backgammon

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The Independent Online
I have stressed before the importance of considering all possible plays in any position. You cannot possibly play the best move if it is one that you haven't even considered. Many players make their moves too quickly and often overlook moves that deserved serious consideration.

A good way to practise looking for alternative moves is the idea passed on to me by the American master, Kent Goulding. Pretend that on each move your opponent can insist that you do not make the move that you first select, but that you must play a different move. For example, if you roll 6-1 as your opening roll, he can stop you making your bar point. What would you play? Probably best is 24/18, 8/7.

Using this exercise, you have at least thought of a play you would not normally consider. If you have a willing partner, try playing some actual games like this. It is instructive and fun.

As a practical example, consider today's position. Black rolls 6-2. How should he play it? Many players would instinctively notice that they can make their 1 point with 7/1, 3/1 thus giving a closed home board. Now assume your opponent bans that move. What else can you play?

A little thought will produce the move 22/16, 7/5, which you might never have considered if you had made the 1 point too hastily. In fact, extensive roll-outs show that this is a much stronger move. The problem with 7/1, 3/1 is that Black must roll a 5 or a 6 next roll or immediately break his board (notice that 5-4 is no good), when he will quickly become the underdog. By leaping one man over White's blockade, Black retains much higher winning chances.

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