box 294, Arlington MA 02174, USA. Tel: 001-617-641-2091.