Forum Archive :
My opinion: Snowie is light years ahead of JF in its interface and
overall value. Snowie **probably** outplays JF, but that is not certain.
Snowie surely plays backgames far , far better than JF.
The real benefit of Snowie is that the interface is superb and makes it
simple to improve one's game. Having used JF for years, I feel that
Snowie taught me more in 3 weeks than JF did in 3 years. It highlights
errors, blunders and cube decisions. It is possible to import entire
matches from GamesGrid or Fibs or JF and then to have snowie roll out
every single move in the match any number of times with just 2 or 3 mouse
clicks. This means that you are compariong your plays to the 3888 game
rollout instead of the Level 7 opinion which makes a huge difference in
the quality of the information.
Another interesting feature is that Snowie will provide (graphically and
numerically) the skill level and 'luck level' for each player by game and
by match. You can even build compilations of the skill level of each of
your opponents over a period of time, which will tell you whether you are
really getting outrolled or outplayed.
In my opinion, anyone who wants to win at this game should get Snowie
asap. The price is steep but it is reasonable to expect a major
improvement in your game!
You can view samples of the analysis the Snowie provides by going to the
CyberArts is a distributor of Snowie.
David Montgomery writes:
I have tremendous regard for Snowie, but this post seems like quite
a bit of hype.
Snowie's interface is superior to JF's, overall, for the student of
the game. It's not clear to me that it is for the average player. Snowie
has a number of great features which do advance the state of the art
for backgammon programs, but as of the most recent beta it still lacks
some important features that JF has -- features important to the
serious student of the game. I'm not sure I'm allowed to comment
specifically on these, but in any event it wouldn't be fair to the
developers of Snowie since it hasn't been officially released yet,
so they can still add functionality.
It is hype to say it's light years ahead. Maybe 1 year ahead. Two
at the outside. (I know, light year is distance, years are time.)
Snowie definitely plays some positions better than JF. JF definitely
plays some positions better than Snowie. I know this for a fact,
based on rollout data. Most of the time, the Snowie evaluations "look"
a bit more accurate to me than the JF evaluations, but this is very
subjective. I have seen positions where Snowie's evaluations were
much more accurate than JF's, and positions where JF's were much more
accurate than Snowie's.
The best objective evidence I know of for comparing JF and SW's overall
strength is the two program's average rating on FIBS. JF has several
thousand experience points supporting the case that on level 7 with
a modest time factor, JF's rating will average about 2050. Despite
SW's 2100 rating, it passed 2050 less than 500 experience points ago.
So based on the objective evidence, I think the claim should be,
Snowie *probably* plays about as well, overall, as JF, but it might
I'm not saying this is the best evidence we could have, just the best
that I know of that has been gathered already.
As far as a specific class of positions, backgames... well, backgames
are actually of a multitude of forms. Based on the rollouts I have
done, I feel that JF plays backgames better. JF definitely plays
some of them better. Maybe I haven't looked at enough positions, or
Ken is considering a different type of backgame class than I am, but
I would be stunned to find out that SW plays backgames, overall,
"far far better than JF" since I know that in the cases I've checked,
JF plays them better.
> The real benefit of Snowie is that the interface is superb and makes it
> simple to improve one's game. Having used JF for years, I feel that
> Snowie taught me more in 3 weeks than JF did in 3 years.
This is hype. Snowie has a much, much better interface for reviewing
matches and games, but the time ratio is nothing like 52:1. I have
been reviewing matches with almost nothing but Snowie since I began
beta testing it, but I've certainly gotten more benefit out of JF the
last 4 years than out of snowie the last 2 months. I think the time
advantage of Snowie is probably between 2:1 and 10:1 -- still big.
> In my opinion, anyone who wants to win at this game should get Snowie
> asap. The price is steep but it is reasonable to expect a major
> improvement in your game!
I agree that Snowie is going to be a great product, and that any
backgammon player would like to have it. But I have heard rumors of
an extraordinarly high price. On the other hand, many players feel
that the only way for Snowie to get decent sales is to offer it at
a price below JF. A number of players are looking forward to declining
prices for top backgammon software now that there is competition.
I guess time will tell.
Based on the latest beta, I would recommend Snowie over JF, if price
were no object. But I have gotten a lot of players started with
computer backgammon, setting them on FIBS (free), teaching them to
use svempa's great FIBS to JF .mat converter (free), and making sure
they buy JF tutor ($110, if i remember right). For most players,
this gives them more feedback than they will every absorb. If Snowie
costs several hundred dollars, I don't see how I could recommend it
over this setup for anyone to whom $100 isn't chump change.
For the truly serious players, Snowie's price might be nothing more
than their equity for one night in the local chouette. But I don't
know how many of us there are.
monty on FIBS
Ken Arnold writes:
Hmmmm.... should have put this in the previous post.
The 'opinion' levels in all of these programs are too weak to be of much
value to an expert player. Only the rollouts are really reliable. Every
time that I have played a long match against JF and then reviewed it, JF
Levels 5 and 6 point out many errors which are not errors at all. Upon
doing a Level 7 evaluation or a rollout JF reverses itself and selects my
original play more often than not. Thus, JF has been of very little
value to me.
Perhaps you are more patient and more willing to do the work needed to get
the most out of JF. I like to play a match against a top human player
online, import it to Snowie, and then have Snowie do a 3888 rollout of
every play in the match (which takes ovenight on a P-Pro 200) while I
sleep. This method yields excellent data for just a minute or two of
work. It becomes easy to review the entire match or just to focus on the
rolls where there was an error.
