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The best way to measure?

Posted By: Phil Simborg
Date: Sunday, 30 November 2014, at 3:09 p.m.

In Response To: Data regarding ABT open players' PR - Part 2 (David Presser)

Very interesting data, and yes, it does show a higher skill level that I expected. Thanks for doing all this work and sharing it.

A couple of thoughts about that:

1. Since you didn't include yourself, the true number is really a little lower, as you are clearly better than the average player;

2. Since you generally only go to major events, I believe the average PR is also lower for that reason, as the average skill of the open players at the bigger tournaments is, I believe, far better than it is at smaller events.

I believe the most meaningful measurement (to me) is the median PR for the first round only....throw out the very high and very low and only first round where you have all the players entered, and that will give you the best picture of the PR level of the Open player.

Now, what difference does it make if it is 6 or 7 or 8. I think that is a big difference. I believe one of the most practical conclusions I take from your data is that for the most part, in the open division, it doesn't pay to change your game because of skill differences. With the exception of the very top playing the very worst players, the differences in skill are generally not enough to warrant making intentional errors. (Taking advantage of your knowledge of the particular faults of a given opponent is different.)

I believe that was not as true 20 years ago, and even 10, as then I believe the average PR for Open players was not only much worse, but the number of matches played between really good players and comparatively poor players was much higher, and that is why the lessons in Jake and Walter's "Fish" book were more pertinent then than now.

I believe another very interesting data would be the PR averages and differences in the semis and finals of tournaments. Of course we know the numbers will be lower and closer, but it would also seem logical that the player with the higher luck factor will win a much larger percentage of the time as well. I believe the same would hold true in the Masters competitions.

This is why I continue to believe that we need to make some changes in the rules to increase the difficulty of the game and the skill factor at ONLY the highest levels of play. I think we would all rather see the better player win more when two Giants are clashing, and we all know ways to make the game more difficult and complicated, and therefore more skillful. I don't think the semi-finalists in a tournament would be confused by a couple of small rule changes that make the game more difficult, or even going to Nackgammon at that point in the tournament.

One thing we often do now is make the finals matches longer. Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to doing that: it makes the game less exciting in the earlier stages and for many, more boring to watch. It makes the game far less exciting for the less-skilled players who can't fully appreciate the nuances of the play, and therefore less attractive for media and sponsorships. And it can be argued that a series of short matches, say 3 out of 5 to 5, would be much more exciting and interesting because of the number of DMP and GG and GS games and critical cube decisions.

[At most tournaments, while the finals are being played, you will see many players in side events and chouettes instead of watching two of the best in the world battle it out....even very knowledgeable players aren't that excited to watch the finals...but when it gets toward the end of the match, if it is close, a crowd will often gather. Also, except for very major events, the number of people watching the streamed finals is quite low given the size of the world backgammon community.]

Personally, I would rather see the masters and finals and later stages of the Open with some actual changes to the game to make it more difficult, such as The Simborg Rule or Nack's slotting rule; playing Nackgammon; series of shorter matches; and duplicate gammon, dual-duel, and other suggestions that tend to reduce the luck factor.

In the past, when I have made these suggestions, one of the most common arguments against them is that were are making the game too difficult and making it even harder for lower-level players to win; and the game is great the way it is; and the luck factor makes it more fun and exciting. I agree with all of these statements for the game in general. I am only talking about making the game more complicated and skillful at the very highest levels of play.

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