Backgammon

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ONE OF the things that computers have taught us is that backgammon doesn't have to be beautiful to be good. The other evening I was the "Tempestuous Turk's" (TT) partner, and we had to play a 32 position.

There were three plays to consider: (a) 21/16, (b) 9/6, 9/7, (c) 5/2, 4/2. TT is a player of the old school: computers to him are just abacuses, forever to be treated disdainfully. For him purity is everything. Sometimes, as in this case, he puts it above a position's demands.

In this type of position the side that releases its anchor first is normally at a disadvantage as it leaves the other side free to attack. Thus play (a) is likely to be the weakest of the three. Play (b) keeps the anchor but at the risk of a direct shot. Play (c) is ugly, but has the great merit that it throws the pressure back on white as he is likely to have to leave his anchor or break his 10-point. For style it receives no points, but for efficacy it wins first prize. Sadly my powers of persuasion were not enough to stop TT when in full flow. He chose 21/16, for its "purity". I feared the worst, and with good reason. White rolled 61, hitting both our blots. We fanned with both men, and white redoubled. I dropped but TT compounded his error by taking, and was gammoned for his trouble - an expensive error!

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