He was engaging as well as undeniably brilliant. Other than backgammon recognition, we shared the quirks of both having mothers who were Queen of Mardi Gras and having our birthdays exactly half a year apart: Feb 1 and July 1. Best three out of five 7-point matches. They finished at midnight.
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Having defined the rules and the basic game types, it explains with excellent examples the principles of duplication and diversification, and the strength of the 5-point. It lays out rules for when to play boldly and when to play safe, when to split your back men and when not to split them. Many other basic and some not so basic backgammon concepts are explained. The author leads the reader on the journey from complete novice to competent player. The one area of the game which the book covers only lightly is doubling, but even here there are some gems.
Covers basic checker play very well. A must for the serious minded backgammon enthusiast. After an introductory section in which he gives examples of the four most common types of game running game, holding game, attacking game and priming game and some basic doubling cube strategy and maths, Magriel goes on to tackle most of the fundamental points of chequer play.
The main criticism of the book must be that it is weak on doubling strategy. This is surely as important as chequer play.
There are a couple of chapters on doubling, but a systematic exposition of the subject, in the style of the rest of the book, would have made the book even more valuable than it already is. Magriel systematically elucidates backgammon strategy, from fundamental to intermediate to advanced.
The book does great justice to its topics in its well-diagrammed over pages. The disadvantages are that some important details of advanced topics e. Also, the prose, though very readable, is structurally and stylistically weak. When I first read Magriel, about 15 years ago, I was very weak, and it transformed my game. I always recommend reading Magriel to anyone trying to improve. But then I reread it, skipping the the introduction, and tried to understand why expert players thought so highly of the book.
I began to understand the flow of the game better, the concept of game plans, and when to change your plan. It does a fine job of communicating the fundamentals of sound backgammon play.
I have read it many times: first, to become familiar with the concepts; later, to reinforce those concepts and to learn how to put them into practice; and continually, to maintain the fundamental ideas upon which the overwhelming majority of BG decisions are built. That being said, I would not look to Backgammon to bridge the gap between intermediate and expert play. For example, a key component to top-level play is the proper use of the cube, a subject on which Backgammon is all but silent.
The sections I found the most helpful are Chapter 16, Safe Play vs. Bold Play, and Chapter 20, Golden Point. Not merely a collection of problems, but in fact a textbook that presents a logically structured sequence of concepts, each supported by many illustrative examples. What is most striking upon a close rereading is the consistent simplicity of the positions. Magriel provides both before and after illustrations for ideal moves, followed by complete explanations for why some moves are better than others.
Section one is identical to his "Beginning Backgammon" book, and the rest of the book is for more advanced play. If you buy the book, make sure you are getting this one pages not the shorter one. The book is layed out in a format that explains each phase of the game in logical order.
A player that masters the concepts in this book will be head and shoulders above the average player. The book was written a while back, so is missing a few of the modern theories. This is a minor matter. I recommend this highly to the beginning and intermediate player. This was the first real textbook on the game.
The book is also valuable as a beautifully organized collection of simple problems. Each problem illustrates a point, clearly and unambiguously. And each problem fits neatly into the text, into the particular themes running through the chapter in which it appears.
There is nothing Magriel has to show you about backgammon that you cannot see for yourself if you just stop, look, and think about it. Yet this pointing out what you can see for yourself is the most valuable service a teacher of backgammon can perform for you.
This reputation is well deserved. Explained in as many words as are needed to get the point across, but not any less. He is not trying to be entertaining, but rather informative without being dry. Writers of books that need to explain stuff to the reader should learn from Backgammon on how to do it, regardless of field. I also appreciated the breakdown of the chapters, which is very logical. It builds from simpler topics to more complex ones and from the opening to the endgame.
Having defined the rules and the basic game types, it explains with excellent examples the principles of duplication and diversification, and the strength of the 5-point. It lays out rules for when to play boldly and when to play safe, when to split your back men and when not to split them. Many other basic and some not so basic backgammon concepts are explained. The author leads the reader on the journey from complete novice to competent player.