Backgammon

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The Independent Culture
IN THIS position black has an excellent game and white is wishing that he hadn't taken the double. Black must now decide how to play a 64. There are a surprising number of candidate plays: (a) 22/16, 22/18 (b) 13/7, 13/9 (c) 22/16, 6/2* (d) 8/2*, 6/2. All are reasonable moves, but which is the best? An old-fashioned player would observe that his 5-prime was extremely strong and argue that therefore he should advance the back men with move (a). A cautious player might decide that (a) provided too much counter-play to white, and go for move (b), seeking to extend his 5-prime to a 6-prime before moving the back men.

The indecisive player may opt to combine these approaches and elect for move (c), hoping to keep white busy while he escaped his back men. But the modern player, as well as assessing his own strengths, would look to exploit white's weaknesses. What is white's major weakness? It is the lack of an anchor in black's board. The modern player would see that if he can attack and close out white's two back men he will have a very good chance to win a gammon, as white has six other men in the outer boards. He would therefore choose move (d).

Move (d) is not without its risks: if the attack should falter then white will have a much better winning chance than after the other moves. Indeed black wins a lower percentage of games with move (d), BUT he wins a much higher percentage of gammons, thus making this the right move by a a big margin as analysis by both Jellyfish and Snowie confirms. Once again the aggressive move is seen to pay dividends. Note that if this position arose at double match-point in a tournament then move (a) would be correct as gammons are irrelevant in that particular instance.

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