Forum Archive : Books

Ballard & Weaver: Backgammon Openings Book A

From:   Mislav Radica
Date:   22 November 2007
Subject:   Impressions about Ballard/Weaver book ... (long)
Forum:   GammOnLine

Recently I read "Backgammon Openings" for the first time and decided to
send my opinions to Paul bcuz he asked me for that during the book ordering

My main objection about book is why they didn't include rollout results and
explain the amount of equity difference between plays with numbers instead
with terms like "tied", "marginally close", "very close", etc. Paul sent me
a detailed explanation about their reasons. I thought it might be
interesting for others to read and, with his permission, I offer it here.

Here is what I wrote to Paul:

  I like very much the page layout. These diagrams are now pretty standard
  and look best, but with your page formatting you set another standard.

  As a online player who has analyzed every match played with gnubg and
  made many rollouts, I appreciate the extremely strong settings you used
  to produce the most accurate backgammon book of all time.  Anyone who
  would like to check some of your suggestions will have to do at least 15k
  trials, which is about 10-15 days for those early positions.

  I am not a native English speaker but I have experience with backgammon
  books, and I find the language in your book is very precise and
  introduces many inovations in backgammon writing. I feel it is extremely
  very well written.

  I like your notes about special scores in match play like DMP, GG and GS
  but I wish you could explain more deeply in some places why a certain
  move is better at DMP. It is not always clear in my mind. At GG we are
  making new points and don't care for gammon lost. At GS we are making
  anchor. But DMP could be a strange score.

  I would also like to see some more text in the introduction of the
  chapters. I understand your desire to focus only on the main features of
  the positions but a longer introduction would serve as a little break
  between the hard work going through your diagrams.

  I also like your general points and rules of thumbs. Text which only
  counts which are your good rolls and which are bad rolls, and how many
  rolls your opponent can hit or not, is not easy to read. I think that
  reading about the opening is harder than about the middle game.

  Your reference positions, with slight changes from the original, are a
  valuable learning tool.  Together with extensive rollouts and your
  concise comments, they provide the main value of this book. It is a
  painful process to find those close positions which explain the original
  position and to do rollouts for all of them.

  We all read Robertie's and Woolsey's books. I am fan of GammOnLine but it
  is always good to read a fresh expert's writings for another point of
  view. I definitely learned something new. (I also liked Bagai, Trice, and
  Storer because they are different than the more prolific backgammon

  In openings, there are more elements of checker play, and things are
  clearer than in the middle game. There are no distracting factors. So
  this book could improve one's overall checker play, not only the early

  I hope that I understand reasons why you avoid numbers but, as a player
  who uses gnubg on daily basis, I am more comfortable seeing numbers when
  talking about equity differences instead of your vocabulary like "close",
  "marginally close". Numbers like 0.030 or 0.012 looks easier to
  understand to any modern bot oriented player.

This is Paul's answer:

  Many readers who study backgammon with bots would like to see our rollout
  data. This sentiment is very understandable. I would like to explain the
  reasons that we did not include the rollout data in our book.

  (1) We do not have just one rollout file for each position. We frequently
  have a few rollout files for a single position. One rollout volunteer may
  do 5,184 trials, another may also do 5,184 trials, and there may also be
  other files, all for the same position. It would not be a simple thing to
  present or to view our rollout data. It would be confusing.

  (2) We realize that many strong players and eager students of the game
  are interested in rollout data, but at the same time, there are many
  beginners and intermediates who would not understand the data and would
  be intimidated by it all. We want beginners and intermediates to be as
  comfortable as possible while reading our book.

  I give Nack full credit for coming up with his ingenious idea of the
  error scale. We do give the rollout data, albeit in the form of the error
  scale. We believe our readers will learn a lot more by focusing on the
  in-depth analysis of each position than they would learn by studying our
  rollout files.

  (3) Our format gives us only a limited amount of space on each page. We
  do not have room for the rollout data on the same page that contains the
  diagrams and the text. If we put it in an appendix, it might take up
  twenty pages or more. This twenty-odd pages of data would diminish the
  elegance of our book, increase its cost and also frighten away some
  beginners and intermediates.

  (4) I am bold enough to believe that our books will be read not only by
  backgammon players of 2007 and 2008, but also by those of years to come.
  Including rollout data of 2007 bots would make our book obsolete quickly.

  Within a few years, there will be significant improvements in hardware
  speed and also in backgammon software. Backgammon rollout data of 2007 do
  not give equities that are accurate to the nearest thousandth of a point,
  and in some cases, the rollout data of 2007 may not give equities
  accurate to the nearest hundredth of a point. Within a few years, bots
  will give much more accurate data.

  It is my belief that readers in years to come will have very little
  interest in seeing rollout data from the primitive 2007 era, but we hope
  they will be interested in our path-breaking analysis of these early game
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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