Grant’s Puzzles #221 to Present

Courtesy of Grant Hoffman

#239 – How should White play 61 here?

This should be called Grant’s really big blunder as it occurred in the match with a friend where I did not take the time to properly think about the position.

For those of you who know the New Zealand band “Split Enz”, one of their songs has the lyrics “I see red, I see red, I see red”. And I definitely saw red, when I saw the analysis.

I quickly played 13/6:

I thought that I wanted to leave only one blot, and I needed to clear my midpoint and bring my checkers home so why not do it now?

I should have counted the shots then I would realise that Black hits with any 1 plus 63, 54, 33 and 66. That is a total of 17 rolls or 47% of the time.

I should have hit 8/1*:

Now Black will hit with any 1 and 44 – that is 12 rolls which is 5 rolls less or 14% less.

Although the number of rolls is an important factor there are other things going on here as well. White will win 10% more Gammons after hitting.

Also, some of Black’s non-hitting entering rolls are very bad for Black. This is because Black currently has TMP (Too Many Points). When they enter without hitting, they will usually have to you give up their midpoint making it easier for White to clear the midpoint later.

I think Black’s board make me want to make the move I thought was safer but, and while this concept is correct, you need to count the actual number of rolls to determine which play is safest.

Was I punished for my bad play? No, I ended up winning a gammon and the match from here. Sometimes players are not punished for their bad moves.

If I had made the correct move:

Look at how awkward Black’s non-hitting entering play of 43 is. Black must keep their strong board and play Bar/21 13/10, even Bar/18 is reasonable.

Going through all of Black’s entering, non-hitting replies will show you how bad it is to have TMP.

#238 – How should White play 61 here?

You have a broken 4 prime in front of your opponent’s blot. If you want to keep this intact you will have to you run 23/17 and then the best 1 is to play 6/5 giving you more builders to attack Black’s blot on your 4 point.

This would be a great move, if Black did not get to move before your next move. However, they do, and they have a lot of great rolls. Some rolls hit and make their 1 point and other rolls just make their 2 point.

This is just asking to be attacked.

You should keep your anchor, and play the 6 on your side of the board. Whichever move you choose, you will be leaving the blot on your outfield, so you should make your 2 point, giving you a strong 4 point board? This will at least give you some chances if you get into a blot hitting contest.

Consider 9/2:

This gives you builders on 3 points with which you can attack Black’s blot if they do not escape next turn. Black cannot run if they roll 44, 22, 11, 42, 41 and 21. That is 9 rolls or 25% of the time.

Also notice that if Black rolls 44, they will have to weaken the board and leave a blot.

This looks good but can you do better? Consider 8/2 6/5:

Now you have builders on 4 different points with which to attack Black if they cannot escape.

They fail to escape if they roll 55, 22, 11, 52, 51 and 21. Again this is 9 rolls or 25% of the time, but now you have an extra builder with which to attack.

Here 55 is a really bad roll for Black forcing them to weaken their board but not leave a blot. Even though this does not leave a direct shot this turn, the gap on their 6 point is very awkward.

But the main point here is that you have more builders ready to attack if Black cannot escape.

This is the correct move.

#237 – How should White play 51 here?

Even if you cannot decide instantly what to play, you know that all the alternatives are good and you will end up winning a lot of games and a lot of Gammons.

In a blitz it is very important not to let your opponent anchor, so you consider putting another checker on the bar with 8/3* 22/21:

This looks good if White misses the blot on your 3 point, but you will still have to cover it next roll. You might not be able to cover it next roll and Black could simply hit your checker with any 3 as well as 11.

If Black does hit you from the bar, your blitz could run out of steam and you have given up your 8 point.

A much safer hit is to hit 20/14*:

After this play, Black can only hit you from the bar with 22.

You will be ahead in the race by 40 pips after the roll.

If you make this move, what is likely to happen is that Black will enter at least one checker. You will then safety some of your blots and Black will probably make an anchor. You will certainly have an advantage, but you really want to have a big advantage.

Consider the non-hitting 10/5 6/5:

You do not put another checker on the bar and Black may anchor but then you will have a broken four prime in front of Black’s checkers in your inner board.

The combination of your 6, 5 and 4 points is a very strong structure. Bill Robertie calls the structure “the rack” because it tortures your opponent move after move.

