Robertie Bill Backgammon for Serious Players

September 26, 2017 | Author: Dutja | Category: Games Of Mental Skill, Gaming, Leisure Activities, Traditional Board Games, Board Games
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FOR SERIOUS PLAYERS I n ~ ? l mmmckmmmon ~i rrorkD -n


'E1 IN Bill Robertie

Winningat badcgammonrequiresmastering twophases ofthe game: dynamic checkerpIq (using your checkers as weapons to pin your opponent in awkward positions) and aggressivecube action (using the doubliig cube to maximize your wins in good positions and minimize your losses in bad positions). Both parts of the game are essential. Wkhout sharp checker play, you wont create the sorts af positions where you can outmaneuver and outplay your opponents.Without skillful use of the doubling cube, you won't earn as much from your good positions as you should. Ifyou're goingto be a big winner, you've got to master both of these elements.

In this book, I'll show you the secrets of aggressive checker and cube play as practiced by the greatest masters of the game. You'll lmn how to make your checkers work in multiple ways, how to build primes quickly when you need them, and how to drop back inro holding positions and back games for more win-

ning chances late in the game. You'll also lean the masterj~retsforoffering timely doubles,andhowto decide whether a cube i s a take or a drop.

By the time you've finished rmding, you'll be &ng to incorporate thest ideas in your own v. The results wiU be impressive. Your checker pky will put extra pressure on your opponents, forcing them into cramped, a w h d positions. Your cubcs will come at just the right moment, forcing tough decisions. Finally, your i m p d technique will let you bring your games to winning condusions,avoidingtheupmand turnarounds that will plague your o p p o m . Let's get s d !

The best way to study backgxnmon Is by looking at d games played by master players. There you'll h d , instead of contrived situations, the sort of dificuic yet fascinating positions that occur when Gackgammon i s played by competitors who redy undersmnd the game. In thls book I've collected five of the most interesting games h m master play in the last few ymrs. Each of the players is a first-class pro playing at the top of hi game. a

My fim book, adckgmtnonfir Wnnm, gave you a solid foundation for mastering the basic strategies of the game. In the games I've p i c h i for this book, you're going to be introduced to a higher level of play, full of new ideas that we haven't encountered before. R d carefully; there's probably a lot here that you've never seen. By she time you've worked yourway through the

whole book, your undersmnding and your play will have advanced several I d .

Backgammon is a game best studied not passively. It's tasy to MI into the trap of reading through a book quickly, noringwhatthe author has to say, tcllingyoum1F"Ohycs, hat's prettyobvious,"and moving on. Siac backgammon moves are all j u t sittingthere, waiting to be found, it's tempting to think that you would surely have found all these movts had you k n sittingat the table. lfyou'relthinkingthisway, you're studying p i r e l y .

I recommend a more active approach to reading chi book, Treat each game like a quiz, especially the first time you read through it.Tryusing a piece of paper or cardboard to cover a player's roll andmovc.Thcnmove the paper to uncover just the dice roll. Ask youtseif, "Whatwould I play here?"Ifyou want to, write down your play on a separate piace ofpaper. Now expose the actual play and compare it to what you would have done.

By reading and t&g yourself in this way, you'll compile a Iist of the plays you would haw made difkrently. Now the arplanations will be more m a n in&l, since youbealreadydone the work of grappling with the problem At the same time, you should also readclosely the wmrncna on the playsyou made correctly, since my wmmcnts may bring out some fkatum of the position you hadn't considerod.

Backgammon tournaments ate heH dl over the world and throughout theyear. On anygivenweekend,there will be local tournaments across the United States and throughout Europe. The game is currentlycatching on in SouthAmerica, and many new clubs and events are starting there.

The biggest tournaments are frequent enough ta comprise a~ informal tour,and a handful of professional players make the circuit. The big events include the Swiss tournament in Gstaad and St. Moria in March. Then it's on to St. Tropez and Zas Vcgas in April and May, Venice infune, andTheWorld Championship in Monte Carlo in July. A brief stopover in Cannes is followed by the highlight of the tour, the World Cup in Dallas. October is dedicated to the South American tournaments in Sao Paulo, Ria de Janiem, and Buenos Aires.Theseason finisheswith the Las Vegas Open and Pro Am DouMes Championship in November.

Tournamentsare great places to meet newplayers, take a look at new boards and quipmcnt, and pickup n m ofdubs opening.Mast top tournamens have a lecture series for beginners and inttrmcdiates, while pros: art always available for private lessons. Don't be intimidated if you're a beginner. Every tournament has sections and activities designedespeciallyfor newcomers. Besides,ifyou absorb the ltssons in this book, you won't stay a beginner for long? WKQAMMON TOURNAMENTS Backgammon tournaments arc run somewhat like tennis tournaments, using an elimination format In the first round, players are p a i d at random. If the numberof players is not qua1to a power of 2 (16,32, 64,128, and so forth),some players dl receive a bye, which is a free pass ro the ncm round. Each round,half the players arc climinatcd, until only two players remain.T h a two playerscompetein the finals for the title of champion.

Eliminated players are dropped inm a new m t , mlled the Consolation,Losers in the Consolationare dropped into a final event, the Last Chance.Matchts in the Consolation and Last Chance are typically shorter than in the main m n t , In a ypical tournament, about60%ofthe prize money k domed to the main mmt, with 30% in the

Cansolationand 10%in the Last Chance. Of course, the exact percentages and prizes are up to the tournament organizer. In addition to the main tournament with its Consolation and Last Chance,there are usudy manyjackpotsandside wents ping on atthe same time. Some players have been knawn ro play aver 100 matches during the course of a week-long competition.

A largc tournament may take 7-9 days to complete. Smaller regional events might be held over just a long weekend. A purely local event can be completed in a single day. Matches in regional and local events are much shorter than in the big international competitions. SPECEAL RULES FOR

TOURNAMENT P I A Y Tournament play is structured around matches that are played to a specified number of points. By tta&tion, the number of points in a match is always OM.In a local murnamenx, for example, the matches might m t at 9 points, increasing as rounds are pIayed to a 15 point final match. The longerthcmatch, the more skill is involved in the outcome. As in money play, the doublingcube is used. Competitors play gama and add the points won in tach game to their total sfore. When one player reaches the

dcsirad rod, the match is over and he is the winner. In tournament play, you don't have to doubIe to win a gammon. Thafs different from maney play, where in

most dubs the doubling cube must be turned for a prnmon or backgammon to be scored (the Jacoby Rule). Toward the end ofa match, the Crawford Rule comes into play. hventad many years ago byJohn Crawford, the Crawford rule statcs that when a player's score teaches one point from victory, hs i opponent cannot double in the very next game. If the mat& continues beyond the next game, the cube can be usod normdy.

For example, Smith and Joncs are playing a Ppoint match, and Smith wins a p e to make the score: Smith 8, Jones 4. The next game is the Crawford Game, andJonesannot double in this p e . (Smith, ofcourse, has no reason to double.) M s a y Jontswins one point in the Crawfod Game to mike the score 8 to 5. In the following game, normal rules are back in e f k and Jonescan double as soon as he wishes. Disputes between the players are settled by calling the tournammt director, who will make a ruling. In certain exceptional casts, a panel of experienced playcrs may be convened to make a ruling

THE MAJOR TOURNAMENTS Like golf and tennis, backgammon has a few events whose irnpomce dwarfs the other tournaments. Here are a few of the biggest and most prestigious tournaments in modern backgammon.

p t c r than in rhc World Cup, but the contest itself is always fascinating. Here are the winners of the last 25

World Championships:



ratu lvragr~wturn

: LuigiVilla (Italy)

THE WORLD CUP The most important tournament in backgammon is the World Cup, heid every other year in August in Dallas. What sepatates the World Cup from dl other events is the extreme length of iw matches. Each round in h e main event is a best three out of five, 1P point series. In the Consolation, matches start at 25 points (longer than the finals at most tournaments) and increase to a 29 point final. Chess docks are used to time each match and ensure reasonablyspeedyplay (as well as adda little extrapressuse).TheWorld Cup is the most d8icult tournament in backpnmon to win, and in fact, no one but a top world-class pro has wer won the went.

