Backgammon

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The Independent Culture
DOUBLE MATCH point once more, and black has a difficult decision to make with this 51. He can play safe with 8/3, 8/7 or 7/1 or can grasp the bull by the horns and play 18/17*, 18/13, leaving three blots strewn around the board.

The critical thing to remember about double match point is that the only important thing is winning the game. Winning or losing gammons or even backgammons is irrelevant. In this position hitting is certainly the play that both wins and loses many more gammons than the other plays, but does it win more games overall?

If black hits, white will have 10 return shots. And 55 is crushing the others, which will leave black with a shot at the blot on white's 3-point to get back into the game. When white doesn't hit, black will have a good chance of bringing home the position (especially if white rolls something like 26), although there may still be problems.

If black plays passively, white's position will be greatly improved once he makes his 3-point, and then it will be far more dangerous for black to run off white's bar-point, as a hit will nearly always prove to be fatal.

What started as a double match point problem has become a "pay me now, pay me later" problem. It certainly looks as though the hitting play is right, taking a small risk now rather than a big risk later.

Computer analysis shows that this is correct. Black wins 63 per cent of matches with the hitting play, and only 60 per cent with 8/3, 8/7.

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