backgammon

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To those who play only occasionally, it may seem that there is no rhyme or reason to each individual game as it develops. This is far from true. Just as different strategies in chess lead to distinct types of game, the same is true of backgammon.

There are seven basic types of backgammon middle-game: running, mutual holding, high anchor, low anchor, blitz, prime versus prime and back games. The occasional game may be a hybrid of some of the above or not fit into any category, but these categories account for 98 per cent of all games. As well as understanding the basic types, an expert player must know the resultant end-games.

It is important to understand how to steer a game into a particular type, and how to play each type, as well as the doubling strategies associated with it. Understanding the correct doubling strategies will net you many more points than knowing how to move the checkers. In the coming weeks I will be covering each positional type in turn.

Of the seven, the easiest by far is the running game, and the simplest example is where both sides start by rolling 6-5 twice and run both their back men out to their mid-points. After this there will be no further contact between the two armies and the winner will normally be the side that rolls the highest numbers on the dice.

When bearing men into your home board there are three key points to keep in mind: take crossovers whenever you can (a crossover is when you move a checker from one quadrant of the board to another); don't bear in checkers to points too low in your board (the majority should end up on your 4, 5 and 6 points); don't put too many checkers on a single point. This simple strategy will use your dice rolls to best effect. The straightforward doubling strategy for running games was given in a previous article.

The running game is rare at expert level, but recommended when you are facing a superior opponent. So on opening rolls such as 6-3 or 6-4 you should play 24/15 or 24/14 rather than any other option.

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