Black will have many difficult choices after you make your 5 point, as it will haunt them and make their loose hits very risky.

This is the correct move. I remember Stick Rice saying “when making your 5 point is wrong, it will not be wrong by very much. But when it is right, it will be right by a lot”. Stick would make the 5 point here.

To illustrate how risky your opponent’s rolls will be after you make your 5 point, let’s give black a 61 to play here:

It is correct for Black to enter bar/24 and hit loose, 11/5*, but this only wins 30% of games and loses almost 34% Gammons.

I could easily see an opponent make an incorrect move here, and all the other moves win fewer games and lose more Gammons. After making your 5 point, you will be giving your opponent some difficult choices – which is always a good thing to do.

#236 – How should White play 22 here?

Whatever else you do here, you must put Black on the bar by playing 4/2*(2):

Putting Black on the bar will make it easier for you to escape your two checkers on your 21 point and win you more Gammons. Remembering all positions are money but without Jacoby so it is possible to win a Gammon here.

You now have to decide how you will play the last two 2’s.

If you decide that you want to hit Black’s checker on your 11 point, then you could play the roll 6/2*(2):

Even if you do not hit the checker on your 11 point with a 1, you will have a very good chance of picking it up when you bring your two checkers on your 21 point around the board to home. This makes it unnecessary to leave the checker on your 12 point.

The other issue with this play is now a 66 for Black will make Black the favourite. I remember years ago Bill Robertie calling positions where you were the favourite except for when you left one devastating roll for your opponent, “silver bullet positions”. He correctly argued that when you have everything else under control, you want to avoid your opponent having any “silver bullets” that make them the favourite.

Any roll for Black that results in you being on the bar, it is a silver bullet roll.

Consider 4/2*(2) 10/8:

This move gives Black the silver bullet of 44.

Consider 4/2*(2) 12/10 9/7:

This move leaves no silver bullets from the bar.

You may not be happy if Black rolls 44 here, but you will not be on the bar and you will still be ahead in the race.

This move wins the most Gammons, roughly 68% making it the best move.

Going back to 6/2*(2):

This is the move that wins the most games, making it correct at DMP. Although it is close, it wins less Gammons than the correct move.

#235 – How should White play 52 here?

You could improve your board strength by playing 5/1 3/1:

When you look at the resulting position, you have a very bad distribution and the checker on your 11 point does not bear onto an open point.

Although it has been said “that backgammon isn’t a beauty contest”, the resulting position looks fragile and stacked. Imagine what would happen here if you rolled 66. Therefore, although this equalises board strength and reduces your blot count, the future does not look great after this move.

It looks like you will have to leave the blot on your 3 point where it is, so you consider bringing your builders closer with 11/6 7/5:

The issue with this play is now not only will any 1 be great for Black, but also if Black nearly escapes into the outfield without hitting, then Black will be in great shape, as Black will control most of the outfield.

Black runs into the outfield with any 6, as well as 42 and 52. That is 13 rolls, as 61 has already been counted as a hitting roll.

Giving Black so much control of the outfield is a bad idea.

As you have your 20 point anchor, you may decide that you simply want to improve your board with 11/4:

If you are hit, you can never be closed out as your 20 point anchor means you will always enter eventually. While that is true, and you would really like to make your 4 or 3 point, again Black has too many rolls that either hit or escape into the outfield.

Again, you have given Black control of the outfield.

If you play 20/18 11/6, although you have one less blot, again you have given Black control of the outfield.

In summary, you know that you should leave the blot on your 3 point where it is, and you must retain some outfield presence.

Consider 20/15 7/5:

Although you have duplicated Blacks 1’s to hit you in 2 places, the addition of 3’s to hit means that Black will hit you with 20 rolls. Note that 63 is not counted as an additional hitting number, as it is already included in the 20 rolls. Note, if Black rolled 63 after this move, then Black should hit 23/14*.

This makes your 6’s less awkward next roll, but is just too many good numbers for Black.

Consider 20/13:

This duplicates Black’s 1’s to hit into places, thus reducing the total number of hitting rolls that Black has. Black will now hit you with any 1 plus 63 and 65. That is 15 rolls, 5 fewer than the previous move.

If you are not hit, you have a good outfield presence which will make it harder for Black to escape, and many of your rolls will be easier to play, especially 6’s.

This is the best move, and what makes it particularly interesting is that it leaves 3 blots, but it is still better than the alternatives, some of which leave no blots.

