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: 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

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Bray’s Learning Curve: Weighing Anchors

Match Play. Red leads 4-2 to 11. How should Red play 55?

2019 - Intermediates 11

XGID=-aaB-bE-B—bCb–b-dBa—A:0:0:1:55:4:2:0:11:10

This position comes from the recent Boston Open. The score is actually irrelevant to the play.

Red played bar/15, 20/15(2) with his double fives but that was not the best play.

Giving up an anchor in a backgammon game is a major decision and the more I play the more I like to hang on to my anchor. Of course, eventually you have to give up your anchor and run for home but if you can do it with a gain of tempo (i.e. hitting your opponent as you do so) so much the better.

When there is a lot of play left in a position, as is the case here, then normally you are better off holding on to the anchor so that you have a safe re-entry point. There is likely to be quite a lot of hitting before this game is finished and so Red should have kept hold of his opponent’s 5-pt.

He should have played bar/20, 6/1(2)* (Barclay Cooke would turn in his grave with making the ace-point so early!) and then thought about the third five. He could play safe with 13/8 but he has gained a tempo by putting White on the bar. Three checkers on the 15-pt is inefficient and so the spare checker should be put to work with 20/15. 13/8 is too safe a play given the demands of the position and as you can see from the rollout such a passive play is actually a blunder.

The result is that after bar/15, 6/1(2)* Red has maintained a flexible game plan. After bar/15, 20/15(2) he has no choice but to try to tip-toe through the minefield to bring his checkers home safely – a blot being hit could be ruinous. Try playing the position out a few times and you will find just how difficult it is to bring those checkers home.

There isn’t a huge equity difference between the two top plays but the important thing is to understand the concepts behind bar/15, 6/1(2)*.

So, remember – keep hold of your anchors!

 

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 11 rollout

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Bray’s Learning Curve: The Third Roll

 

Money Play. How should Red play 32?

2018 - Beginners 11

XGID=-b—-EBB—eD—b-db—B-:0:0:1:32:0:0:3:0:10

After the second roll there are about 600 possible positions. When it gets to third roll there are many thousands so you cannot learn them off by heart, instead you have to learn the appropriate principles.

This position arises after Red has opened with 61 (13/7, 8/7) and White has replied with 31 (8/5, 6/5). Red must now play 32. How should he play it?

Once your opponent has made his 5-pt it is normally correct to split the back checkers to stop your opponent quickly building a prime in front of your rear checkers.

That would imply playing 24/22, 13/10 or 24/21, 13/11. Surprisingly enough both these moves are still errors because they don’t go far enough in applying the correct principle. The correct move is 24/22, 24/21, advancing both rear checkers. One of the ideas behind the play is that if one of the checkers is pointed on, you might be able to make an advanced anchor using the other one.

It is interesting to see how big a blunder 13/11, 13/10 is. That play strips the mid-point of its spare builders and does nothing about addressing the strength of White’s home board position. 13/8 is also very weak because it does virtually nothing to improve Red’s position at a time when he should be taking risks.

The key here is to learn the principle of advancing both checkers and then put that principle into use in your own future games.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

beginners 11 Roolout

 

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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

 

 

 

 

Brays Learning Curve: The Opening Roll

 

Money Play. How should Red play 64?

Basic Begiiners 1

XGID=-b—-E-C—eE—c-e—-B-:0:0:1:64:0:0:3:0:10

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Basic Beginners Rollout 1

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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

 

Brays Learning Curve: Complex Ending

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

  2. Match Play. Red leads 2-1 to 5. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

2018 - Experts 10

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

Without an extensive knowledge of reference positions this is a difficult problem. If you have seen something like this before it makes life a lot easier!

I know that if those three checkers on the 2-pt were safely on the ace-point this would be a double and a huge pass but the possibility of White picking up a second (and even a third) checker make things much more complex. Of course, White has to know the right technique to maximise his chances of picking up that additional checker. He must build a prime, then Red has to roll an inconvenient ace and play 2/1* and then White must hit that exposed checker.

White must be patient and the game may well go on for a long time. However, the threat of picking up that additional checker makes this a very easy take for White and in fact, Red only just has a double.  Unless, of course, he thinks that White will drop and believe me a fair few people will drop this.