Walter C:oratella (A Lee Genud (USA) : Jacques Mihe1 (Switzerland) : BillRob,ettie (USA : Mike Svnbodny (U . PL--l*- - . - . : :


k r r a r w Sabet [Itall : Clemen t Palalacci (It : Bill Robrertie (USA -. ... -

: Philip Macmorstein (bermany) 1989: JaeRus!sell (USA) I390i: HdEIeiI&& (Car~ada) (Germany) 1991: Michael1 Mqsourg ,- ., :: lonKcssu (Kuman I:

Peter Thomsen (D

t: Frank Frigo (USA:

THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP The World Championship of Backgammon is held wery July at hew's Hotel in Monte Carlo. The went norrndy attractsabout 400 players. Most participants are from Eucope, although eachabout 30 Amerim n s make the journv. Matches in the main event begin at 17 points and Increase to a 25 point final. W~ththe shorter matches, the luck factor is much

David Ben-Zion (l i: David Nehmad (birael) ': Jerry Grandell (S*d e n ) . i: Michael Meyburg (bermany) ): Jorgen Granstedt (Sweden) 1: Katie Smlamandre WSA) 1: J o r p Granstdt (Swaden) t: Mads Andersen (Denmark) E:

a ways off. 56. Black 53: 23/15

As long as White is on the bat, Blacks strategy is srraightfod+r as we say in backgammon, *A rnarrer of technique." His f i r s goal is to complete a 6point prime so that White's checker will not be able to escape. Ta do this, Black will leave the c h e k slottd on the 7-point, and prepare to cover it.

Right now he has ones to cover from the 8-point. By moving to the 15-point, he also gives himself eights to cover. Nmt turn, he'll move the checker on the I5point to within direct range ofthe 7-point (someplaae where a single number on a die could cover), and then start his other checkers moving. The faint of heart might now inquire, *Isn't Black risking a loss if White rolls a 16 from the bar?" The answer is, not rally. First of all, 16 is a great shot whether Black has a checker on the 7 or not. Second, men if White rolls the 16, Black will have plenty of chancesto hit the chackeras it tries to come around the board. And finally, the long-run danger that would result from nwer making a 6-point prime outweighs the short-run risk of a 16.

Plays h a t masters make routinely, likt leaving the bar slotted in this position, look bold to the uninitiated. Once you understand the reasons behind the pIay, however, it's not bdd at all, simply logical.

57. White stays out.

61. White stays out. By the way, Wh~teis quite happy t~ smy on the bar hr as long as possible! Why?He has noihing to gain by enteringnow, sincehe can't escape. But ifhedoes enter, he might then &ow an ace or a deuce, exposing a new

checker to a hit. As we saw bebre, Black canonly become a big favorite in this position by hitting, then dosing out, a second checker. If White sits on the bar long enough, Black dl eventuallybe forced ;to dose his ace-point, and that variation will then never occur.

Diagram 57: Black on roll

58. Black31: 817 15/12 Mission accornplkhd. Black has a full prime, so White cannot escape once he enters. B M s next job is to bring a spare c h e h into position to slot the acepoint. 59. White stays out.

62. Black 43: 23/16 Black comes closer.

63. White stays out. 64. B W 44: 161-4 713 Black should be able to slot and eventually dose his ace-point without difficulty, bur:numbers l i e 44 and 55 can spell trouble. Bkdis checkers could be forced into a position they don't rally want to be in. No real danger yet,

60. Black 51: 1217 24123 From the 7-point, B k k can move the spare ro the acepoint with any 6. Now he starts the next back checker moving.


65' White stays out. 66. Black61: 24117 Black wantad to roll a thtee or a two, to slot the ace-

point, but he still has plenty of time.

67. mitt stay out,

70. Black 54: 16J7 This is almostBlacksworstroll. He can't cover the onepoint, and he a n t wen get a new number to wver-If he can't roll a six or a two next turn, he may have to brwk his prime without ever dosing hi bard. 71. White stays out. Nine dances in a row!

72. BIadr43: 714 713 An amazing sequence. Black has been forced to break hi arefully constructed &point prime. Now White really does want to roll an ace!

73. White stays out. Oops. Ten dances in a row. Diagram 58: Black on roll 68. Black31: 411 17/16 Finally Black gea to slot.

69. White stays out. White has stayed out for eight consecutive turns! That's very unlikely. The odds of that o c m i n g are about 17-1 against, as a matter of fact. However, it's been a very lucky break far White. He's never had to a p s e a second checker, and B1ack"smen are almost all the way home.

Diagram 59: Black on roll

74. Bkck32: 7/5 4/1 Black finally w e t s the ace-point, but makes a slight techniml error in doing so.B m r w;is 714 31 1, leaving Blackwith aneven number ofcheckerson thetwo high points.After B l d s actual play, the rolls o f 66 and 55, which should be h is best shots, actually leave a blot on the 5point.


In most s




yourself with an even numbr

tv 75. m t em't mwc.


32: 5/off

77. White m't move. 78. Black 62: 6/off 614

on your ts.

D i q 60: White on roll 79. White 63: Bar19 After a long time on the bar,White finally enters. To kOK,White will have to cross two quadrants to get hs checker into the home board, then bear off seven checkers.That's a total of nine crossovers. (A crossover is just a move of a dLecker &om one quadrant to anorher, or off the board. Counting crossovers is a quick way of getung an estimate of who's ahead in the race). Black, meanwhile, is on roll needing 13 crossovers. It looks like White is ahead, but remember that Black is pretty much guaranoed to bear off two checkers each turn, while if White rolls small numbers, he may

fail to get a crossover. 80. Black 53: 5/off SloR A good roll, taking men off the highest points. 81. White 33: 9/21. Exmilent!White should 'be able to redouble next turn.

82. Black 63: Slaff 3/off

If both sldes are, bearln!II

01T, and you haIve botlh


fewer checkers and fewer .* are alml PI






84, Black takts. No.This is a dear pass. In general, ifyou d in the pip count,you need fewer checkers thanyour opponent in order to take. This is even more true when most checkers are off the board, as here. Black will actually win this position less than 20% of the time, not the 25% he needs to take a double.

Even though Black mlls a large double in the beatoff andWhitedoesnt,Bhckstillloscsthegame, asuresign of an incorrect take.

Diagram 61: White on roll 85. White 22: Zlioff 22/24(2) Avery dear redouble. White has seven men left, Black has nine. White also leads in the pip count,22 to 24.

87. White 41: 2210ff 241off

89. White 65: 221ofq2)

White wins 8 points. SUMMARY: The game begins with an all-out svuggle for controlof key points, characteristic of modem backgammon at its best. Svobodny jumps out to an arly lead, but mi= a chance to give a good double on move 11. Over the nem few moves Magriel's position improves as he builds a block of his own. Finally Svobodny gets to o h another good double as Magriel i s forced to expose a couple of blots. A quick hit leads to Magriel's playing a classic, well-timed 1-2 back p. Magriel shows p o d defensive tdmique in opening the 2-point at just the right time. His good technique pays offas Svobdny leaves a shot and gets hit. Magriel quickly redoubles and completes a full prime, but Svobodny stays on the bar and thwarts Magriel's plan to catch a second checker. Svobodny eventually enters from the bar as soon as Magriel opens h is board. He gets around quickly enough to win by one roll.

has to take certain risks. Hi blots on the 16 and 15points are exposed to hits if Black throws any eight or mine. All told, Blackwill be able to hit a blot about one time in t h e . Joe Sylvcstes burst onto the backgammon scene by winning the World Amateur Championship in 1983. He has since won many Amaim tournaments including the Reno tournament from which this game is taken. He has an especially h e record in the World Cup, winning World Cup I in 1988 and finishing second in World Cup IV in 1994.

This gamewas played in the finals of the Reno Master's tournamenr of 1992. Sylvester was leading 5-1 in the 25-point match, which he e v e n d l y won, 25-22. 1. Wkite 43: 12116 12115 In top-flight backgammon today, there are several popular ways of playing an opening 43, each with its own adherents. The idea of Snelling's play is to bring down builders to make the kqr 20-point, 21-point, and 18-point.To achieve this buildingpotential, White

Two other phys uy to achieve a balance between budding and splitting with a bit lcss risk. The play which has b a n most popular for the part 15 years or so is 115 12/15. The checker on the 15-point gives White some new point-making numbers, like 62,5 1, and 63, while the split to the 5-point preparts to make the most valuable anchor. The c h d e r on the 15-point is exposed only to nines, so W h i t e is less likely to fall behind in the race after this play. S P L l P r e l W G IN THE OPENINQ A new play, which has been gaining popularity in the last few years, is 114 12116. For building purposes, the checker on the 16-point is actually a little more valuable than a checker on the 15-point, as it generates more new point-making combinations.

