Opening Rolls

Forum Archive : Opening Rolls


From:   Jim Stutz
Date:   18 June 2010
Subject:   Nactation: Clarity a problem for some readers, brevity an illusion
Forum: Forums

I'm a big fan of Nack Ballard's poetic writing and keen insight -- who
isn't? -- but I wonder about the overall efficacy of Nactation. Granted it
saves the fluent Nactator a few typing strokes and a few seconds' time per
post, but what about the average reader at the other end?

My personal experience (I'm new to the forum and re-learning the game after
a decades-long break.): I thought I had learned the Nactation symbols, more
or less, but sometimes I doubt my memory and have to ponder -- what does
this symbol mean again? Even at best I am spending time -- more time than
the Nactating author saved, I bet -- translating the code into standard
notation and then suppressing doubts re whether I got it all right.

Multiply this extra time and effort by the number of readers who share some
of my lack of facility with the code, and the end result is orders of
magnitude more time cumulatively wasted by the readers than was saved by
the original Nactator.

No doubt Nactation was conceived as a refinement, and it may well be useful
and efficient (and has a certain secret-handshake appeal too, maybe) for
the experts who use it regularly, but IMHO it will always be something of
an obstacle -- however trivial and benign -- to the average casual
player/reader -- the kind of player that needs to be proactively included,
not excluded, if the Game is going to grow the way everyone seems to want
it to.

Bob Koca  writes:

You left out two big advantages. It makes one think about the position in a
useful way and also has cataloging benefits.

Timothy Chow  writes:

In terms of actual benefit to one's game, I believe that it exists, but
that it kicks in only at the point where you're studying the openings
seriously enough that you can't keep all your opening knowledge in your
head at once.

A good example, taken from recent posts, is how to play a 4-1 after you've
opened with 24/21, 13/9 and your opponent has responded with a non-hitting
roll. This decision has many similarities to the decision about how to play
a 4-3 after you've opened with 24/23, 13/9. If you're going to study this
long list of positions carefully then it is enormously useful to have
shorthand like 41S-xxx-43 and 43Z-xxx-41 to catalog everything. Otherwise
it becomes very cumbersome to organize your rollout data and spot patterns.

The reason most people don't appreciate this fact is that they simply don't
study backgammon that intensively. If you were to set yourself the task of
learning how to play all third-roll positions in accordance with the latest
bot rollouts, then you would inevitably develop some shorthand notation,
whether it be nactation or some other system. Similarly, if you wanted to
become a bearoff expert, studying thousands of positions and trying to
remember all the subtle differences between them, you would have to find
some compact system of notation to organize all that information.

If you're not inclined to study backgammon that intensively, that's fine.
However it is silly to be skeptical of the value of nactation unless you've
studied the openings with the same degree of thoroughness that the opening
experts have and have found some other way of achieving the same level of
mastery without any special notation.

Stick  writes:

Nactation is a tool that saves me personally more than a couple of
keystrokes. It saves me thousands upon hundreds of thousands I'd guess as I
have to name files, write articles, update certain web sites, and have
casual email conversations or real time online convos with other opening
phase of the game whores. I can't argue that it might be better for your
average Joe player to not have to use or understand nactation, but
basically, they don't. It even saves me time when trying to describe
positions verbally to certain players, like David Rockwell or MCG.

Nack makes a point in all his posts to include a key. Maybe you (that's the
general public Joe Schmoe 'you', not you personally) don't want to spend
the time reading it and understanding it. It's your choice. For the most
part though like when I post one of my many many posts you see the Subject
line, 54S-21H-31? for example and think what? You don't need to know what
it means, there's a diagram right there in front of you. Look at the
position, figure out what you'd play, ignore the nactation.
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     


Opening Rolls

At different match scores  (Louis Nardy Pillards, July 2002) 
Average advantage of winning opening roll  (Chuck Bower, Oct 1998) 
Choosing a strategy  (Daniel Murphy, June 2001) 
Early game rule of thumb  (Rich Munitz, Feb 2009) 
Factors to consider  (Kit Woolsey, July 1994) 
How computers play  (Kit Woolsey, Mar 1995)  [Recommended reading]
Magriel's Chapter 5  (Hayden Alfano+, May 2006)  [Long message]
Mloner vs Jellyfish  (Kit Woolsey, Dec 1995) 
Nactating a whole game  (Nack Ballard+, Jan 2011)  [Long message]
Nactation  (Jim Stutz+, June 2010) 
Nactation overview  (Nack Ballard, Oct 2009) 
Nactation--Why use it?  (leobueno+, Jan 2011) 
Opening 1's: Split or slot?  (Douglas Zare, Dec 2003) 
Opening 21: Rollout  (Stick, Mar 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 21: Split or slot?  (Dick Adams+, Dec 2003) 
Opening 32: Rollout  (Stick, Feb 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 43: In GOL online match  (Raccoon+, Feb 2004)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 43: Pros and cons  (Stick+, Jan 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 43: Which split is better?  (Peter Backgren+, Aug 2000) 
Opening 43: Which split is better?  (Michael J. Zehr+, Mar 1996) 
Opening 51: Rollout  (Stick, Feb 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 52: Merits of splitting  (Peter Bell, Apr 1995) 
Opening 53: Magriel's recommendation  (George Parker+, July 1997)  [Long message]
Opening 53: Split to 21?  (Alex Zamanian, Aug 2000) 
Opening 53: Why make the three point?  (Kit Woolsey+, Feb 1996) 
Opening 6's: Slot the bar point?  (Chuck Bower+, Feb 2000) 
Opening 6's: Slot the bar point?  (David Montgomery, June 1995) 
Opening 62: Could running be best?  (Gary Wong, Sept 1997) 
Opening 62: Split, run, or slot?  (Chuck Bower, May 1997) 
Opening 63: Middle Eastern split?  (Mark+, Apr 2002) 
Opening 63: Slot the four point?  (Dennis Cartwright+, Mar 2002) 
Opening 64: Make the two point?  (William Hill+, Jan 1998) 
Opening 64: Make the two point?  (Darse Billings, Feb 1995) 
Opening 64: Rollout  (Peter Grotrian, Jan 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 64: Split to 20?  (Peter Bell, June 1995) 
Opening 64: Three choices  (Brian Sheppard, July 1997) 
Opening 65: Becker on lover's leap  (Jeffrey Spiegler+, Aug 1991) 
Opening 65: Computer rankings  (Chuck Bower, Jan 1997) 
Opening rolls ranked  (Arthur+, Apr 2005) 
Rollouts of opening 21 and replies  (Alexander Nitschke, Oct 1997) 
Rollouts of openings  (Tom Keith+, Jan 2006) 
Rollouts: Expert Backgammon  (Tom Fahland, Aug 1994) 
Rollouts: Jellyfish 3.0  (Midas+, Sept 1997) 
Rollouts: Jellyfish 3.0 level 6  (Chuck Bower, Feb 1999)  [Recommended reading]
Rollouts: Snowie 4.1  (Rene Cerutti, Apr 2004) 
Slotting the four point  (Joe Loria+, Oct 1999) 
Snowie's openers and replies  (rcerutti, Feb 1999)  [Long message]
Splitting versus building  (Dave Slayton+, Aug 2000) 
Splitting versus slotting  (Daniel Murphy, Apr 2001) 
Splitting versus slotting  (Daniel Murphy, Sept 1997) 
Trice's rankings  (Marty Storer, Feb 1992) 

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