Backgammon Books

  Paradoxes and Probabilities
168 Backgammon Problems

  AUTHOR: Barclay Cooke
  YEAR: 1978
  PUBLISHER: Random House
  CITY: New York
  ISBN: 0-394-50126-8
  BINDING: Hardcover
  PAGES: 184
  SIZE: 24 cm high, 16 cm wide

     "In his time, Cooke was viewed by his peers as one of the leading authorities on the game. Reviewing his solutions now, with the aid of modern theory and computer software, it is staggering just how much our understanding of the game has progressed. In Cooke's time, slotting key points was the order of the day and blitzes were rare. But Cooke was brave enough to admit he didn't know the right play in many situations."—Chris Bray, in What Colour is the Wind?


     "168 problems, most of which are very interesting. Current thinking is that solutions to about a third of them are wrong, but the analysis gives very good insight into how Cooke, a first-generation world class player, thought about backgammon."—Marty Storer, May 1992


     "Cooke's Paradoxes & Probabilities is way off the beam, because it purports to treat more delicate decision-making, but does so erroneously, potentially causing severe damage to your game."—Albert Steg, May 1994


     "I really got a lot out of Barclay Cooke's Paradoxes and Probabilities. It's a book of many plausible situations, showing you the roll and asking how to move. Answers are provided, with analysis of course. Many of the situtations are similar to ones that occur every day. The good thing about this book is that many of the answers show a move which is slightly better than the obvious one. After reading and thinking, you'll probably agree that the suggested move is the best. Making moves which are subtlely better than the obvious one will move you to that next level of backgammon."Mike Burns, April 1996


     "This is my favorite backgammon book. It's pretty well known that about a third of Cooke's solutions are just plain wrong, although they were almost certainly beyond question in their time. Because of this, I read Paradoxes and Probabilities with a more skeptical eye than when I'm reading contemporary backgammon literature. I tend to think more and analyze more, rather than just believing the answers without question."—Patti Beadles, August 1996


     "Each example comes with exceptionally fine explanations that illustrate the thinking process of a legendary player. You will learn a lot from the examples in the book, even the ones whose answers are wrong."—Brian Sheppard, December 1998


     "Cooke was a marvelous writer, and very persuasive. When you get to the point where you see his wrong opinions as wrong, and even laugh a little at them, you can be confident you are at least a good player."—Donald Kahn, December 1998


     "An infamous work. The oft-repeated conventional wisdom has been that nearly a third of the solutions are wrong, but this is a significant understatement. A third of the solutions are badly wrong; well over half are wrong to some degree. Why then, does the book live on? Partly because the problems, misanalyzed or not, are so interesting. Cooke never shies away from the complex or ambiguous, and the result is a book that looks, but doesn't read, like high-level modern backgammon. Another reason, trivial though it may seem, is Cooke's engaging prose."—Jeremy Bagai, in Classic Backgammon Revisited, March 2001


     "Of all the books I read, Cooke's did, by far, the most harm to my game when I was developing as a strong player in the late 70's/early 80's. Paradoxes and Probabilities is full of so many errors, overvaluing anchors, and, much worse, leaving far too many shots and blots vs strongish home boards. There are timing misconceptions and errors of nearly every sort."—Neil Kazaross, September 2004

1  Openings
2  The Middle Game
3  The End Game
  COVER: By now it has become clear that backgammon is no longer merely a fad like mahjong, and that it is a game in which, over the long run, skill will overcome the luck of the dice. In short, it is recognized as a game in which imagination, positional artistry, timing, unorthodox daring and mathematical skill all play a role in the makeup of an expert backgammon player.
      There is no better way to attain this goal than by studying the problems in this book. Some of them will seem elementary, others exquisitely complex, but even an expert can learn from the former, and even a beginner will glean something from the latter.
      Because backgammon is still dominated by chance—even a champion can lose to a novice if the dice are against him—and because no one can guard continuously against the miracle roll that will turn a winning game into a losing one, backgammon can never be as preceise in its approach as chess or bridge. Still, Paradoxes and Probabilities, if mastered thoroughly, will minimize luck and maximize skill; anyone who learns its lessons will raise the quality of his play and benefit financially.

  QUOTES: "Until now no one has covered middle-game tactics so thoroughly. There are graphic lessons here for everyone, including experts."—Joe Dwek

"Every facet of the game is explored in this book. Especially instructive are the many examples of when and wwhen not to double—and why."—Claude Beer

"I learned more than I like to admit. Several problems fooled me, particularyly #149 and 160. Also, #120 alone is worth the price of the book."—Hunter Goodrich

"The author doesn't side-step controversy, but candidly admits that certain positions defy concrete analysis. In other words, eh doesn't claim to know everything, which is a refreshing contrast to the inflated egos throughout the world of backgammon."—Lewis Deyong

Barclay Cooke graduated from Yale in 1934, is married, and lives in Englewood, New Jersey. Though he is devoted to classical music, including Bach, Beethoven and brahms, he insists that for him the three B's are baseball, backgammon and bridge.

   Backgammon, The Cruelest Game
The Art of Winning
Barclay Cooke, Jon Bradshaw
1974: Random House, Inc., New York
   Championship Backgammon
Learning Through Master Play
Barclay Cooke, René Orléan
1980: Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

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