Bray’s Learning Curve: Escape or Build?

Basic Beginners 28

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 42? XGID=aCDCD—–A———-bbce-:2:-1:1:61:1:2:0:5:10  This a binary choice. Make your 5-pt or step up with 23/21, 7/3? It might seem that Red has plenty of time to escape the rear checker but that is not the case. He has less than ten pips to play with if he doesn’t roll a […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Small Margins

2021 - Experts 37

Match Play. Red trails 2-4 to 7. How should Red play 52? XGID=—bBBBBB–AcAb-Ac-bb-AaA-:1:-1:1:52:2:4:0:5:10 This is a tricky position. I think if you play on automatic you will choose 24/22, 16/11. If you want to keep pressure on White’s blot on her 2-pt then 16/11, 13/11 would be the choice of many and that play is […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Back Game Strategies

2021 - Intermediates 37

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 54? XGID=aacbCBBBB-B—–aa-bbBb—:1:-1:1:54:0:0:3:0:10  White has a reasonably well-timed 2-3 back game and a home board that could collapse with a sequence of high numbers. Red could attempt to give White a super-timed back game by playing 21/17*, 21/16*. However, more important than this idea is to stop White from creating […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: An Early Problem

2021 - Beginners 37

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 64? XGID=-a–BaD-B—eE—Bccb—–:0:0:1:64:0:0:3:0:10 We can quickly reject 8/2, 6/2 which creates an ugly structure and one that is difficult to put back together again. Giving up the 8-pt to make the 2-pt is not a great trade. The choice is really between 13/3 and 17/13, 17/11. 13/3 keeps the defensive […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Combating a Prime

Basic Beginners 27

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 42? XGID=-a—-EBB—fD—abcb—B-:0:0:1:42:0:0:3:0:10 Our opponent has made their 5-point early on in proceedings and is on the way to building a useful prime. In these circumstances it is normally correct for us as Red to split our rear checkers in response to combat that prime. That would imply that Red […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Pick a game plan

2021 - Experts 36

Match Play. Double Match Point. How should Red play 32? XGID=-a-bBbD-BB–bB–Ac-e-B—-:1:-1:1:32:3:4:0:5:10  Small numbers often cause a problem in backgammon because they give you so much choice. This is compounded when the position is complex, and a back game is certainly that. This is DMP so the cube and gammons are irrelevant. Both players simply want […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Fundamental Tactics

2021 - Intermediates 36

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 53? XGID=-a–BCC-B—-Cba-d-g—-B-:1:-1:1:35:0:0:3:0:10    One of the fundamental backgammon tactics is this: “attack a lone rear checker, prime an anchor”. That piece of advice has stood me in good stead for a very long time. This position is a classic demonstration of how to apply that maxim. White is poised […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Make the Checkers Work

2021 - Beginners 36

Match Play. Double Match Point. How should Red play 21? XGID=–b—EBB-A-cB-a-cae—-BA:0:0:1:21:4:4:0:5:10 This is very similar to a previous beginner’s problem, but only by repeating ideas do we learn. At double match point, you cannot win with the doubling cube and gammons are irrelevant. That means you have to make the checkers work for you. You […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Third Roll Poser

Basic Beginners 26

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 51? XGID=—-b-E-C–AcD-b-c-e-A–A-:0:0:1:51:0:0:3:0:10  For the first and second rolls there are just under 600 possible sequences. Once you get to the third roll, you are into the thousands. Obviously, you cannot learn thousands of possible positions, so you have to learn principles to find solutions to particular problems. This position […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Complex DMP

2021 - Experts 35

Match Play. Double Match Point. How should Red play 55? XGID=-BBaBBA-B–Ab–A——A-A-:0:0:1:55:4:4:0:5:10 This is not an easy problem. Red can obviously close out White’s checker with 11/6, 8/3(2)*, and then move the other 5 somewhere else on the board. Red would then be a favorite to win the game but by how much? Red’s pip count […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Back Game Planning

2021 - Intermediates 35

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 33? XGID=–B–BC-c—-B-cAb-c-bBBbA:0:0:1:33:0:0:3:0:10 It is easy to get confused by the array of choices that we have as Red with double 3s. However, never make a move unless you have a plan. After the roll we will trail in the race by 52 pips, which is not enough to play […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: An Early Conundrum

2020 - Beginners 35

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 21? XGID=—b–E-C—cEa–b-eb–A-A:0:0:1:21:0:0:3:0:10  It is ever so easy to play bar/24 13/11 here without thinking. Sadly, that move is a blunder. Why? Red trails in the race. White has the better home board. Red faces a possible blitz. Red is exposed on both sides of the board. The correct game […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: When in doubt

Basic Beginners 25

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 41? XGID=—–aEaA–AdDa–c-e–A-BA:0:0:1:41:0:0:3:0:10   This game is in its infancy and the game plans for both players have yet to be defined. As Red, we could elect to play a 1-4 back game with bar/21 22/21, but it is too early to adopt a relatively negative game plan. We have […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Middle Game Thinking

