Games: Backgammon

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Here is a problem I faced in the first game of my first round match at the BIBA Brighton tournament. White, my opponent, is playing a 4-point holding game. I have rolled a 65 which allows my last back man to reach the sanctuary of my 10-point. The question is should I hit the blot on my opponent's 10-point?

I reasoned as follows: If I don't hit I will lead the race 111-112 but my opponent will be on roll. This is a fairly typical 4-point holding game so it will probably be some time before I will be able to double. If I do hit there are two variations: either White hits my blot on the 2-point or not.

On the 24 numbers where White doesn't hit I will have a very strong position, in fact so strong that I will have a double which he will have to drop. On the 12 hitting numbers I will be on the bar against a 5-point board. However, the open point is the 4-point, which will make escape relatively easy once I enter and I will have three of White's men trapped in my home board. My blockade, while not a full prime is still very strong.

The fact that I would win the game immediately (or my opponent would take incorrectly) on two-thirds of White's rolls made the hit look like the right play and thus I hit. Later analysis proved the hit to be correct by quite a large margin. In the game itself my opponent hit, closed his board, escaped his back men and easily won a gammon!

Being theoretically correct doesn't always win the game. However, in positions where the cube is still in the centre, be alert for plays where after the next exchange of rolls the majority of variations will give you a powerful double. There may be some risk but as so often in backgammon the aggressive play is likely to be correct.