• Prime Versus Prime Plus Blitz

    This position occurred in the online match between Neil Kazaross and the USBGF online readers. Black, the team, were leading 3-1 to 11 and when Neil doubled, the readers dropped. Most of the online comments indicated that the readers thought this was a very clear pass. Were they correct?

    The first reference point is to consider what the correct action is for money in any given position. Once that has been done the score should be factored in and the decision refined. So, let us start with the money decision.

    This is a prime versus prime position but White also has some blitzing potential. That makes it very dangerous for Black and he will lose a fair percentage of gammons. However, Black also has plenty of ways to win. He can prime White’s rear checkers, he could get lucky and make the bar-point anchor, he could blitz White once White has split his rear checkers and finally he could win from a 2-pt or ace-point game. Black’s position is fundamentally sound if he can survive the next couple of rolls. Of course, often he fails to survive those first two rolls and in fact he loses he loses a gammon about half the time.

    There is an old backgammon adage that says all prime versus prime positions are takes. White’s blitzing potential adds something to the equation but the old adage holds true. This is a reasonably comfortable take for Black and dropping is very nearly a blunder. He wins about a third of the time from this position. Although technically a take I know a lot of players would drop this because of the gammon threat.

    Not doubling from the White side would of course, be a huge blunder. Judging this to be a take over the board requires years of practice and a deep knowledge of reference positions. It also requires nerve, particularly in a high stakes game where many of the participants will probably be playing for more than they can afford!

    What about the match score? As we have seen frequently in recent articles even a small lead can heavily influence cube decisions. Here Black leads by two points and thus his redoubles to 4 will be constrained somewhat as White won’t need much of an excuse to return it on 8.

    This constraint changes the situation sufficiently that Black should drop the double and in fact taking now becomes a blunder. The readers were correctly to drop Neil’s double. The theory of match play doubling continues to evolve and positions like this one should be added to everybody’s reference library.

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