Position 314

How should White play 32 here?

“ ‘I had the sucker! It was huge, and a real beaut. But just as I was about to haul it in, it wriggled off the hook. Bad luck, I guess…’

“Often it’s hard to tell the difference between a fishing enthusiast hail of the one that got away, and a backgammon players story about the incredible dice that cost and the big game that he should have one and in both genres, the bad luck often results from some forgotten (or unnoticed) technical error.” – Walter Trice “Backgammon Boot Camp” page 93.

Sometimes you really are unlucky, but from my experience, far too many times I do not spend enough time thinking about the best way to bear in and bear off in the end game.

In this position, all the alternatives that you will consider leave 13 shots so to come to the correct answer you must correctly weigh the competing factors.

You consider putting your opponent on the bar against a 3 point board with 5/2 4/2:

You note that your opponent will stay on the bar with 9 rolls, but is that what you really want? If they stay on the bar, you will leave a shot with 66, 55, 44, 65, 64, 63, 62, 54, 53, 52, 43 and 42 – that’s 21 rolls or 58% of the time. The fact that your top two points contain an odd number of checkers should alert you to the fact that this is a very bad structure.

You may like this move because it puts your opponent on the bar, and think that it wins the most Gammons. In fact, it wins the least Gammons of all the alternatives because of the danger of being hit.

Consider taking a checker off without hitting by playing 5/off:

Now you have an even number of checkers on the top two points and if you are not hit you will only leave a shot with 33, 62, 52 and 42 which is seven rolls or 19% of the time.

But can we do better? Consider 5/2*/off:

Your opponent will stay on the bar when they roll 44, 11 and 41. If they stay on the bar, you will only leave a shot with 33, 62, 52 and 42 – the same seven rolls as the previous alternative.

The difference between this move and the previous 5/off, is that when they roll 66, 64 or 61 they are forced to enter on your 6 point and you will not have to you worry about leaving a shot. Even if they enter with any 3 except the hitting 32, they will be on a higher point in your board than they were, so it will be easier to play safely behind them.

All these factors make 5/2*/off the correct play.

Walter Trice’s “Backgammon Boot Camp” is a book worth reading. Just make sure you get the second edition which had a lot of the errors corrected. At the time of its writing Snowie was the bot being used, and its recommendations for the opening move are not the same as XG’s.


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