About Boot Camp
began as a series of online columns for GammonVillage, later to become argueably the most highly-regarded and best-selling backgammon book of its time. Each short chapter introduces a concept such that a beginner can follow, but then develops that concept over five or so pages to places unfamiliar to many experts. In this way, the book is accessable and informative to everyone. (The dry humor and graceful clarity of the prose also help.) Backgammon Boot Camp
These decks include every position from Backgammon Boot Camp and more. Find the position name at the bottom of the exposed answer text.
Providing hints for this material is challenging: extensive hints have already been written and collected in book form. The following notes may help remind you of the topics covered and the insights revealed.
"BBC1-08" is Chapter 1, Position 8.
"BBC4-05b" is Chapter 4, Position 5b, where the lowercase "b" indicates an alternate position described in the text. After analyzing Position 5, Walter wrote: "Shift White's spares down to the 4, 3, and 2 points and he has to pass." Both positions 4-05 and 4-5b are included in the deck.
"BBC5-17-A" is Chapter 5, Position 17, where the uppercase "-A" indicates an alternate position not described in the text, but which I thought to be an instructive contrast to the original.
A trailing asterisk (BBC2-25*) indicates the modern rollout result differs from Trice's analysis.
The opening chapters of
Backgammon Boot Camp concentrate, naturally, on the most fundamental and foundational concepts in backgammon. These principles come up in every game.
(Positions 1-1 and 1-2) “The Trailing team should try to block the leading team and cause as much entanglement and general mayhem as possible.” Or, per Kit Woolsey: “When ahead in the race, race. When behind in the race, don't race.”
(Positions 1-6 to 1-9) “Hitting two blots is often a very powerful play, even when the double hit compromises the hitter’s position . . . Black may succeed in Closing out White, or White may anchor. The closeout usually leads to an easy win (Though accidents can still happen); but when White anchors, the game goes on, its character changed drastically.”
(Positions 1-10 to 1-21) “If you want to learn to size up a backgammon position at a glance, start by looking at the anchors held by each side. Ordinarily, the player with the more advanced anchor is winning.” When might it be right to volunteer a shot? When opponent is weak but improving, and when your lead is significant.
(Positions 1-25 to 1-28) “If a checker must be placed within direct range of a hitter, it gets safer as it moves closer. Never move into direct range if you can help it, but if you must, then move in as far as you can.”
(Positions 1-29 to 1-32) “Paul Magriel gives a list of six criteria for distinguishing the situations when you should be making a bold play from those in which you should prefer a safe play. They (my paraphrased version) are as follows:
Opponent board strength. The more points he has closed, the safer you tend to play.
Got an anchor? With an anchor you can better handle getting hit, so you can play more boldly.
Your board strength. With more points, play more boldly.
Blots in opponent’s board. You don’t mind so much getting hit when there’s something to shoot at from the bar, so you can play more boldly.
Number of men you have back. The more men you have back the less you mind having an additional man back, so the more boldly you can afford to play.
Number of men your opponent has back. Similar to (5), when the other player has more men back, you need to play more conservatively.”
More general principles in this section, but with an emphasis on strategy over short-term tactics.
(Positions 2-1 to 2-2) “When the roll you have to play doesn’t lead to an immediate tactical goal, then strategic thinking becomes more important . . . there are really only three ways to win a game of backgammon: race, prime, and attack. Formulating a game plan means, first of all, ranking these three routes to victory . . .”
(Positions 2-3 to 2-12) “At the opposite end of the spectrum from burial we find what is known as purity. A pure play is a play that keeps as many checkers as possible alive and active, either for making key points or for handling difficult rolls without making positional concessions . . . The Pure play is not always the right play. But it is more likely to be the right play if either side has three or more men back.”
(Positions 2-13 to 2-16) “It is as important to win 'won' positions as to get them in the first place. It is frustrating to close out an opponent and then lose to some random shot in the bearoff. No one can avoid all such occurances, but a little care and attention to detail will keep them to a minimum.”
(Positions 2-17 to 2-21) “Tempo plays are easy to overlook because we tend to focus on constructive possibilities. But when we have nothing constructive to do and an opponent has a lot of useful numbers coming up, such a play is always worth considering.”
(Positions 2-22 to 2-31) “Duplication means giving your opponent two different ways to use the same number, as opposed to giving him different ways to use different numbers. Duplication is not a tactical principle in its own right, but it is a very useful way to spot plays that limit your opponent’s opportunities on his next roll . . . If it is good to duplicate your opponent’s numbers, then it is (necessarily) bad to duplicate your own.”
Cubes And Races
(Positions 3-1 to 3-4) “Equity means the same thing in backgammon as elsewhere: it is the fair value of an asset . . . In a bear-off you can take a double when the odds against you are no worse than 3-to-1. In other words, you can take when your chance of winning is 25% or greater.”
(Positions 3-5 to 3-8) Recube equity can let you take with less than 25%.
(Positions 3-9 to 3-13) N-Roll Bearoffs:
Rolls Win% Cube Action 2 13.9% Double - Pass 3 21.2% Double - Pass 4 25.5% Double - Take 5 28.3% Double - Take No Redouble - Take
Adjust for misses and non-working doubles as necessary.
