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THE BEST advice about playing backgames still remains: "Avoid them if you can." A backgame is one where you have two or more points in your opponent's home board. Your plan is then: 1. Build up your own home board; 2. Hope your opponent leaves a shot whilst bearing in or bearing off; 3. Hit the blot; 4. Be able to offer a powerful redouble because you can contain the man you have hit.

Any plan with so many steps is fraught with danger as any one of them can go wrong and the downside is that when you lose a backgame you normally lose a gammon. If there is an alternative game plan you should try to adopt it.

In the position above Black assumed that his only viable plan was to play a backgame. He therefore chose to play 24/22, 8/7 hoping to get more men hit (sometimes a questionable tactic) and play a well-timed backgame. He should have assessed the position more accurately. True he has five men back to only three of White's but those back men can escape via White's 8-point. He has a strong home board with the potential to make it even stronger. If he manages to release one of his men from White's home board, and White's back men remain in Black's home board, he will have a well- balanced position.

The best move to enable him to carry out this plan is the simple 24/22, 24/23. He will then be able to escape a man with either a 5 or 6 on his next roll. Meanwhile White might roll an awkward 43, 33, 44 or 32 and have to compromise his position.

All of this does not suggest that Black is a favourite in this position, far from it, but he should take advantage of a good roll to maximise his winning chances.