If you’ve read my book, A Lady Pays Her Penalties, you know that I enjoy playing backgammon on the Internet.
These days, when I play, it’s on Windows System 7. It’s a nice board, but I have a few quibbles about the changes from the old version.
A minor quibble is that the new version no longer tells you what language your opponent speaks. I used to like knowing if I was playing against someone who spoke Chinese or Russian or French. I wish they’d bring that back.
A more significant quibble is that the new version gives me a new opponent at the end of every match. Previously, I could continue playing against the same opponent for as long as we both wished. On the new version, I have to play against a new, random opponent on every match. That’s a pity. It was fun having a temporary, anonymous friend for a few matchs. It felt like we could almost understand each other.
By the way, five point matches are better than three point matches. That was an improvement. Thanks.
A far more important quibble is that the computer opponent is the stupidest backgammon player on earth. What’s with that? Don’t programmers at Windows know anything about either backgammon or artificial intelligence? A computer program that could play near world-class backgammon was developed back in the eighties. It, with the help of a few lucky rolls, beat the world champion. That was thirty years ago, folks. That Microsoft’s program plays worse than a rank novice should be an embarrassment to the boys in Redmond. Gosh, those guys sure don’t embarrass easily.
Which brings me to my biggest complaint of all. When your opponent drops out before the match is complete, you don’t get an automatic win. You have to play as many as three games against the stupid computer (only three because the stupid computer always accepts doubles, no matter how bad its position).
People drop out all the time when they’re losing. If you don’t want to spend more time playing Microsoft’s brain-dead program than real opponents, you have to take a loss, yourself.
Everyone that I know who is serious about backgammon terminates the match and takes the loss rather than wastes time rolling against the computer opponent. This makes the cumulative score useless. The better the player, the more often his opponents drop out and the more often the player takes a loss rather than playing against the stupid computer.
Hey, Microsoft, look up the word, concede, in the dictionary. When your opponent quits a game in the middle, he has conceded. In any tournament, that’s an automatic win for you. Do you think that a baseball league would force you to keep batting against a pitching machine if the other team walked out of the park? And I can assure you that batting against a pitching machine is more exciting than playing against Microsoft’s brain-dead backgammon program.
At the very least, the match should be disregarded. You should never be penalized because your opponent ran away with his tail between his legs.
And, while we’re on the topic of cowardly opponents, what’s with you guys who can’t finish a match? I’ve got a news flash for you: Not only are you automatically proclaiming yourself a lousy player, you’re not giving yourself a chance to get better. You’ll never learn to play a decent back game if you quit every time you get behind. You’d be amazed to find how often you can hit a blot when your opponent is bearing off and pull a win out of the fire.
And, by the way, figure out what the doubling cube is all about. That’s the heart of the game. Quitting because your opponent doubled you is like quitting a bridge game because your opponents bid on the contract. The doubling cube turns backgammon from a game of random chance into a game of psychology.
Instead of backgammon players being matched according to whether they are “novice”, “intermediate”, or “expert”, I wish that I could be matched according to whether my opponent was “childish”, “cowardly”, or “serious”.