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Today, a type of problem that occurs continually in the opening. White has rolled 4-2 and made his 4-point. Black has rolled 4-1, how should he play it?

Following on from the lesson of the last article, it is important to first decide which are the candidate plays. In this position Black can consider four plays:

a) 13-8. This is safe but non-constructive, and does nothing to improve Black's position. Making plays like this will, in the long term, lead only to defeat.

b) 24-20, 24-23. This aggressive move immediately challenges White to attack Black, but as White has the better home board (more points made), he is likely to come off better in any exchange of hits.

c) 13-9, 24-23. This move brings down a builder (a checker available for making new points) and at the same time makes it more difficult for White to develop on his side of the board - Black has more hitting numbers if White brings down a checker into his outer board.

d) 13-9, 6-5. This move slots (exposes a single checker, or blot to being hit), but if not hit, it is likely that Black will be able to make his own 5-point next move, and equalise the position.

No one would play move a) and very few move b), though it is not out of the question. The choice lies between c) and d), and backgammon theory has swung from one to the other over the years. It is also important to realise that the two moves can lead to very different types of position (more on this in a later article). Modern theory, backed up by the best backgammon playing computers, indicates that c) is the best choice. However, the choice is close, and computers are not yet playing at master strength. My preference is for d) because of the type of positions to which it leads.

The important thing, however, is to recognise the choices and then select one based on your understanding of the position. If you only considered move a), you still have a good deal to learn.