#234 – How should White play 41 here?

The obvious play is just to enter bar/24 and then play 4/3 weakening your board. Of the board weakening plays, 4/3 is the best.

You need to ask yourself, how will you win from here? You will need to roll 55’s to escape, maybe leaving a shot as you do. Black will have to be miss and then you will have to win the race. The chances of all those events happening looks very small.

You have to realise, whichever move you make, you will not be the favourite. However, you must try to maximise your equity in this and every position. I am a great believer of the saying “if in doubt, play to win”

The “play to win” move here is to play bar/21 6/5*:

This is the “banana split” play. You are deliberately breaking your board to hit and opponents checker in your inner board.

Note that after making this move, your board is as strong as your opponent’s. You have an advanced anchor on your 21 point, and all the alternatives damage your position. Your opponent will hit you with 20 rolls but will stay on the bar with 16 rolls or 44% of the time. If your opponent stays on the bar, you will cover with any 2 or 1 and 55 – that is 21 rolls or 58% of the time.

This position occurred in the Nelson chouette, many years ago. I was a team member and managed to convince my teammates to make this play. Everything went perfectly and we won. One of my teammates was so impressed with this move, for about three months afterward they would make banana split plays when they were possible but not necessary. Like steering positions into back games, this sort of strategy will prove to be very expensive. So please use this strategy with care, but remember, there are times when the banana split play is the correct strategy.

#233 – How should White play 21 here?

Ever since I started playing backgammon, I have heard many rules for how to bear off and bear in. Some are quite good, and some are very good when certain conditions are met. I thought it would be a good exercise to go through a “simple” bearoff against a contact position.

The first thing to notice is that our opponent has a very strong board, so we really want to avoid being hit as opposed to when they have many inner board blots and we do not care if we are hit.

You could play completely safe with 4/2 3/2:

Against an ace point game, you really want to avoid putting extra checkers on your 2 point. This is a rule that has stood the test of time, and the resulting position looks dangerous.

Also, notice that your top 2 points have an odd number of checkers on them. You really want them to have an even number of checkers on them.

This leaves a blot when you roll 64, 54, 43, 66 and 55 – a total of 6 rolls.

You can get an even number of checkers by playing 4/3 4/2:

Unfortunately, when you roll 64 or 54 you will leave a double shot. When comparing the number of rolls each position leaves, if any rolls leave double shots then I multiply the number of those rolls by 2. If there are rolls that leave a triple shot, then I will multiply those rolls by 3.

In the resulting position above as 64 or 54 leave the double shot I will multiply those 4 rolls by 2 and count that as 8 rolls.

We also leave a single shot with 43, which is another 2 rolls so overall we leave shots with 8+2 = 10 rolls. This is just too many rolls.

This shows us that you cannot rely solely on the rule “keep an even number of checkers on your top 2 points”

Consider 4/3 2/off:

This does have the advantage of taking a checker off.

You will leave a single shot with 64, 54, 43, 66 and 55 – that is 8 rolls.

Can you do better? Consider 5/4 5/3:

You have an odd number of checkers on both the top 2 points and the top point. This looks awkward but having an odd number of checkers on the top point is not a problem for this roll, as 64, 54 and 43 do not leave a shot. It is okay to have an odd number of checkers on your top point if your high non-doubles do not leave a shot. It is even better high doubles do not leave a shot.

There are only 3 rolls that leave a shot – 66, 55 and 44. This is the lowest number of rolls that leave a shot of all the alternatives and when you do leave a shot, you will have another 4 checkers off.

This is the correct move.

Years ago, I was playing in the chouette where I was the captain, and I wanted to make a move that left 7 checkers on our top point when we were bearing off against an ace point game. One of my teammates kept on repeating to me “but you are leaving an odd number of checkers on the top point! That cannot be right”. I pointed out that it left no shots next roll. I could not convince my teammate but fortunately, I was the captain and made the ugly move.

#232 – How should White play 52 here?

This is an interesting position, with an interesting story. I saw this position in a teaching video where the rollout was never shown. The answer was just explained, and I disagreed with it.

The commentator believed that 6/4 “was a given” as it gave you the 6, 5 and 4 combination and that this combination was so strong it justified leaving 2 inner board blots. Then the play made over the board was 16/11:

I believe that 6/4 was wrong and that 3/1 should have been played as it only leaves one inner board blot. Every move that has 6/4 in it is a blunder.

