Bray’s Learning Curve: Extended Jeopardy

Money Play. How should Red play 41?

Basic Begiiners 9

XGID=aBCCBBB———aa-bcbbba-:1:-1:1:41:0:0:3:0:10

What could be easier than a simple bear-off? However, while there is still contact, there will always be an opportunity to make an error. I have seen many players get this position wrong.

Red has three choices: (a) 6/5, 6/2 (b) 5/4, 5/1 (c) 4/off, 4/3

Given this position as a problem many players choose (c) because then Red has only two bad numbers on his next turn, 62 and 26. (a) leaves nine bad numbers (66, 55, 44, 65, 56, 64, 46, 54, 45) and (b) leaves seven bad numbers (66, 55, 44, 61, 16, 51, 15). Thus, it would seem that (c) must be correct but that is not the case, because of the concept of extended jeopardy.

After 6/5, 6/2 if White enters with a six any jeopardy disappears. And Red’s problems are over. After either of the other plays the gap that is created by those plays may live for quite some time and, even if White enters into the gap from the bar, the point(s) above the gap must still subsequently be cleared. This is called extended jeopardy.

How does one weigh extended jeopardy against immediate jeopardy? The answer for most players is one of experience. I have seen this type of position many times and so I “know” the answer. The other answer is to use computers that can calculate this position exactly.

As you will see from the rollout (a) is correct. The extended jeopardy from the other two plays outweighs the immediate jeopardy of the extra shots. Note also that (a) wins more gammons because Red is able to keep a stronger home board for longer. The three plays are close in terms of equity, but it pays to get this type of position correct as it will reoccur frequently.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 9

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Money vs Match

(a) Money Play. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

(b) Match Play. 0-0 to 7. Should Red redouble? If Redoubled, should White take?


2019 - Experts 18

XGID=aBCBcCD——-a–bbbbbA—:1:1:1:00:0:0:0:7:10

Whenever you face a match play doubling problem you should first consider the correct actions for money to give yourself a base.

In this week’s position I hope it is clear that this is a highly volatile situation. If Red rolls a six he will have lost his market by a huge margin. Red should redouble now.

Equally well, although it is scary because of the gammon losses, White has a very comfortable take because one bad roll by Red (55,44,22) could swing the game immediately and if Red fails to rolls a 6 and White immediately rolls a 4 (which happens 21% of the time), White will be very well placed with a redouble to 8 imminent. In addition, if Red doesn’t roll a 6 within three rolls his position will rapidly deteriorate anyway.

The match play situation is subtly different. If Red redoubles to 4 and wins a gammon, he will have won 8 points, one more than he needs. That is a warning sign that his redouble is not perfectly efficient.

In addition, if White takes and then turns the game round he will be able to give some very efficient redoubles to 8. If Red accepts the cube on 8, he can never subsequently win with another redouble and so the game must be played to the end – the cube will be valueless to Red. These are all indicators that Red should perhaps play on for a gammon with the cube on 2 and, if things go badly, he will probably only lose 2 points.

This is very difficult to judge over the board, but many will err on the side of caution, which turns out to be correct. However, this is a great practical redouble because you will get quite a few erroneous drops. Knowing your opponent is sometimes more valuable than knowing backgammon theory.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Money

Experts 18 rollout money

Match

Experts 18 rollout match

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Match Play Thoughts

Money Play. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take? 

Match Play. 4-4 to 7. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take? 

2019 - Intermediates 18

XGID=a-BBBBBA-A———-bccbC-:1:1:1:00:4:4:0:7:10

For money this would be a grossly premature redouble. White has already borne off four checkers so he would be close to a take even with his last checker closed out. Additionally, Red still has to escape three checkers from behind a four-point prime (look how 44 plays!). Finally, White will sometimes escape his rear checker and win a gammon – in fact that happens 10% of the time.

At this match score things are very different. If Red redoubles this effectively becomes Double Match Point. Gammons become irrelevant and White can never win the cube. White’s take point for the redouble is exactly 25%. Does that make enough of a difference to make this a redouble?

Yes, it does. The position is highly volatile. If Red escapes a checker and White stays on the bar (and that happen nearly 40% of the time) Red will have lost his market by a huge margin. Not redoubling is a bad blunder. White has an easy take because his winning chances are around 30%.

Never forget just how different match play doubling is compared to money play, especially towards the end of a match.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 18 rollout - money

 

Intermediates 18 rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Risk and Reward

Money Play. How should Red play 33?

2019 - Beginners 18

XGID=-BbCBBB-B—dA-A-c-e-a—-:1:-1:1:33:0:0:3:0:10

 Over the board Red quickly played 13/1. Sadly, this play doesn’t meet the demands of the position.

Consider these factors:

  • Red has already doubled and so must win with his play of the checkers.
  • White’s position is virtually undeveloped.
  • White will be loth to give up his anchor to hit when he has no home board.
  • If Red leaves blots and is hit he will have a lot of return shots, many of which will lead to gammons.
  • 13/1 puts a checker permanently out of play

All of the above clarify why it is right for Red to take some risk now, rather than wait while White develops his home board.

Red’s real choice is between 13/7, 8/5(2) and 13/4, 8/5. Not surprisingly the move that best distributes Rd’s checkers for return hits and for the bear-off is the winning play.

