Backgammon Books


  AUTHOR: Paul Magriel
  YEAR: 1976
  PUBLISHER: Times Books
  CITY: New York
  ISBN: 0-8129-0615-2
  BINDING: Hardcover
  PAGES: 404
  SIZE: 27 cm high, 19 cm wide
Softcover, 1997
Clock & Ross Press, 2004


     "Backgammon clearly explains how to play good backgammon in a way that no book before or since has quite matched. Having defined the rules and the basic game types, it explains with excellent examples the principles of duplication and diversification, and the strength of the 5-point. It lays out rules for when to play boldly and when to play safe, when to split your back men and when not to split them. Many other basic (and some not so basic) backgammon concepts are explained. The author leads the reader on the journey from complete novice to competent player. The one area of the game which the book covers only lightly is doubling, but even here there are some gems."—Chris Bray, in Backgammon—An Independent View


     "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 doubling cube."—Marty Storer, May 1992


     "By far the most complete book on the game. A must for the serious minded backgammon enthusiast. It carefully explains the game's basic concepts, ideas and strategic principles."—Butch Meese, January 1984


     "This book is the first book every aspiring backgammon player should read. After an introductory section in which he gives examples of the four most common types of game (running game, holding game, attacking game and priming game) and some basic doubling cube strategy and maths, Magriel goes on to tackle most of the fundamental points of chequer play. An understanding of these points will raise anyone's game from the "hitting twice is fun, so it must be right" level to knowing what are the issues involved in a position, what sort of game one is trying to play, and how best to bring one's objectives about.
      The main criticism of the book must be that it is weak on doubling strategy. This is surely as important as chequer play. There are a couple of chapters on doubling, but a systematic exposition of the subject, in the style of the rest of the book, would have made the book even more valuable than it already is."—Stephen Turner, 1996


     "Magriel was a clear-minded, distinguished mathematician at the top of the backgammon world when he wrote Backgammon. It was the only truly analytic book about backgammon since Jacoby's and Crawford's The Backgammon Book and rendered all backgammon texts preceding it, and even some subsequent ones, obsolete as introductory texts. Magriel systematically elucidates backgammon strategy, from fundamental to intermediate to advanced. The book does great justice to its topics in its well-diagrammed over-400 pages. It has passed the test of time as an introductory text, having been commonly referred to as 'The Bible' of backgammon.
      The disadvantages are that some important details of advanced topics (e.g., desirable backgame points), and even some major points of some beginning and intermediate topics (e.g., tradeoffs between positional and racing equity) are obsolete. Also, the prose, though very readable, is structurally and stylistically weak."—John Bazigos, July 1993


     "This is by far the best introductory book on backgammon. When I first read Magriel, about 15 years ago, I was very weak, and it transformed my game. I always recommend reading Magriel to anyone trying to improve. For players who don't understand the fundamentals of the game, studying this book and trying to apply its concepts over the board invariably leads to tremendous improvement."—David Montgomery, August 1997


     "I will not say that this book changed my play dramatically, or improved it a lot, but it was definitely worth reading. Most of the book is very basic, but each and every aspect is important to understand, and I haven't read a book since that pointed out the basics so clearly.
      The first time I read the book, I didn't get much out of it. But then I reread it, skipping the the introduction, and tried to understand why expert players thought so highly of the book. I began to understand the flow of the game better, the concept of game plans, and when to change your plan."—Morten Daugbjerg, August 1997


     "This is an excellent book for players of all levels. It does a fine job of communicating the fundamentals of sound backgammon play. I have read it many times: first, to become familiar with the concepts; later, to reinforce those concepts and to learn how to put them into practice; and continually, to maintain the fundamental ideas upon which the overwhelming majority of BG decisions are built.
      That being said, I would not look to Backgammon to bridge the gap between intermediate and expert play. For example, a key component to top-level play is the proper use of the cube, a subject on which Backgammon is all but silent. The sections I found the most helpful are Chapter 16, Safe Play vs. Bold Play, and Chapter 20, Golden Point."—Dean Gay, September 1999


     "A masterpiece of such scope, insight, and, above all, clarity, that it still has the power to astonish the uninitiated. Not merely a collection of problems, but in fact a textbook that presents a logically structured sequence of concepts, each supported by many illustrative examples. What is most striking upon a close rereading is the consistent simplicity of the positions. They are never chosen to display the possible depth of analysis or the dazzling complexity that can appear over the board; instead, each is constructed to illustrated a specific theme—and one theme only—in the most clear and direct manner possible."—Jeremy Bagai, in Classic Backgammon Revisited, March 2001


     "This book lives up to its reputation as a classic. I've rarely read technical books that are so clearly written and so well illustrated. Magriel provides both before and after illustrations for ideal moves, followed by complete explanations for why some moves are better than others. Section one is identical to his "Beginning Backgammon" book, and the rest of the book is for more advanced play. If you buy the book, make sure you are getting this one (405 pages) not the shorter one."—dbombosch, Customer Review at, March 2003