(Position 3-14) Pure racing formulas: See the help files in the (free) Race decks.
(Positions 3-15 to 3-18) Effective Pip Count (epc) of a “rolls” position is 7n + 1. So epc of a 3-roll position is 22.
“Point of last take for the trailer is when he is down a number of effective pips equal to the number of rolls to go minus three.”
“Certain oddball racing positions come up regularly in endgames. For some of these, epcs can be readily estimated:
Fourteen men off, one checker somewhere outside the home board: Pipcount + 4.7.
Thirteen off, two outside checkers: pipcount + 5.2.
Stack and straggler positions of the sort that result when one player closes out his opponent, gets hit late, and reenters: 3.5x(total checkers) + straggler pipcount."
(Position 3-19) A comparison of adjusted pip count methods.
Cubes And Contact
(Positions 4-1 to 4-4) “Positions in which one side’s chances in the race are enhanced by the prospect of hitting a blot in the next roll or two.”
(Positions 4-5 to 4-8) One checker closed out but some number of men off:
Men Off Closeout Side Men Off Side
Five Double Pass
Eight Even Even
Eleven Pass Double
(Positions 4-9 to 4-13) Two checkers closed out but some number of men off:
Men Off Closeout Side Men Off Side
Eleven Double Pass
Twelve Double Take
Thirteen No Double Take
(Positions 4-14 to 4-17) Opening 43S, 33p, Fan: Double Take. Variants.
(Positions 4-18 to 4-22) Ace Point games ranging from Too Good to Take.
(Positions 5-1 to 5-6) Backgame characteristics and timing.
(Positions 5-7 to 5-12) Backgame tactics: play pure for long-term advantage.
(Positions 5-13 to 5-16) Backgame bearin: Killing numbers, early blot plays, and clearing the hardest points.
(Positions 5-17 to 5-21) Forward or backward? Deciding on the appropriate game plan.
(Positions 5-22 to 5-41) “Well-timed well-structured backgames are, typically, still takes when the opponent has three points left to clear in front of the more advanced anchor.”
(Positions 5-42 to 5-46) “The classic novice mistake in backgame cube action is to get a simple double direct shot and instantly turn the cube, naively assuming that “favorite to hit” means “favorite to win,” and forgetting about gammons altogether.”
(Positions 5-47 to 5-51) Backgame tactics; play pure for long-term advantage.
(Positions 6-1 to 6-11) “When both sides have primes, the prime that lasts longer is best. The more similar the positions are for the two sides, the more important it is to be behind in the pipcount.” Being on the roof can help your prime last longer.
(Positions 6-12 to 6-16) Killed numbers and the placement of spares impact how long a prime will likely last.
(Positions 6-17 to 6-26) Prime or anchor? Deciding on appropriate game plan.
“Very often, the result of an attack is a gammon win for the attacker. That is one of the reason why attacking pays: the points tend to come four at a time.”
(Positions 7-1 to 7-5) The more likely an attack is to succeed, the less you should be concerned with defense.
(Positions 7-6 to 7-2) “Factors that contribute to the strength of an attack:
Degree to which the back men have escaped
Chances to hit additional blots
Points made in and near the home board
Checkers available for making home-board points
Defender’s checkers on the bar
Defender’s lack of an anchor"
A prime blocking some of the attacker’s checkers
Flexibility; good distribution
An anchor, or prospects for anchoring"
(Positions 7-23 to 7-27) “In general, the order of priority seems to be as follows:
But there are many exceptions . . . "
Making home-board points
Getting the stragglers home
(Positions 8-1 to 8-3) “If you are the Post-Crawford leader and you are doubled from any odd score you have a free drop. This means that conceding a single point gives up almost nothing in match-winning chances. But when you are doubled from an even score you have a mandatory take.
(Positions 8-4 to 8-5) The Mysterious 2-Point Match: “It turns out that it rarely hurts to double when your opponent can still take. If both players understand this, then a 2-point match always turns into a 1-point match.”
(Positions 8-6 to 8-8) Racing Cubes in the 3-Point Match:
Doubler Needs Taker Needs TP (Live) TP (Dead)
2 3 25% 36%
3 3 28% 28%
3 3 23% 30%
(Positions 8-9 to 8-12) Gammons And The 3-Point Match: “If a sufficient proportion of your wins are going to be gammons, and if a gammon wins the match, then there is no reason to double, no matter how likely you are to win in the first place.”
(Positions 8-13 to 8-15) Four Points To Go:
Doubler Needs Taker Needs TP (Live) TP (Dead)
4 2 20% 20%
2 4 19% 37%
3 4 21% 34%
4 3 20% 24%
4 4 20% 29%
(Positions 8-16 to 8-19) How To Win Four Points: “It is no secret that you can win four points in a single game of a backgammon Match. Nonetheless, many players seem to forget this at key moments in their matches! The procedure has two parts: first you double, then you win a gammon. Both steps are essential and they must be carried out in the right order.”