The idea of splitting to the Cpoint rather than the 5point is part of a new theory of splitting: Dm't split to thepoint cbatyuropponmtMOSTwanf~ to d e , ifyou &ma ckodcc. The point that Black most wants to make in this position is his 5-point. If you split there, and he points on you, he's accomplished twa objactives at on= puttingyou on the bar and making the best point

in hii b o d .

If White splits to the 4 p i n t insttad, Black can accomplish one o b j d w at most. He can point on Wire, or he can make hi best point, but he mn't do both at once.

Glven a choice between h Br blot on slae rn tne moam ana makI1 S

olnt, yeIU hlt.

Hittingamomplishtsr w o g d things:yougainground in the race, and you escape one ofyour back checkers. Making a point accomplishes only one g o d thing. Two good thing art bmcr than one g o d thing

3. White 51: Bad5 15/16* Entering and hitting is clear. Tlu game i s about even.

Diagram 62: Bkck on roll 2. Black 53: 24116* Black could &o make his 3-point with this roll, but he chooses to hit instead. That's right.

Diagram 63:Black on roll

4. Black 54: BarllG* Black hits, although there's another good play: Bar120 24/20 (making the 20point in thiswayi s known as *A Barabino," in honor of Rick Barabino,who has rolled this number in many game-savhgsituations).Hitting here is right, however, for the same reason as in the comment to m m 2.

5. White stays out. White rolls 66 and stays on the bar. A badbreak, as that was the only number that wouldn't let him enter. One reason that hitting is so pawerful in the early game is that these disaster shots arc always lurking around when you're on the bar.

6. 81ilck21: 615* 13111 Simple and very strong. Sylvester unsmch hi two big points, puts a second White &checker on the bar, and prepares to build the 5-point. It's hard to do more with a single roll. 7. White 62: k t 2

i 2 3 - 4 5 6

f a ~ i o i i 1 2

Diagram 64:Black en roll 8. BIack doubles to 2. A m n g double. Black is ahead in ail key phases of rhe game. He has a big lead in the race (1 56 pips to I89), he has escaped a chadEer while W u t e has four men back, and he has plenty of builders in position to work on hi prime. Making the 5-point is virtually a sure thing, and the bat or the 4-point should follow soon.

A fine double by Sylvester. 9. White takes. Just bemuse Black has a

double doesn't mean White should drop. Next turn White wilI likely face just a two pointboard.ThatmeansW h i t e shouldhavenotrouble entering and starting hi own development. White could crate a high anchorgame, a massiveback game,

or a counter-prime of his own. He's certainly an underdog, but there's plenty of play left. Good take by Sncllings. 10. Black55: 16/11 1313 813 A constructive shot, although it's one of the few numbus that doesn't make the 5-point. Black maGes the 3-point and the 11-point, preparing for more

progress next turn. 11. W h i t e mays out. Dancing now is much more serious &an dancing two nzms ago. That dance just gave Black a healthy initiative; thls turn on the bar may give Black the time to pin

12. Black43: 815 6/2* S y h t e r c o r d y goes for the throat. Hb goal now is topmmt W i t e f i m csiublkbing a smndanchor its dt h m Goad That second anchor would give White a full-fldged back game, with winning chances in the 35%to 50%range, depending on howwell-rimed the back game turned out to be.

If Black can capture the bpoint and force W h i t e to play just a pure ace-point game, White's winning chanccs will be in the 20% to 30%range. That's a big improvement for Black, and it certainly justifies attadcing on the tpoint until Black nrns out of ammunition.

White into an ace-point game.

13. W t e 32: Barl2* Whke's m m will bt forced for some time. Here he can only enter one checker from the bar. 14. Black42 k t 2 3 6/2*

Aswe indicatedbefore, Bladrwill attadconthe 2-point until someone makes that point, after which the batde will shift to other fronts. It's often the w e that a point becomes so valuable that both pIayers throw aZI their energies into an all-out struggleto make the key point. Games which hinge on sruggles for key points ate usually the most complex and demanding. Diagram 65: Black on roll

15. White 64: Bad4

know how co use their checkers efficiently, and this play is a good example.

17. White stays out.

D i q 66: Black on roll 16. Black64 8f2 I117

First mission accomplished: BIack has made the 2point. Now a new struggle develops over the &point. IfWhite can malu the 4-point, he'll have what's mild a 1-4 back garne. That's nor one of the strongu back ~~, but it will still be far more dangerous than a simple ace-point game. USlNQ CHECKERS EFFICIENTLY The checker Black placed on the 7-point is a builder for the 4-point, but it's also a slot for the 7 itself. If White makes the 4-point, the 7-point will be the next battleground. Playing 1 117 has accomplished two objectives with one play, as opposed to a play like 1319, which

only provides a builder for the 4point. Top players

Diagram 67:BIack on roll

IS. Black32: 714* 1119 Hits on the Cpoint and brings a checker within direct range to cover. There was another reasonable way to accomplish the same objective: 714* 614, after which the chechr on the I 1-point wodd be a -r for the blot on the 6-point.The plays ate about equally good. 19. White atays out.

BIack 65: 914 1317 Black has won the fight for the $-point, and he now slots the last point he needs to make: the 7-point. Once he makes that, Whiteas chchcckers will h locked in behind six points in a row, and Black can then start moving his badc men around 20.

21. White smy-s out.

24. Black31: 7017 21/20 Black completes his 6-prime with the three and continues moving in back. 25. white stays out.

26. BlacL61: 20113 This escapes one back chedcer.

22. BEafk32: 23121 13/10 Playing 13/10 provides two cover numbers fot the 7point (sixes and threes). Since Bkck can't do better than that, he gets the back checkers moving with the deuce. 23. White stays out.

Diagram 69: White on roll 27. W t e I I: Barll(2) 19/20(2)

A p t shot,and suddenly it's a much more interesting middlegame.Although Black is miZL favored to get his back chedter to safety eventually, White is back in the game and can start building a prime of his own. Diagram 68: Black on roll

28. Black41: 1319 24123 Here's an example of how things can get awkwatd quickly. Black of course will keep his 6-prime as long as possible. Note that since the prime keeps four of White's checkerspenned in, White has only 1 1 checkers left to play with. That's not enough to complete a prime of his own, even with optimal placement. Since Black won't move the 12 checkers that make his prime, he has to play the four from the midpoint, leaving a blot there. It will be costly for him ifthis blot gets hit; he'll then have to escape two checken from behind White's position, while having only the spate on the !+point to mwt in case ofan awkwatd number.

29. White 32: 12/15 19121 An excellent play by Snellings. He has several safe plays availableto him. He could try the simple 12/17, or 121 15 17119,or12114 17120.Moftheseplaymarginally increase his building opporruniua at the cost of, at most, a couple of indirect shots. Why did he instead choose to leave a direct shot on the 21-point at a time when Bladis board is so strong?


A PRIME QUICKLY Part of the answer is contained in my comment to a previous play. White just doesn't have very many chedrers left to build a prime of hi own. With four checkers already trapped, he has o d y 11checkers left. That's just enough to build five points with a spare left wer. In ordm to build a prime, White's going to have to tlse hi checkers very efficiently. The most efficient way to use your checkers is to put them righz on the points you want to make.

White's second problem is time. Black has only one checker to escape. Pretry soon he's going to thmw a numberwhich will get him out ofWhite's home board. For aprime to be useful, W h i t e d l havem build it very quickly. Time constraints provide another argument for dotting and covering White just doesn't have the luxury of waiting around to throw p e r k numbers.

Diagram 70: White on roll

The last factor to be considered is the downside of

slotting. What happens ifWhite slots but gets hit?Thc downside, of course, is that White's more likely to get gamrnoned in that case. But notiaethat with four men already back,White is likely to get gamrnoned anyway if he loses this game. The best way for White to avoid ~ game, and the b a t play being gammoned is to w i the for that is Snclling's play, 19121 and 12115. 30. Black 51: 1318 23/22 Playing to the I-point gets one checker out of danger, while moving up to h e 22-point g k two numben m escape (sixes and fours) rather than just one (frves).

