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THIS IS a very difficult position, where black has a myriad of choices with his double ones: a) 8/7(2)*, 3/2(2)*; b) 8/7(2)*, 10/9, 5/4; c) 10/7*, 8/7; d) 8/7*, 5/2*; e) 10/7*/6 are but five of the possible plays. Over the board, I selected b).

A detailed analysis of all the plays is not possible. Suffice it to say that when studying the position later, it came down to a choice between a) and b). The two moves support very different plans: a) is the pure play, hoping that black will escape or that white's prime will crack when he enters from the bar; b) is the attempt to win by force, putting both of white's back men on the bar and hoping to escape from white's board while he languishes on black's bar. Which is right?

A rollout using Snowie produced, for the first time in my life, a dead heat. There was no difference in equity between the two plays. Therefore it would seem that my choice of b) was OK and no worse than a). Wrong. There is one small matter to be taken into account, and that is the doubling cube. The huge difference between the two plays is that a) generates far more efficient doubling situations than b). (More on this next week.)

As we learn more and more about backgammon, it is apparent that the efficiency of the use of the doubling cube is a very major factor in the game. I believe it will come to dominate the development of our theoretical knowledge over the next few years.