Backgammon

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The Independent Culture
A COUPLE of weeks ago, my travels took me to New York. The Ace Point Backgammon Club on East 60th Street is run by Alan and Lourdes Steffen.

It is open 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and attracts a wide range of players. The hospitality is generous, the playing conditions are excellent and visiting players are always welcome.

In the game from which the position above is taken, I had taken an early double, had gradually improved my position, and now I had a difficult 65 to play. I hope that most people would play 8/3 with the 5, but what about the 6? There seems to be a choice between 24/18, 16/10 and 8/2.

The most important thing to note about this position is that black owns the cube, so whatever happens, he is in the game until the end. Black should also decide how he is going to win the game.

The easiest way to achieve this is to hit the blot on white's 10-point and get to a position where white cannot accept a redouble. Winning with the cube is always preferable to relying on the vagaries of the dice.

The move that best accomplishes this is 24/18. It is also the most dangerous move, as it gives white a lot of numbers to enter from the bar and hit. In the game, I allowed this danger to cloud my thinking and played the weak 16/10 (8/2 is even worse). But 24/18 is the right move by quite a big margin because it does two key things. It maintains the pressure on white's 10-point blot, and it escapes black's last man from white's home board.

If (as happened in the game) white stays on the bar, and if black has played 24/18, then he has a double which white can only just take.

The 24/18 move may look dangerous but this is yet another example of the fact that you must play backgammon to win, and when you get the opportunity to turn around a poor position with a bold play, you must just take your chance.

The Ace Point Backgammon Club can be found at 41 East 60th Street (5th Floor), New York, New York (001 212 7530842)

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