backgammon

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Over the next few articles I want to demonstrate the complexity and variety of backgammon by looking at the different type of problems which players face. Let's start with a simple checker problem:

Most checker-play mistakes in backgammon are not made by considering Play A and Play B and choosing the wrong one but by not realising that Play C was a viable alternative. A variation on this theme is agonising over the choice between Play A and Play B for a long time, suddenly noticing that Play C is available and playing it without any further thought (this is a particularly common error in the game of chess).

An inexperienced beginner looking at this position will see that he can cover the blot (a checker alone on a point) on his bar point (a player's own 7-point) and will consequently play the three by moving 10/7, and then look around for a suitable 2 and will play 24/22 or 13/11 (or even the dreadful 8/6!). He may never consider 7/4, 6/4 or 8/5, 7/5 either of which is superior to making the bar. By assuming part of the move to be forced the best play (making the 4-point) is missed.

There are two useful lessons to be learnt from all this:

First, think before you move. The vast majority of errors at backgammon are made by players "seeing" what seems to be a good move and playing it without any further thought.

Second, never take any part of your move unless it is truly forced, for example entering from the bar onto a five point board, before considering the move as a whole.

The rules of backgammon allow you to try out as many moves as you like before lifting the dice. If you are unsure which of two promising alternatives you ought to play, try them both before making a decision. Quite often seeing the resultant positions will help the decision making process.

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