Wednesday, 28 January 2009

GNU Backgammon - PC / Mac

Hurmph! (he/she exclaims after being soundly thrashed) You should play me at chess it is far more logical.

Harooo! (he/she exclaims after winning with two lucky roles) Backgammon is more realistic than chess because it contains luck and I am just lucky.

Both these responses are true enough but miss the beauty of backgammon: the eventual triumph of tactics over luck. It is this for me makes the game more satisfying than chess. Plus when people insist on carping about the grand complexity of chess; I always hasten to add that a computer game like Heroes of Might and Magic 3 (or god forbid MOO3) is more complicated than chess by a factor of about 10! Naturally nobody who plays chess seriously knows anything about Heroes of Might and Magic...

...I know that in the Eastern Block, somewhere, lurks the Kasparov of HOMAM.

Anyway...Backgammon is still a long way from being solved like Draughts (in fact this was only a soft solution...all imperfect permutations have not been mapped...but good enough) and GNU Backgammon is the perhaps the most powerful and highly ranked artificial backgammon intelligence (ABI) in the world. In the computer Olympics of 2006 it crushed the nearest competitor BGBlitz 3-1 (in sets of 5, 15 point matches). Using advanced neural networks it can compete favourably with the best human and cybernetic (mainly BGBlitz, Jellyfish & Snowie) players in the world. If you can win a best of 7 match against GNU on Grand Master level then you should go and do something else! Not only is GNU incredibly strong, it is feature rich; including hundreds of dispaly, difficulty, match analysis and tutoring modes.

Download from Official GNU Backgammon Website
Selection of other Backgammon Programs to Download
Origins of Backgammon
Rules of the Game (not Renoir)
Yahoo Online Backgammon Server
Play the Royal Mesopotamian Game of Ur online at the British Museum
The Finest Book on Modern Backgammon: Magriel

Backgammon has existed in some form or another for at least five thousand years (possibly originating from the Royal Board Game of Ur in ancient Mesopotamia) although the modern version was draughted by Elizabethan tavern crawlers and finally standardised by Edmond Hoyle in 1743. Backgammon is truly a deep and rewarding game, but be warned: on the path to enlightenment you will be almost irreparably annoyed!!

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