So let us consider 16/11 3/1:

Now we have only one inner board blot.

Playing 16/11 has only added 4 more covers 61 and 43 as 62 already covered. You cover with any 2, 61, 43 and 44. That is 16 rolls or 44% of the time.

Playing 16/11 takes a lot of pressure off Black’s checker on your 12 point.

You need to ask yourself why you need to keep to anchors on your opponent’s home board.

Consider 3/1 23/18:

43 and 61 no longer cover but 33 does.

This move puts Black under a lot more pressure, as many more rolls will now hit Black’s blot on your 12 point.

If you look at this position in terms of Paul Magriel’s safe versus bold play, you have a better board, an advanced anchor, more checkers back and you are behind in the race. Those factors should be pointing you to make a bold play here, but you can make a bold play and still minimise your inner board blots.

I really enjoy watching teaching videos, but if the rollouts are not given, it is always good to check them yourselves. This is also true when you read books when the analysis was done by earlier software than XG.

#231 – How should White play 61 here?

The point you would you most like to make is your 5 point, so why not slot it now and bring in another builder with 17/11 6/5?

Paul Magriel wrote that it was unwise to slot while your back checkers are split. The problem being that your opponent can attack the back checker if they miss the slotted point. Although there are exceptions to this advice, it is a very good rule of thumb.

Black has 3 builders aimed at the blot on your 22 point. You should heed Paul Magriel’s advice, and find another play.

The blot on your 22 point is in such danger that you have to you play 22/21 so that Black cannot attack that checker.

Then you could just play 17/11, which aims another builder at your open 5 point.

There are two problems with this play. First, Black will hit you with 64.

You will still have 3 checkers stuck behind a broken 4 prime.

Consider 22/21 21/15:

When neither player has many checkers in their outfield, the first player puts checkers there has an advantage if the other player still has checkers to escape.

After this play, Black’s problems are not over when they escape into the outfield, as they will leave either direct or indirect shots at the fleeing checker.

This does allow Black to hit with any 1, but to hit they have to give up their 9 point meaning that you will be less trapped unless they roll 11. Some of their hitting rolls like 61 will force them to leave another blot.

When you are trying to contain opponent’s checker, it is good to have your checkers in every quadrant of the board. 22/15 achieves that goal, and leaves you the favourite.

Every other move is a blunder.

Neither of the players have much of an outfield presence. When both of you still have checkers that must travel through the outfield to get home, then the first player to put their checkers into the outfield will have an advantage. Make sure that you are that player.

In his book “Understanding Backgammon”, Kit Woolsey called this concept “Outfield Wars” and devoted an entire section to it.

#230 – How should White play 43 here?

Suppose you hit with 8/4* 8/4*, but the same issues will exist for any of the hitting plays – they will leave two blots in your inner board.

Because Black has a solid 5 prime, any hit will be very bad. Therefore, you have to reject any play that hits.

If you give up your 9 point with 9/5 9/6:

Then Black will escape with any 6, 5 or 3. Although you will have some direct and indirect shots, you will have to hit. This is giving Black too much freedom.

This narrows your alternatives down to two. First, you could play 13/7:

You will be hoping that Black does not escape, and indeed any combination of 5, 4, 2 and 1 as well as 31 and 32 stop black escaping. That is a total of 20 rolls or 56% of the time.

However, to win this game you will have to attack Black, and although you have some pick and pass numbers here, you have some pointing numbers that still leave the blot on your 2 point.

If you are hoping that Black does not escape, you need to prepare your board so that it is easier for you to attack and it is as strong as possible for next roll.

Consider 13/10 6/2:

This is the strongest of the plays that make your 2 point. All the others involve you giving up either your 9 or 8 point. If you give up either of those points, Black can escape with more rolls.

Black does not escape with the same 20 rolls, but now you are in a much better position by making your 4 point, hitting loose or pick and passing. You are in a much better position because your board is so much stronger.

Do not worry about the fact that when Black escapes with the 6, they will hit you in the process. Yes, this is worse but any 6 was already a winner for Black.

Phil Simborg has a saying “make the move that your opponent least wants to see you make”. Here that move is 13/10 6/2. This move puts Black under the most pressure.

