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Backgammon Preparation

I play backgammon. I want to compete in tournaments at my highest potential, so I work with one of the grandmasters of the world, Zdenek Zizka (aka “ZZ”), as my coach. He has me playing five-point matches with a normal clock on Backgammon Galaxy and reminds me to review each match after completion. “After each match, go over the analysis and write down what is relevant, to remind yourself."

This morning, I came across the following quote from Abraham Lincoln, who — let’s face it — is one of those historical figures who tends to make us feel “less than,” but because of his fabulous self, we like him anyway.

“If you gave me six hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

Don’t tell ZZ, but I have not been reviewing the matches I play. If I am under 10 in my error rate, which is my play rating goal, I’m excited by my progress, and because my ranking is consistently rising, I just rush ahead to the next match. That’s me. Rush to the end. No four hours of sharpening the axe on my calendar.

Since I’m already confessing here, I’ll also admit that when I make a mistake during my coaching sessions, 9 out of 10 times it’s because I haven’t stopped and considered all the options. I choose the one that strikes me first, and go with it.

After playing six matches in an hour and a half this afternoon and reviewing none of them, I took the dog out in order to get my ten minutes of winter sun so I don’t get depressed. On my walk, it dawned on me that my approach to playing backgammon reflects my overall approach to life - and even work. It serves as a metaphor for how I do everything. I do things well. Sometimes, because I have resources and I’m generally what many people would consider “lucky,” I do them very well. But I sure don’t prepare the way ZZ says I need to if I want to reach my goal. And, there are many goals I haven’t reached, but realized today, might have been within my reach.

Never too late to change. What if I find my inner Abe? What if I don’t have to hope ZZ doesn’t ask about my homework? What if I learn to take my time and review every match and every move of a game? What would that do for me?


Karen Davis, my co-founder of Women in Backgammon (join us if you like the game and want to improve), is one of the top female players in the world. On every call we have, in every piece she writes for our organization, in every sentence she utters, she digs deep. There’s never any rushing from that fabulous woman.

I will be very busy in the future. My new mantra: In all things, I will not rush; I will weigh the options.


The thing about backgammon that I love, is that it is filled with lessons to can carry with your anywhere.


--Christine Merser, Managing Partner, Blue Shoe


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Christine Merser aka CM, is managing partner and driver of all things Blue Shoe Content and Blue Shoe Publishing, as well as an author, lover of film and TV and backgammon player and co-founder of Women in Backgammon. You can read more from Christine on her Substack.

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