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 It exposes Red to a possible blitz. It exposes Red on both sides of the board The […]

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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. Red 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. Red has two very […]

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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 Red. Every move weakens his position. Note however, that he owns the cube, so he has earned the right to play the game to the end whatever happens. The question is, can he afford to burn checkers by moving […]

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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 he does […]

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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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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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