I believe that most players play better backgammon online than they do in real life.
The reason for this is that online they have the Pipcount shown so they are very aware whether they are ahead in the race or behind in the race and are more likely to make the correct decision with that information.
One of the joys of teaching backgammon is that I have had students tell me “you can try to teach me how to Pipcount, but you’re just wasting time as I’m not good at it”, but after one lesson they discovered that they can do it.
If you only ever intend to play online, then you do not have to worry about it. However, live backgammon is so much better, that I would prefer to live play over online every time.
Many excellent shortcut methods give you either an approximate Pipcount or just the difference. Go to YouTube and search for ”backgammon Pipcounting”.
So let’s look at this position again, with the Pipcount added:
You have the choice of two different moves here.
The first move is to start clearing the midpoint with 13/7:
You know that Black would like to run here, whichever move you choose, as they will be up in the race by 9 pips before the roll.
If you compare the resulting position after Black rolls 63:
This is the racing play, when you are behind in the race.
You will see that you will be forced to attack Black’s rear most checker when you only have a 2 point board.
Even if you point on Black with say 31:
Black will have 27 rolls that enter from the bar – that is 75% of the time.
Suppose instead you play 7/3 6/4:
Suppose that Black runs with 63, and again you rolled a number like 32 that makes a point, but leaves at least one blot on your board.
You would play 7/4 7/5* as it only leaves 1 blot.
Now black only enters with 20 rolls or 56% of the time. You have reduced Blacks entering rolls by 7 rolls or 19% of the time.
If Black does not enter or enters on your 1 point and does not escape, you will quickly build your board and be threatening to either attack or make a 6 prime.
By comparing what is likely to happen, you can see how improving your board with 7/3 6/4 gives you a better chance of winning.
So invest the time in learning how to Pipcount, it will pay dividends.
When I played my first tournament in New Zealand, it was in Stratford, run by Alan Abel.
Being mainly an Internet player up to that point, I had just taught myself how to do Pipcounting. In the tournament, I played Alan and we got into a lot of racing positions where I needed to know the Pipcount. I had practised, so I did the Pipcount got the right answer and doubled. Alan then made the right take or pass decisions. I remember thinking that he must be a good Pipcounter. It was only after our match that Alan told me that he was not a good Pipcounter and that I had done all my Pipcounting out loud talking to myself. I literally told him the Pipcount every time he needed to know it. So if you do learn how to Pipcount, make sure you do it in your head!