Online vs Offline Tournament Backgammon

Should you adapt your backgammon game ?

Backgammon tournaments come in a variety of formats both on and offline. There are some obvious differences between playing backgammon tournaments on or offline, such as throwing the dice, moving the men and being able to physcically see your opponent. In this article we are going to be taking a look at some of the of the other differences between the two.
Cheating

A nasty topic but one that is relevant never the less. Now we all know that there is a risk of being cheated no matter what format you play. In live play people can attempt illegal moves, edit the score and cheat with the dice.

Personally I do not think that cheating occurs very often in a offline game or tournament due to the fact that you are sitting directly opposite your opponent and are able to stare him or her in the face. There are some very sophisticated forms of cheating such as loaded dice and magnets in the backgammon board that are a little more difficult to detect, but there have been plenty of cases where people have been caught and banned.

Playing backgammon online makes cheating a lot more difficult to detect. There have been instances of players using aids such as Snowie and Jellyfish software to help them decide their moves. There is also no way of knowing if your opponent is being assisted by a much better player.

Personally my attitude toward cheating is what my Grandfather once said to me , trust everyone but be sure to cut the cards. In live play I am alert to things that suggest foul play. When playing online I know that if my opponent plays like a world class player, then he either is one or he is a cheat. Thats why I prefer to play on servers like Gammon Empire and Play65 so that I can run every match through the analysis software and see where I went wrong and how my opponent performed. If I play against someone who consistently plays like a computer then I will report them. I have personally been responsible for the catching , reporting and exposure of several cheaters.

My best advice to you is that if you are really worried about cheating then dont play. There are always going to be people who cheat at games, be it poker, chess, or backgammon.

The Dice

I have heard of many players complaining about the dice when playing online.

Common complaints include more frequent occurences of doubles and getting the worst possible roll at the worst possible time. All I can say is `Rubbish`, Dice are strange things, whether you play on or offline backgammon. There will always be an ocassion when your opponent rolls that double six and beats you right at the end. And yes there will be times when he or she makes that single throw that causes that single exposed checker to be hit.

Many studies have been conducted on the dice at the major backgammon servers and the results have all shown the rolls to be random. Its human nature to remember the bad rolls over the good ones. I have been playing backgammon online for close to 20 years and I am convinced that the dice are random and fair , otherwise I would not be playing online backgammon at all.

The Right Strategy

What about the differences in strategy between offline and online backgammon tournaments ?. My advice to you is that unless you know and recognise a particular weakness in your opponent, Do NOT change the way you would normally play.

If you are playing an opponent in a live backgammon tournament and you know that he is timid about taking doubles, then you should be more inclined to double early. This may get him to drop a cube that he should have taken. The same advice applies to playing in a online backgammon tournament. Unless you know about the quirks of your opponent, or unless his body language or comments give you a clue that could influence your backgammon game, your strategy should be the same whether playing on or offline backgammon tournaments.

Legal Moves

When playing online backgammon you do not have to worry about making illegal moves. Its a different story when playing in a live tournament, you have to be very careful. In most offline backgammon tournaments your opponent has the right to decide whether your move will be allowed or whether you have to play it over. You have to watch your opponent very carefully, as he might make a mistake that could cost you the game. I have seen backgammon matches where a player has rolled a 4-1 and made his 5 point as if he had rolled a 3-1 without the opponent seeing it and matches where players have rolled a double and removed 5 checkers. It pays to be alert!

The Pip Count

Another difference is the issue of pip count. Almost all backgammon servers will show you the current pip count. When you play live you have to conduct the pip count personally. This is often the most difficult change players face, when making the transition from online to offline play. Really good backgammon players learn to count pips very quickly and know the exact pip count at any point in the game where it may prove important. Even when the pip count is not critical early on in the game, good players will still be aware of their racing equity and know how far ahead or behind they are in the overall race. After all being up or down just a few pips in the early stages of the game can completely change your strategy.

Summary

I speak from personal experience on this issue. I manage to play in most of the major tournaments in the U.S., and have been doing so for years. I have played in hundreds of online backgammon tournaments over the past 20 years on almost all of the major servers. Whether im playing on or offline backgammon , I play the same way. I enjoy both types of tournament. I love being with people and making friends at the live events, and I love being able to play my favorite game whilst lying in my bed at night. I have also made many friends playing online backgammon tournaments. I have found that the experience I get playing online backgammon tournaments, and then studying my errors after running matches through Snowie, has helped develop my live play immensely. I attribute that study as the major reason I was able to achieve the rank of No. 2 in the U. S. on the ABT tour last year.

If you like to play online backgammon , and you do not play in live events, I urge you to do so. The transition is not very difficult and you will find, after you get used to moving the checkers and counting the pips, that the live game can be a lot of fun. If you are a live player, then do not forget to play online backgammon tournaments, again, I urge you to give it a try. It’s fun; it keeps your game focused plus it’s a great way to spend your time instead of watching the TV.

Hope to see you online !

Phil Simborg

October 2006