Luck versus Skill

Forum Archive : Luck versus Skill

Are good players just luckier?

From:   Douglas Zare
Date:   7 September 2000
Subject:   Re: The luck of the Backgammon player

> What makes the difference between a strong player and a player of middle
> level?  The player of middle level who uses correctly openings,
> probabilities and the classic arsenal of serious player of Backgammon,
> what is the reason that makes that it remains of middle level and why
> lose it at least the half of these games? Is this the luck that makes the
> difference? Was the strong player born under a better star?

Even at a substantial skill disadvantage, one should still win a lot of the
time. One nice thing about backgammon is that you can make errors and
bounce back; this also means that after making many errors, you will still
be penalized for making more. In games without chance you should have
already lost.

Strong players still make a lot of mistakes. They are just smaller and less
numerous than the errors of weak players. Even Snowie makes mistakes, but
it's hard to be sure she is wrong.

Some errors in checker play arise when the rules of thumb conflict. (Should
you hit, or make another inner board point? Should you make a bold play
while ahead in the race but with a stronger board? Should you make a solid
prime, escape, or start a blitz?)

Some errors arise when the rules of thumb make no suggestions. Some
positions are so complicated or subtle or strange that the heuristics do
not help, and stronger players may find it worthwhile to steer towards
these knowing that the intermediate players will make more errors. The
point of the right play may be to gain timing rather than a racing
advantage or any fixed asset. Often, there are several good plays, and one
must choose based on intuition.

Some errors arise when the rules of thumb are wrong. Sometimes "ugly" plays
are right, and stronger players are better at judging when this is the
case. Sometimes the "pretty" plays have no winning game plan; they will
just look good for a bit before collapsing. (See , my favorite article in the rgb
archive, and ask yourself whether you would consider the plays made, and if
you would reject them, how would you plan to win the game and what do you
think your chances would be? I still get a kick out of reading it.)

In addition, intermediate players are often terrible with the cube. Tip for
intermediates: play JF a lot, rapidly, or watch the demo mode. Get a
feeling for when JF doubles, and double at least at those times against a
human player.

Backgammon is surprisingly deep. The classic arsenal of heuristics can be
learned in a week, so it is predictably insufficient.

Whether I qualify as a strong player depends on your definition. My rating
on FIBS jumped up recently after I read some of Robertie's books, but every
recent move from my matches that I entered into Snowie was pronounced a
blunder. (One double, which my opponent dropped, required a 64% chance for
my opponent to drop for it to be correct. I guess doubling at -2:-4 is
dangerous even with a 6-prime and my opponent's ace-point made, with very
low gammon chances.) On the other hand, maybe that means that I now know
which positions I'm confused about, rather than being so confident of
erroneous plays that I don't check them.

Douglas Zare
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Luck versus Skill

Are good players just luckier?  (Douglas Zare, Sept 2000) 
Are luck and skill related?  (Eskimo+, Feb 2003) 
Does backgammon need less luck?  (Raccoon, Jan 2008)  [GammOnLine forum]
How much of backgammon is luck?  (Wai Mun Yoon, Jan 1998) 
How much skill versus luck?  (Alexandre Sierra, Nov 2000) 
How much skill versus luck?  (JP White+, Aug 2000) 
How often to win with perfect play?  (Robert-Jan Veldhuizen, Nov 2000) 
Is backgammon gambling?  (Luc Palmans+, Oct 2010) 
Is backgammon gambling?  (Kevin D. McLeaster, Sept 1997) 
Is there really luck in backgammon?  (benf+, Jan 2012) 
Recognizing luck  (Walter Trice, Dec 2004) 
Strange result  (az-willie+, Mar 2003) 
The Bower Luck-O-Meter  (Gary Wong, Aug 1998) 
Why are stronger players luckier?  (Bob Sweeney+, Oct 2002) 

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