Raymond Kershaw lives in London, England where for several decades he has been accumulating much of the material for this book. If he had concentrated more on serious backgammon, and spent less time pondering fun positions, he might have more trophies in his cabinet.
Facts, figures and numerical musings
Backgammon Funfair provides a unique insight into the statistics of backgammon, examining the myriad of possibilities of this centuries-old board game.
Affordable computer programs like extreme Gammon have generated an explosion in our understanding of the game. But if
you've ever wondered, "How many...... ?" then Backgammon Funfair will provide the answer.
How many checkers can legally end up on the bar?
Why is it not always best to throw double six in a bear off race?
Just how many billion possible positions are there?
Whether you are a casual player, a dedicated devotee or just a number-loving student of dice games, Backgammon Funfair will keep you entertained. Can you find better solutions to the numerous puzzles it contains?
What Others Are Saying about
Julian Minwalla -
July 2012, British Isles Backgammon Association's website.
Backgammon Funfair is unlike any other backgammon book I have read. It comprises the author's collection of curiosities and puzzles assembled over 35 years from backgammon books, magazines and the internet, combined with his own original material. Examples are "Shortest game without a doubling cube", "Greatest joker" and "Most pips you wish you had not rolled in a bear off race". It's a beautifully produced volume, extending to 194 pages, all clearly set out with colourful diagrams. Within its pages are 63 expositions, some of them whimsical, some mysterious, and all delightfully entertaining. Some of the subject areas are fanciful and obscure, and could be dismissed by backgammon players as being of limited usefulness. To do so would be to miss the point of their inclusion. The joy is in their study and the unpicking of the logic, mathematics and reasoning that underlie them.
Serious students of backgammon will probably skip forward to the section describing the doubling paradoxes. Here you will find such esoteric topics as "Cube provocation plays with Jacoby paradox and Wisecarver paradox". The Latto, Kauder and Kulseth paradoxes are also ably described with numerous examples.
This book is unashamedly not intended to help its readers play better backgammon. But there are a few gems here that will add to your armoury of tricks, techniques and shortcuts for use over the board. Its real value, however, is as an entertaining departure from traditional backgammon manuals. It is absorbing and enjoyable, and deserves its place alongside more serious backgammon literature.
Chris Bray, backgammon correspondent for The Independent (London)
--- highly entertaining --- looks at the lighter side of the game and provides a fascinating insight into some of the numbers involved that you would never normally consider.
Tom Keith -
July 2012, posted on the very excellent website bgonline.org.
At Novi I had a chance to buy a copy of Raymond Kershaw's new book, Backgammon Funfair.
The book was a nice surprise. It's not a standard backgammon book. It's a book of diversions, and puzzles, and mathematical oddities about backgammon. If you are looking for a book to improve your backgammon play, this is not the book for you (although Chapter 47, "Effective Pip Count," does contain the warning: "This Chapter is in danger of being useful.").
Most of the curiosities have been written about before, but many of the sources are so obscure that even though I think I'm pretty "aware" of backgammon literature, a lot of them were new to me. Kershaw dug up these unusual facts, organized them, illustrated them, explained them, improved them, and expanded upon them. Then he added a few of his own discoveries.
Here are some of the amusing, if not useful, facts found in this book:
In bearing off, you would think it is always better to leave one checker rather than two for your final roll. It turns out that's not always the case.
Double sixes is not always your best roll when bearing off.
There are some positions that have exactly zero equity.
The book has all sorts of little
tit-bits. For example, did you know that hitting four blots in four different quadrants with a single roll is called "picking a four-leaf clover"? And I was surprised to learn that only 0.389% of bearoff positions are gin (cubelessly) for one side or the other.
Ray obviously put a lot of work into this project. On the back cover it says "for several decades he has been accumulating much of the material for this book."
In a few cases, I wish there were more explanation about the motivation for a puzzle. For example, Chapter 45 talks about "Count Down" but doesn't explain what that is.
Although the book is a little on the expensive side ($35), it is nicely bound, with good paper, and every page is in full colour. It's a worthwhile read for anyone that enjoys looking at backgammon from a mathematical and logical perspective, and a unique offering in backgammon literature.
And Timothy Chow
wrote in reply - August 2012, posted on bgonline.org.
Tom wrote an excellent review here on BGOnline and I just wanted to add a few comments. I bought Ray's book and enjoyed it thoroughly. It's a really splendid collection of backgammon paradoxes and oddities, very attractively printed and organized. There's nothing else like it. If you have enjoyed some of the offbeat backgammon puzzles that appear on BGO from time to time, such as finding the fewest number of rolls to return to the starting position, finding the position with the lowest nonzero winning chances, cataloguing Jacoby paradox positions, and so forth, then this book is for you.
Tom Keith - publisher of Backgammon
It's a worthwhile read for anyone that enjoys looking at backgammon from a mathematical and logical perspective, and a unique offering in backgammon literature.
More by Timothy Chow, mathematician.
Backgammon Funfair is an extraordinary, delightful collection of backgammon paradoxes and extreme positions that you would have sworn were impossible. No other book remotely like this remarkable work has ever been published.
Review by Mary Hickey, for US Backgammon Federation,
If you feel the need for a break from the serious study modern backgammon requires, consider taking a peek
through the kaleidoscope offered by Raymond Kershaw's Backgammon Funfair. This catalog of the game's quirks and
curiosities just might provide the holiday your doctor ordered.
Review by Jake Jacobs, for Flint Area Backgammon News
Think of it as the Guinness Book of Backgammon Records, with all the Best, Worst, Least and Most collected between covers.