• 2017 - Position 187


    Money Play. How should Red play 63?

    It is too easy to play 9/6, 9/3* but that leaves a lot of extended jeopardy.

    After 9/3, 6/3* if not hit Red should be able to get home without any future problems. Yes, occasionally he will have two blots hit and lose a gammon but backgammon is a game of risk and reward.

    9/6, 9/3* loses 9% more games but only loses 7% more gammons so that play is a blunder.

    Correct is 9/3*, 6/3. Even if White had a perfect board it would still be the right play.



  • Autumn Musings

    As autumn progressed the nights were drawing in and we had returned to 221B in darkness. Sitting before a roaring fire we quickly warmed up after our perambulations through nearby Regent’s Park. With no case to occupy us Holmes and I once again found ourselves discussing our favourite game.

    “Just how difficult do you think the game of backgammon is, Holmes” I enquired.

    “Like all great games, Watson, it is easy to learn and one can become adept in a matter of months but, as you would expect of a game that has survived five thousand years, the intricacies become ever more complex the more one analyses.”

    “Much like the art of detection, perhaps?”.

    “Indeed so, my dear doctor. An apparently simple case can contain levels of detail not apparent to the casual observer. It is the same with backgammon. Attention to detail is paramount but that must be coupled with a deep understanding of the strategies of the many game types. Let me you give you a simple example from our game last evening.”

    So saying, Holmes set up the board to the position shown above and asked me to reconsider my play of Black’s 61.

    “As I recall, Holmes, I played 8/1 so that if White ran with one his rear checkers I could attack without worrying about the blot on my ace-point.”

    “Indeed, you did Watson, but that was muddied thinking. You had your priorities wrong. I was not likely to cede my anchor for a few rolls but meanwhile you should have given more thought so clearing your outside points.”

    “Consider the following: your play risks a blot on an immediate double 6. Moreover, you want to clear those outside points as soon as you can. Ideally you will clear the 8-pt first but, if the dice dictate, then the bar-point could be cleared first.

    “Your play of 8/1 precludes the clearing of the bar-point next turn unless you roll doubles. With the correct play of 8/2, 7/6 you no longer leave a blot with double six and you are ready to clear either outside point. As an example, see how 54 plays after your 8/1 compared with my choice of 8/2, 7/6.”

    “Good Lord, Holmes. You see so much more than I do in what is an apparently simple position. I had but one idea. I see now that you must not only consider different elements of strategy but also keep a sharp eye out for tactical opportunities.”

    “I suspect the game will continue to confound all but the very best for many centuries to come’, concluded Holme and, so saying, reached for his meerschaum and his tobacco slipper.


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  • 2017 - Position 186


    Match Play. Double Match Point. How should Red play 44?

    In most scenarios the correct play would be 8/4(2), 6/2(2)* as more gammons are generated that way.

    At DMP purity often takes preference over brute force and that is the case here. 13/5(2) is the correct play albeit by a mere 0.022. A small difference admittedly but it the position serves well to reinforce the point about purity.



  • 2017 - Position 185


    Money Play. How should Red play 42?

    The choices are clear: bar/21*, 7/5 or bar/23, 9/5? Over the board Red quickly played bar/21*, 7/5 – the ‘obvious move.

    However, it gives up the valuable bar-point and now most White’s fives and sixes play well. The quiet bar/23, 9/5 maintains a four-and-a half point prime and also keeps pressure on the blot on White’s 4-pt. Both moves have clear pluses.

    I leant towards the quiet bar/23, 9/5 but the rollouts have the hitting play as a close winner. The third checker back plus destroying White’s slotted 4-pt gives Red a small tactical edge with the hitting play.



  • 2017 - Position 184


    Match Play. Red trails 3-5 to 7. Should Red double? If doubled should White take?

    This is very difficult.

    As noted in the comments most of the time you have to assume that Red will be closed out although occasionally Red will win a gammon, When he is closed out the game will be about 50-50.

    The problem with doubling is that it puts the match on the line (always beware the cube that gives your opponent the match exactly).

    It is very close because of those occasional gammons but Red does better to hold the cube here and wait for an opportunity to use it more efficiently later. Of course if you think your opponent is nervous enough to drop because of the gammon threat then that is different altogether.


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