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Will we ever see a genuine backgammon prodigy? (Long)

Posted By: Jim Stutz
Date: Tuesday, 29 July 2014, at 3:26 a.m.

I’ll define “backgammon prodigy” as a kid 14 or younger who plays to an average PR of 4 or better -- not exactly the BG equivalent of a young Judit Polgar, or a Magnus Carlsen, or a Bobby Fischer, but good enough to be better than 98-99% of seasoned adult backgammon players.

Is there a kid 14 or under out there who plays backgammon that well? Will there ever be a kid out there who plays that well? I would answer “No” to the first question and almost certainly “No” to the second as well. And I believe that the answer to the second question would still be “No” even if there were as many serious backgammon students out there as there are serious chess students.

And maybe this is just an obvious, uncontroversial conclusion -- after all, there aren’t many skills that kids can master at the highest level of adult sophistication. Included on that short list would be chess, of course, and also musical performance (although not singing, and certainly not composition), certain kinds of math reasoning and problem solving (but not applied math and engineering) and language acquisition (but no kid, no matter how talented at languages, can write worth a crap). But backgammon? I don’t think so. Child prodigies are blessed with keen intuition and uncanny instincts for whatever it is they excel at, but intuition and instinct will only take you so far – and not very far at that – in backgammon. In my opinion (which I admit is unsupported by any data) too much of the game is unintuitive and/or requires vast experience and adult sensibilities to master. No 14-year-old will ever consistently play to a PR of 4 or better.

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