Backgammon

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It was a cold, foggy February night as we relaxed in our rooms at 221B, Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson had cleared away dinner, and Holmes, as ever, was studying a difficult problem on his beloved backgammon board, his aquiline features wreathed in the smoke rising from his meerschaum.

"Holmes, I know how much you dislike being interrupted when analysing a position, but I wondered if you might shed some light on a problem of my own?"

"Certainly, Watson", replied the great detective, "what is it that is troubling you?".

"Well, Holmes, I am reasonably confident that I have absorbed your teachings on the basics of doubling, and have a good understanding of the concepts of the race, timing and threats. However, when it comes to redoubling my opponents something seems to be going wrong. Ninety-five per cent of my redoubles are dropped and, while I cannot prove it, I feel certain that this is wrong. Can you shed any light on the topic?"

"Ah, Watson, you have touched on one of my favourite areas of the game, and one on which I am, even now, preparing a brief monograph. Let me give you some pointers:

"Most players are on relatively familiar ground when offering initial doubles. These typically occur in the opening or the early middle game. The same is not true for redoubles (I exclude bear-off redoubles here). Quite often, both players have built a strong home board, with four or five points already made. So, although one player may have a strong position with some very real threats, he fears that his opponent may hit a lucky shot. Consequently, he waits far too late to redouble, redoubling only when he is certain that his opponent will drop.

"While this guarantees the winning of two points he misses out on the opportunity to win four points, or, in the case of scoring a gammon, eight points. I suspect, old friend, that this is what has been happening to you in your games."

"By Jove, Holmes, I think you've got something there."

"Yes, Watson, it is important not to fear the odd loss of four points. You will win many more points by redoubling when you have some significant threats than you will by waiting to redouble until your adversary must capitulate."

"That's certainly food for thought, Holmes."

"Alimentary, my dear Watson."

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