Phil’s saying can be applied equally well to cube decisions. If you think your opponent does not want to see you double, then double. If you think your opponent would be happy to be doubled, because either your position is too good or not strong enough then do not double.

#229 – How should White play 62 here?

It has been said that a good time to run as when your opponent is on the bar – so you could consider running here with 21/13.

Black will hit loose from the bar with 54, 53, 51, 42, 32, 21, 41, 31 and 11. If Black rolls 11 they will hit and lift. Black will also switch points with 22, so that is 18 rolls or 50% of the time.

If Black rolls one of those rolls, you will need to roll well from the bar or else be in a very dangerous position.

Although in principle it is good to run when your opponent is on the bar, you do have to you look at all their shots from the bar.

You will still be behind in the race after the roll, so this is not your best game plan.

You could play completely safe with 11/3:

This leaves no blots, but the goal of backgammon is to win not to leave the minimum number of blots.

You would really like to make your 5 point, and 11/3 removes a builder making it harder to make your 5 point.

Your 21 point anchor is a great backstop, so you should just leave it where it is.

You really want to make a 5 point, so play 13/11 13/7:

This aims four builders at your 5 point, slots your 7 point and stops Black from escaping if they roll 65.

Your game plan is either to close Black out or prime Black. This move advances both of those game plans. You have good priming possibilities and if you can close Black out you will win many Gammons due to Black needing many crossovers to get off the Gammon.

You only are hit with four rolls – 61 and 52.

Owning the cube, you want to reduce volatility and improve to the point where you can offer an efficient double and give your opponent a tough decision. You know that you have offered a good double when you opponent thinks about it for a long time.

This is the correct move.

#228 – How should White play 52 here?

You have done really well and escaped all of your back checkers.

You are ahead in the race by 21 pips after the roll, if you do not hit and 22 pips if you do hit.

You could play safe with 13/6, leaving Black with no rolls that will hit you:

If you look at the resulting position, three of your points have no spares on them and you will have awkward rolls next turn that could leave shots.

This is a classic “pay now or pay later” problem. Black’s board has an inner board blot now but it could soon be covered. There is a good chance that you will leave a blot in the future, so if you’re going to make a bold play, it would be good to do it now when you have the return shots at Blacks inner board blot and their board is weak.

You could hit 8/1*:

You are hoping that Black will miss you and enter higher up in your board. This will make it easier for you to play checkers behind them.

The resulting position still has three points with no spares on them and looks inflexible. By “inflexible”, I mean that you have very few point making rolls that do not also leave blots. Some non-point making rolls also leave blots.

You want to hit on your 1 point, and create some flexibility. 13/11 6/1*:

This starts to clear your midpoint, creates a more flexible position from which you can make points without leaving blots next turn.

This is the correct move. Whenever I am considering making a move that leaves me with a stripped, inflexible resulting position, I stop and reconsider the alternatives. Sometimes for tactical reasons, the flexible position will be correct, but I will only make it as a last resort, when I am convinced that all the other alternatives are incorrect.

The real question is how strong do we have to you make Black’s board before we have to you play safe?

If Black has a 3 point board, it is still correct to hit 13/11 6/1*.

With black having a 4 point board, now you should respect it and make the inflexible play 13/6.

#227 – How should White play 32 here?

You have rolled a bad roll, so do not waste time thinking about how unlucky you are, you cannot change what you rolled.

You could play bar/22 18/15:

It would be good to duplicate your opponent’s good rolls. Here they need 4’s to both cover 24/20 and to hit 20/16*. They also need 5’s to cover the blot on their 1 point.

By moving 18/15, you have also given them good 3’s to hit. You have diversified their good rolls.

It is true that you have given yourself good 6’s but now they have too many good rolls.

It is always good to be aggressive and to take the initiative, so you could consider bar/23 8/5*:

This play leads the most blots of any of the alternatives. You now have 4 blots around the board, you have stripped your 8 point and given your opponent, many return shots from the bar.

Black has an inner board blot, which would indicate being more aggressive. However, Black has the stronger board, which should deter you from a blot-hitting contest.

You could reduce your blot count to a minimum by playing bar/23 9/6:

This does reduce your blot count, but it creates an ugly stack on your 6 point and leaves you with an inflexible brittle position, which will be hard to improve and should result in you leaving many blots to come unless you roll really well and many doubles.