The correct move is 13/4, 8/5.

The key to the position is in understanding that now is precisely the right time to take a risk. Every move in the game is about risk and reward and learning how to balance those two things is the key to long-term winning backgammon.

 

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

 

Beginners 18 rollout

 

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Robertie’s Addition Method

Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

Basic Begiiners 8

XGID=-C–B——————bd-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

 This is a basic technique for calculating that everybody needs to do. I believe it was first documented by Bill Robertie in his “Advanced Backgammon” and so it is known as Robertie’s Addition Method.

This looks like a three-roll ending which is known to be a double and a pass. White only wins a pure three roll position just under 22% of the time and so must pass. However, small details matter.

Look what happens if Red rolls 32 – he cannot bear off a checker. Red will roll 32 one time in eighteen, which equates to 5.5%. Once we add that 5.5% to the 22% for the basic three-roll ending then we get over 27% winning chances. What was thought to be a pass at first glance turns out to be a very easy take and passing would be a blunder. Often when you add up your ways to win in a position you can pass the 25% figure and find you have a take.

Over the years the Addition Method has helped me to make the correct decision hundreds of times.

Learn it and use it.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

basic Beginners Rollout 8

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Prime versus Prime Part 2

Money Play. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

2019 - Experts 17

XGID=a-BBBBC—-A—–AAdbdbbA-:1:1:1:00:0:0:1:0:10

 Once more we return to a Prime versus Prime problem. It is often said that all prime versus prime problems are doubles and takes. Is this the one that breaks that rule?

No, it is not, but it is still possible to make some big mistakes here. The position is hugely volatile and if Red rolls a six he will have lost market by a distance. He must redouble now to ensure the cube is on 4 when he wins a gammon (75% of his wins are gammons). It is a double blunder not to redouble here.

Many players of the Red checkers fail to redouble here because they fear crashing their home board. For them the glass is half-empty. In fact, Red will have to open two home board points (assuming White’s checkers remain on the bar) before White can redouble. The optimist, for whom the glass is half-full, redoubles immediately here.

What about the take? This is a very clear take, precisely because Red may crash his board. White will win 40% of the time from here, including 9% gammons. Dropping is nearly a triple blunder.

The key to the position is Red’s spare checker. Here Red has only 8 spare pips until he has to crash his board. If you move that checker around the board then then you get different answers to the doubling question. If you put the checker on the 13-pt then the answer is double/pass but on the 12-pt it is double/take.

Kit Woolsey analyses this type of position in his excellent “Backgammon Encyclopedia Volume 1”. It is currently out of print but if you ever get the chance to obtain a copy, do so without delay.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 17 rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Sixes don’t grow on trees

Match Play. 2-2 to 7. How should Red play 63?

2019 - Intermediates 17

XGID=a–BACBB—–Ba—bbbbcCb-:1:1:1:63:2:2:0:7:10:1

When you get the chance to make a five-point prime and your opponent is on the bar you normally take it.

That is precisely what Red did here, playing 13/4.

The problem was that he had three of his own checkers trapped behind a five-point prime and precious little time to escape.

As Paul Magriel once said to me in a lesson: “sixes don’t grow on trees”.

By playing 23/14* Red escapes one of the rear checkers AND puts a second White checker on the bar. What more can he want? Yes, White will sometimes roll a couple of fours and Red’s game will disintegrate but that doesn’t nearly compensate for the 5% extra game wins and 5% extra gammons that Red wins after 23/14*. At 2-2 to 7 gammons are particularly useful as they get Red to the Crawford Game.

One could make an argument for 23/17, 7/4 which both escapes a checker and makes a four-point board but that reduces the time available to escape the other two rear checkers (as White has only one checker to enter from the bar) and also reduces the percentage of gammons won. 23/17, 7/4 is a better move than 13/4.

23/14* would be correct in a money game as well.

In XG terms 13/4 is a bad blunder.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 17 rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: PRaT

Money Play. Should Red Double? If doubled, should White take?

2019 - Beginners 17

XGID=-aB-aBB-BAA-cB–ad-e—AB-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

Doubles in races and bear-offs can be learnt and there are formulae to assist with the decision making. The same is not true of the middle game which is far too complex for a set of rules to be doggedly applied.

Most middle-game doubling decisions are made using pattern recognition. Specific positions virtually never repeat but types of positions repeat constantly. We use knowledge of prior positions to make a judgement of the position in front of us. The better and more experienced the player the more likely it is that his judgement will be accurate.

One guide we can use is PRaT which stands for Position, Race, Threat. Those three elements form the core of any decision. If you stand better in two of the three elements you should be considering a double. If you lead in all three it is nearly certainly a double and a pass.

Let’s apply this to this week’s problem:

  • The race is equal.
  • Red has the better home board but he has made his 2-pt which is a bit ugly. On the downside he has three rear checkers to White’s two. Meanwhile White does not have an anchor so could be blitzed.
  • The position is volatile and Red has several threats which if carried out could lose his market. For example, after the sequence Red 65: 10/4*, 9/4 White 65: Fan Red will clearly have lost his market.

