Grant’s Puzzles

Courtesy of Grant Hoffman

#200 – How should White play 43 here?

When you are forced to leave a shot, some players advise you to leave the minimum number of shots. This is great advice but it is not always the most important factor.

Over the board, 13/6 was the move selected.

You will be hit with any 5 or 1 and 66. That is 23 shots. The good news is that you will still have an anchor, and the player very much wanted to retain his anchor.

Another approach is to play 13/10 13/9:

Now you will be hit with any 1 or 2, as well as 62 and 63. That is 24 shots.

The problem with both of the above moves is that they abandon your midpoint. Even if you are missed, you have isolated your rear most checkers. Retaining your midpoint here, when you are ahead in the race, is very important.

Let us go back and examine the assumption that you should keep our 21 point anchor. If you played 21/14:

You have kept your midpoint, and your blot on the 14 point will be attacked, as will your inner board blots, so why would you do this?

If your opponent hits you loose in their inner board, you will have returned shots and you have a stronger board than your opponent.

Next notice that Black with 6’s and 2’s hits your 14 point blot. Your blot on your 21 point is hit with 6’s, 4’s in 2’s. Notice the duplication of 6’s and 2’s. Your blot on your 23 point is hit with 6’s and 4’s; again, there is duplication of 6’s.

Duplicating your opponent’s good rolls is very important. Getting direct return shots from the bar is also very important. In this position both of these factors make abandoning our anchor with 21/14 the correct move.

The fact that you have a stronger board than your opponent is very important.

#199 – How should White play 54 here?

You have the better board, more checkers back and an advanced anchor. These factors should be pointing you towards making a bold play. They are some of the more important factors of Paul Magriel’s safe versus bold criteria.

Your 4 point would be a nice point to have, so you might consider slotting it 13/4:

This is a bold play but you have stripped your midpoint and left your 6 point stacked.

Black will hit you with any 3, as well as 61. That is 13 shots or 36% of the time. You also leave 2 blots.

If you are missed and Black does not escape, you still might not cover the blot next roll.

This looks like too much risk for too little return.

You would like to Unstack your 6 point, and you have the stronger board so why not attack with 6/1* 13/9:

You will be hit with any 1, as well as 62, 54 and 44. That is 16 rolls or 44% of the time – this is just too many rolls. You also leave 3 blots.

The only awkward hitting roll that Black has is 41. Can you find a move that gives Black more awkward hitting rolls?

Consider 13/8 6/2:

This only leaves 11 hitting rolls, 1 blot and it unstacks your 6 point. As an added bonus, your 8 point is made. Your 8 point may not seem important, but it gives you 2 checkers in the zone that can be used to cover the blot on your 2 point and aid in any future attack.

When you look at Blacks hitting rolls, you will notice that 61, 41 and 31 are very awkward for Black. Would Black actually hit with 61, 41 and 31?

Black should not even hit with 61, but should instead make their 5 point with 11/5 6/5. This unstacks there 6 point and gets rid of the gap in front of Whites anchor.

Black should still hit with 41, but the best move 24/23* 6/2, leaves a direct return shot from the bar. The advantage of 6/2 is that it unstacks Blacks 6 point.

Black should not even hit with 31, but should instead make their 5 point with 8/5 6/5. This unstacks there 6 point and gets rid of the gap in front of Whites anchor.

So in the original position, instead of being hit with 11 rolls, we should only correctly be hit with 7 rolls after the correct 13/8 6/2.

When you are considering how many rolls your opponent will hit with, ask yourself is it correct for my opponent to hit here?

#198 – How should White play 21 here?

If you want to play 24/21:

You should ask yourself what you are trying to achieve with 24/21. This is the racing play when you are behind in the race. You will be behind in the race by 11 pips after the roll.

You will have also moved to the point that Black most wants to make, when he has 3 builders aimed at it.

This play is just too dangerous.

Moving 24/23 13/11:

This moves to a less desirable point for Black to make, but just because it is less desirable to make does not mean that Black does not want it. There is a saying “all points are equal in the blitz”, meaning when Black is attacking they will take any point that they can get, especially if it puts us on the bar at the same time.

This is too dangerous and you need to leave your checker on the 24 point alone.

You want to keep your board intact so any move that breaks your 4 point should be discarded.

When leaving a shot, most players just think about the number of shots they leave their opponent. This can be the most important consideration but sometimes it is more important to leave the blot in front of a point that they would rather not give up. Especially if you will have returned shots from the bar if they hit you from an anchor.

The correct move here is 13/11 8/7:

If Black hits you with any roll other than 22, you will have returned shots from the bar. Particularly you will have returned 6’s from the bar.

If Black misses you, you will have a good chance of making your 7 point.

You have also duplicated 2’s to hit on both sides of the board.

This is the correct move as it forces your opponent to give up an asset they would rather not give up.