Unlike London, where the Double Fives club is the centre of the backgammon action, New York has four clubs open seven days a week. Some of the world's top players can be seen in action and at least one of the chouettes I saw there recently was played at $500 a point. Players were required to have $40,000 in cash to join in - certainly not for the faint- hearted.

Alan Steffen, who will be familiar to many for his victory in the 1984 British Championships, has just opened his new club, the Ace Point. Professionally and hospitably run by Alan and his wife Lourdes, it provides games for all levels of players. The next few positions will be taken from some of my games there.

To start, what could be simpler than a bear-off? White is on roll in the position above. Should he redouble to 4? If he redoubles should Black take? On the pip count White leads by 21 to 29. Based on this alone, White should double and Black should drop. However, there are other factors to consider. White has eight men to bear-off, Black only six. White has an even number of men and a gap on his 4-point so if he rolls a number like 4,2 it will cost him a full roll (it will take him an extra roll to bear off his men). And if White, for example, rolls a 6, he will bear a man off the 5-point, thus "wasting" a pip. Black may reach a position where he can redouble. Most of these factors benefit Black, but is it enough to take the double? Should White wait a roll because he may roll a 4? This simple problem has suddenly become complex. There is a way to solve it and others like it, as we shall see next week. In the meantime decide whether you would double as White and take or drop as Black.

The Ace Point Club can be found at 41 East 60th Street (5th floor), New York 10022 (001-212-753-0842). Internet: adslmt@prodigy.net.

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