Red is ahead in two of the three elements, so it looks like a double. White’s position is scary, but he has no checkers out of play and if he can create an anchor he will be in the game for a long time. Red has a lot of work to do to win the game so it looks as if White can accept the double despite the gammon risk.

The rollout bears out this thinking. The position is a double and a take and in fact, the take is very easy, and it is the double/no double decision that is much closer.

PraT is not an exact science but merely a useful aid to making doubling decisions. Use it, but remember some of it subjective, i.e. how strong are the threats? It will assist your game but don’t expect it to make clear-cut decisions for you. That is your job!

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 17 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

 

 

Bray’s Learning Curve – Early Dilemma

Money Play. How should Red play 31?

Basic Begiiners 7

XGID=-b—-E-CA–eD—c-c-b–AA:0:0:1:31:0:0:3:0:10

This early game position gives Red a dilemma. Should he take the safety of the ace-point anchor or not?

A common error here is to play bar/24, 13/10, securing an anchor and then hoping to develop the home board. The problem with this play is that Red is playing catch-up because White is ahead in development. It also leaves 11 shots.

When your opponent has built an early home board point it is normally correct to try to build an advanced anchor.

This position is no exception despite the fact that White still has three checkers on his 8-pt.

Red should play bar/22 with the 3, hoping to subsequently make the 22-pt. After bar/22 he can choose between 24/23 and 9/8 for the ace. Because White may well try to launch a blitz attack in his home board Red should safety the blot on his 9-pt so that he is not trying to fight a war on two fronts.

24/23 is certainly a reasonable move but it gives White just too many attacking options.

Bar/22, 9/8 is the best play in this position.

 

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

 

Basic Beginners Rollout 7

 

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Prime versus Prime

Money Play. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

2019 - Experts 16

XGID=a-BBBBC—-A—–AAdbdbbA-:1:1:1:00:0:0:1:0:10

 There is a well-known backgammon saying that all Prime Versus prime Positions are doubles and takes. Could this be the one that breaks the rule?

The position occurred in the Battersea chouette and when Red (the box) redoubled all the team members bar one dropped. That hardy soul went on to win the game by hitting a shot in the bear-off. But was his take correct?

The answer is yes and by a long way. It is much more the redouble that is in question here, rather than the take. Dropping this redouble is worse than a double blunder. The team members visualised Red rolling a six and subsequently building a full prime to contain the White rear checker.

That is certainly one scenario but more likely is Red will not roll a six next turn. If White then rolls an immediate ace (30% chance) he is right back in the game and can mount an attack on the Red checker on White’s ace-point. If Red continues to fail to escape that rear checker then White can even win by Red crashing his home board.

As you can see from the rollout White will win 25% of the time and with a good percentage of gammons. Remember also that White will own the doubling cube and may well get the chance to use it to very good effect.

The team were far too pessimistic in their assessment of their position, only looking at the negative aspects of the position. It is crucial in all doubling cube evaluations to look at how you can win the game and not just look at how badly you can lose it.

Technically this only just a redouble as Red, but it is a very strong practical redouble as you will get a lot of drops, as evidenced by what happened in the chouette.

This skill, the ability to take a dispassionate view of a position, separates true experts from intermediates

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 16 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

 

Bray’s Learning Curve: Connectivity

Money Play. How should Red play 44?

2019 - Intermediates 16

XGID=—-AbDBB—cC—bBcba-bA-:0:0:1:44:0:0:3:0:10

Always remember that backgammon is a representation of war. An essential element of warfare is communication, the soldiers need to be able to speak to each other. Bearing that idea in mind, how should Red play his double fours?

Certainly not 18/10(2) which completely strands the rear checker and Red would be racing when trailing in the race. 7/3(2), 6/2(2) creates a stripped structure with gaps, very poor for communication and future development.

8/4(2), 7/3(2) is much better, creating a compact structure with some spares for future rolls. Best by a very short distance is 13/9(3), 6/2. This creates a four-point prime, again with some spares to cope with future rolls. Meanwhile Red needs to escape his rear checker to give himself another spare. That will give him options for racing or priming as his future game plans.

Flexibility and communication are the key factors in the decision-making process here.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 16 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

 

Bray’s Learning Curve: When in Doubt

Money Play. How should Red play 42?

2019 - Beginners 16

XGID=—B–DbC—dC-a-Bbd–b-A-:0:0:1:42:0:0:3:0:10

The age-old saying in backgammon is, “when in doubt, hit”. This position is a classic demonstration of that principle. Over the board Red played the very passive 8/4, 6/4 but that leaves an equal position.  What will Red do next turn after the passive play.

Having decided to hit which is the correct play?

The weakest hit is 17/15*, 17/13 which isolates the rear checker and gives White good threes, a number that doesn’t enter from the bar. Better is 17/15*/11 which nicely duplicates White’s fours and fives.

The best hit is 24/20, 17/5*. Crucially this connects all the rear checkers so that, if White does enter and hit, Red will have a lot of return shots the following roll.

Aggression normally pays dividends in backgammon and this position ably supports that principle. Backgammon is a game of risk and reward. Here there is certainly some risk but that is nicely counterbalanced by the potential reward.

