Backgammon

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The Independent Online
Here's a salutary lesson on the expense of poor cube handling combined with poor play of the pieces. First, should Black double and should White take? Then, assuming double/take, how should Black play 62?

Regarding the double, Black's position looks fairly strong. If he can make his bar with two white men trapped behind a 5-prime he will have lost his market. The problem is, this will not happen very frequently - how, for example, should Black hit with a 21? Also, White's 4-point board has to be treated with respect as even one hit by White could prove costly to Black. While Black does have some threats, he does better to hold the cube until he has begun to carry out some of them.

In the game, Black doubled and White took. Black then rolled 62. There are several plausible plays: (a) 13/7*, 13/11; (b) 13/7*/5; (c) 13/7*, 11/9; (d) 13/7*, 8/6.

Before deciding, there is one important lesson to remember. Once you have given away the cube you must play aggressively as you no longer have access to the cube. In this position the key point is Black's bar point. If he can make it he should win the game, without it the result could go either way. We can therefore discount move (b) - the move Black played in the game through fear of White's hitting on the bar-point. Move (d) is too loose and destroys the 8-point, potentially part of the prime. Of the others, move (c) is by far the most constructive and best fits the requirements of the position.

In the game White rolled 14, played bar/24, 8/4. This position is still not good enough for Black to double. However, had he played 13/7*, 11/9, then the resulting position would have been a drop. Two rolls later, after a catastrophic 44 by Black, White redoubled, Black took and lost a gammon. Instead of winning 1 point he lost 8 - an expensive lesson in doubling cube theory.

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