At the match score, doubling this position would be a gargantuan blunder. White will need little excuse to to redouble to four and put the match on the line as his winning chances from 1-4 down (Crawford) are only 17%. Red must leave the cube where it is at this match score and hope to win a gammon to take him to 4-1 ahead. He will actually win a gammon about 17% of the time from the start position.

Because of the match score Red may not even be able to double if he ends up with a single checker closed out. It will depend upon if he has any other checkers exposed in his home board and White’s exact bear-off structure.

You can learn a lot from this position by adjusting it slightly. For example, change the match score to 1-1, and see what impact that has. As I have remarked before backgammon is a very complex game and you can learn a lot by an in-depth study of any single position. This one is worthy of your attention! 

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Money

Experts 10 Rollout - Money

Match

Experts 10 Rollout - Match

 

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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

 

 

Brays Learning Curve: Count the Ways

 

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

2018 - Beginners 10

XGID=–DF-aCB———–bdbbbb-:0:0:1:00:0:0:3:0:10

This type of position is fairly common so it is best to know how to deal with it.

First, it should be clear that Red should double. With a 15-pip lead in the race and multiple market-losing sequences not doubling here would be a double blunder.

The interesting question is whether or not can White can take. His thinking should go along these lines:

Red will leave me a shot with 62, 26, 44, 55 and 66. I will hit that 30% of the time so that is 1.5 wins out of 36.

What about the race? Red is nominally 15 pips ahead but that is not a true count. He has six checkers on his 3-pt and four checkers on his 2-pt. that will add approximately 6 pips to his adjusted pip count. In addition, he will have empty 4- and 5-pts in the bear-off so that will create further inefficiencies for him. On the down side he has only two crossovers and two pips to get his checkers home while I have 4 crossovers and 15 pips to roll before I can begin to bear-off.

In the 31 games where he doesn’t leave me a shot, can I win 7.5 of them to bring me up to the nine games I need to win to accept the double? To answer that question requires both experience and judgment but it can be made a lot easier if you have a reference document. Luckily, you will find “Backgammon Races” in the download section of my website: www.chrisbraybackgammon.com

The answer in this particular case is that White can take with relative comfort. The key to learning is then to adjust the position to find out what happens when things change. Move the spare on White’s 4-pt to his 5-pt and he can still take the double but move it to his 6-pt and the position becomes a drop.

In the initial position if we move one of the spare checkers on Red’s 3-pt to his 6-pt the position becomes double/drop because 44,55 and 66 now play safely. So small differences in the position can make a big difference to the cube action – tricky game backgammon.

 

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 10 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

 

Brays Learning Curve: Match Play Problem

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

 

2018 - Experts 9

XGID=—B-aDBBB—B–aAbbbc-bb-:0:0:1:63:4:6:1:7:10

Once again, the match score dominates the doubling decision.

For money this would be a very premature redouble as White has all his checkers in play and,  owning the cube, he would be in a powerful position to redouble Red if the game turned around.

However, at this match score the cube is valueless to White and so it is merely a question of whether Red is a sufficient enough favourite to redouble now.

White’s point of last take is 25% (the match-winning chances he would have if he dropped the redouble). Is Red close enough to 75% winning chances to redouble? As ever that is a matter of using experience to make the judgement and an exact percentage estimate is impossible.

However, Red has a five-point prime, a five-point home board and White is on the bar. He is certainly a strong favourite. Over the board I redoubled this position and my opponent dropped.

White should have taken as you can see from the rollout below. Red is near the top of his doubling window but not above it. Therefore, the answer is that Red should redouble and White should take.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 9 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

 

Brays Learning Curve: Good Numbers and Bad Numbers

Money Play. How should Red play 43?

2018 - Intermediates 9

XGID=-BbC-BB-D——–bbcd–bB-:0:0:1:43:0:0:3:0:10

This is not a very difficult problem but Red went astray over the board by playing 24/21, 8/4, which is an unnecessary overplay. White replied with 64, played 7/1*, 5/1 and after Red fanned, White won with cube.

Red should observe that White has 13 checkers in the attack zone and that should flag up an immediate warning. Those extra checkers on the 6- and 5-pts are just itching to join the battle. At the moment White’s sixes and some of his fours play badly but not after 24/21, 8/4.

Equally well Red cannot afford the luxury of the ‘safe’ play which puts a third useless checker on his ace-point and does nothing to help his position.

The correct play is 8/5, 8/4 which puts the checkers where Red wants and just as importantly does not allow White an attack. There is also some duplication of twos.