“When in doubt, HIT”.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 16 Rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Simple Bear-Off

Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

Basic Begiiners 6

 XGID=-DD——————–ec-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

When we learn about doubling in backgammon we start with bear-off positions because we can calculate exactly each player’s winning chances and so we can be certain about the correct doubling positions.

So we “know” that a pure (neither player can fail to take off two checkers with each roll) three roll position is a double and drop, a four roll position is a double and a take and five roll position is a double (but not a redouble) and a take.

The next stage in our education is to introduce slight variations to the know positions to see if that makes any difference. This position is the standard four roll position but one of White’s checkers has been moved from his 1-pt to his 2-pt. Can this possibly change the doubling decisions?

Surprisingly, it can. Red should clearly still double but now White has to drop the double!

Why is this? Two reasons: White’s double ones no longer takes off four checkers thus saving him a roll; White might roll four successive aces in which case on his last roll he will only take off one checker.

These two possibilities combine to push White into drop territory although I have seen many players erroneously take this position when playing the White checkers.

So we learn the basics and then we vary things a little and gain more knowledge. Quite simply, basic education applied to backgammon.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 6

 

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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

 

Bray’s Learning Curve: More on Match Play Redoubles

Match Play. Red trails 0-2 to 7. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

2019 - Experts 15

XGID=–aCABBB—-AA—-c-Cc-dd-:1:1:1:00:0:2:0:7:10

This continues the theme from last week. When I first started playing backgammon match play doubling was still a very little researched and understood area of the game. With the advent of the bots things changed dramatically and modern players are light years ahead of their counterparts from the 1970s and 1980s.

However, players still wait too long to redouble in certain match plays situations and this week’s problem is one of them. White’s board is a mess and he already has four dead checkers. Red’s position is very sound with the exception of the dilly builder on his 3-pt.

For money and with a fully active cube it would be a blunder to redouble here but at 0-2 to 7 it is a very different story. With the cube on 4 a gammon for White will only gain him one extra point. Secondly, he will be very slow to redouble to 8 because Red will only need about 8% winning chances to accept. These two factors are huge in making the redoubling decision.

The position is highly volatile and by next turn Red may have missed his market and doing that when trailing in a match is nearly a criminal offence! Red must redouble now to make sure White will still accept.

Look, for example, at the sequence 53 for Red played 12/4, followed by 54 for White, played 18/22, 18/23. Red will have missed his market by a huge margin and in fact he will be too good to redouble.

You should always take longer to consider a redouble than an initial double, purely because there will be more at stake.

A lot of players would miss the redouble here because they would be influenced by their “money play thinking”. Winning backgammon matches is largely about good cube handling. Not redoubling this position is a 2.5 blunder.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 15 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

 

Bray’s Learning Curve: Containment

 

Match Play. Double Match Point. How should Red play 41?

2019 - Intermediates 15

XGID=-BBBCB———–aBbcBccc-:0:0:1:41:6:6:0:7:10

This is a problem about containment. A whole book could be written on the topic but let’s start with this one position.

Red has been lucky enough to roll a number where he can hit from either of his two anchors. The question is how should he hit the White blot?  Over the board Red played 18/17*/13 trying for coverage of his outer board but that play turns out to be an error.

The bots have taught us in positions like this to protect against jokers. What is White’s only joker? Double sixes, which will nearly certainly win the game and match for him. Therefore, Red should keep the 18-pt for the time being and later on, if White remains on the bar, he should make his 12-pt with the same idea.

This joker prevention play turns out be more important than diversifying the rear checkers. The best play in this position  is 21/17*/16. After that, if White stays on the bar, Red will have time to diversify his four rear checkers to give himself maximum coverage of the outer boards.

Here’s an additional question for you to ponder. After Red plays 21/17*/16 how should White subsequently play 61? I’ll leave you to sleep on that one!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 15 rollout

 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

 

 

Bray’s Learning Curve: Prat

Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

2019 - Beginners 15

XGID=-a–BaCBC—eC—–e-b-Ba-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

 A classic middle game position. Red has the advantage, not least because he is on roll. Is he good enough to double? Can White accept a double?

Leaning doubling reference positions is long and arduous and so we need  shortcut. That shortcut is PRaT which stands for Position, Race, Threat. If you are ahead in two out of three key elements you should certainly be considering doubling. From the taker’s perspective. If you are behind in all three factors the position is nearly certainly a drop.

In this position the race is even. Red has slightly the better overall position as his structure is stronger than White’s. The position is volatile as Red is threatening a blitz. There are a lot of sequences where White won’t be taking a double next turn.

This implies Red should double, which is correct. What about the take? White trails in two of three factors but, other than the checker on his ace-point, his position is sound and if he can establish an anchor in Red’s home board he will be in the game for a long time. Of course, he may get blitzed as Red has ten checkers in the attack zone, but nearly all backgammon positions have inherent risk. White should take the double.

One way of learning is to see what adjustments to the position can alter the  result. Here, if we move a checker from Red’s mid-point to his 9-pt the position becomes double/drop because Red’s attack is now just too strong. This sort of exercise can rapidly improve your playing strength.

So remember to use PRaT – it is a fundamental tool for evaluating doubling decisions

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 15 Rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Blitz Reference

Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

Basic Begiiners 5

XGID=aa-B-BC-A–AdDa–c-e—-B-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

Other than end-game situations and races how do we learn when to double and whether or not to take an offered double?

