Bray’s Learning Curve: Always have a game plan

Basic Beginners 21

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 63? XGID=-aa–CD-C-aAcBA–b-eb—A-:0:0:1:63:0:0:3:0:10 Whenever you play a game of backgammon you should always have a game plan. The vagaries of the dice mean that you will constantly have to update that plan but at any given point in time during a game you should always have a clear idea of […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: DMP Quandary

2020 - Experts 30

Match Play. Double Match Point. How should Red play 65? XGID=–BBCBB-A——-bb-cbbdBA-:1:1:1:65:3:3:0:5:10:10 Before neural net computers nobody would get this problem correct and as can be seen from the comments even now, nearly everybody gets this wrong. When given this as a problem none of my students has ever got the right answer. Gammons don’t count […]

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Bray’s Learning curve: Back Game Planning

2020 - Intermediates 30

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 54 XGID=-bBba-DBB—bC-a-b-cAb—A:0:0:1:54:0:0:3:0:10 After Red’s forced five, bar/20, he has a choice of four fours. We can quickly discount 6/2. This puts a checker out of play while creating a dilly builder on the 2-pt. Such a passive play will surely come back to haunt the perpetrator. White has a […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Another third move problem

2020 - Beginners 30

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 51? XGID=-aa—E-D–AdCa–c-e—-B-:0:0:1:51:0:0:3:0:10 If you think you know how to play the opening in backgammon then try reading Bill Robertie’s latest book, “How to Play the Opening in Backgammon”. I have just completed it and despite my forty years of experience I picked up some very useful ideas. This position […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: A Lesson from the Past

Basic Beginners 20

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 43?   XGID=-aB—ECAa–dB—cBcc—–:0:0:1:43:0:0:0:0:10   This position is taken from the US vs UK match in 1973, the first ever recorded backgammon match. Over the board 13/10, 13/9* was played but that is a triple blunder. It gives up the mid-point and leaves ten return shots while it leaves a […]

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Brays Learning Curve: Early Doubling Problem

2020 - Experts 29

Once again, we examine the difference between money and match play. Red has ten checkers in the attack zone and his 5-pt already made. Is that enough to justify a double? White has no real weaknesses and so White has a very easy take. The game could yet evolve in many different ways. My own […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Match Score Influence

2020 - Intermediates 29

Match Play. Red trails 0-3 to 5. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take? XGID=-bB-a-D-C-a-dC—-bcBAb—:0:0:1:00:0:3:0:5:10  In a money game a double here would be premature and XG rates it as a blunder (just). However, I must stress once gain just how much influence the match score has in short matches. If Red loses a […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Early Thinking

2020 - Beginners 29

Money Play. How should Red play 42?   XGID=-b–B-D-B—cE—c-e-b–B-:0:0:1:42:0:0:3:0:10  At a quick glance it looks as if both players have started with a 42 and Red now has another 42 to play. However, a closer look establishes that is not quite the case and in fact Red trails in the race by 16 pips. That […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: A Tricky Double Threes

2020 - Experts 28

Money Play. How should Red play 33? XGID=-A—bDAD—bC-aabbe—AA-:0:0:1:33:0:0:3:0:10 Game Plan: White has an advanced anchor and so Red wants one as well. If Red just plays safely on his own side of the board, he gives White free reign to make home board points on her side of the board.  White is a big favourite […]

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Bray’s Learning curve: DMP Problem

2020 - Intermediates 28

Match Play. Double Match Point. How should Red play 21? XGID=-b–BBB-C-A-cC—bbd–aAaA:0:0:1:21:4:4:0:5:10 At Double Match Point the cube is out of play and gammons are irrelevant. All you are concerned with is winning the game and therein lies the clue to this problem. For money, and with White owing the cube, the correct play here would […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve : A Question of Priorities

2020 - Beginners 28

Money Play. How should Red play 41? XGID=-a-B-CC—a-dD—bbcbB—A:0:0:1:41:0:0:3:0:10   Most people, including myself, get this one wrong. It looks logical to enter on White’s ace-point and then play 13/9 but that is before you consider Red’s game plan. The key is that the race is nearly equal after Red plays his 41 and whatever he […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Early Development 2

Basic Beginners 18

Money Game. How should Red play 21? XGID=-b—-E-C—cE–Abcda—A-:0:0:1:21:0:0:3:0:10 This is not the time for the ‘safe’ 16/13. White is ahead in development and Red must seek to equalise the position. Stepping up with 24/21 is the wrong game plan. It allows White a blitz attack which is precisely the game plan she wants to employ […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: The Power of Gammons

2020 - Experts 27

Money Play. How should Red play 61? XGID=-a-BBBB-BBbA-B—b-bbb-ca-:2:-1:1:61:0:0:3:0:10  Over the board Red calmly played 11/4, leaving nothing for White to aim at. That move is not an error. Neither is 11/5, 9/8 which gives White 62 to hit but leaves Red with more flexibility. Those two moves are very close in equity. The key question […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Save the Straggler

2020 - Intermediates 27

Money Play. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?   XGID=aCBBCB——AA–A—-ef-c-:1:1:1:00:0:0:3:0:10  I hope everybody recognises this as a huge redouble for Red. By next turn he will very often have lost his market. The key question is, can White take? The pip count is false because of White’s stacks in her home board and, […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Prime Management

2020 - Beginners 27

Money Play. How should Red play 65? XGID=—aBBBBBB–bA—caeBa-b–:1:-1:1:65:0:0:3:0:10 There is an aversion amongst beginners to giving up a full prime. This was demonstrated in this position when Red moved 20/15, 20/14. In fact, nearly all sensible plays result in Red winning about 85% of the games. However, only one play optimises Red’s equity in this […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Blitzing Reference