1 2 3 4 5 b

7 8

obvious that 9 out of 10 top players would make the move in a flash. Ya Snellings h s e s to cover the blot, and instead l m m it exposed while making a different blocking point. Whafs going on? WKINa THE R I Q W WlNTs The slight problem with making the 21-point is that it's rally no longer an effective blocking point. A& 17121, Black can leap into the ou&dd with aM fours and sixes, after which White will have to hit or else revert to a straight ace-point game.

Makhgthe 18-point, on the other hand, forms amuch better blockade. Now Black has only sixes to leap, while his other big numbers (fives, fours, and threes) ate stopped. If Black has ro play those numbers on his side of the board, he'll have to give up the 7-point pretry soon. In fact, Black redly has only one spare turn.Amll of54,fbr instance, E o ~ eBlack s to mave the checkers on his 8 and 9-points inm his board. Nem turn, fivcs and fours will make him brak his 7-point.


Diagram 7 1 :White on roll 31. White31: 15/18 17118 This unassuming little move is an incredibly p

in fact probably the most dificult play to find in dl the games in this book! Last turn White, at some risk, slotted the 2 1-point. Now he rolls a number that not only w v e r s the 21-point but d m so while leaving a good distribution of builders. Playing 17121 stems so

t play,

What Snellingsre&& is that it's so hugely imporrant for him to break Black's 7-point that it's worth taking

the e m a chan~eof bemg hit. Once the 7-point goes, White can move back into the outfield with some of those checkers on rhe 1-point, and the timing of the game will once again hvor him.

A very difficdt play to find, and a marvelous e~amplc of Snding's talent for the p e . 32. Black 53: 916 813 The plan starts to pay off as Black is now stripped of builders.

33. White 42: 12118 White keeps hi blockade in place and prepares to make the 2 1 -point.

'Bladt55: 7/2(2) There goes the 7-point! Now any six leavcs White in arcellent shape. 34.

Diagram 72: White on roll

35. White 33: 12121 18121 Not a six,butWhite is able to male five pointsin a m . Notice howefkiently he has used his checkers since he entered from the bat. 36. Black 51: 615 No 5. Since B l a c k d t play f m , thisIsn't such abad roll. He preservahis positionfor anotherrollwhilewaithgh a six.

37. Whiw 63: 1/10 A great shot, keeping his prime while covering the oufield.

38. Black 62: 22114 Running for home.

39. White 31: 10/14* Halt! Black goes back behind the prime.

roll he stays on the bar keeps his prime horn brmking. in prime against prime

This is a typical sintation battles.

h e winnler is us,ually th

40. B M stays out.

layer wlho can keep hl Am...

&LA I*---.-&

111sand c I be esp



43. White 53: 17/22 17/20 White's timing is getting c r i t i d . Now he needs a six very soon. $4.

41. White 44: 18/22(2) 14122 White's last two rolls were very good, but this shot gobbles up most ofhis remainingtiming.Therewas no way to preserve fiveconsecutive points, so White stto fill in his bard. 42. Black rstays out. Dancing is actudy not so bad for Black, since every

Black scnys out.

45. White 43: 20124 21124 Just small enough to keep his board i n t a d

46. Black stays out.

s t prime

IN sl

lrways t0

dcular numbers. hold yo1lr v 4PU'II be , posrlblaB. P'rime as kb,,


48. Black stays out. Diagram 74:White on roll

47. White 11: 22/23(2) 19/20(2) Aftu four turns without a six, White's position finally

49. White 52: 20122 Wlute's


idea pays off as he has to mow only two pips.

'Blackstays out.

KILLING NUMBERS Fortunately for him, this rolls cracks in the least destructiveway.Whitekeepsafivepoint board, and by breaking the &point, White kills fives. On subsequent turns, White wi8 hop with sixes, but he won't have to play fives since he has no checkers left on his 6-point. Thii has the effect of preserving his prime longer.

Diagram 75:White cln roll

51. White65 1/12 W e n t . The checker on the 1LpointwillbuyWhite a few rnoce turns, helping him keep w h a t ' s left of hi

52. Black stap out.

53. White61: 118 Another greatshod One more sixandWhitewill be the favorite. 54. Black stays out. 55. White 51: 8/13 12/13 Making Ehis point has h e advantage of blocking a 66 by Bl& which would.otherwise be a winning number.

56. Bladc65: Bad14 After eight turns on the bat, Black finally enters. If White doesn't get an ace or a six, Black will be in control again.

1 2 3 4



7 8 9101112

Diagram 76: White on roll

57. White 51: 13/14* 13/18 White has a choice with this phy After hitting, he could keep the chedGer ping and slot the 1Ppoinr with 13114*119. In some situations, this more bold play is correct, particularly if White could turn the cube after Black dances.

This isn't one of those situations, SinceWhite stillhas to escapeone more ch& from behind Black's prime, doubling if Black stays out is nor an option here. SneIling's more conservative play is dearly correct, wen though White probablywon't ever make the 19point. 58. Black stays out.

59. White 51: 14/19 lSlP9 But the dice always have surprisw in store!White roh his k t number, closing the b o d . Now he's a dear favorite.

sible throws fall into three main categories: Group A -White's best numbers. With 11 of his 36 rolls, White rolls a 6 and hops Black's prime. These nurnbers are terrific for White. He becomes more than a 95%favorite in the game, In this group, White's very happy if he has already doubled.

Group B -White'sworst numbers. W~th14 of his 36 numbers, White bre& a point in hi board, giving Black a chance to enter. These numbers are all fives except 65,the 43 roll, and m d u m doubles: 44, 33, and 22. After any of these rolls, the game becomes a race to see who can roll a 6 first. With Black now the first to shoot, he becomes the favorite in the game. Diagram 77: White on roll

61. White doubles to 4. For the first time in the game, White is a favorite, and Snellings immediately doubles! Es the double correct?

6n Black accept?Let's mke a closer look To understand this situation, we have to take a dose bok at how White's different numbers play next turn. Grouping similar numbers together, White's 36 pos-

Group C - I n - h e e n numbers. W~ththe 1 1 remaining numbers,small numbers l i i 41,31, and 21, White's position deteriorates but his board m a i n s dosed. After a roll like 32, for instance, White's board will break on the following turn on any roll that does not contain a 6 . So, can Black take?The answer is yes. In fact, the take is quite easy. Black becomes a favorite in the game as smn as White's board breaks;, and ifs more likely that will happen next rum than that White will escape.

CanWhite double!Actually Whiteshouldwait a turn. T h e inducement to double is that White can become a huge favorite ifhe ralis a 6, If not, he bacomes aslight underdog. On balance, White does a lide bmer waiting. The doubling cube can be very useful t~

63. W t e 6 1 : 118 A fine roll. Now the game is just about m r . 64.Black m'tmove.

White in variations like the fonowing: White breaks hii 1Bpoint. Black stays out. White rolls a 6, leaping into the outfield Black rolls a 6,corning in on the 19-pointand waiting for Wute to come around.

In thest variauons, White will be very happy that he can offer a powerful double later at an o p d time. 1 2 3 4

This particular sort of position arises fairly frequently. A good rule of thumb is h i s :

If!you havt:more e

.. numuers than .



numbers, Ithen dou





7 8 9101112

Diagram 78: White on roll

65. White 41: 8/13 Notice that White leaves hi spates on the 20 and 22points where they are. For the safest possible bear&, you want your spares on the high points in yout board rarher than the low points. This will give you dmum flexibility for playing your later rolls.

erwise wadt.

66. Black can't mow. 42. Black takes.

67. White 54: 13/22 A forced piaY White hasn't achieved a particularly

good bearoff because he has an d d number (five) checkers on bi two highest points. This will forceh i to expose a blot if hi next roll is 55 or 66. However, given his rolls, there was no way ta avoid this situation.

72. Black can't m a

Diagram 80: White on mu

73. White 21: 19120 19/21 This play is an error. SAFEW VS. GAMMON CHANCES Diagram 79: White on roll 69. White 11: =off 20121 Small doubles are very useful in the bearoff since they allow you to ratrange your spares as you please. Now White has an even number of men on hi high points.

70. Black can't move. 71.White 31: 21/&

Although it's slightly safer than the simple 221off (becauseit allows Black to enter immediately and get out of White's hair), safety is not the only consideration. It's wrong because of two other factors: It's not the best play for the gammon. Vlrhlte has some small chancesofwinningapmmon in this position, and playing 221off maxirnim those chances by keeping a dosed board.