Backgammon is far too difficult a game to be able to evaluate doubling decisions over the board without prior knowledge of similar positions. These are known as ‘Reference Positions’. A Reference Position is one where we ‘know’ the correct cube action for both players. Expert players have thousands of reference positions in their mental library. Beginners have very few and consequently a) make a lot of mistakes and b) take a lot of time to make decisions. Building a library of reference positions takes time so the more you study the quicker you can build your own library.

Positions rarely repeat but types of positions constantly repeat. An expert will look at the position in front of him, call up a Reference Position, make adjustments for the differences between that and the actual position and, more often than not, arrive at the correct doubling decision.

This week’s position is an early blitz. Red has rolled an early 33 and White has stayed on the bar. The standard Reference Position for an early 33 is the same as this position but with the two blots on the respective 11-pts both on the mid-points. That position is known to be both a correct double and a correct take.

How do the two 11-pt blots affect things? They are both in Red’s favour. Firstly, his 64 hits another blot. Secondly he has a checker closer to the attack zone than in the standard reference position, strengthening his blitz attack.

Those two differences turn what was a reasonable take into a close pass for White, although many would take because of an imperfect Reference Position library.

So remember, most doubling decisions are based on Reference Positions. This example was reasonably easy but sometimes the adjustments are much more difficult  to perform and then the expert comes into his own.

The quicker you can build your own reference library the stronger player you will become.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 5

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Take Care With Redoubles

 a) Money Play. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

b) Match Play. Red trails 5-6 to 11. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

 2019 - Experts 14

XGID=aB–b-DDB—-Ba-a–bbcAb–:1:1:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

Whenever I face a match play cube decision I first try to create a benchmark by looking at the correct action for money. Here Red still has a lot of work to do to win the game. His home board structure is poor and White is in the game for ever with his 4-pt anchor. If things go well for him, Red can win a gammon but given the strength of White’s home board Red will not expect to get many drops but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t redouble.

A cautious player might hold the cube but not redoubling is technically an error – the position is too volatile to wait.  Red will win a high percentage of gammons and he would rather win 8 points rather than 4.  Even so, White has an easy take and dropping would be a huge blunder.

What about the match play decision. Now things are very different. A 4-cube where either player could win a gammon and the match should give both sides pause for thought. Whenever I am redoubled in a match situation I always take extra thinking time. Note especially that cube will be virtually useless to White,. Red will only need 10% game-winning chances to take a redouble to 8 so White will hardly ever redouble.

That lack of cube usefulness for White plus the gammon threat means that now the cube decisions are very different. Not redoubling becomes a blunder and the take is right on the borderline for White. Because it is so close the opponent factor must be considered. If White is the stronger player he should probably drop but if he is the weaker the player he should take.

Remember, redoubling decisions in match play are usually crucial to the outcome of the match so ALWAYS take your time.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

 Money

Experts 14 Rollout - Money

 

Match

Experts 14 Rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Think Ahead

 Money Game. How should Red play 43?

2019 - Intermediates 14

XGID=-a—aE-C–AdD—a-bAb-bbA:1:1:1:43:0:0:3:0:10

Red is in a lot of trouble in this position. He faces a strong blitz and the loss of gammon.

His 3 is forced. He must play bar/22. The question is how to play the 4?

Exposing a new blot with 8/4 (although that duplicates 3’s) or 6/2 does not look right.That leaves the choice between 22/18, 20/16 and 11/7. Before making any play, Red must consider his game plan and uppermost in his mind should be this question, “how can I establish anchor?”. If he can establish an anchor, he will have a foothold in the game and some winning chances or at least he might save the gammon.

Over the board, Red chose 20/16 but that does not follow the game plan. After bar/22 he has two potential anchors, the 22-pt and the 20-pt. The best chance to make one of those points is to leave them both slotted.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 14 rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Pay me now, pay me later?

Money Play. How should Red play 54?

2019 - Beginners 14

XGID=-BCbBaF-aB———bbbbc–:0:0:1:54:0:0:3:0:10

This looks like a classic ‘Pay me now, pay me later’ problem. Should Red play 9/5*, 9/4, leaving White 13 shots to win the game or should he wait with 6/2, 6/1?

As it happens the two plays are very close with the ‘pay now’ play of 9/5*,  9/4 winning by the tiniest of margins.

However, that statement is only true if Red had already doubled. It is rarely right to ‘pay now’ if you haven’t made your opponent pay for that opportunity. That is the case here and, because Red hasn’t doubled, he should play safe with 6/2, 6/1 and see what the position looks like next turn when he is on roll. Playing 9/5*, 9/4 with the cube in the centre is very nearly a  double blunder.

In fact, Red made a big error in not doubling before rolling this 54. The position is highly volatile and he may have lost his market by his next turn. White would have had a comfortable take.

So remember, paying now with the cube in the centre is rarely correct.

 

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

 

Beginners 14 Rollout

 

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Racing Formulae

Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

 

Basic Begiiners 4

XGID=–BBCCCB——–abbc-c-bb-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

Backgammon is at its simplest when the two armies have disengaged and the game becomes a simple race. Once that happens knowing how to use the doubling cube is much more important than moving the checkers.

