• 2018 - Position 135

    XGID=ba--BAD-A--AbD---bbd-Ab-A-:0:0:1:00:2:0:0:7:10

    Match Play. Red leads 2-0 to 7. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

    For money this is a crystal-clear drop but once gain the match score influences the decision. Because Red only has a two-point board at the moment White can squeeze out a take at the moment.

    If he can anchor he is in the game to the end and will be redoubling much earlier than normal. I was surprised by the rollout result and it is a good reference position. Dropping is actually rated by XG as a big error.

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  • 2018 - Position 134

    XGID=--BBBBB-----aB---d--cdBabA:0:0:1:00:0:2:0:5:10

    Match Play. Red trails 0-2 to 5. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

    I had this position in a London League match against Chelsea Arts captain, Brenda Rosen.

    In my youth I would never have doubled a position like this because match play doubling was so poorly understood. Now we know better. Winning a gammon will get me to Crawford. White will hardly ever be able to redouble and even if I miss now there may well be more shots later.

    I doubled (correct), Brenda took (correct) and I rolled 61 and won a gammon. Perhaps surprisingly not doubling is a double blunder.

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  • 2018 - Position 133

    XGID=a--aBBC-BB--b--A-b-e--bbBA:1:-1:1:44:0:0:1:0:10

    Money Play. How should Red play 44?

    Over the board I played bar/21, 15/3* fairly quickly and was surprised when XG didn’t much like that play, preferring bar/21, 24/20(2), 15/11.

    That play reduces the gammon wins by 8% but wins 4% more games overall. The key is that hitting increases the gammon losses by 5%.

    The hitting play leaves Red’s rear checkers somewhat stranded so the idea is to create a strong advanced anchor and then attack White. Attacking first can lead to problems so why not avoid those variations.

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  • 2018 - Position 132

    XGID=ac--B-D-B-AAcB----Bd-bbA--:0:0:1:00:0:0:1:0:10

    Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

    Perhaps surprisingly White’s home board plus his long-term ace-point anchor give him just enough to take this double. Of course, not doubling is a double blunder, given Red’s immediate threats.

    I wouldn’t blame anybody for dropping this and in a high stakes chouette not many boxes would take this as White (unless of course they were very rich!).

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  • The Art of War

    Two thousand five hundred years ago, Sun Tzu wrote the classic book of military strategy based on Chinese warfare and military thought. Entitled “The Art of War”, the book has been used by all levels of the military ever since. Its teachings have been adapted for use in politics, business and everyday life.

    Its teachings are also to applicable to representations of war and never forget that backgammon is precisely that. The two armies of fifteen soldiers manoeuvre on a small battleground and strive for ascendancy.

    Two fundamental pieces of teaching from Sun Tzu are these: never let your army be split into groups that cannot communicate with each other; soldiers that are away from the field of battle cannot usefully contribute to that battle. In extremis this latter point can be extended to the well-known backgammon aphorism, “dead men tell no tales”.

    This week’s position comes from this year’s World Championship. White was Akiko Yazawa, the 2014 World Champion, but the focus here is on Black. He has doubled and has a strong position. He would like to have thrown a three but 51 popped out of the cup. How should he play it?

    He certainly had not read Sun Tzu’s book as he woodenly moved 10/5, 7/6. This play is safe, but it does not meet the demands of the position. After 10/5, 7/6 Black has 12 checkers in his home board that will not be moving for some time to come. While the home board acts as a deterrent those twelve checkers are effectively frozen in time and nearly all of his moves will have to be made with his three rear checkers.

    Secondly, Black’s army is split in two and it is White who controls the outer boards. Because of this many of Black’s may become forced and the wrong double at the wrong time could crunch his home board.

    Now look at the strength of 24/18. This keeps the bar point slotted and if there is an exchange of hits on the bar or elsewhere then Black’s strong home board may well come into play. Even 20/15, 7/6 was much better than the move played. The end result was that White took control of the game and ended up winning the game with a well-timed redouble.

    “The Art of War” has stood the test of time for the very good reason that its teachings are as relevant today as when they were first written. You may not want to read the whole book but if you browse the Internet for some of its more famous quotes I am convinced they will improve your game.

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