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Backgammon Strategy
Introduction Dice Probability Opening Moves
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Backgammon Tutorial 2: All about flexibility

The game of backgammon is really all about flexibility. Every decent player understands this and will make sure not to end up with points covered with 6 or more checkers. You should always try to keep a maximum of 4 checkers on each point. Especially in the beginning of a new game this will force you to take some risks, but as you have plenty of time to get back into the game, you shouldn't be to worried about leaving blots. We can explain this with a very good example of the opening roll 3-2.

Example 1:
You are first to move with
Now, a very safe move to make here is playing 13/8. The good thing about this move is that it doesn't leave a blot on the board. The bad thing though, is that it will give you very limited flexibility for your next roll. As you can see in our opening moves table, there are 2 good moves you can make here: (24/21 13/11) or (13/11 13/10). Both will leave you a lot of flexibility for your next roll. Personally I prefer playing (24/21 13/11) here. This way you will make progress on both sides of the board and gives you a very high chance of making an important anchor point. As mentioned before, DO NOT worry about leaving a blot here. The only way for you opponent to hit your checker on the 11-point is to roll 6-4, which is a chance of nearly 6%. It will not be very likely for your other blots to get hit either, as you opponent will only do this if he can make an anchor point of it. Even is he does (for instance by rolling 4-2) this doesn't really matter, as you will probably get of the bar immediately. The most important thing to notice in this example is the flexibility you just created for yourself. You will be able to make a strong anchor point with a lot of rolls next turn. Think of 4-1, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 and every other roll with a 3 or a 2 will make an anchor point too.

Example 2:
Pipcount: Purple 146 / Orange 140

You are playing with purple and you roll
The first thing to notice here is that orange has a blot left in his home board. This means that you must not be too concerned about leaving a blot now, because if you get hit, you will get an immediate chance of hitting back when you come of the bar. What you want to achieve now is that orange gets stuck with its back checker. If you can make the 7-point it will be very hard for him to get this back checker out of there. This is why the correct play in this example is (13/10 13/9). This way you are in a good position to make that important 7-point the next roll. The only way for orange to hit you is to roll 6-4 or 6-3. This is a limited chance of nearly 12% AND will give you the immediate chance to hit orange back in his home board.

Example 3:
Pipcount: Orange 180 / Purple 161

You are playing with purple and you roll
The majority of players will be playing (24/20). This is not such a bad move as it will give you the chance to make the important 20-point in your next roll, there is however a better choice. The correct play would be (24/21 24/23) as this gives you even more flexibility the next roll. Important to understand is the reason why leaving 3 blots is not such a problem here. The reason is that orange has no builders ready to hit you and make an anchor point out of it. Your opponent would be very stupid to hit you and leave a blot in his own home board, giving you a very good chance to strike back immediately.

I hope you understand the need for flexibility now and that I will not see you end up with two 6-checkers covered points during the match. Be reasonable however, and do not put this in the extreme by leaving blots all over the board in order to get some flexibility. You will have to get the feeling for this by playing a lot of games and analyze them afterwards with computer software. Good luck!

Go to Tutorial 3: What's the point?