The most important thing to know in a race is the pipcount for each player. When playing online this is given to you. In live play you have to do it yourself. Lots of people tell me they can’t count but it is surprising how much a  little practice can help. There are various shortcuts that can help. For example, two checkers on each of your home board points give a pipcount of 42. I’ll leave you to research other others.

How do we know when to double and when to take? The roughest guide is that you need to be about 10% ahead to double and at that point your opponent still has a take. Most beginners use the 8-9-12 rule. You can double when you are at least 8% ahead, you can redouble when you are at least 9% ahead and you can take until you are 12% behind.

That is the best guide when starting out in backgammon but once you have mastered that technique there are advanced formulae for more complex positions. If you really want to understand the topic, please download “Backgammon Races” from the downloads section of my website:

http://www.chrisbraybackgammon.com/#/downloads/4577963017

What about this week’s position? Based upon the 8-9-12 rule and just looking at the pipcounts this is both a double and an easy take. Regrettably life is not that simple. Two key points: White needs five crossovers to bring his remaining checkers home while Red needs only 2; White has gaps on his 3-pt and 5-pt. These two facts mean that White must drop Red’s double although I know many would take.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 4

 

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Bray’s Learning Curve: High Value Cube

Match Play. Red trails 2-6 to 13.  Should Red redouble to 8. If redoubled, should White take?

 

2019 - Experts 13

XGID=aA-CB-DB–B-A—–bb-cbbc-:2:1:1:00:2:6:0:13:10

 High cubes in matches often determine the eventual outcome. Therefore, it is always worth taking some extra time when faced with a high-value cube decision and by that I mean at least a couple of minutes and probably longer. Too often I see even top players rush into crucial decisions without enough thought.

Such was the case in this week’s position. Red did not redouble to 8. He made his ace-point and after White fanned Red did redouble and White passed, tying the score at 6-6. Red went on to win the match

The first thing to do is to decide on the right action in a money game and then adjust that for the score.

For money this is not yet a redouble. Red has only a three-point home board versus White’s five-point home board. Red trails in the race and even if he makes his ace-point, White will still be favourite to enter from the bar. Red is the favourite, but he is not far enough into his doubling window to justify turning the cube. He needs to give White a much more difficult decision. With a fully active cube Red should hold on to the cube.

The match score changes things hugely. Now if Red redoubles and White takes, White can never use the cube to win the game. Also gammons are meaningless to White. In fact the score changes things so much that Red is longer within his doubling window. His market has gone. Red should redouble and White should drop. Taking is actually a blunder.

However, many players forget to adequately adjust their cube handling for the match score and as Red I would expect to get a few takes here. In the actual match Red missed a glorious opportunity to give White the chance to make a big mistake.

Always remember just how important the match score is when considering a high-value cube.

 

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 13 Rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: A Bot Play

Money Play. How should Red play 44?

2019 - Intermediates 13

XGID=a-a-BBBCD-A-b-a–cbc-b–A-:1:-1:1:44:0:0:3:0:10

This is a difficult position that I got wrong in my first analysis.

In fact there are two perfectly valid game plans. The pure blitz of 7/3(2), 10/2* is thematic because Red has fourteen checkers in the attack zone. Unless White rolls an immediate 2 or double 1 or double 3 he is going to be in a lot of trouble.

The second approach is the “bot” play of 24/16, 6/2(2)*. This leaves White no discernible target in Red’s home board and escapes Red’s last rear checker, something that the bots put a high premium on.

The rollout has the blitz as the winner by a tiny amount but, in reality, there is no difference between the two plays. The position neatly demonstrates that there can be two perfectly valid game plans in a single position.

30 years ago I would wager that nobody would have considered 24/16, 6/2(2)* but the bots have taught us to look at things differently and thus progress is made.

 

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 13 rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Which Point?

 

Money Play. How should Red play 33?

2019 - Beginners 13

XGID=-b—-E-C–AdD—cad—-aB:0:0:1:33:0:0:3:0:10

This is another third roll position that demonstrates an important learning point.

Obviously two of Red’s threes are forced, bar/22(2). The question is should Red then make his 5-pt with 8/5(2), his 3-pt with 6/3(2) or his 10-pt with 13/10(2)?

In the early skirmishes it is usually better to make home board points rather than outer board points as home board points have the advantage of reducing your opponent’s entry numbers if he/she has a blot hit. That is the case here and 13/10(2) comes last of our three plays, although it is extremely close.

So, which home board point should Red make? 6/3(2) leaves White only one hitting number, 64 while 8/5(2) leaves four hitting numbers: 64, 61, 52 and 43. Is it worth giving the extra shots to make the better point? The answer is yes, and it is because of the structure of White’s board with blots on his bar-point and ace-point. If Red is hit, he will have a lot of return shots. So ,in this case ,the risk is worth the reward.

If you take a checker from White’s 6-pt and put it on his ace-point thus giving him his ace-point then the two plays become equal.

There are two key learning points here:

  • If your opponent has home board weaknesses you can take more risk on your own side of the board to improve your position.
  • Always take the time to look at the whole board. Only then should you look at candidate plays and choose between them

 

 

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 13 Rollout

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Brays Learning Curve: Asset or Hit?

