In June 1979, computer programmer -- and chess player -- Hans J. Berliner watched his backgammon-playing program defeat world champion Luigi Villa by a score of 7-1. It was a remarkable victory. For the first time, a computer program had defeated a human champion at a board game.
Backgammon is a game of strategy and chance. A roll of the dice can convert imminent defeat into victory. That's what happened between Villa and BKG 9.8. Players who analyzed the games said that Villa was the better player but BKG 9.8 benefited from several lucky dice rolls.
Still, the victory marked a turning point in computer intelligence. Berliner explained that his program didn't rely upon a database of moves. Instead, it would analyze the position of pieces on the board and assess the risks or benefits of moving each piece before making a decision. Later backgammon programs became even more proficient at playing against human opponents.
The prize for the exhibition game was $5,000. There's no record of how BKG 9.8 spent its winnings.