2020 - Experts 34

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 42? XGID=–BaDaD—–BAa-bb-db-Bb–:1:1:1:42:0:0:3:0:10 This 42 is a very poor roll for us as Red. Every move weakens our position. However, we own the cube, so we have the right to play the game to the end. Can we afford to burn checkers by moving within our home board with something […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Scary Double

2020 - Intermediates 34

Unlimited Games. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?   XGID=-BBcBBB-AA–e—-babA-b-AA:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10  It should be clear that Red has a huge double here, due to the volatility of the position. Not doubling would be a double blunder. Now the difficult part: Should White take or drop? If Red hits the exposed checker, which happens on 17 […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Learning Match Play

2020 - Beginners 34

Unlimited Games. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take? Match Play. Red trails 0-1 to 3. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take? XGID=a-CB-CBa—A-A—cccbBb-A-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10 Early on in one’s match playing career you learn the difference between playing unlimited games and playing matches. In match play the score dominates one’s thinking, particularly towards the […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Connectivity-2

Basic Beginners 24

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 44? XGID=-a—-FbE—bD-a–bbbba—:0:0:1:44:0:0:3:0:10 Like an army, backgammon checkers work better when the soldiers are in communication with each other. In this position Red will be 31 pips ahead after the roll and all he wants to do is bring his checkers home safely. For once Falafel’s rule does not apply […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Complex Containment

2020 - Experts 33

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 54? XGID=–aB-BB-C—-AAA–bcCbcbb-:2:-1:1:45:0:0:3:0:10 Once again, we look at the complex problem of containment. In this position Red has to balance making new points with an element of safety. White’s five-point home board means that Red cannot take many risks or he will lose a gammon. That means he cannot spread […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Match Play Enigma

2020 - Intermediates 33

Match Play. Red trails 2-3 to 5.  Should Red double? If doubled, should White take? XGID=–baBBB-B—bE–ab-db–a-B:0:0:1:00:2:3:0:5:10 If this was an unlimited game this would be a grossly premature double. However, the 3-away vs 2-away match score is a very different story indeed. Once the cube has been turned White’s gammons become irrelevant and, of course, […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Time to go time?

2020 - Beginners 33

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 32? XGID=–B-bBC-D—bC–ac-dc—A-:0:0:1:32:0:0:3:0:10  This problem looks at the thorny issue of when to advance the last rear checker. Should the Red checker on the 24-pt start to run for home or should it be left out of harm’s way?  There are several factors that need to be considered, the race, […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Keeping Tension

Basic Beginners 23

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 43?   XGID=—CCCBb—-bB-A–bdAa-bb-:0:0:1:43:0:0:3:0:10   Over the board Red quickly played 20/13. He reasoned that he would be 8 pips ahead and he was duplicating White’s threes. Therefore, he elected to run. Unfortunately, he didn’t look deeply enough. After 20/13 the racing lead is small and White will be hitting […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Containment

2020 - Experts 32

Match Play. Red trails 0-4 to 5 (Crawford). How should Red play 32? XGID=-BBaBBC-A-b–B——A-ecd-:0:0:1:32:0:4:1:5:10 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 […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Middle Game Double

2020 - Intermediates 32

Unlimited Games. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take? XGID=-b–BBC-AA-A-C–bcbea-B—:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10 This position is quite deceptive. Red seems to have control of the whole board and this looks to be a very strong double that White might not be able to take. Certainly, the position is volatile and Red should ship the cube now. However, […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Anchors not allowed

2020 - Beginners 32

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 31? XGID=aCABaBBaB——-A–bccBbb-:1:1:1:31:0:0:3:0:10  Red has a lot of work to do yet to win from this position so we can quickly ignore the safest play of 16/13, 2/1. Red must also accept that he will need to take some risks to bring the position home. However, he has the cube […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Point Clearance

Basic Beginners 22

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 22? XGID=-BBaD-D-B—bA—–bbcbab-:1:-1:1:22:0:0:3:0:10  This is a straightforward problem once you understand the basic strategy. There is an old backgammon maxim, “A point cleared is a point not to be feared”. Blocking points, which start off as assets, become liabilities as you seek to bear all your checkers into your home […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Snake Eyes

2020 - Experts 31

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 11? XGID=-aBbcBBBBA–a–a-b-cAbA–B:0:0:1:11:0:0:3:0:10  A roll of double ones is known as snake eyes. The roll often causes problems in backgammon because there are likely to be many possible reasonable plays. That is true even of this position where two of the aces are forced, bar/24(2). To play the other two […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: DMP Thinking

2020 - Intermediates 31

Match Play. Double Match Point. How should Red play 21? XGID=-d-CBBBBA—A—-ccd–AaA-:0:0:1:21:4:4:0:5:10   Whenever you roll a small number like 21 you know you are going to have a lot of choices. This position ably supports that theory. At DMP the cube is out of play and so you can only win by playing the checkers […]

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Every Play Matters

2020 - Beginners 31

Unlimited Games. How should Red play 32? XGID=—a–EbC-A-dF—a-dab—-:0:0:1:32:0:0:3:0:10  Backgammon is difficult for many reasons but one of them is that every play matters, and to play well you have to concentrate throughout the game. For every move there will be a best play and finding that move means you can’t relax for a moment. How […]

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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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