Basic Beginners 17

Money Game. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take? XGID=aB-Ba-C-A—dEa–c-e—-B-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10   This position occurs after White has opened with 32 (24/21, 13/11) and Red replies with 55 played 8/3(2), 6/1(2)*, followed by White staying on the bar. This position occurs frequently enough that you should know the correct doubling actions for both players. In […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Dynamic vs Static

2020 - Experts 26

Money Play. How should Red play 44? XGID=-aaB–DCC—-ab–eBe—–A:1:-1:1:44:0:0:3:0:10  How should Red play this 44? He has the better position, he has 12 checkers in the attack zone, has already doubled and White has three loose blots. This cries out for an active rather than a passive play. There are gammons to be won. That means […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Third Roll Question

2020 - Intermediates 26

Money Play. How should Red play 42? XGID=—–ADbC–AcD—cbe—-B-:0:0:1:42:0:0:3:0:10  This position arises after Red opens 21 played 13/11, 6/5 and White responds with 66 and makes both bar points. How should Red play this 42? It is ever so easy to pick up the checker on the 11-pt and play 11/5. A good point made and […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Middle Game Double

2020 - Beginners 26

Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take? XGID=-b—CDBB—bB—bccbB–a-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10 The race is close but Red leads in Position and Threat. Being ahead in two out of the three key measures would indicate that Red should probably be doubling if there is sufficient volatility. There are plenty of market-losing sequences, e.g. 41 for Red […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Bear-Off Reference

Basic Beginners 16

Money Game. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take? XGID=aBBCCCB—————ce–:1:1:1:00:0:0:3:0:10  You have been lucky enough to hit a shot when White was bearing off. You have closed your home board and White still languishes on the bar. When should you redouble? The basic rule of thumb, which has stood the test of time, is […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: An Unusual Position

2020 - Experts 25 money

Money Play. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take? Match Play. Red leads 2-0 to 13. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take? XGID=aabBbBBBA–BbC–A–db-a—:1:-1:1:61:0:0:3:0:10 Money Play. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take? Match Play. Red leads 2-0 to 13. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take? This position came up […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Middle Game Strategy

2020 - Intermediates 25

Money Play. How should Red play 21? XGID=-Ba-B-DBA—bBabab-db–AA-:0:0:1:21:0:0:1:0:10   When playing against a lone back checker the standard technique is to attack it. In this position Red is unable to do that, so what should his plan be? Over the board Red looked no further than 24/22, 23/22, securing an anchor in White’s home board. […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Look Ahead

2020 - Beginners 25

Money Play. How should Red play 53? Red will be thirty-eight pips ahead after the roll. That is the biggest clue in the position! If he plays the roll in his home board, he will still have three stripped points to clear and, while his board might be slightly stronger, he will have done nothing […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Early Development

Basic Beginners 15

Money Game. How should Red play 52? XGID=-aa—E-C—cE-aac-e—-AA:0:0:1:52:1:0:0:7:10:0:10  One of the problems with playing backgammon well is the multiplicity of choices on every roll. Given there are 21 different dice rolls I suppose this is not too surprising but it does mean you have to concentrate intently to play well. With this 52 Red has […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Back Game Dilemma

2020 - Experts 24

Money Play. How should Red play 61? XGID=aabBbBBBA–BbC–A–db-a—:1:-1:1:61:0:0:3:0:10 Back games are very difficult to play well. The bots have taught us much, but back games still account for the biggest checker play errors in backgammon, so we still have a long way to go to master them even reasonably well. Here White has a reasonably […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: A Doubling Problem

2020 - Intermediates 24

Match Play. Red leads 2-0 to 7. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take? XGID=a–BB-B-Ba–dD—dAe-AA—:0:0:1:00:2:0:0:7:10  When looking at any match play problem you should first seek to determine what the correct action in a money game would be. Using PraT (Position, Race, Threat), this look to be a clear double. The race is equal […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Early 55 Blitz

2020 - Beginners 24

Money Play. How should Red play 32? XGID=-b—-E-CA–eD—aAc–b-bA:0:0:1:32:2:0:0:7:10 Early double fives blitzes are very common in backgammon, so it is useful to know how to handle them. For those interested in learning the correct doubling strategies I recommend buying Kit Woolsey’s Backgammon Encyclopaedia Volume 1. Unfortunately, it is currently out of print so you will […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Early Aggression

Basic Beginners 14

Money Game. How should Red play 31 XGID=-a-a-BD-B—dE—d-e—-B-:0:0:1:31:0:0:3:0:10 Red has opened with 31 (8/5, 6/5) and White has split her rear checkers with her responding 52. How should Red now play 31? Beginners know it is good both to split the rear checkers and create builders for new points and so they choose either 24/21, […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Complex Double

2020 - Experts 23

Money Play. Should Red double? If doubled should White take? XGID=aB-Ba-CB-a–cBb—-cBbaaAA:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10  White has five blots and a fan at the wrong moment could easily result in the loss of a gammon. Crucially White does not have an anchor. All of this indicates that Red should be doubling despite being on the bar himself. What about […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Containment Problem

2020 - Intermediates 23

Money Play. How should Red play 52? XGID=–aBBBBB—–AB-A—–A-h-:1:1:1:52:0:0:3:0:10 The bots have taught us a lot about containment. Before the early 1990s we really weren’t very good at containing hit checkers! Breaking primes to hit is seldom correct and that is the case here. With such superb outer board coverage Red should not hit with 7/2*. […]

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