Games: Backgammon

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A chilly night in Baker Street saw Holmes in the box playing Black against myself and Inspector Lestrade. Our excellent game had somehow gone wrong and now we found ourselves on the bar facing a 5-point board and with another blot exposed.

The great detective pondered for a couple of minutes, his face shrouded in the smoke from his meerschaum, and then he reached for the doubling cubes and turned them both to 4.

"Hmm, somewhat precipitate, I think you'll find," said Lestrade, snatching the cube. I studied the position for a while but still thought that the basic structure of our position would give us a comfortable take. "I agree with Lestrade," said I. "For once Holmes I think you should have waited a roll."

Four rolls later we found ourselves with two men on the bar and easily lost a gammon. I have learnt to take my losses with equanimity but not so Lestrade who felt he had been dealt a great injustice. "What luck, Mr. Holmes," he remarked. "No wonder you solve more cases than I do."

"No luck my dear fellow, but rather a clear understanding of the position and its possibilities. White's position is superficially strong with its 4-point board and two black men trapped but that feature will become largely irrelevant if I can attack and close out two men. With one man already on the bar against a 5-point board and another waiting to join it your position was precarious indeed. Black will win a lot of gammons in this position and thus I doubled when I did to ensure I maximised my equity. Indeed it would not surprise me to learn that the original position was a drop."

"As lucid an explanation as ever," I remarked.

"How complimentary, my dear Watson."