Forum Archive :
How to improve cube handling
||11 January 2011
||How do I improve cube handling?
I've been studying, practicing and playing and my game has improved a lot
over the past year or so. My cube play still lags behind though, XG rates
it as intermediate.
Does anyone have a recommendation on how to study and improve cube action?
Books? Practice methods? Reference position study?
Timothy Chow writes:
If you've been primarily playing matches against XG, I'd recommend playing
money-game sessions. That will simplify things by taking the match score
out of the equation. Once you have a good handle on money-game cubes then
you can step up to match-play cubes.
Woolsey's "Backgammon Encyclopedia" is a must-read if you haven't mastered
Be relentless about studying your errors. Compile them and review them
periodically, making hardcopies if it helps you organize your errors and
spot patterns. Focus on your biggest errors first--what are you most often
doing wrong? Missing opportunities to double? Taking too deep or dropping
too early? Cashing when too good? By spotting patterns you should be able
to make systematic progress.
Sebastiaan kuijs writes:
I practise a lot with XG and when I play live I make pictures of positions
I think are doubles and check them at home. I tend to miss a lot of cubes
so i cubed more. Thats one way you can improve your cube by looking at
your profile. Just analyse and play against XG you'll get better before
you know it.
1. Always play money game sessions until you've improved to the point you
can move on to match play. You will know when this is if you're serious
about improving. Your PR will also reflect it.
2. Master all the basic cube reference positions. Kit's book is a good
place to start. You should study tons of early game cubes, blitzing
cubes, holding game cubes, X men off and your opponent hits a shot,
prime v. prime, racing cubes etc... these should all seem easy to you
after some study.
3. While studying those positions note both the win % and gammons won,
this will be important to put into use later. You don't need to
memorize every reference position in the world, having a good general
idea will be enough. Being able to estimate gammons both won and lost
seems to be a critical skill that most people don't have that I think
hurts their cube decisions the most.
4. Play XG a lot and figure out which way your cube errors are leaning.
Doubling too early/late, taking too deep, passing too soon, not playing
on when you should, not realizing the volatility or lack thereof in a
position, etc... One weakness often relates to another. Too optimistic
or too pessimistic, figure out which, convert to a realist.
You can always do things when you're bored like read articles on cubing or
search the forums for the word 'cube' or 'double' and go through those
problems and see how you do. These positions will already have rollouts
attached to the thread so once you decide on your cube action you can move
on and see how you did. Don't just nod your head and move on, check the
numbers and try to figure out why you got it wrong if you went astray.
David Rockwell writes:
I want to add one point to Stick's comment #2. I recommend working on one
type of position at a time rather than scattering your efforts across many
different types of positions.
Phil Simborg writes:
It helps to catagorize your errors. Are you dropping too much, taking too
much, giving the cube too soon in running games, giving the cube too late
against holding games?
XG's player profile "details" will give you the answer to some of the
above, but the rest you either have to make a list or be very conscious of
the kind of errors you are making. (By the way, the same approach can also
improve your checker play.)
Once you know where your weaknesses are, you can be more focussed in your
efforts to improve.
(A couple of years ago MCG told me I was dropping too many cubes, and I
asked him what the best way was to cure that problem. He said, "Take more
I started studying Kit Woosley's Backgammon Encyclopedia recently and it
has really improved my cube action for money. If you don't have a copy I
highly recommend picking one up. It breaks down groups of reference
positions in a very well structured way. I ordered it through gammon press.
I dont know how much you already know, but this is how i do it:
In anchor situations i use the PRAT rule, Position, race, threat. Two
plusses out of three is a double. For the take i use Robertie's criteria:
anchor, five prime, contact on the other side. If yes, no, yes: it is
probably a take.
In no-anchor situations I use the a blitz standard benchmark position, with
a 3 point board against a 1 point board, with one checker on the bar and
one blot in the board, and 2 attackers on the blot, this is double take,
more is double pass, less is no double.
From there on I made up a few rules for myself like:
- 3 extra attackers is almost an extra boardpoint
- 4 extra checkers in the zone (in the second quadrant but not attacking
the blot) is almost an extra boardpoint
- a 4-anchor is 1.4 boardpoint
- a 5-anchor is 1.5 boardpoint
- both backcheckers escaped is 2 boardpoints
- this way i can calculate a lot of positions over the board towards my
When there is no checker on the bar, but one in the board, and one blot
somewhere else then a direct shot on this blot calculates as a barblot, but
with one exception: these threat doubles are never Double pass.
Thats how far i came so far with studying a lot of 5-move games against
Wamy Einehouse writes:
One of the techniques that is helping my cube play is to check the cube %
in Gnub cash games quite often, and watch how the % changes and by what
margin as the game develops and defines itself. Generally I find this helps
me get a good idea of how large the margins are and how they change, and
also helps with the over all feel for quite when you should be making
specific choices. It certainly very quickly removed many areas where I was
making serious errors, and is helping me a lot in more marginal spots.
- Advancing beyond intermediate (James Eibisch, July 1998)
- Beginners' mistakes (Alan Webb+, Nov 1999)
- Best way for a beginner to learn (Koyunbaba+, July 2007)
- Committing to memory (RobertFontaine+, Feb 2011)
- Getting better than "awful" (Morph+, May 2004)
- How to excel in backgammon (Max Levenstein+, Aug 2011)
- How to improve (N Merrigan, Jan 2007)
- How to improve (Albert Steg, Feb 1996)
- How to improve cube handling (RealNick+, Jan 2011)
- How to learn and improve (Hristov, Aug 2005)
- Lowering your error rate (Stick Rice+, Apr 2009)
- Maintaining your game (Robert-Jan Veldhuizen, Apr 2005)
- Matchqiz and Jellyfish (Gilles Baudrillard, May 1997)
- Missing candidate plays (Klaus Evers+, Apr 2009)
- Most efficient way to learn (Stick+, May 2007)
- Practice and preparation (Ian Shaw+, Mar 2004)
- Practice/study plan (Marcus Brooks+, Nov 1995)
- Reference positions (Chuck Bower, July 1999)
- Study Methodology (Phil Simborg, Dec 2012)
- Study method (Jason Lee+, Jan 2012)
- Study plan (Tenland+, Nov 2012)
- Taking your game up a level (CW+, Aug 2002)
- Taking your game up a level (Ron Karr, Aug 1996)
- The backgammon cake (Daniel Murphy, Nov 1997)
- The best way to learn (Chuck Bower+, Oct 2003)
- Three steps to better play (David Montgomery, July 1998)
- Using Jellyfish tutor (Stephen Hubbard, Sept 1997)
- What more can I do? (Alison Wylie+, Apr 2000)
- Zen in the art of backgammon (Robban+, Aug 2009)