Games: Backgammon

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What could be simpler? Your opponent has opened with a 51 and played 13/8, 6/5. You now roll 32. How should you play it?

Let's remind ourselves of what we are trying to do in the opening. First, we would like to make some new points (this is why 31, 42, 53 and 61 are such good opening rolls). Second, if we can't make a point naturally then we can slot a good point, hence White's play of 6/5 as part of his opening. Third, we would like either to split or advance the back men. 65 is a very strong opening roll because it enables you to bring one of your back men to the safety of the mid-point. Finally, failing any of the above we can create builders for new points, for example by playing a roll of 43 by moving 13/9, 13/10.

When you win the opening roll, you can dictate the style of game. When your opponent plays first you must adapt to his opening, but there are still normally several choices and you can choose the one that best suits your style. In the above position 13/10, 24/22; 13/10, 13/11; 24/21, 13/11; 24/21, 24/22; 13/10, 6/4 are all reasonable plays.

I believe that the counter-slotting play 13/10, 6/4 is best by a small margin. It gives White four great numbers (11,33,31,13), but other than those Black is more likely to be able to equalise the position quickly than with the other plays.

This counter-slotting idea is one that recurs frequently in the opening whenever the first player slots with a 1. It is particularly strong against an opening 51 because White does not create any new cover numbers for his slot with his 5, but it also works well against 21 and 41. Try it; I think you will be impressed by the results.