Backgammon

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The Independent Culture
HERE IS a position taken from one of the very first issues of Bill Robertie's excellent Inside Backgammon magazine in 1991. Nack Ballard, a very strong American player, was black against Robertie's white. Black is on the bar and has a 61 to play.

In the match, Nack played bar/24, 11/5, and in the magazine analysis no comment was made. However, he has two other legal plays. Bar/24, 8/2 can be quickly discounted. But what about bar/24/18?

At first sight, this seems like madness, voluntarily giving Robertie a triple shot. Let's see why this play might be right. Firstly, white misses with nine rolls, giving black an excellent game and probably a game-winning double. Secondly, there is a lot of duplication of white's good numbers. His 1s and 3s he would like to use to split his back men, and some of his 4s can be used to make either his bar-point or his 4-point. Thirdly, 6s don't grow on trees and using this one to make a run for home is certainly reasonable.

Finally, and the key point of the move, it deflects white from any other activity - he must attend to this bothersome blot before he does anything else. This will lead to further isolation of his back men which are well contained by black, including his sentinel on his 11-point which can now stay in its very useful position. I first learnt this isolation technique in a lesson from Paul Magriel and it is something well worth remembering.

Are these reasons sufficient to compensate for the triple shot? Yes they are. Extensive roll-outs show that black's winning chances are enhanced by about three per cent by playing bar/24/18. Three per cent may not seem like a lot, but if you consistently find plays during a game that give you a three per cent edge you will radically improve your results.

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