Backgammon

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A simple play

What could be easier than this bear-off position? Life is simple - until you roll 2,1. The 2 is easy - you play 2/off. But what about the 1?

You have two choices: (a) 3/2 (b) 2/1. If you play 3/2, then on the next roll you won't bear off a man with any roll containing a 1. If you play 2/1, then any roll containing a 2 will miss next time. If you miss with either play, and your opponent has access to the doubling cube, then you will be doubled out.

At first sight it would seem that you could toss a coin to make your decision. However, in situations such as these it is always worthwhile examining the detail. One of the ways of doing this is to check how small doubles play. After (a) or (b) if you roll double 1 next shake then there is no difference to the subsequent position. In both cases you will be left with two men on your 3-point.

What about double 2? Ah, now we see a difference. After (a) 2,2 will be played 2/off(2), 3/1(2) leaving a position where you cannot miss. After (b) 2,2 will be played 3/1(3), 1/off leaving a position where you will have three men on the 1-point - a far worse situation.

The difference on the single roll of 2,2 is enough to make (a) the right play. This is true irrespective of the cube location although there are positions where the cube can affect your play in endgames such as this.

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