It's not the best play for the race. Opening the 19-pointgives Black the chance of rolling66 and getung badr in the race. 221off bears offanother checker and makes the race even more secure.

The net result is that 221off is slightly better, although rhe plays are close.

74. Black stays out. 24 23 22 21 20 19

18 17 16 15 14 13


Incidentally, the safest play of dl is the simple 20122 21/22,which, however, is lastlikely towinagammon.

In most bearoffs where the possibiliry of contact stdl remains,safety is only one goal. It has to be weighed against the d u e of more dangerous plays which haw a better chance ofwinninga gammon.These decisions ate often quite dXcult, because the chances o f either losing or winning a gammon are pretty small.

m wnen In aoum, Dear ow

76. Black 66: Bar/l A great shot, but Black will need a fewmore to get back in the game. 1 2 3 4 5 6

7 8 9 1 0 1 1 1 2

Diagram 8 1 :White on rou 35. White 21: 20121 22/24 Again, White makes a slight error. This play is safer than the alternative221ofE However, 221offis slightly better bemuse it leaves a position which is nonetheless quite safe and which is much more likely to win a gammon.

78. Black 55: 51ofY3) 611 Another p t shod White has 11 checkers left against Black's 12,so he's s u l l a big favorite. Bur Black is now within striking distance.

79. White 32: Uloff 23loff 80. Black 31: 3loff I/off

81, White 61: 201off Woff

proved distribution may n m r matter. White's actual play is considerable better than 21 loE21122, which some players might have chosen.

82. Black 62: 61off 21off 7 16 15 14 13

84. Black65 41offI2) 85. White 52: 2lloff 2310E A single double now could win the m e for Black


86. Black 52: Slog 210ff

Diagram 82: White on roll

83. White 41: 2Iloff 241off

InI genera11, you s


ways bear checkers off

with direct numbersrather than try to improve your di Lureroll!9.

The extra checkers off ate permanent, while the im-

Diagram 83: White on

87. %te

51: 2Ilofl 22123

In the bearoff, try to keep checkers spread out on

different points. White's play lets him bear off both checken next tum with 23 (out of 36)numbers. The blunder 2lIoff 21122, purting both men on the 22-

point, only lets White get offwith 17 throws.

89. White 42: 2lloff 23loff Perfect! This roll might have lost the game had White misplayed roll 87. W h i t e wins 4 points.

SUMMARV: Sylvester gets off to an early edge, doubles at just the right time, and then displays perfect technique in pinning Snelling into an ace-paint game. Study Sybter's plays in this phase of the game carefully, since this situation sises frequently in backgammon.

Snellings finally works up some counterplay with a timely throw of double-aces.Realking drat he needs m b d d a prime quickly to get more than a simple acepoint game, he m a t t s counterchanceswith excellent plays at moves 23 and 3 1. SnehngS prime holds and he is eventually able to free his back men. Lookat the last fewrnwes of thegame for some lessons in balancing s p e d and safetywhen bearing offagainst contact. These plays are difficult and will repay dividends later with careful study.

Michael Harris was one of the top English players during the 1980s.

2. Black 42: 24/20 13/11* Hitting is dear, of course. With the four, I like to split to the 20-pointwhile my opponent i s on the bar, since he can't then make a point on my head unless he rolls doubles. Meanwhile, I've s t d avaluable anchor and controlled the outfield as well. I'm off to a good start in this game.

This game was played during round 16 at the 1987 World ChampionshipinMonte Carlo. The matchwas to 21 points, and Robertie held a 9-8 lead. I. White 64: 1/11 One of the two popular ways of opening the game with a 64,This move mostly escapesone checker and brings some strength to White's outfield, making it difficult for Black to escape a checker.

The other play, which J prefer, is to split to the barpoint with 117, then bring a builder into play with 12/ 16.My idea in the opening is to fight tbr key anchoringlblocking points, while postponing running until later.

Diagram 84: White en roll

3. %te 61: Bar17 Apoorshot, but thercino otherway toplay it. White can't play 1211 8 since rhe chBckerwould be exposed to a double shot. By moving out to the 7-point, he p m n t s me from hitting and makingan inner point at the same time.

eneral, a loose six in

opening shou[Id be ed to the!opposllng bar-


polnt rather than 6P your o m bar-point. The down. a IUF -Id-



. .-


Is less, while the up-



5. White 53: Bad5 17120* White enters and hits, fighting for control of both 5points. In modernbackgammon,the 5-point is the key to successful opening strategy You must battle for the 5-points rather &an surrendering one or another to your oppncnt. This is true even if you risk falling behind in the race as a result.

A passive play like Bar122 1.318 leaves White worse off on both sides of the board while still facing annhilation if Black can get an attack going. In the long run, actively fighting for the 5-points is the last risky way to play the opening.

l hit with the six, while the two makes a new point.

1 2 3 4 5 6

7 8 9101112

Diagram 86: Black on roll Diagram 85: White on roll

6. Bladc42: Bad23 24120* Here Black has to choose which 5-point to fight for.


Which 5 Poiat? Besides the play I made, fighting for White's 5-point, I wuld have played Bar121 715*, fighting for my 5point. In rhis cast, the play I madc is better since it guaranrats a gain in the race while contesting apoint.

Rememkr this basic rule:

A lplay that does t 1 . -*a - things 1s aerrerrnan a play ; Just 01 thl i tY

. ..



7. White 51: Bar15 19120* White makes one 5-pointwhile fighting hr the other and unsracking his pile on thc 19-point. A nice roU. 8. Black 64:Barf21 1317 Not the bat, as I really wanted to hit back on the 20point. Now W h i t e may be able to grab both 5-pints, a p t result for him. As a consolation prize, I gzt my bar point. I didn't like giving up the midpoint, but the 7point is key to building a blockade against White's back men.

1 2 3 4 5 6


Diagram 8T: White on roll

9. White 21: 29121r 20121 White has many choices with rhi move. Hi play is obvious, making the 2 1-point while leaving no shots. h i d e s this move, Whia could try: 12/13*19/2l*,hitungmmen.Thisplaywi~ look great if Black docsnt roll a fbur or a five coming back. Otherwise, it won't accomplish much.It's probablytheweakestreasonablechoice. 19/20 19/21*, rnaking the20-point.This play has the great virtue of m&ng the most valuable point on the board, at the cost ofleaving a return shot.The realmeritofthe play is that this is likely to be a wry long game


10. Black stays out.

long game the v a l m nf ng point

A strong point, by definition, nullifies certain possibiieies for your opponent each roll. The longer the game, the more effective the strong points are.

TO HIT OR NOT TO HIT Another possibilityis 19120 12/14, hittingno checkers, but diversifying off the midpoint.This is aaudly my first choice. The hit here doesn't a c w m p l i much since Black has no threats which need to be prevented. The non-hirting play actually gives White the best board control.

I I. White 52: 12/17 12/14 White brings more builders to bear on the 20-point and the 18-point. He also complem the job of unsmcking the midpoint and bringing his checkers into play. Right now, the game is a b u t even. White has the better mrucnue, but Blackleads in the race and has the makings of a blockade.

The non-hit is a hard play to find, since there are so many hitting plays available.

~ ' v e al ready

good pa~sit'lon,

:ructural play may me

,e imputrtant t ie hit.

Diagram 88: Bhck en rou 12. Black55 k l l 5 23/13 A nice shot, and my position improves dramatically. I remake the midpoint and escape the last checker. A lot now hinges on whether Whtc mn now hit with a one

or a three. If White hits, we will still have a complex game. IfWhite misses, the gamewill become a holding position with White anchored on the 5-point and waiting to get a shot later in the game.

a brealahroughat the time and have since beenadopted by all the top players, They remain as valid today as when the book was published. Let's look briefly at Magtiel's criteria and apply them to

the situation at hand:

(I) Compare the strength of the innet boards. If your inner board is stronger, make a b l d play If his inner board is stronger, make a & play. Here White has the stronger inner board. This argues for a bold play.

Diagram 89:White en roll 13. White 6 3 12115* 14/20 White hits with the three and then has a choice on how to play the six. He can't move h is back men, and breaking the midpointwith 12118 doesn'tlook appding. The choice is between the safe 15121 and the boid 14/20.

