For the first time in my life, my rating in backgammon surpassed 1,800.  I think that puts me in the top 6% of over 7,000 registered players on FIBS, the site where I play.

I’ve written and erased and re-written the above paragraph twice now.  I have two rules when I write.  No bitching and no masturbating.  I’m trying to express my accomplishment without falling into the later category.

Backgammon is over 5,000 years old.  It’s been played by emperors and pharaohs, generals and foot soldiers,  peasants and clergy.  It was banned by the Church once because it brought too much joy into people’s lives.  I also read recently that Wayne Gretzky, Canada’s greatest hockey player, was won by the Edmonton Oilers in a game of backgammon.

I find the game to be a perfect metaphor for life.  You roll the dice, and you make the best move possible, given your current situation.  Sometimes the move you make is easy to figure out.  Sometimes not so much.  Sometimes you choose between the lesser of two evils.  Sometimes it’s too good to be true.  More rolls are coming, good and bad, and you need to roll with those rolls too.

Like life, the game can turn sideways in an instant.  You think you’re in control, but really you’re not.  One roll is all it takes.  Get too emotional, too high, or too low, and you usually make your situation worse.  Like life, there’s always a chance you’ll come out on top, no matter how grim your situation. It’s best simply to take a deep breath and make your best play, over and over and over again until the game is finished.

The best players know the probabilities of any given move at any given time.  They look at the board and they see numbers whizzing by.  It’s the same kind of math quantum physicists use to find sub-atomic particles.  Other players (like myself) rely more on pattern recognition.  I’ve played over 17,000 games online, seen a lot of situations, and observed how the best players play those situations.  At one time my rating was as low as 1,320, now I’m at 1,800.

That’s what the rating means to me.  Life is completely random.  Getting through it requires an iron stomach and a reasonable sense of how to move forward.  You pay attention and you see patterns emerging around you.  There’s always hope for a brighter future.

I still have a whole lifetime of learning ahead of me, but I seem to be on the right track.  I’ll take my lumps along the way too, but I’ll learn from them and hopefully become better for it.

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