Backgammon is a dice-based game, so getting the dice to work in your favour is a good idea.
Diversifying your good numbers.
Diversification is the principle of playing in such a way that as many numbers on the dice as possible play well for you on your next turn.
Figure 1 shows a simple application of the principle of diversification.
Black has a strong position and a simple game plan. He wants to cover his blot on his ace-point and to hit White’s blot on his bar-point. With his roll of 64, Black is forced to play 18/12 – this move is the only legal 6. Notice that if he leaves the blot on his 12-point, he needs 5s on his next turn, both to cover his own ace-point blot safely (6/1) and to hit White’s blot (12/7*).
Needing the same number next turn to do two things isn’t, however, a good idea. So Black should play 12/8 with the 4.
Now he needs a 5 to cover his own blot and a 1 to hit White’s blot. The number of dice rolls that do something good for him next turn significantly increases.
There are 15 possible opening rolls (6-5, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, 5-4, 5-3, 5-2, 5-1, 4-3, 4-2, 4-1, 3-2, 3-1, 2-1), as it is not possible to roll a double for the opening roll.
TIP: With each move you have to consider offence and defence - the competing objectives of escaping your back checkers and blocking your opponent's checkers.
Let us look at some general guidelines for the opening stage of the game:
a) You do not want a sixth checker on any point unless there is no sensible alternative.
b) If you can escape a back checker to safety, it is usually right to do so.
c) Splitting the back checkers so that they occupy two different points is usually a good idea early on as it gives extra flexibility. After the opponent has made several new points it becomes more dangerous.
d) Bringing one or two checkers down from the 13-point (also known as the mid-point) to the nine-, ten- or 11-points is usually a good idea, unless the opponent has a checker six pips or fewer away from the checker you bring down. Such checkers are known as builders and can be used to make new points.
e) Usually it is right to hit an opposing checker on your five- or four-point. It is seldom right to hit on your three-, two- or ace-point, unless you are hitting two checkers, or you have made extra home-board points already.
f) Running a back checker out to the 14-, 15- or 16-point is playable if there is no reasonable alternative. If the checker is not hit you gain: if it is hit you suffer.
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Blocking the opponent.
If the only strategy in backgammon were to move the checkers around the board as quickly as possible, then it would not be a particularly interesting game. However, each player should combine the aim of bringing his own checkers into his home board with a strategy of blocking the opponent.
The way to impede the opponent's progress is to build a series of points in a row.
The opponent cannot move onto a point occupied by two or more of your checkers, and several such points in a row form a formidable obstacle. For example:
Black has moved all but one of her checkers into her home board, and, at first glance, would appear to be ahead in the race to take off checkers. However, White has formed a blockade of six points in a row on his side of the board and has trapped a black checker behind it. Black will not be able to move that checker until White lifts this blockade. Such a blockade is known as a prime, and, as this one consists of six consecutive points, it is called a six-prime. A prime with a gap in it is known as a broken prime. The term "prime" is normally used only for four or more consecutive points with no more than one gap. White's winning chances in Figure 1 are around 90%. His strategy will be to retain six points in a row while hitting the black checker at the edge of the prime. Unless White is very unlucky, his six-prime will roll to the right, and the black checker should eventually be closed out. with White making all six points in his board. White will thus begin bearing off first.
Assume that you have been doubled. Unless your opponent has made a serious miscalculation, he is the favorite. Why, then, should you consider taking at all and playing on at a higher stake?
The answer is that by passing you give up a sure point, whereas by taking you may hope to turn the tide of the game and win two points yourself. Thus, if you have a reasonable chance to win, yon are better off taking than resigning yourself to a sure loss.
What constitutes reasonable? One criterion often used is whether you have better than a 25% chance to win the game. However, except in a few well-defined endgame situations, there is no practical way of evaluating what the true odds of winning actually are.
Every position is different, so there is no easy formula for deciding what your practical chances are in a given position. In tact, many of the world's best players often disagree strongly about the merits of accepting certain doubles.
Doubling is one of the most important and exacting aspects of backgammon. Good doubling decisions will often make the difference between winning and losing a series of games. Let us review the rules:
The doubling cube starts out "in the middle". That is, either player may double whenever he feels he has a significant advantage. In doubling, he offers to double the stakes of the game by turning the cube to 2 and passing it to his opponent. The double must be made when the player is on roll, but before he has rolled the dice.
His opponent then has two options:
1. He may refuse (pass) the double and lose the original one unit, thus ending the game.
2. He may accept (take) the double, in which case the game continues with a value of two units - double the original stake.
Backgammon is played by two persons, on a special "board" with thirty сheckers ("men", "stones"), fifteen white and fifteen black (or red). The board is square, usually of wood, lined with leather, and is divided into two equal compartments, each with a raised wall or border.
The board is so placed in use that the two compartments, known as "tables", shall lie longitudinally between the players. One of these is known as the "outer", the other as the "inner" or "home" table. Which of the two is for the time being the inner and which the outer table is governed by the arrangement of the men at starting. With the checkers placed as in Fig. 1, the right hand is the inner or home table, and the left hand consequently the outer table. The portions of the two latter nearest to each player are known as bis inner and outer tables respectively.
Each table is marked with twelve "points", six at either end. They are alternately of black and white, black and red, or other distinctive colours. The two points in the inner table farthest from the dividing partition or "bar" are known as the "ace" points, and those next in order as the two or "deuce" points, followed in succession by the three or "trois" points, the four or "quatre" points, the five or "cinque" points, and finally the "six" points, next the bar. The points in the outer tables are designated in like manner, but starting in this case from the dividing partition. The ace point in the outer table is more commonly known as the "bar" point.
A pair of dice (or sometimes a pair for each player) and a couple of dice-boxes complete the apparatus of the game.
The checkers are arranged at starting as shown in Fig. 1, two of White's checkers are placed on the ace point in Black's inner table, five are placed on the six point in Black's outer table, three on the deuce point in White's outer table, and five on the six point in White's inner table. Black's checkers are placed in like manner on the points immediately facing these.