Consider bar/22 18/16:

This does not diversify your opponents numbers, as Black will be very reluctant to hit loose with 3’s in their inner board.

Now Black needs 4’s to anchor 24/20, to hit 20/16*and to hit 13/9*.

This roll gives you good 6’s to make an outfield blot with 22/16.

If Black does not hit, you will either baby able to attack or make your 9 or 16 points.

Duplication is a great tool, it allows you to minimise shots without counting every single roll. In positions like this where you have rolled a bad roll, I usually try to duplicate my opponent’s good numbers. It will not always be correct but many times, it will save me from making a blunder.

#226 – How should White play 31 here?

This is an interesting position, with an interesting story. The actual position occurred in the final 8 of the New Zealand Backgammon Championship this year. The score has been removed, as the result is the same as it would be in a money game without Jacoby.

White’s was Carl, a good player who made his move and afterwards was criticised by everyone watching with one notable exception who backed Carl’s move.

The players, who disagreed with Carl’s move, could not agree on what move they would make. They divided into two camps, one that wanted to play completely safe with 12/9 2/1:

The players, who wanted this move, argued that as White cannot win a gammon, White should just play safe and trust in the dice.

They also pointed out that Black was worse in the race because of the gap on their 3 point and the stack of checkers on their 2 point. This is true, but White is also worse off because of the gap on White’s 4 point and the extra checkers on White’s 1 point.

Even if you just look at the raw pip count’s, Black is ahead in the race by 1 pip and on roll.

The other group of players recognised that they should not rely on the race, and all of them want to hit 5/4* then leave the point slotted by playing 12/9:

This could work very well if Black rolls one of their 16 numbers where they stay on the bar.

The issue is that any 4 hits, and although White will have returned shots from the bar unless Black rolls 41 or 43, the cost of being hit is just too great.

Carl correctly played 5/4*/1:

This puts Black on the bar and only let’s Black return hit from the bar with 66, 63 and 54. That is 5 rolls or 17% of the time.

With 16 rolls Black stays on the bar, and then White is a cubeless 58% favourite.

What was impressive is although many very good players argued against the move, Carl could not be swayed. He stuck to his guns and was correct.

#225 – How should White play 52 here?

You might think that it is good to have diversified spares on your prime aimed at your opponent’s 22 point anchor, ready to attack when they leave your 22 point anchor.

If you thought this then 13/6 might be your move.

However, you leave 3 blots around your board, and you give up the opportunity to make your 22 point anchor.

One of the sayings in backgammon that has stood the test of time is “when your opponent has an anchor, you need to get an anchor”. All the top three moves involved playing 24/22.

You could try 24/22 9/4, as this leaves only 1 blot.

The issue with this move is that it gives up part of your blocking structure, making it easier for Black to escape their 2 rear most checkers.

A similar move is 24/22 7/2:

This has the same issue of giving up part of your blocking structure.

It is slightly better than 24/22 9/4 in that it at least starts another inner board point.

Consider 24/22 13/8:

This does leave 2 blots instead of only 1 blot, but it keeps your existing blocking structure.

If Black does not roll a 5 or 1, then you will have a very good chance to make your 8 point, giving you a 6 prime.

Even if you do not roll one of those numbers, your position will be much easier to tidy up.

Preserving your structure makes this the correct move, even though you leave an extra blot.

#224 – How should White play 21 here?

You could just avoid leaving any direct shot by playing 4/2 3/2:

You will still be hit with 6 rolls, but more importantly, when Black leaves your 1 point, you want to be able to attack the remaining checker. To do that it would be good to have your spares on different points, and this move puts both of your spares on your 2 point.

If you are going to leave a direct shot, you could leave the minimum number of shots by playing 17/14:

The problem with this move is not just the 15 rolls that hit, but also the rolls that do not hit where Black either moves his checker to safety or leaves only an indirect shot by moving to their 10 or 9 points.

The other issue with this move is that now Black has good 4’s to hit and 6’s to escape from behind your 5 prime.

The further back we stay the more rolls that Black has that do not safety their outfield blot.

Consider 17/16 4/2:

Now if Black rolls 11, 21, 31, 41 and 32, they leave a direct shot. That is 9 rolls, compared to when you played 17/14 where only 21 (two rolls) left you a direct shot. Even if they mistakenly chose to break the 7 point, you would have 17 rolls that hit their blot.

You have also duplicated their 6’s to hit and to escape there rear most checkers.

