ARTICLE #29 [First published in February 1990 Chicagoland Backgammon Newsletter]

Best Play Syndrome

In our search for excellence, we always try to find the best play for a given position. That practice may prove impractical based on the reality of how backgammon is played. I believe that the top players infrequently make the best (optimum) plays. It’s logical and totally in keeping with the philosophy that when one makes a series of good plays, the best play is usually unnecessary.

The “best play syndrome” has captured the fancy of many developing players. It is based on the assumption that if you make all the best plays, you will become the best player. This idealized quest is foolish. Plays are interdependent. They are links in a long chain of circumstances -- and you are only as strong as your weakest link. this becomes obvious when the opponent attacks your weakness rather than your strength. (The proper evaluation of one’s level of play is measured through his mean average. The peaks and valleys of plays have little to do with expectations and more to do with prejudice.)

From long observation, I’ve noticed a bit of irony: the best plays from given positions are most often made by the weaker players of the game. The major problem comes from their getting into those awful positions. It’s not from the lack of ability, but rather from the misuse of it. They often develop brilliant, insightful moves to escape from their self-made traps. Their problem is that they are investing valuable time and effort in a negative equity cause.

I’m not knocking excellence or the rewards of that search. It just seems difficult to believe that anyone can function at nearly 100% over an extended period of time. I’ve learned that foolish expectation is the product of an over-inflated ego and skill is the knowledge of one’s limitations in spite of the hopes he may have.

Fortune Cookie
If you see the attack, you are too late. You must see the threat to do anything about it.

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