Games: Backgammon

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The Independent Online
White has been playing a 4-5 back game and has hit a very early shot. Black has compounded his problem by staying on the bar and now both sides have a decision to make. Should White double? Should Black take?

Looking at it from White's side it is easy to see that by the time it is his turn to roll again he may well have lost his market: Black will have an easy drop. Any sequence where White makes his 5-point and Black stays on the bar (or enters with 14, 24 or 15) will produce a position where Black will have a clear drop. As White will make his 5-point with all but seven rolls (66, 64, 46, 61, 16, 42, 24) it should be clear that White has a very strong double.

What about the take? What are Black's strengths? His main asset is his lead in the race. Before the roll he leads by 56 points (96-152). In addition, his men on 9-point can still be used to attack White if he leaves a blot in Black's home board. As noted above, White has seven rolls that don't cover the 5-point. Finally he should recognise that White's army is somewhat split, with 10 men in one half of the board and five in the other - a typical result of playing a back game. It will take him some time to coordinate his forces to restrain Black's last man.

More often than not, Black will drop this double. In the chouette from which the position was taken, all four team members - none renowned for dropping - passed the box's double. Although Black's position is far from ideal, as often happens in backgammon the sum of a number of possibilities, each of which is unlikely in itself, is sufficient to give Black enough chances to take. Roll-outs confirm that Black has a thin, but correct, take.