Backgammon

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Indy Lifestyle Online
We left this position last week with White doubling Black, who quickly dropped. But was this correct? The American master Ken Goulding has a practice of showing his pupils a position and asking them if they would double. A few weeks later he will show them the same position, viewed from the other side, and ask if they would accept a double. Many of those who wouldn't double from one side wouldn't take from the other. The lesson to be learnt is that many more positions are doubles than you might think (remember Woolsey's Law) but also, many more positions can also be taken.

Back to our diagram. I hope everybody would double from the White side. Black has one man on the bar and another poised to join it. White will win a lot of gammons. Black, fearing those gammons, may elect to pass, but instead of looking negatively at the position let's take the optimist's view.

Black has his opponent's one-point so whatever happens he is in the game to the end. He has one white man trapped behind a four-prime. All his men are in constructive positions. White is not a favourite to hit the second man. White's men are slightly awkwardly placed and it will be difficult for him to make new points in his board. Consider, for example, a sequence such as White rolling 6,3 followed by Black rolling 5,3. Let's not get carried away into thinking Black has a great position, but these factors do provide enough counterplay to make accepting the cube the right decision. Rollouts show Black winning this position 42 per cent of the time but of the 58 per cent that he loses 27 per cent will be gammons. That equates to losing 0.86 points if Black takes as opposed to the one point he will lose if he drops.

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