Backgammon Books

  Backgammon: Pure Strategy

  AUTHOR: Marc Brockmann Olsen
  YEAR: 2017
  ISBN: 1539640361
  ISBN-13: 978-1539640363
  BINDING: Softcover
  PAGES: 462
  SIZE: 23 cm high, 15 cm wide
The book describes how computers use artificial neural networks to play backgammon and uses that as metaphor to lay out a framework for how human players can think about the game.

     "I like this book. Olsen lays out a strategical approach to reading the board, and outlines his thinking process to finding the best moves and cube actions. His cube evaluation techniques are unique and may not work for everyone but are a worthwhile read in my opinion.
      In the first section of the book Olsen catalogs all the various factors that make a backgammon position weak or strong. Examples include structure, the race, inner board strength, safety, outer board control, timing, etc.
      Olsen looks at typical position types (early blitz, backgame, containment game, etc) in the second section. He attempts to apply the factors from the first section to each position type. I like this approach, as it orients you to what you should be thinking about in a given position. For example, if you are conducting a blitz you should give high priority or "weight" (his term) to attacking and the race and less weight to priming.
      The third section outlines the author's own unique approach to cube evaluation. He breaks down any position into four factors: Prime, Blitz, Race, and Contact value. He considers who has the advantage in each of these areas and how sizable is the advantage (small, medium or large). The results guide your doubling and taking decisions.
      The last section of the book contains various problems. You are encouraged to apply the concepts by testing your thought process against the author's explanations. More important than getting the answer right or wrong is to see if you were thinking about the right things.
      I found this a thought provoking book and a valuable contribution to the backgammon literature. I would recommend it to any student of the game."
      —2+2 Backgammon Forum, May 2017


     "I can't recommend it. I bought it and got about 1/3 of the way through, but then I gave up. There's more white space than I've ever seen in a book. And the book contains so many misspellings, grammatical errors, and typos that it's painful to read."—Bill Robertie, 2+2 Backgammon Forum, May 2017


     "The first chapter is probably most interesting for those who have no idea at all how a neural net "thinks." Next up are backgammon's concepts. There are nearly seventy pages of concepts, so I won't list them all. Then there is a forty-five page chapter on their "weights," in which positions are given, and how important various concepts might be for each side's holding. This leads to a fifty-page chapter on the Value Equation: V = P + B + R + C, where V is the Value, P is Prime, B is Blitz, R is Race, and C is Contact.
      There is a short chapter on cubes, which abandons discussion of V, relying on rollouts for its analysis. And then there is the quiz, roughly 130 positions, each on the recto, and the discussion on its verso.
      Despite some problems, this an extremely worthwhile book, perhaps the best to come along in several years. The author worked hard to select the positions, and between the quiz and the chapters preceding it there are upwards of two hundred to ponder. That's a tremendous achievement! If you ignore the value equation nonsense, the concepts discussed in the early chapters are a decent review of the building blocks of backgammon."—Jake Jacobs, GammonVillage Magazine, April 2019.


Chapter 1: Thinking Like a Nerual Net
  Discussion about universeral concepts in backgammon
  How a backgammon neural net works
  Human neural net framework

Chapter 2: Hierarchy of Concepts
  Fundamental concepts
    Pip count
    Race efficiency
    Inner board
    Connectivity zone
    Freedom and anti-freedom
    Blot count
    Outfield control
    Duplication and diversification
  Complex concepts
    The race
  Hypercomplex concepts
  Meta concepts
    Prime value
    Blitz value
    Race value
    Contact value

Chapter 3: Weights on Concepts
  Opening game
  Middle game
  Holding game
  Holding game with extra contact
  Anchor game
  One man back and leading in the race
  Single-checker holding game
  Early blitz
  Middle-game blitz
  Blitz versus prime
  Prime versus prime
  Early backgame
  Late backgame
  Backgame with timing problems
  Containment game
  High volatility position
  Late-game contact
  Hypergammon positions
  The 6-prime

Chapter 4: The Value Equation

Chapter 5: Cube Action Concepts
  Volatility and market losers
    O'Hagan's law
    Woolsey's law
    The value equation
    Too good to double
    The basic mantra
  Cube ownership and efficiency
  Cube strategy in match play

Chapter 6: Quiz Positions
  Checker plays
  Cube actions

Final Words

  COVER: Backgammon: Pure Strategy goes deeper into understanding the theory of the game, than any other book before it. This is not a beginners book. This is the book to take your game from intermediate or advanced, into the expert or world class level.
      The book explains how the backgammon AI algorithms (artificial intelligence) work, and how we as humans can get inspired from them. With this inspiration, the book presents a very strong framework of understanding the dynamics and strategy of the game: a human neural net philosophy. But instead of using brute force calculation power as a computer does, we use pattern recognition and conceptual thinking.
      The second part of the book consists of 129 quiz positions, where the ideas and principles of the first part are put to practice. The reader is encouraged to make an effort to find the best move and understand what's going on in the position. Each position has an in-depth analysis, when you turn the page.

Marc Brockmann Olsen, former football player with a degree in economics, is part of the new generation of backgammon theorists. His understanding of the game is inspired by the AI algorithms that play the game perfectly.
      His first book, Backgammon: From basics to badass, is a best-seller in the backgammon world, with more than 1,200 copies sold during the first three years of publication. It's often referred to as the best book in the new era to teach beginners and intermediates about the basic principles of backgammon strategy.
      His new book, Backgammon: Pure Strategy, is a high level philosophical book about backgammon strategy. This book is written for advanced and expert players to take their game into world class level.

From basics to badass
Marc Brockmann Olsen

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