Forum Archive : Books

Ballard & Weaver: Backgammon Openings Book A

From:   Marty Storer
Date:   9 January 2008
Subject:   Review: Backgammon Openings: Book A: 3-1
Forum:   GammOnLine

Backgammon Openings: Book A: 3-1,
by Nack Ballard and Paul Weaver.
2007: The Backgammon Press, Richmond, California.
ISBN 0-9797053-0-4.
Hardcover. Price $39 (USD).
Price including shipping, $44 within USA, $51 outside USA.
To order:


I received Nack Ballard and Paul Weaver's book, Backgammon Openings: Book
A, as a Christmas present and was most pleased. It gave me comfort in my
illness. Though I can't rationally say the book was a factor in my
recovery, it felt so at the time.

The subject of the book is how to play a roll of 31 in various opening
positions occurring during the first three rolls of the game. The authors
say that more volumes, covering different rolls, will be forthcoming
according to the response by the backgammon community to this first work.
They needn't worry that the response will be anything but enthusiastic.

Explanations, backed up by extensive computer (bot) rollouts, are lucid and
insightful. There's never room for doubt about the intended meaning;
everything is expressed with a view toward precision, and just about every
aspect of the book bespeaks the precision of thought typical of a highly
mathematically erudite person such as Paul, and no doubt that of Nack
Ballard as well.

All recommended plays are at least highly plausible. A slight few
recommendations may be wrong by some small amount, or be a bit off in terms
of category of difference (e.g. "barely correct" versus "marginally
correct"). If so, the best elucidation will an uber-bot rollout that may
benefit from stronger engine (as in some future bot version), or more
stringent parameters (such as will become more practical as CPUs increase
in power). In the spirit of intellectual openness and honesty, the authors
expressly desire to be informed of rollout results that contradict their

The hard-core aficionado may wish for the full set of rollout data to be
presented in an appendix, but those could better be presented in a
companion volume, should the authors believe there's enough demand to
justify the required production costs and associated legwork.

New terminology (e.g. "wipeout," "blowout," "mistake," precisely defined)
is in general quite useful and should become widely adopted in all
backgammon discourse. My advice to all is to start adopting the Ballard-
Weaver terms. Some of the "nactation" terminology is initially confusing,
but becomes more natural with time and usage.

Production quality is excellent (solid hardcover with attractive dust
jacket). Presentation is likewise excellent. I have a personal preference
against sans-serif fonts (I think Arial is the font used), and recommended
Times New Roman (font used for Backgammon Praxis) to Paul Weaver, but Paul
strongly disagreed. When I had the book in front of me, I was surprised
that I did not find the sans-serif font to be a problem despite my
preference of fonts, which I now understand is not shared by most readers.
The carefully crafted layout should be pleasing to anyone's eyes.

I have some quibbles about the analysis of perhaps a couple of positions.
In these instances, my opinion is that a certain factor does not carry as
much weight as the authors think. I can address these at some other time
and place, as a matter of theoretical interest.

Other nitpicking objections I might eventually think of would be so
insignificant as to be reasonably ignored. Any of my quibbles, even if
justified, detracts at most some barely detectable iota from the overall
quality of the book.

I recommend Backgammon Openings: Book A to all backgammon players, from the
rankest beginner to the strongest expert.

I congratulate Nack Ballard and Paul Weaver on a fine effort. All the years
and labor spent on it are justified.
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