BOLD PLAY VERSUS SAFE P U V Some 20 years ago, Paul Magriel, in his great work Backgammon, developed the criteria for deciding ktween a safe play and a bold play, Those criteria were

(2)See who is ahead in the race. Ifyou are behind in the race, make a bold play. Otherwise, make a safe play.

Herethe pip count is White 155, Black 141 after White's play White trails in rhc race, so a bold play is called for.

(3) Who has more men back?If you have more men back, you are inclined ro play boldly. Ifyour opponent has more men back, you ate inclind to play safe.

Here Whire has three men back, while Black has

only one man back (on the bar). This a r g w for

a bold play from White.

All three criteria argue for White to play boldly. The overall sttategic idea is that White, behind in the race with more men back, i s very likely m have to play some sort of holding game or back gamc in order to win unlesshe can quickly build a counteringprime against BlacKs single checker.

Sice he must build this prime quickly, however, he to slot the key points rather than wait to roil them naturally, which is likely to take several more

m t s

1 2 3 4 5 6

7 8 9 1 0 1 1 1 2

moves. Hence the slot is best. Very nice play by Harris.

Diagram 90: Black on roll

14. Bladc41: BarfZQ* Ohwell. Unlike in chess, in backgammon you only get rewardd for your good plays a percentageof the time. White made a good play, but it didn't work. That's

The answer is no. Black has an advantage, since he's

backgammon. 15. White stays out.

White danced. Should Black double?

way ahead in the race. But the game could still get very wmpiicated, and Bladrhasno home-board pointsyet. A double would be very premature.

16. Black 31: 817 613

Thii roll shows just haw quickly a good-looking position can deteriorate if you have no inner board points.

I cant move the back checker, so I have to leave a blot somewhere.The right idea is to preserve all the points I own and throw away one of the useless checkers stacked on the 6point. If that gets hit, it may reenter the game and go to a more consuucrivc position.

17. White 42: Bar14 1/3* Clear-cut. White catches up a little in the race.

givingup the midpoint,but at least my 1 1-point serves some of the functions of a midpoint. 19. White 41: 12/13*/17 White hits and makes a little more progress. He doesn't really like putting the checker on the 17+pint,but 121 I3* 12116 looks a little too lmse with nebulous btne6t.s.

Diagram 91: Black on roll

18. Black65 Bart20 1317 The five is forced, then E need to find a g o d six. Since there are no "good" sixes, I need to find the least damaging six. Playing 20114 is out of the question: I need the anchor here, and White would have ones, thms, fives, and twos to hit me i f 1 ran. Playing 711 puts a checker out of play, which I rally don't want to do in this complex position. It seemslike I'm going to need all 15 oEmy checkers in play to win the game.

That leaves 1317 as the least evil choice. I don't like

Diagmm 92: Black en roEE 20. BIackSl: Bar124 20/15* An interesting roll. If I play Barl20, my only ace is 71 6. That's certainly not constructire. On the other hand, since I'm still ahead in the race, Ikn looking for a chance to make a break for home, and thii could be m y best shot.

Breaking the anchor now is much less dangerous than it was last turn.k u s e of the duplication,White only has ones and threes to hit me.

22. Black61: 20114 15114 Black makes the 14-pointand mkes aim at hi 9-point and 10-point. White wants m recirmlate; Blackwants to shut the door on recirculation.If Black can make the 9 or 10-points, recirculation gets more difficult and White's game could get cramped. 23. Whke51: 5/10 17/18 With two back-game poina made and recirculation easy for the time being, White has no worrEcs about being hit. This is a game White is going to have to win later. Meanwhile,White can just slot the points he wants and sm if he can make them. Good back game play by Harris.

1 2 3 4 5 6


Diagram 93: W h i t e on toll 21. White 42: Bar14 315 hit, so he buiids the 4-point, giving him a 4 5 back garnc, and moves his spare to the 5-point, ready to leap out with fours and fives.

W h i t e can't


When playing a back game, it's vital not to get extra checkers stuckin your opponent's inner board. Checkers not needed to holdvitalpoints should keep flowing into the outer boards. This process is called rmirculation, and it's crucial for maintaining good timing.

Diagram 94: Black on roll

24. Black 65: 24118* 712 The hit with the six is dear. Although White dwsn't really mind being hit, I cant allow myself to get blocked in. If that happens, I could still lose going

f o d The play of the five should be less dear.Why deliberately sacrifm a checker with 712, when I wuld just keep my back checker moving with 18/13)To undcrsmnd this play, we'il have to look a little more deeply

This scenario doesn't look too promising for me. If I'm ludcy, I might roll some small doubles and deac some of my points successfully. If I'm d l y lucky, I'll wen win a gammon & way. Mort likely, though, I'll get a cheder hit and stuck behind Whire's prime at a time when my own position is in ruins. That's the basic strategy for a successful back game, and here, with no home board at all, Iin vulnerable to that strateg

I need a better plan of


Fortunately for me,

into back game strategy.

there's one available.

BACK QAME STRATEQtY First, let's lookat what happens if 1 try to rush my men home as quickly as possible, let's say after 24118*113. White will reenter, perhaps on my 1 or 2-point, and leave his blots on the 10and 1>points. He'll tryto slot the 20-point or the 22-point, building hi b o d quickly.In order to get my checkers on the 14 and 13points home, I'll need to hit one of hi blots, perhaps

Take a look at my spare cherkerson the 6point and 7-

both blots. These checkers w ill enter my board easily, perhaps making a t h d anchor on the Zpoint or the 3-poinr. After that, where will I put my checkers? I'll have to make big stacks on the 6, 7, and gpoina, while perhaps dumping a blot or two on whatever points are left open in my board. Meanwhile, White will build the 20 and 22-points.

point. Right now, those spares are useless to me. I can't use them to make the 4-point or the 5-point since White won't break those points until he can bit a winning shot. Making the 1-point or the 2-point will put them out of play. Suppose I could move those chackers backwards. If I could mwe them back to the 13-point or 15-point, thcy would become builders for the key Bpoint and 10-point. If l could dose those points, I'd haw m t e squeezed! Then there might be a real chance of t r a p ping some White checkers behind my prime and keeping them trapped until his board collapsed. How do J move checkers backward? By recircdaring them, just as White has been doing with his checkers.

So I'm going ro stm dumping those spares onto the

open points in my board. IfWhite hits them when he reenters from the bat, I'll come around the board and take aim at the really imporrant points in the psition - the 9-point and the 10-point.

This strategyhas some built-in risks. I might get some checkers caught in White's home board just as he makes a small block. If I roll awkwardly at that point, I might lose a prime versus prime game. That's a risk I'm willing to mke. I'm going to create an extraordinarilycomplexposition, and I'm expectingto outplay my opponent when that happens. As for the possibilityof bad luck, I'll take my chances.Thais part of the game of backgammon. 25. White 63: Bad3 12/18* White enters, missing the blot on the deuce, and natudly rehits.

Diagram 95: Black on roll

26. Bladr61: BarllR* A good roil,preventingWhite fmm blocking me and sending another White checker back. To make my strategywork,I want to hit White, despitethe fact that White's playing a badE game. It's the only way I can get my checkers recirculated. That's what makes this position different from a normal back game.

In a normal back game, White is trying to be hit and I am trying to avoid hitting. In this position, White is h e r off not hitting or being hit. Howwet, many players in White's position would not realize this.

27. White 51: h i 5 17118* A mistake, for the reasons outlined in the last cam-

ment. I thinkWhite should haw played Bar15 19/20, just building hi board.

checkers. 31. White 31: Bar13 17118* As before, I think White is pursuing the wrong idea. He m't contain the Black checker, and he has enough men back to ensure g o d timing. Instcad he should play Bad3 19120.

32. Black stays out.

Diagram 96: W h i t e an roll 29. Whitt5E: 10116* This is a serious error. White doesn't suspect what's happening and is playinginto Black's hands. Instead he should play 5/10 314. Making the 10-point would provide a bridge for White's sparesto circulate into the ourfieid,while playing314would get the spare ready to teap with a five or a six.

1 2 3 4 5 6

7 8 9101112

Diagram 97:White on roll

33. White 65: 4/10 5/10 Ag~eatshot, whichWhite plays correctly. By grabbing

30. Black 43: BarllS* As we've seen before, I'm happy to keep hitting. It wilI provide me with more opportunities to recirmlate

a point:in the middle ofBlack's prime, he g i m his back checkers a permanent avcnue of escape. This is much

better than making the =-point, his other option.

