Brays Learning Curve: The Opening Roll


Money Play. How should Red play 64?

Basic Begiiners 1


What could be easier than the opening roll? After all, there are only fifteen of them that you have to learn. Not too much work for anybody.

Five opening rolls are always played the same way: 31 (8/5, 6/5); 42 (8/4, 6/4); 53 (8/3, 6/3): 61 (13/7, 8/7) and 65 (24/13). These moves have stood the test of time although as late as the mid-1970s 53 was often played 13/10, 13/8! The game is old (5,000 years) but some of the theory is quite young.

With the other ten opening rolls you have choices as to how you play them. I have chosen to discuss 64. For years this was played 24/14, simply running a back checker in an attempt to get it to safety. Then people started moving 6x by moving 24/18, 13/x. This applied to 62, 63 and 64. The idea behind this play is to either make the opponent’s bar-point next turn or promote an exchange of hits on that bar-point. Normally that exchange of hits is favourable to the player who opens with the 6x.

For years, players laughed at the third choice, 8/2, 6/2, making the 2-pt. It was felt that this play made a point too deep in the home board so near the start of the game. Then along came computers and lo and behold, they think that making the 2-pt is a very reasonable move.

As you can see from the rollout below there is virtually nothing to choose between the three plays and so it becomes a matter of personal choice (except in match play but that is a lesson for another day). The three moves lead to very different types of game so if you want a simple game choose 24/14. Pick 24/18, 13/9 for complexity and 8/2, 6/2 lies somewhere between the other two.

The opening roll is likely to be the last time you have a choice so enjoy it while you can.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 1

Bray’s Learning Curve — A Great Member Benefit
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



  1. Michael Agranoff Michael Agranoff says:

    Interesting. I heard that the modern theory is that the 6-4 bar split is always wrong. You make the 2-point, unless it’s DMP or GS, in which case you run.

    Has anyone had good success with the bar split?

    When I started playing in the 60’s,.5-3 was always played with 2 down from the midpoint. If you made the 3-point, you were laughed at. And with 6-4, if you made the 2-point, you might have been locked up. NO good player did that, as far as I knew.

    Funny how computers have changed things. I always wonder if bridge bidding problems could be aided by computers.

Speak Your Mind