Backgammon

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The Independent Online
What is the most important point on a backgammon board? The answer is quite simple, your opponent's five point, also known as the "Golden Point".

The reason for its precedence over any other point lies in the fact that backgammon is a game with outrageous reversals of fortune. You can be cruising to victory and suddenly fail to enter on a 2-point board for three rolls. Or you may get hit by a freak shot. The golden point provides a large measure of security against such changes of fortune. Firstly, if you hold the golden point you can never be closed out (ie have a man on the bar when your opponent owns all the points in his home board).

Secondly, it is very difficult to form a prime (a blockade of six points in a row) in front of the golden point (contrast this with forming a prime against the two back men in their starting position on the 24 point). Thus, holding the golden point makes it much more difficult for your opponent to develop a winning game plan.

Even if he manages to escape his two back men from your board, he will still have the hurdle of the golden point to clear before he can claim victory. Let's look at a simple example:

White has opened with a 3,2, bringing two men down from the mid-point. How should Black play a roll of double 2? Cases can certainly be made for 13-11(2):6-4(2) or 24-22(2): 6-4(2), but 24-20(2) making the golden point is best as it severely constrains White's options on the next roll, and gives Black long- term security.

There is an old adage in backgammon that holding both five points is nearly always a doubling advantage, and like many old adages there's more than a grain of truth in it.

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