Backgammon in Modern Times

There have been many studies on Backgammon by computer scientists. The studies on networks called Neural networks and the other approaches by scientists have indeed provided some of the important advances to the Backgammon software both for analyzing troublesome games and in playing the game or matches as well.

One of the very first Backgammon opponents which was created as a computer program was the BKG 9.8. Hans Berliner wrote it in 70's based on a DEC PDP-10 primarily aimed to be a guinea pig for evaluating the positions of the checkers on the board.

There were earlier versions of the BKG but they were badly played even when playing against poor Backgammon players. Berliner took note of the critical errors. He concluded that the critical errors were at the changing of the phases constantly. He proceeded to apply the fuzzy logic which are applied principles focused in smoothing out the transition of one phase to another and then by July 1979, the BKG 9.8 was concluded to be strong enough to compete against the ruling world champion then, Mr. Luigi Villa.

It won over Villa with the score 7-1, and it became the first computer generated program to defeat the world champion in any type of game. Berliner reiterated that the win of the BKG 9.8 was also a matter or stroke of luck, as the BKG 9.8 computer got more favorable rolls of the dice. But that is always a factor in Backgammon unlike chess or other games where a computer can be an opponent.

The late eighties saw the creation of much software for Backgammon which obtained success. All of these began to have success initially in using the neural networks approach as the basis as was the case with the BKG.

Gerald Tesauro from IBM created the TD-Gammon. TD-Gammon was among the first programs to play the level of experts in Backgammon. The neural network of the TD-Gammon was developed by making use of the temporal difference learning application, which was applied to the data and according to the first assessments by Kit Woosley and Bill Robertie the TD-Gammon could play even above the human level of Backgammon players all over the world.

The researches for computer generated programs for Backgammon also paved the way for two of the modern commercial programs for Backgammon. These were named Snowie and Jellyfish. There are other programs implemented with Java like the BGBlitz which is shareware. There is also free software being offered widely known as the GNU Backgammon. This software offers the necessary tools for the players' convenience in game analysis. They also offer the details for comparing moves.

Backgammon Project