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These are a few of the writers who shaped the game.

Paul Magriel – The publicist’s cliché “If you only own one book about (fill in the blank)” might have been coined for Magriel’s classic Backgammon. Everything that has come after has used the terms that Magriel defined; no other book comes close in instructing beginning players on how to think about the game. Available through Carol Joy Cole.

Bill Robertie – After Danny Kleinman Bill is undoubtedly the most prolific author in Backgammon. Aside from his recent Modern Backgammon (link review) at least two of his earlier books are considered classics. Advanced Backgammon (two volumes) was for a generation the logical follow up to Magriel’s Backgammon. Lee Genud Versus Joe Dwek may no longer be the finest annotated match in print, but in 1982 it was light years ahead of the competition. Also recommended are Reno 1986 which features two matches of Nack Ballard’s in a test-yourself-against-the-experts format, and 501 Essential Problems. Available from the author at Gammon Press.

Danny Kleinman – I am not sure if even Danny knows how many backgammon books he has written by now! His first is the second most important book in the history of the game (trailing only Backgammon). Vision Laughs At Counting (With Miss Lonelyblots Advice To The Dicelorn) (two volumes) introduced the concept of match equity – and the table to go with it – to the backgammon public, and the game was changed forever.

Kit Woolsey – Three decades ago Billy Eisenberg used to be introduced as the only “World Champion in both Bridge and Backgammon.” I couldn’t tell you if Kit is a better bridge player than Billy (don’t worry, I’m sure Kit will J), but I know he is a better backgammon player, titles be damned! Kit has written a number of bridge books, a couple of which are considered classics, and he has written more than a couple of backgammon books. Ironically, his best known backgammon book is one of his lesser ones: How To Play Tournament Backgammon. The book is really a long pamphlet, a summary of the basics of match equities, takepoints, doubling windows, gammon prices. No new ground is broken, but that proves to be the book’s strength: it is the perfect introduction to match play for novice players. New Ideas In Backgammon (with Hal Heinrich), Backgammon Encyclopedia, and Understanding Backgammon (Tami Jones and Kit Woolsey) are all recommended.

Barclay Cooke – I have the funniest feeling that Barclay’s “best” book might be the one least remembered. In the early seventies Barclay collaborated on a book called The Cruelest Game with a writer named Jon Bradshaw. Bradshaw was a professional writer (as opposed to a professional backgammon player who happened to write) who authored one of the best books on gambling, a profile of six professional gamblers (including backgammon legend Tim Holland) called Fast Company. I recall The Cruelest Game as being peppered with anecdotes, and those would now be of more interest to students of the game than any backgammon advice Barclay had to offer. Barclay’s best known book is undoubtedly Paradoxes And Probablilities, which notoriously fared worst among Jeremy Bagai’s Backgammon Classics Revisited. Still, Barclay had a feel for the game, and if that can be communicated Paradoxes may be the most evocative work in the canon. Barclay’s last work was equally important (make no mistake, Paradoxes And Probabilities was an important book, shaping the thinking of a generation of players); Championship Backgammon was the first annotated match to be published. Crude, biased, and often wrong – hey, I could make the same case against Pilgrims Progress, and look how long that’s been around! But when Championship Backgammon appeared it was the first chance to not only peek over the expert player’s shoulder, but have him turn around and whisper to you why he played as he did. (For those who haven’t read it, Championship Backgammon was an account of a historic match between a pair of Americans – Barclay and his son Walter – representing the New World, and a pair of Brits – Phillipe Martyn and Joe Dwek – representing the Old. The format was to be 64 games played with duplicated dice, so that in one room the American would play the white checkers, and the British player the black, and in the other room the colors would be reversed, but the dice rolls the same. Championship Backgammon covered only the first eight games; Barclay died before any planned sequels appeared. Several years ago Bill Robertie was approached by a man named David Dor-El, who in the seventies had himself written The Clermont Club Book Of Backgammon. Mr. Dor-El now lives in the US, and told Bill that he was in possession of the balance of the match. Unfortunately he seemed to have wildly overestimated the 21 st Century Backgammon Public’s appetite for the lost games, and terms for publishing them were sadly not reached.)

Kent “KG” Goulding – The most prolific author never to write a book! KG wrote a series during the early 1980’s called Backgammon With The Champions, a series of annotated matches that introduced the public to the games of various top players of the era. Later, with Bill Robertie, he produced the excellent Inside Backgammon, a backgammon journal that set a standard during the 1990’s.

Harald Johanni – Germany’s Backgammon Magazin was all the more remarkable for being a one-man operation. Mario Kuhl tried to pick up where Harald left off, but couldn’t make a go of it.

Michael Maxakuli – The Las Vegas Backgammon Magazine was a product of its time. If backgammon to you is a naked showgirl dripping with honey, then this was the magazine for you!



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