You might be thinking that this makes Blacks 66 into a great roll. However, you play this move, 66 is a great roll for Black.

This is the correct move.

#223 – How should White play 32 here?

I recently watched a German backgammon expert explain in a video, how reducing your blot count is so important. It was a nice simple piece of advice, but it depends on what else is happening on the board.

You could you reduce your blot count here by making your 8 point with 11/8 10/8. After that play, you only have one blot:

You do have a very powerful board here, but you still have to get your rear most checkers all the way home. You will be ahead in the race by 49 pips after the roll.

If you wait to escape your last checker, Black will either hit you loose on your 20 point, maybe covering the blot on their 3 point at the same time.

If they do not hit you loose, they will probably improve their board to a 4 point board and then attack you next roll when they have a better board.

You will most likely, be forced to run next roll.

The best time to run, as when your opponent’s board is at its weakest. Right now your opponent has an inner board blot on their 3 point. If you run 20/15:

Then you will have duplicated 3’s to hit on your 15 point and for your opponent to cover their 3 point.

If Black hits you from your 3 point, then it will be an indirect hit so that they will have to leave a checker on your 3 point. If that happens apart from hitting them with any 3, you will also have 52 and 21 to hit them from the bar.

It looks reckless to leave 3 blots around your board, but while their board is still weak and you have a 5 point board, this is the move that puts Black under the most pressure.

If Black fails to hit you, you will be so much closer to bringing all your checkers safely home.

#222 – How should White play 43 here?

It looks automatic to hit, and take the lead in the race.

If you hit 13/9*/6:

Then you have over stacked your 6 point.

It is always a good time to split when your opponent is on the bar so you could hit and split 13/9* 24/21:

This does have the advantage of splitting to the point your opponent least wants to make, but this should not be a worry, as they will be hitting loose unless they roll doubles. For that reason, if you are going to hit and split, you should split to the more valuable point with 13/9* 23/20:

This looks good but Black can hit your checker on the 9 point with 63. With 54, they should anchor on their 20 point. With 43, they should anchor on their 21 point.

They also enter and hit loose on your 20 point with 55, 44, 33, 22, 11, 41, 51, 31, 21, 42, and 52. That is 17 rolls or 47% of the time.

Although it is nice to hit and send your opponent back behind your 3 prime, consider the non-hitting 24/20 21/20:

You are leaving no blots, the race is equal and Black cannot extend their prime.

What is surprising is that Black has 11 rolls that fail to safety the blot on their 16 point. Those rolls are 22, 65, 61, 51, 42 and 41.

This looks like a passive play, but is the move that puts Black under the most pressure.

It also takes the initiative away from Black.

#221 – How should White play 22 here?

Walter Trice in his excellent book “Backgammon Boot Camp” suggested that if you are ahead in the race, simply moving your rear most checkers is usually a good option.

Unfortunately, in backgammon it seems like every good rule has exceptions.

If you were to play 13/9(2):

You would be making your 9 point which would be good if you were behind in the race, but as you are ahead in the race, you have just made a point that will be hard to clear. The hardest points to clear are those 6 pips away from your opponents anchor.

This move also leaves 12 hitting rolls for Black.

If you play 11/9(2) 6/4(2):

You again create a point 6 pips away from your opponent’s anchor, and you want to avoid doing that. You are ahead in the race by 39 pips after the roll, so you are not holding your opponent with this move, they are holding you.

The 5 point is usually a good point to have, so you could play 13/5:

This leaves Black 13 hitting rolls – any 1 as well as 64.

If your next roll is 64, you will leave a direct shot.

If your next roll is 63, you should play 11/5 13/10, which leaves 11 hitting rolls for Black.

If you want to minimise your shots, you could try 8/4(2):

This does leave the minimum 11 shots, but it still could be awkward to clear your 13 point.

Also 52 on your next roll, does not safety the blot on your 5 point.

Consider 13/11(2) 6/4(2):

This clears your midpoint, moves your two most rear checkers, and leaves only 11 hitting rolls for Black.

The other thing that this does, is fills the gap immediately in front of Black’s anchor. Gaps immediately in front of anchors are very dangerous. I will usually consider making a slightly more risky move, if it fills in a gap in front of one of my opponents anchors.

Although this position looks a little stripped, with two spares on your 11 point, this is the correct move.