34. Black 54: Bart l6* I'm continuingwith myplan, akhoughWhite'slastroll was a rwl setback for me. Still, the more White men I send back, the h r .

Diagram 99: Black on roll

Diagram 98: White on roll 35. White 33: Bar13 10116* 17120 A big mi&. The loose hit breaks the key connecting made last turn. IfWhite can't quickly point that-te remake the 10-point, he could be in serious mouble.

36. Black 52: BarlZO* 6/4* Hirting on the 20-point is dear. I could continue on and hit on the 18-point, bur my actual, play is better. By himng with one of the dead spam on the 6-point, I haw a chance to reactivate that checker. Since White now has two men on the bar, he can't avoid hitting me if he rolls a two or a four.

37. White 64: Bar/4* F o d , but now I have another checker in play.


1 2 3 4 5 6

7 8 9 1 0 1 1 1 2

Diagram 100: Black on roll

38. Black 11: Bad24 14/13 11/10*(2) A g m t shot with many ben&a: Hitting anothercheckerwillforceWhite to hit me if he rolls a deuce. Switching from the 11-point to the 10-point brings my points doser together, giving me a stronger blockade. Splitring from the 14-point to the 13-point gives me two builders for the key 9-point, the next blocking point I want to make.

Diagram 10 1: Black on roll 40. Black double to 2. I thought t h s was a v q m n g double and just barely, if at all, a take. My plan has been very successful. I've sent eight checkers back and broken the connection between the two halves ofWhite's position. I've managedto reckollaretwo of the few d d checkers I used to have on the &point and 7-point, and I might still be able to recirculate the other two.And if I make the 9point, my game will be completely uushing.

The v e n t against doubling is that many p l a p s o v e r h a t e the strength of back games and tend to take too o h n .Following that logic, I might be able to

take a roll, improve my psition some more, and still get a rake later on. But it's risky tryingto get too greedy. I've got good chances for a -on this game, so I'm going to get the cube moving now.

41. W h i t e ralce~.. Courageousbut very dangerous.Still, White does have some play left. I might have taka also, bur very

very point I want to make. This would be a11 right if White were bumned up around the board, but unfortunately he has four other blots besidesthisone. lf 1can hit on the 9-poinr, I'll probably hit somewhere else as well;with two White checkers on the bar, White won't be able to hit me back on the P p i n t . A better idea was Bar/] 511 1, or even Bar/] 16/22*.


42. Biack32: Bar122 614* Playing 20/18* with the deuce is a little safer for me, but I want to recirculate yet another hacker.

44. BIack42: 1319* 20118* As predicted. In manyvariationsI'll be able to coverthe 9-point next t u n , with a crushing bl& 45. White 43: Bad3 k14* A good shot, putting me on the bar.That curs down on my m r numbers.

Dirmgram 102: White on roll 43. White 61: Barll 319 Another s m d mistake. White sticks a checker on the

Diagram 103: Black on roll

46. Biadr21: Barf23 10/9 I cdt make five in a row with this number, but at least I can make four consecutive points.

47. White 62: 4110* 16/18* Afineshot Now White hassometime togct a h m e n beyond the barrides. 48. &la& 22: Bar123(2) 14f la* A great comebackshot.I don'twantWhite makingthe 10-point, so E hit there, rather than on the 18-point.

Better is Bad1 18/20 19/20!By making a 3-point block of hi own, White would give Black a few problems. Suddenly Black's small numbers don't play well with five of his checkers in White's home board. Black needs to k p his back checkers moving, and cven a 3-point bhck could prove a red nuisance, SO. Black42 22118*/16 Black hits and moves to the 16-point to connect to the slot on the 10-point. If I'm not hlt, I can make a 5point prime with any six. That should lock up the

P e n 51. White 21: &I3

Diagram 104: White on roll 49. White 11: BarlP 3/4(2) I don'tlike thismove, althoughit looks consistentwith the previous play. White's just been given an unlikely opportunity, and he needs to take advanof it.

Diagram 105: Black on roll

52. Bladc 44: 16/10 24120 Making fivc in a row gives me an iron grip on the position. My next job is to d w o y White's fonvard position.

Don't hit any more checkers;hope that W h i t e rolls some foursand fives so that h is checkers on the 19-pointmove down to the 23-pointand 2 4 point.

One thing I don't want to do at this point is hit any more checkers. Up to now, I've been hitting checkers with the idea of keeping White offbalance and unwordinated, unable to prevent me from making the key outside points. That job is done; I've chided White's position intotwo hatves, withfivecheckersin hi home board and 10 behind my prime.

53. White 42: 115 214 White must get checkers to the 5-point, so he can release as many as possible with s k .

54. Bladr32: 23118 H d n g toward the Il-point.

IfWhite could get all 15 o f h i checkers sent into my inner board, he'd have a p r c q g ~ o game d again. As I h r e in and took down my points, he'd r e l m his checkers into the outfield and budd a prime somewhere in the outer baards. Then he'd be a red threat if he hit a checker. MOPPINO UP Ideally, E wanc to keep his army separatd into the two existing sections so that the pieces can't cooperate. My next gads are:

Diagram 106: White on roll Release my back checkers.

Make the 11-point for a f d 6-point prime.

55. White 62: 5111 U4 E would play 511 1 315. Releasing as many checkers as soon as possible is the key. Trying to keep three back

game points is probably too optimistic.

again recirculated. It wan't work if Black knows what

he's doing, which isn't always the case.

56. Black43 18/ll* A good shot. Fighting for the 11-pointis top priority, wen if it mans hitting another White checker.

57. White 52: Bar15 19/21 White is trying to hold onto the 3-pint as long as possible. 58. Bkdc53: 23118 20117 This gives me sixcs and swens to make the 11-point.

BO. Bladc21: Bar124 18/16 Avoiding the hit, and pingreadyto cover the 1 I with sixes and fives. 61. White 55: 19/24* Eorcad, but not all that bad. Notice that White can't play any more fives or fours, which slows down his

collapse. 62. Black 41: Bd24*/20 I didn't want ta hit, but I can't avoid it.


m 107: W h i t e on roll

57. White 32: 19122 21123* We call this the lumikaze play. White breaks apart his home board in an attempt to get his ch& hit and

1 2 9 4 5 6

7 8 9 1 0 1 1 1 2

Diagram 108: Black on roll

64. Bladr41: 16/11 Click! The last door shuts. Now it's just a question of how far White will have to advance before I open up my prime. bxge numbers are now good for White, since he can't play them.

67. White 11: 315 4/5 22/23 That uses up a lot of White's spare pips. He can only tolerate one more deuce. 68. Black42: 1319 18/16 Another good throw. 69. White 62: 315 Not the right deuce, I think J would have played 22/ 24, keeping the extra back point. TO. Black 2 2 1618

71. White 64:

can't move.

65. White 31: 21124 213 PIaying this way kills threes. Now White has to play only ones and twos; with luck, he can preervc his remaining points unul my prime gives way.

66. BIack42: 17/13 20118 Small numbers are good for me - they enable me to hold my prime longer.

1 2 3 4 5 b

7 8


Diagram 110: Black on roll

72. Black 43: 916 7/3* I'm just trying to keep my prime as long as possible. I don't care whether the checker on the 3-point gets hit

78. BIack32: 917 613 b q i n g the 5-prime for as long as possible is still useful. If White rolls an ace before he rolls a six, he'll have to make yet another concession.

79.White 33: can't move. 74, Black22: 1119 ll/7 3/1* My prime finally cracks, but it's done most of itswork Hitting on the I-point makes 66 a &ad, rather than a great number for White.

75. W h i t e 52: Earl5 22/24

80. Black 65: 812 712

81. White 51: 415 White rolls his ace and has to strip the 4-point. That gives me another avenue to attack his position.


76. Black 31: 713 77. White 54: cadc move.

Diagram 112: Black on roll 82. BIack64: 713 7/1

This is it. Diagram 111: Black on roll

ATTACKING A STRIPPED POINT By 'breakingmy prime in the middle, I force White m play any three from the 4-point. Any three except 63 will break that point d m .

83. White 31: 4/7 415 Oops. Now White's dawn to a single holding point, which I should get by easily. In addition, I now have great gammon chances. 84. Black 66: 10/4(2) 9/3(2) Good for clearing points and good for winning the

Diagram 113:Black on roll

gammon. 85. White 51: 7113 Gets that checker out of danger, but White is still hurting. He'll need to hit a shot just to havc a chance

m saving the gammon.

