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Boards Blots and Double Shots

Norm Wiggins, in BOARDS, BLOTS, and DOUBLE SHOTS, is the latest to wrestle with BG’s unsolved mysteries. Readers east of the Rockies may be unfamiliar with Norm. He is LA based, and seldom enters events further east than Las Vegas. He is, however, a quite good player of long experience. The earliest backgammon books I read, after Magriel’s, were Dwek’s BACKGAMMON FOR PROFIT, and Cooke’s PARADOXES AND PROBABILITIES. Both are problem books, one position after another, with a “what do you do here?” caption. It is a lot of fun reading that sort of book, especially when you reread one, and get all the problems right! Norm’s book is in that vein. Back in the ‘70s authors like Cooke and Dwek, when they weren’t concocting positions to illustrate specific themes, got their material from life, from games they played or observed. Today we glean positions the same way. But today we have high-tech filters through which to strain them. Over the years Norm, like the rest of us, has written down positions of interest to him, and run them through JellyFish™. B.B.& D. S. is a compilation of those he found most interesting. (Which makes its closest kin Woolsey & Heinrich’s NEW IDEAS IN BACKGAMMON.) After choosing the positions he wanted to write up, he took them to California experts Ray Fogerlund and Art Benjamin, who independently reviewed them, and offered feedback, and suggestions for further exploration. Then, he turned his first draft over to Danny Kleinman, whose experienced hand edited it into its final form.

One measure of a problem book is its problems. (I get paid for insights like this. It’s almost criminal!) Try Problem 42, from page 49 on for size.

Many of you are perhaps asking “Money? Match? Match score?” Here it happens not to matter, but for reference, all problems are presented as arising in money games, and all are checker play problems.

Norm deals with this one succinctly. Hitting is mandatory. The “safe” 13/12, 11/5 is a whopping error. Denying White a second anchor wins more games, more gammons, and more backgammons. A second short paragraph notes that were White’s prime solid instead of broken, the choice would be much tougher.

Problem 101 refers back to Problem 42 for its analysis. Despite your cheesy board, and White’s already owning an advanced anchor, the super blitzing 10/4*, 2/1* is correct. When it works, you crush White, and if White enters, hitting, unless he rolls a crusher like 11 you still stand better. Norm notes that if White had another inner board point, 20/14, 2/1* would be preferable. It is outside the scope of his book, but at many match scores 20/14, 2/1*, which wins slightly more games, and loses slightly fewer gammons, would again be correct. The covering play 9/2 is inferior under all circumstances.

We’re having so much fun hitting, let’s try it again.

Yep, 7/1*, 6/5 is best. This time the non-hitting play 24/18, 6/5 is better at some match scores, but hitting wins so many more gammons that for money you should whack away.


What do these three positions teach us? Whenever you roll 6-1, hit inside your board! Well, maybe that wasn’t Norm’s point. That was a joke. (I get paid for those too!) Actually, there are plenty of other 6-1 problems in Norm’s book where the answer is not “hit inside.” All the other major rolls are represented as well, except 6-6 and possibly 4-4, which may be making an unbilled cameo in Problem 86. (Next time 6-6 and 4-4 should get a better agent.)


I enjoyed wrestling with these problems. If you liked NEW IDEAS IN BACKGAMMON, I think you’ll like this book. There are 129 problems. Some seemed to me simple or obvious, but I am sure that some of the positions that have fascinated me over the years, would cause most of you to yawn. Norm tells me that his experts averaged around 60% when they tried these problems. If the experts missed 40%, I’d expect the intermediates to miss at least ¾. Don’t worry, I bet you’ll do a lot better the second time!



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