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HERE'S A position spotted by Jake Jacobs and first published in Carol Joy Cole's excellent Flint Area Backgammon News - which is by far the longest-running backgammon newsletter. It will celebrate its 21st birthday in June of this year.

Black is involved in a prime-versus-prime and has a 62 to play. At first sight this is obvious: he should escape one of his back men by playing 23/15. What is there to think about?

As usual, quite a lot. White has the better home board - four points against three - and if black runs out with one man then white has a ready- made plan. He will attack black's last back man in order to give himself time to extricate his own man that is stranded on black's one-point. This plan could of course go horribly wrong if black hits another man - but at least it is a plan.

Now look what happens if black plays 8/2, 7/5. This seems anti-positional as black volunteers an apparently unnecessary direct shot. However, even if white hits the shot he is not much better off, as he will still not be at the edge of black's prime (unless he hits with 11). Meanwhile his own block- ade will quickly crumble - and now he doesn't have the option of attacking black in his home board.

In essence black has sufficient timing to allow white to destroy his prime, rather than trying to win by escaping from behind it. Playing 8/2, 7/5 is therefore a better plan than running with 23/15. Johannes Levermann, the strong German player, found this move when playing against the legendary X-22 in a recent big-money jackpot. Remember, consider all your candidate plays, even if at first they feel wrong - you can't play a move you don't see.

`Flint Area Backgammon News' can be found on the Internet at: flint.html

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