88. Black 54: 814 813 Thar's it. I now need 15 crossovers to btar off all my checkers,while White needs 3 1 to get offthe gammon. It's a lock.

86. Black 43: 612 613 I can't dear the &point, so the &point will have to do.

87. White 62: 5/11 13/15 SUM-:

This game began with a struggle for both 5-points. White won the battle for the defensive 5-poinr, but had to concede groundin the race. Black, however,was

not able to build any inner-board points. During the hitting bade which followed, White was able m construct a 4-5 holding position.

Rather than play a back game where 'White had excellent timing,Black recirculated some chedrers to build up greater outtield control. m t e was &g to give up key outside connecting points to attempt to build a prime of his own. Eventually Black was able to consolidate control of the outfield and build a prime, trapping 10 o m i t e ' s men.When hi remainingmen were f o r d onto the low points in his board, White loa any serious chances of winning.

PLILWNG IN TOURNAMENTS Afier yau'vefinishedmding this book, you'dprobably like to try your hand at playing in a backgammon tOUrnCImMt. That's not hard to do. There are b d clubs all around the country that run tournaments on a weekly or a monthly basis. Visit a dub near you and introduce yourself to the dimtor. Most clubs run tournaments in separate sections, one for beginners and one for more experienced players, so don't worry ifyou'venever played in a tournament before. Justhop in and give it a try!

For alisr ofdubs and tournamentsaround the counuy, send $1.00 m The Gammon Press, PO.Box 294, Arlington, MA 02476. Most major cities have one or more active clubs. WKCIAMMON ON THE INTERN= In the unlikely went chat you live far away from a locd dub, or if you just prefer the idea of electronic play to

hce-to-face competition, it's now possible to play backgammon matches over the Internet. In hct, there are now two separate Internet backgammon d u h in operation!

For tl-te best graphics and quidmt response time, try GanesGrid. Use your web browser to log on to, and folIow the instructions for downloadingthe GamesGrids o h e . Then just follow the direczions to connect. Another choice is Gammon Village, at IMPROWNG YOUR QAME I"m often ashd, "1s there any magic tc~getting good at backgammon?"My answer is yes. There are rwo magic ingwdients: Study and Practice. If you've read this book, you'w already made a good start on studying. You'll still want to review the five games sweral times. Each time you pIay the game over, you'll pick up some new ideas. But studying is only half the battle. You still have to practice.W~thoutsceadypractice, withoutrestingyourself and your growing abiities, you won't rcally absorb the lessons o f this book. So find a lo& dub, visit frequently, and play as much as you can. You'll be a m a d at: your steady progress.Good luck!

White's home b o d pointr 19-24.

Backgammon is full of its own colorful terminology. Here are some terms you wifl want to remember: Advanced Anchor - An anchor on the opponent's 4-

point or 5-point.


Anchor A defensive point in h e opponent's inner board.

Back Game - A defensive position in which the defending side holds two or more points in the opponent's inner board. The best back game points to hold are the 1 and 3, the 2 and 3, and the 2 and 4. The worst back games are the 1 and 4 or the 1 and 5. Any position with three back game points is very swng.

Back Position


The defensive position on your opponent's side of the b o d . In our diagrams, B i d s back position would be hi points in

Barabina - A mll of 54 from the bar, used to make the deknsive 20-pint. Bar- Thewmidstrip runningdownthe center ofthe board between the 6 and 7-pointr on one side and the 18 and 19-pointsan the other.Checkers which have been hit have to go to the bar. They must reenter thegamenextturn in theopponent's home board.


Bar Point In our diagrams, B l d s bar-point is the 7point. White's h-point is the 18-point.


Bearoff The section of the game where players bear off checkers from their inner boards in the find race to victory


Builder A checker placed so that it bears on vital points which n d to be made in the future.


Conndvity The arrangement of checkers so that they are in direct range (six pips or fewer) of each other. Connected checkers defend each other and are easily made into points.


Cmwfnrd Gsme In tournament play, the Crawford Game occurs when one side is one point from

victory. In this situation, the doubling cube cannot be used. After the Crawford Game, ifthe match is s d in progress, the cube a n be used

following turn you will have different numbers on the dice to accomplish different objectives. A good offensive maneuver. See also duphtion.



Cmsmwr - The movement of a checker from one quadrant of the board to another, or off the

board h r n the home board. Crossww Count - The total number of crossovers

required to b a r off all checkers. Once all the chackers are in the home board, the crossover count is 15 or less.


Dead Cube Ina tournament match, a cube is said to be deadwhen the player owning the cube has no

reason to wer doubie. For example, a player who is two points from winning the match and who owns a 2-cube will nevcr double, since he mn win the match with the cube at its current level. Direashot-Ashot atacheckersLtorfewerpip away, so that the chedrer can be hit with a single number on the dice.


To break all contact, so that the p i t i o n becomes a pure race,



Diversi6cation Playing your move so that on the

Double To turn the doubling cube one notch, thereby doubling h e value of the game. The player who has been doubled has the oprion of accepting the cube and playing for twice the is opponent the value, or ddining and paying h original stake. Once a player has accepted a double, he "owns"the cube and only he can double again. Downside - What you lose if you take a risk and baddires. See also upside.


Duplication - Playing your mow so that your opponent needs the same numbers on the dice to acmmplish different objectives, thus ensuring that he has fewet rolls working for him. A good defensive maneuver. See also diversification.


Front Position The collection of blockingtattacking points in your own home board. In our diagrams,Black's front position is his points in the area of points 1-8.

Full P

k - Six points in a row.

Gammon -Winning the game by bearing offall your checkers before your opponent has borne offany chedrers. The player winning a gammon wins twice the value of the cube.


Longshot -An unlikelybut powerfd roll.The chance ofrollingasingle double, Iike 66, is 35-1against. The chance of rolling a single nondouble, Iike 65, is 17-1 against.

thing P o d To attack by building forward points, constructing a prime, and putting your opponent on the bar.

Losing Your Market - To have both a very solid ahantage and some h a t s which, ifexecuted, will fbrce your opponent to drop a later double.

Home Board -The quadrant of the board to which a player needs to movehis checkersfor thebearoff. In our diagrams, points 1-6 are Black's home board, points 19-24 are White's home board. Also known as the Inner Board.

Midpoint - Black's midpoint i s the 1 I p i n t in our diagams. White's midpoint is the 12-point. A good strategic point to hold in the early game since it provides a lm&g spot for the back checks and controls the outer board

Inner Baard - see Home Board.

Money Gamc- Agame played for money,in which the cube can always be turned, if available. Tournament play differs from money play in that many situations arisewhereaplayer mnt (orshouldnt) turn the cube. Good tournament players must be d e n to these situations.


Knmikaze Play Breaking points in one's own inner board in h o p of getting the checkers recirculatod. A back game strategy.


hint A vital point which conveys a big advantage to whichwer pkyer mn make it first.

W i g Numbers -To play your roll in such away that some numbers on the dice can't be played next turn. A useful way to slow down h e deterioration of your position in a priming battle.

Nullo Play


A play that can't be better than an alternative play, no matter what the sequence of dice rolls is. Making a n d o play is the worn possible logical blunder. +

Outer b a d -The points numbered 7-18, which are not part of 4th- side's inner b o d .

Permanentb -An asset which can't go away after a single lucky t h m by the opponent.

Pip Count -The total number of p i p needed to be rolldon thedice to beu offallyour chackers. It's calculated by multiplying the number of a point by the number of checkers on that point, and adding the to& together. At the start of the game, both sides' pip count is 167.

-A collectionof mnsecutive points blocking in your opponent's men. Six pointr in a row is called a full prime, and i s the strongem possible blockade since the opponent can't jump wer it with any possible number.



Rechdation Keeping c h e h in play by having them hit and then reenteringthe game from h e opponent's home board.


SIot Placing a blot on a point with the idea of making the point next turn. Sauctural Play - A move which buiids strong points. T

I-The ability to hold your keypointswhile you are waiting to get a shot. In general, the f a d e r behind in the race you are, the better your timing.


Undoubled Gammon In tournament play, winning a gammon with the cube still centered at 1. An undoubled gammon is worth two points.


Upside What you gain if you take a risk and it succeeds. See also downside.

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