How long would it take to do the same in JF? More than 10 times longer
(perhaps 50) and more time than I have the patience for. I have written,
reviewed and tested a LOT of software over the last 17 years. This is an
extraordinarily high quality release 1.0, better than any other software
product that I have ever seen and I doubt that anyone can point out
David Montgomery writes:
> The 'opinion' levels in all of these programs are too weak to be of much
> value to an expert player. Only the rollouts are really reliable.
> Every time that I have played a long match against JF and then reviewed
> it, JF Levels 5 and 6 point out many errors which are not errors at all.
> Upon doing a Level 7 evaluation or a rollout JF reverses itself and
> selects my original play more often than not. Thus, JF has been of very
> little value to me.
I disagree with your first sentence, although I agree with most of the
rest. First though, there isn't any reason to consider level 5 and 6
'opinion' levels and level 7 not. Level 7 opinions are just a double-
It is certainly true that the stronger the player, the less value in
the evaluations. I have extensive experience with FIBS ratings, so I'll
base my comments on that. First, note that the vast majority of players
are not experts -- they are not even open level tournament players. For
anyone who can't maintain a rating of 1750 on FIBS, I think the value of
rollouts over evaluations is negligible (and certainly not worth the
cost of the analyzer or SW, nor the hassle of setting up rollouts). If
a player can't play at this level, they should read the good books and
use JF or SW as a tutor until they improve, and the evaluations provide
tremendous value to those capable of learning from them.
As you move over 1800, evaluations will be seen to be wrong more and
more often, relative to your own choices. However, even the best human
players still occasionally make clear mistakes, even 'blunders' (as
defined by default by SW: a .08 cubeless mistake). When SW or JF
points out that you have made a play .05 worse, on their highest level
of evaluation, you will reliably find that a rollout will confirm the
result. There are exceptions, some occuring in easy to anticipate
classes of positions, but even so, I would guess that a .05 error will
show up as an error in a rollout 90% of the time.
I have reliable data, from a variety of sources, including from actual
high stakes money play, that the best players in the world have a
cubeless error rate of about .005 points per unforced legal move. At
this error rate, you do commit blunders, and many other mistakes at
the .05 level. Since these mistakes will reliably show up as mistakes
in rollouts, I disagree that an expert can't get much value from using
JF level 7. Even the best players in the world could benefit from
studying using JF evaluations alone. If you just ignore the errors below
.04, you can get feedback without doing any rollouts, and the great
majority of JF's suggestions will be correct.
The above pertains to checker play. For cube actions, an expert player
really wants rollouts, since the absolute error in evaluation is now
significant. However, for a player who can't maintain a 1750 rating,
I still think they are just as well off studying evaluations.
> Perhaps you are more patient and more willing to do the work needed to
> get the most out of JF. I like to play a match against a top human
> player online, import it to Snowie, and then have Snowie do a 3888
> rollout of every play in the match (which takes ovenight on a P-Pro 200)
> while I sleep. This method yields excellent data for just a minute or
> two of work. It becomes easy to review the entire match or just to
> focus on the rolls where there was an error.
> How long would it take to do the same in JF? More than 10 times longer
> (perhaps 50) and more time than I have the patience for.
Hmmmm... Yeah, if you are going to do rollouts of the whole match,
Snowie may have that 50:1 time advantage. Its huge, whatever it is.
Depending on the hardware you have and your skill level and how much
you play, this is a big advantage for Snowie. I mostly look at
evaluations, because that way I can get feedback on many matches
quickly. I just rollout what I consider to be the 'interesting'
The amount of work to get the data with JF is many times more than
with SW, but if you include the time that it takes to actually absorb
the data (yeah, studying) then it's not as big a deal. This time
cost doesn't change.
> This is an extraordinarily high quality release 1.0, better than any
> other software product that I have ever seen and I doubt that anyone
> can point out counterexamples.
I agree that Snowie looks to be a great product. I'm not sure to
whom I would recommend it at $599, but at $299 it will be worth it
to anyone who thought the JF analyzer was worth it. I'm not sure
it's worth $299 to a more casual player, someone who doesn't enter
tournaments or play for money. It certainly isn't worth $599 to
monty on FIBS
- Announcement (Olivier Egger, Apr 1998)
- Checker-play-according-to-score bug (Peter Schneider+, June 2001)
- Error rates (Gregg Cattanach, Oct 2000)
- Hints and questions (Achim Müller+, Aug 1998)
- Luck calculation (Gregg Cattanach+, Dec 1999)
- Questions and answers (David Montgomery, Dec 1998)
- Running in low priority (lmfback+, Oct 2004)
- Snowie 4.0 (SnowieGroup Info, Oct 2002)
- Snowie 4.3 update (Gregg Cattanach, July 2005)
- Snowie cube evaluation (Kit Woolsey, Sept 2007)
- Snowie vs GNU (Stanley E. Richards+, Oct 2005)
- Snowie vs. Jellyfish (Mark Driver, Apr 2001)
- Snowie vs. Jellyfish (Daniel Murphy, Oct 2000)
- Snowie vs. Jellyfish (Gregg Cattanach+, Sept 2000)
- Snowie vs. Jellyfish (Wayne Crookes, Jan 1999)
- Snowie vs. Jellyfish (Kenneth M. Arnold+, May 1998)
- Terminology (Alexander Nitschke, Sept 1998)
- Using rollouts (Michael J. Zehr+, Oct 1998)