pub. 2001, pages 361.
by Bill Robertie
Price (excluding UK/EU/Europe):
(price UK: £55.00, EU/Europe: €67.37, Denmark: kr 494.96)
Bill Robertie is regarded by most as one of the Greats of Backgammon. He has been a two-time winner of the World Backgammon Championships, and a plethora of other tournaments to long to mention here.
Bill is a prolific writer of backgammon books and magazine articles. His contributions to our understanding of backgammon cannot be understated.
About the book:
During the 1990s, the backgammon world was changed forever by the arrival of the neural nets: TD-Gammon, Jellyfish, and finally Snowie. At first, players were impressed by the simple quality of their results; for the first time, there existed computer programs that could hold their own with the best human players. Later, and more slowly, came a respect for their style.
It was a style that was peculiarly hard to characterize. At first impression, they seemed conservative - not much slotting, hardly any back games, no really unusual moves. As you played more and more games against them, you realized they weren't really conservative at all. They could take big risks, but often in totally unexpected places. And they were slippery little creatures! Their big plays just didn't seem to backfire very often. Their checkers always seemed to turn up in useful places.
If neural nets were humans, you could have asked them for their theory of the game. But neural nets don't have a theory - just an evaluation function, with thousands of terms honed to a fine precision in millions of practice games. Still, they played as though they had a theory, so maybe, if you watched them long enough, you could deduce what it was ... Hence, this book.
The checker play of the neural nets is governed by a relative small set of broad general principles. These principles are not unique to backgammon. In slightly modified form, they govern piece play in other board games, like chess and go. In even more generalized forms, they operate in larger arenas like finance and war. All of these activities share a common theme: How can a player maximize the effectiveness of a small set of resources, when confronted by an opponent with the same goal? However, while it's nice to know that these principles have broader applications,
he doesn't stray too far afield here. The focus of this book is how to play better backgammon.