  1. a) Money Play. How should Red play 31?

    b) Money Play. How should Red play 42?

Basic Begiiners 3

XGID=-a—-EaC—dE-a-c-e—-B-:0:0:1:31:0:0:3:0:10

When replying to the opening roll we are taught to hit a blot to take a tempo from our opponent and gain ground in the race, but we are also taught to make new points on the board. What happens when you have to choose between the two?

Here White has opened with 63 and played the standard 24/18, 13/10. How should Red play both 31 and 42? Before computers nobody was absolutely sure of the answer, but time has moved on and we now know that with 31 Red should make his 5-pt but with his 42 he should hit with 13/7*. Why is there is a difference between the two plays?

Firstly 31 makes the best point on the board, your own 5-pt or the “Golden Point’ as Paul Magriel named it. 42 could be played 8/4, 6/4 making the ‘Silver Point’ but the 4-pt is not as strong as the 5-pt simply because of the gap left on the 5-pt.

Secondly if Red hits with 31 by playing 24/21, 8/7* or 13/10, 8/7* he has to use the last spare checker on his 8-pt to do so and that reduces his flexibility for future moves. Conversely when Red hits with 13/7* with a roll of 42 he is unstacking the heavy mid-point and he maintains the spare checker on the 8-pt.

These differences might seem small but over time these things add up and if you always play these two moves correctly then you will see the benefits over the long-term.

So, remember. With 31 take the 5-pt asset but with 42 the hit is correct. This concept extends well beyond the opening. Often it is right to take the 5-pt asset when you can but it is correct to hit if an inferior point is on offer as the alternative.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 3

Basic Beginners Rollout 3a

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Brays Learning Curve: Which Back Game

Money Game. How should Red play 21?

 2019 - Experts 12

This position was featured in a Facebook discussion on back games. My initial reaction was to play bar/22 so that Red could release that spare checker on the 22-pt with a six, thus maintaining the timing he needs to play his 1-3 back game. Without this being set as a quiz question, I would not have given it much more thought.

Some of the heavyweights of the backgammon world joined the discussion and most of them were in favour of bar/23, 24/23, electing to play a 2-3 back game. That surprised me and so it was time to ask XG its opinion. Lo and behold, as you can see from then rollout below, bar/23, 24/23 is the clear winner.

Now we need to understand why. The 2-3 is a better back game than the 1-3 game because all of White’s numbers have to be played and he cannot slow himself down (that is the main problem with the 1-2 back game which requires huge timing). The outcome is that the 2-3 game generates shots earlier than the 1-3 game. Remember that the general rule of thumb for back games is that you must trail in the race by the number of pips represented by your two back game points. So, to play a 2-3 game you need to trail by 90 pips.

Red is close to that here so that points towards being able to play a 2-3 game. Red has timing because of his two checkers on his mid-points and his spares on his 6-pt. That gives him about 26 pips of timing while White has less than that and must soon begin to break his prime. Additionally with any two Red will be able to play 24-22 and then a six will release that checker.

The bottom line is that the move I have played in such situations for years, bar/22, is actually a bad error and so I have really learnt something from studying this position. You have to take away quite a lot of pips from Red’s timing before bar/22 becomes the correct play in such situations. In fact the two checkers on his mid-point have to be in his home board before bar/22 becomes the best play.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

 

Experts 12 Rollout

 

 

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Man or Mouse?

Match Play. Red leads 9-6 to 13. How should Red play 32?

2019 - Intermediates 12

XGID=–C-aCD-B-BA——accbbba-:0:0:1:32:9:6:0:13:10

After this play of his 32 Red will be 7 pips behind in the race but White still has to escape his rear checker.

Red can play aggressively with (a) 11/8, 6/4*. He can play totally safe with (b) 11/6 or he can build his home board with (c) 6/3, 5/3 and leave White four hitting numbers (43, 34, 52, 25). Which is the correct move?

Over the board Red had visions of losing a gammon if White hit a blot and then seeing his lead being cut to 9-8. He chose the very passive (c), White escaped and won the game with a  cube a few rolls later. As you can see from the rollout this is a triple blunder.

Better is (b), building the board at the cost of four shots. This play is a merely an error.

The point about this position is that Red cannot play passively. He must attack the White blot to prevent it from escaping. The correct move is (a). At the cost of 13 shots Red builds a potentially winning position. If White fans he can cash the game. Otherwise he will have caught up another 4 pips in the race and White’s blot will still be subject to further attack.

Whatever move Red selects White will still be the favourite to win the game but Red must optimise his own winning chances. The best way to do that is to hit the White checker. Note that 6/4*/1 is not the right idea. It minimises immediate shots but the second blot on the 11-pt costs Red more gammons when he does lose.

In the main, timidity is the wrong mindset for backgammon. A positive attitude over the board usually pays dividends and that is the case in this position. Remember twenty-three of White’s numbers do not hit the blot on Red’s 4-pt after 11/8, 6/4* and just look at the swing on a number such as double fives by White!

So, please think positively.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

 Intermediates 12 rollout

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Brays Learning Curve: Reference Positions

 

Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should Red take?

