Backgammon and Technology – Part II


In this second article of the series we are going to look at specific modern technology that you can use to improve your backgammon skills. We shall review relevant software and begin to take a look at actually playing the game.

Computers. (continued from part I in the series)

Jellyfish, the worlds first commercial neural net backgammon software was created by Frederik Dahl. It was named Jellyfish because it had about the brainpower of a jellyfish when compared to humans. This does not mean JellyFish was a bad piece of software. It had a good interface and was easy to use, resulting in thousands of players using the software.

As a result the general level of play increased more and more. Rollouts were proving more reliable results for more positions and players were quick to learn from their new found friend. It was by no means a perfect program and had its faults but Jellyfish did a great deal for the development of backgammon.

The next development came with the release of the software known as Snowie, named so because unlike Jellyfish , Snowie had seven neural nets instead of one and thus its creator Olivier Egger named it Snowie after Snowwhite and the Seven Dwarfs. Currently Snowie is at Version 4 and has improved with each new generation. Downside to Snowie is the fact the the proffesional version enabling users to do rollouts costs nearly US$400.

In reply to this the GNU project created and released GNU Backgammon or GNUBG. It uses neural network technology and is free to download and use.

The current version of GNUBG is very powerful and both it and Snowie can match world class players. Some technical aspects of the game need to be improved but the software never has issues with emotion or distraction which gives them it a great advantage over many human exponents of the game.
Playing Backgammon

Most people learn backgammon or any game for that matter by playing against friend and family. Once you reach a certain skill level you may join a club or play in a tournament.

Whilst you are developing your playing skills you should be studying backgammon literature to really be able to understand the game. Reading and studying are good ways to accelerate your learning curve. If you are serious about improving your skil level you must devote time to study and read what the experts have to say.

No doubt you will discover that playing with a small steady group of people limits the rate of development. To really make gains you need to play against as many different people as you can and play as often as possible.

How does one do this when limited by the number of players that are available. Whereas in the 70’s you could find backgammon players in any pub or bar or in one of the large number of clubs that existed, these days we will in a society that is always in a hurry and as a result there are many less backgammon clubs and places to play. This is not to say that there arent a number of good clubs around the globe but many of the modern players want to be able to play when he/she want to and preferably instantaneously.

Online backgammon sites have been created to meet the players demand for 24 hour realtime action against thousands of players from allover the globe, with a large variety of skill levels. We will be looking at these in Part III of the series and explain how and where you can gain the most from online play.