Bray’s Learning Curve: Containment

Match Play. Red trails 0-4 to 5 (Crawford). How should Red play 32?

2020 - Experts 32


Red needs to contain White’s rear checker. Clearly the three must be played 6/3*. The question is how to play the 2?

This is the Crawford Game so the cube is not in play. Red can only win by optimising the use of his checkers. It should be very clear that to win Red will need to make his 3-pt. Therefore, we can delete 6/3*/1 from our thinking – Red cannot afford to kill a checker. That leaves us with the following choices for the 2: (a) 8/6, (b) 20/18 or (c) 13/11.

Both (a) and (b) both give Red 17 numbers to cover next turn if White stays on the bar. Therefore (a) must be better than (b) because it only exposes one blot, and Red would rather not be hit as that might slow up his attack.

Move (c) gives Red four more cover numbers 62, 26, 22 and 44 but it leaves five blots instead of two. Is the risk justified? No, it is not. White would love to scramble home by continually hitting Red blots along the way so Red should not give her that opportunity.

Another key point is that if Red holds onto to his mid-point it stops double threes becoming a joker for White. When playing a containment position, which is what this is, it is important to keep an eye out for jokers and anti-jokers for both players. It is for this reason that we can discount 6/3*, 5/3 from our initial thinking because it gives White such a powerful double fives.

It is remarkable how much thinking needs to go into an apparently simple position to determine the correct play.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 32 Rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve is a USBGF online series by author Chris Bray. Each week Chris lends his sharp insight and easy to understand analysis to help you improve your game. Visit the USBGF Facebook page every Monday to view an interesting backgammon position and join in the lively discussion, return on Tuesday to view the answer. In addition, as a USBGF member, you get access to this companion blog article that includes an expanded explanation.  More about Chris Bray

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