backgammon

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The Independent Online
One of the things that makes backgammon so exciting is the possibility of a last-minute turnaround. As a simple example, imagine you have four men on your six-point and your opponent has one man on his one-point. It is your roll. You will still win the game three per cent of the time - when you roll double six. The sense of elation this brings is quite something!

Because there is always the possibility of an outrageous sequence of events, backgammon generates more hard-luck stories than any other game I know. If I had pounds 10 for every time someone has come up to me and said "You won't believe this, but...", I would be a very rich man.

Every one has his own favourite hard-luck story; here's mine. Playing in the box (with the black pieces) against a team of four, a rather excitable gentleman reached this position.

He rolled 6-5 and bore off two men. White now missed his double shot by rolling 5-4 and moved two men in the outfield. Now, unless he rolls 2-1 or 1-1, Black is assured of a backgammon and a juicy 24 points on the scoresheet.

Remarkably, he did roll 2-1! White missed again with 4-3 and moved again in the outfield. Black's extraordinary luck continued as he now rolled... 1-1!

I will omit the expletives that Black was now using to describe the situation! White rolled 5-1, finally hitting Black's last man.

At this point, Black is still a very heavy favourite to win the game (his chances stand at 92 per cent). For White to win he must continually hit Black's last man as he attempts to bring it around the board, close him out and then bear off his men while Black, he hopes, languishes indefinitely on the bar.

Needless to say this is precisely what did happen, and to add insult to injury, the team managed to redouble to four at a point when Black had to take. So instead of winning 24 points he lost 16.

A 40-point swing at not insignificant stakes made for a very unhappy player of the black pieces!

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