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Backgammon and Life (2) What are Strategies and Tactics, How are They Applied?


Strategies and tactics are present in all our pursuits. There are evidence that functions of our brain are structured alike. In backgammon, as in life, in order to be able to stay longer in the game, using strategies and tactics we obtain quality solutions pertaining to our goals in a limited amount of time. Strategies are solution models which point to the big picture – an understanding of the gist of the problem, and their values emerge in the long run. For example, in backgammon, making points is a strategy for moving checkers without getting hit and also blocking the opponent. Receiving training can be used as a strategy to get better job opportunities. On the other hand, tactics are mostly related to immediate, shorter term, life and death situations. They can be used when the problems have narrower boundaries and it is somehow possible to measure the probability of opportunities and the resulting gain. In backgammon, hitting an opponent checker can be used as a tactical means to direct the game to our end by limiting our opponent’s options. In the inexperience phase of our pursuits “what” and “how” questions are advantageous to proceed. In this article I will try to present an overview of such a look.

Since backgammon is basically a race, the side leading races more whereas the other side blocks more. In business world, some gets ahead, some tries to block or catch up, and still some others bring new dimensions to the race ground by revealing or inventing different and powerful characteristics. Strategies and tactics are related to the timespan focused and our ability to calculate/predict gains. In backgammon there are strategies and tactics spread to varying timespans of play such as move, game, match, tournament, season and backgammon career. The calculation for one move might be a tactical evaluation involving our selected candidate moves and the ways our opponent answers these. For example, we can group our opponent’s dice as good, medium, or bad, and then evaluate resulting scenarios corresponding to each group. As masters of this tactical evaluation, bots (computer backgammon programs) have provided human players so much contribution. Likewise, in business world similar analyses are performed frequently in brain storming sessions where computer simulations are also exploited.

In backgammon, there are strategies like racing, holding, blitzing, priming and backgame providing different contact and complexity options. In all strategies one side tries racing while blocking the opponent. In accord with the nature of the game, the best that leader in the race can do is to race only. The simplest way to win is to conceive the game or pursuit at the level of its design and not to deviate from the goal we envision for the game. However, when needed, strategies should be switched quickly because they are not the goal of the game but tools for winning. If only strategical tool we know is racing then we will inevitably look at all situations as race. Likewise, if we only think about winning then we miss the opportunity of growing with the pursuit. For example, if a company sets making profit as the only goal, in the bigger picture containing partners, employees, and customers it can manage to disappoint all.

To be able to employ strategies and tactics some measurable criteria are needed. In backgammon, there are lots of performance indicators and measurement methods like pip count (measures the race), crossover count, probability calculation methods, number of checkers on the bar, number of checkers at the back, number of home board points, and number of points in the prime. In backgammon and life, instead of keeping verbose information, measurable criteria show us whether our strategies and tactics are working and reusable in other applicable timespans. To this end it is also very important to get support from bots by understanding their design and operational principles; like the support we get from simulations and computer assisted analyzes in business world. In addition, with their evolutionary design, nature and animals are also very long time framed, complex systems that can shed light to these computational phenomena.

Strategies and tactics are used in backgammon and life as tools providing feasible solutions to the variable time framed problems occuring in our pursuits. In game and life it is necessary for us to gather all needed ones and to put them on use in all timespans we are interested in. The awareness of options and probabilities provides a way of psychological reconciliation with the factor of chance by using move and game based tactics. By zeroing the chance factor, on the other hand, strategies generate opportunities in longer timespans such as game, match, season, or backgammon career. In the next article in order to show that mastery requires an understanding of “why”s, I will follow along Sun Tzu who said “All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved”.

Sabri Büyüksoy


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