2019 - Beginners 12

XGID=—CCbD-B—eC—babc—–:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

 When we start to teach the use of the doubling cube, we begin with endgame problems because they are easy to calculate exactly. However, the vast majority of doubling decisions cannot be calculated precisely and so we have to rely on reference positions.

These are positions that we have committed to memory where we ‘know’ the correct cube action. When a similar position arises, we make use of the reference position by accessing it and then adjusting our decision based opon the actual position we have to consider.

One of the reasons beginners play so slowly is that they have very few reference positions upon which to draw, and they end up trying to solve problems from first principles which does take a lot of time. The more you play the greater your reference library becomes and the easier it is to find a useful position to use as a reference.

This week’s position is a classic reference position for playing against the five-point holding game.

Red is clearly the favourite and should double now because rolling nearly any double will lose his market. He leads the race by 55 pips so unless White rolls a lot of big doubles he is very unlikely to win the race.

White’s route to victory is to build his home board points (in order), hit a Red checker, contain it and win with a redouble. In this position White has plenty of time to keep his mid-point and Red may soon have to leave a shot as he tries to clear-his own mid-point.

If the race were closer White may have to give up his mid-point and rely on hitting a shot from Red’s 5-pt. The beauty of this type of position is that as White’s racing chances diminish his hitting chances increase.

The rule of thumb is that Red should be 20 pips ahead in the race before he doubles and White can take until he is nearly 60 pips behind. That’s quite a range! Once White is more than 60 pips behind he has to pass because he loses too many gammons, a point you may not have considered.

If you want to study these type of positions in more depth try to get hold of a copy Kit Woolsey’s “The Backgammon Encyclopedia: Volume 1”.

 

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 12 Rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Opening Roll Responses

Money Play. How should Red play 21?

Basic Begiiners 2

XGID=-a–a-E-C—dEa–c-e—-B-:0:0:1:21:0:0:3:0:10

With the opening roll we look to do three things: make new points; unstack the mid-point and 6-pt; advance the rear checkers.

When responding to the opening roll we will have a fourth option, namely hitting an opponent’s blot. Unlike at the end of the game when a hit can be fatal because of your opponent’s strong home board, a hit in the opening is usually anything but fatal.

However, it does something very important and that is to take a tempo away from your opponent. He will have to spend half of his next roll entering from the bar (and sometimes he rolls 66 and stays on the bar, that is known as a boxcar bonus). Therefore, unless he rolls a double, he is unlikely to make a new point. Thus, he spends his time reacting to your play rather than having the freedom to play his whole roll as he chooses. The more you play backgammon the more you realise how important it is to take tempi from your opponent

Having understood the thinking, you should now to be able to play Red’s 21 in response to White’s opening 32 (played, 24/21, 13/11). Red must hit 6/4* with the 2 to take a tempo. After that the logical 1 is 24/23, getting one of the back checkers moving on its way while White is preoccupied on the bar. All non-hitting plays are too passive as you can see from the rollout.

What about if White had rolled 52, played 24/22, 13/8. How would you play 64?

Before the advent of computers most people played 24/14 but the bots have taught us that 13/3*, taking that all-important tempo, is correct.

There are many other opening rolls and possible responses (actually about 600 of them) but as you play more and more those responses will become second nature to you. The more you play the quicker you will learn them!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 2

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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

 

Bray’s Learning Curve: Not Good Enough Too Good to Double

  1. Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

  2. Match Play. Red leads 4-0 to 7. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

2019 - Experts 11

XGID=-aC—-b-a—a—abcbb—A:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

I was watching a match between two strong players on GridGammon when this position came up. Red doubled and White snapped up the cube which I must say surprised me. Red easily won a gammon and the match. I was sure that White should have passed but then started doing some detailed analysis.

Let’s quickly deal with the money game question. Red should double (activating gammons) and White should pass very quickly indeed. Taking this double would be worse than a quintuple blunder – see the rollout below. If you even considered taking this cube in a money game, then some swift re-evaluation of your cube handling is required!

The match score question is very different. This is fundamentally a prime-versus-prime position and it is well-known that these positions generate a high percentage of gammons for both sides. That is exactly what White wants, especially if the cube gets to 4 when a gammon will win the match for him. Holding a 2-cube and already down 4-0 White will need very little excuse to redouble to 4. For example, any game-winning single shot will suffice.

What is truly surprising is that technically Red should not double – see the rollout below. This position falls into the category of “not good enough, too good to double”. This means that Red should leave the cube alone and play on for an undoubled gammon which would get him to 6-0 (Crawford). Of course, he can always use the cube later if the position warrants it. Naturally White should accept the cube if doubled (as he did in the actual game).

Having said all that for practical purposes Red should double. A high percentage of players will drop this and play from 0-5 behind. XG gives you a percentage figure on rollouts that would change its decision. In the rollout below you will see the figure is 3.2%. Many more than 3 out of 100 players will drop this double so unless I was certain my opponent was taking the double, I would ship the cube here.

When watching the match, I had let my money play thinking cloud my match play judgement, one of the most common errors in backgammon.   If you got this problem right for the right reasons, then very well done.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Money

Experts 11 Rollout - Money

Match

Experts 11 Rollout - Match

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