     "This book is very readable. The book is layed out in a format that explains each phase of the game in logical order. A player that masters the concepts in this book will be head and shoulders above the average player. The book was written a while back, so is missing a few of the modern theories. This is a minor matter. I recommend this highly to the beginning and intermediate player. It wouldn't hurt advanced players to read this too."—Wayne McClintock, Customer Review at, April 1999


     "Magriel's book was vastly ahead of any written before and during it's intitial release period. Today, it still remains a superb text on checker play and even today's intermediates will improve thru detailed study of it. However, it is the almost total neglect of the doubling cube that prevents Magriel's book from standing alone at the top of the heap. Perhaps Magriel didn't feel that he knew enough about the cube 27 years ago to put it all in print in a big book."—Neil Kazaross, July 2003


     "The appearance of Paul Magriel's book Backgammon late in 1976 marked a turning point in the teaching of backgammon. This was the first real textbook on the game. Teachers no longer needed to spend countless hours on details of backgammon technique, but could simply assign chapters in Magrie's book as required reading for their students.
      The book is also valuable as a beautifully organized collection of simple problems. But unlike Joe Dwek's Backgammon for Profit or Barclay Cooke's Paradoxes and Probabilities, these problems are very simple. Each problem illustrates a point, clearly and unambiguously. And each problem fits neatly into the text, into the particular themes running through the chapter in which it appears.
      There is nothing Magriel has to show you about backgammon that you cannot see for yourself if you just stop, look, and think about it. Yet this pointing out what you can see for yourself is the most valuable service a teacher of backgammon can perform for you."—Danny Kleinman, in Vision Laughs at Counting, Volume 1


Section I.  Basics
1. Rules
2. Notation
3. Basic Checker Play
4. Game I: Running game
5. Opening Rolls
6. Game II: Holding Game
7. Basic Doubling Strategy
8. Game III: Priming Game
9. Game IV: Attacking Game
10. Pip Count
11. Basic Odds

Section II.  Using Men Effectively
12. Builders and Flexibility
13. Duplication and Diversification
14. When You Are Forced to Leave Shots

Section III.  Middle Game Strategy
15. Modern Opening Theory
16. Safe Play vs. Bold Play
17. Slotting
18. Action Play
19. One Man Back
20. Golden Point
21. Splitting
22. Doubling Theory

Section IV.  Endgame
23. No Possible Contact
24. Avoiding Contact
25. After Contact

Section V.  Advanced Positional Play
26. Priming and Blocking
27. Control of the Outside
28. Timing
29. Holding Game and Backgame


  COVER: Backgammon is truly the definitive work on the game for novice and expert alike—the only book a player at any level will ever need. Author, Paul Magriel, Backgammon World Champion (international rivals nicknamed him "The Computer," acknowledging him as a premier theoretician) and New York Times backgammon columnist, has ingeniously broken down every aspect of backgammon to its component parts, explaining the game here with a unique, easy to understand, step-by-step, building-block approach.
      Magriel write in concise non-technical language that is enhanced by 600 clear and precise diagrams, a glossary, and tables. (Because gambling has become an integral part of backgammon for many players, the betting odds inherent in the game are also carefully spelled out.) For any player who means to take the game seriously and wants to play well, this book is an indispensable guide and an essential reference tool.
      Backgammon carefully explains the game's basic concepts, ideas, and strategic principles. They have never before been organized or categorized so lucidly. Although Magriel discusses theories so advanced only a few players in the world are aware of them, this book is neither technical nor abstruse. The years of research and organization that went into the book have made Backgammon any player's gift of—and for—a lifetime.

  QUOTES: "A masterfully skillful work ... essential reading."—Prince Alexis obolensky

"Backgammon covers more ground more usefully than any other book ... Mr. Magriel is a skillful instructor and lucid writer."—The New York Times

"A fine book by one of the finest players in the world."—Oswald Jacoby

"The care and thoroughness of preparation of this work cannot be praised too strongly ... a mother lode of information."—Lewis Deyong

"The acknowledge encyclopedia of backgammon. Experts and beginners can learn from this superb analysis of the game."—Philip Martyn

"A fine work ... an invaluable aid for anyone trying to improve."—Barclay Cooke

Paul Magriel, Backgammon World Champion and New York Times backgammon columnist, is acknowledged to be the game's greatest theoretician.
      Mr. Magriel attended Exeter, was a National Science Foundation Fellow at Princeton University, and a Professor of Mathematics. A former New York State chess champion, he appears regularly as a lecturer and consultant and has been teaching backgammon for the past five years. Mr. Magriel lives in New York City.

   An Introduction to Backgammon
A Step-by-Step Guide
Paul Magriel
1978: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Company, Inc., New York, N.Y.

    Recommended Reading
  Where to Buy Books
    Picture Gallery
  List of Books by Author

Copyright © 1996-2016 by Tom Keith

Return to : Backgammon Galore : Books