White is a strong favourite irrespective of which play Red chooses but anything other than 8/5, 8/4 is a bad blunder.

They key is that Red must stop all those checkers in White’s home board coming into play.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 9 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

 

 

 

 

Brays Learning Curve: Blitz

Money Play. How should Red play 31?

2018 - Beginners 9

XGID=aBBAa-B-BA–cCA–e-e—-A-:1:-1:1:31:0:0:3:0:10

This position is used to highlight a very common error amongst beginners, intermediates and sometimes even experts.

Red has doubled and embarked on a blitz. Sadly, he has thrown a poor number. Many players now think that they must give up on the blitz and tighten things up.

I would expect to see 13/9 played quite often and the even weaker 14/13, 9/6 will have quite a few supporters.

The basic strategy for such positions is to keep blitzing until it is no longer possible. This means that in this position the correct play is 8/4*. There is a huge difference between having two rather than one opposing checker on the bar. One bad roll from White, particularly staying on the bar, could see him quickly lose a gammon.

The game-winning percentage for all three of the plays discussed is very similar but 8/4* wins 10% more gammons and that is the big difference.

8/4* leaves five Red blots and that puts many players off making the correct play. Yes, Red will lose some games, and even gammons, when things go badly, but there are very few certainties in backgammon and Red can only play what the dice give him.

Any play other than 8/4* is bad blunder. So remember, have the courage of your convictions, and blitz aggressively until that plan is no longer viable.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 9 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

 

 

Brays Learning Curve: Complexity

Match Play. Red trails 4-6 to 7 (Crawford). How should Red play 63?

2018 - Experts 8

XGID=—B-aDBBB—B–aAbbbc-bb-:0:0:1:63:4:6:1:7:10

This position was originally posted on Facebook by Phil Simborg. In terms of degree of difficulty this is a very high tariff problem.

If this was a money game with Red holding the cube on 2 then the answer would be the simple 17/8. Every other play loses too many gammons.

However, this is the Crawford Game and Red must win it in order to continue the match. Gammons are irrelevant and so Red just needs to make the play that wins the most often.

I think a lot of players would elect to play 17/14, 13/7, leaving no direct shots but whenever White rolls a 5 or a 6 Red will very likely be in trouble and what does Red plan to do on his next roll even if White rolls small numbers? That is the key to the problem.

The more direct approach is 17/11, 8/5*, employing the standard backgammon theory of attacking a lone blot. Red may be able to execute a blitz or possibly create a prime.

The one move nobody looks at 17/11, 13/10!! A passive move exposing two blots to direct shots!

Whenever White rolls a 5 or a 6 Red will be in big trouble, although he will have a small amount of residual equity. The big gains come on the 16 rolls when White doesn’t roll a 5 or a 6. Now Red is ideally placed to attack/prime White’s rear checker.

The difference between 17/11, 8/5* and 17/11, 13/10 is small but small differences count for a lot in backgammon. Not one in a hundred players would find and, more importantly, play 17/11, 13/10 over the board demonstrating just how difficult the game can be. Even analysing in the calm of one’s study it is hard to find the right play.

The key is that having once seen the solution you can now take this type of thinking and apply it to future problems even though such a problem may not occur again for quite some time.

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Experts 8 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

Brays Learning Curve: Run or Prime?

Money Play. How should Red play 63?

2018 - Intermediates 8

XGID=-a-BBCCBA———ccbbcBa-:1:1:1:63:0:0:3:0:10

 The age-old question: should you build the full prime with 8/2, 5/2 and perhaps crack it as soon as next turn, or use that precious 6 to run with either 23/14 or 22/17, 8/5?

When I had this position as White, I knew what I wanted my opponent to do and that was to run. He very kindly obliged and after a couple of good rolls I was actually able to play on for, and win, a gammon.

The correct play by quite some way 8/2, 5/2 – see the rollout below. The keys to the position are:

  • A full prime is much stronger than a five-point prime and even if Red cannot escape a checker next turn, he will still probably have a five-point prime, so he will be no worse off and, if he rolls a six, he is nearly home free.
  • Crucially, White must play before Red rolls again and facing a full prime he will have to move on his side of the board. Big numbers like 64, 65, 55, 54 etc now severely damage his position, giving Red gammon opportunities.

My rule of thumb in such positions is to take the full prime if it is on offer and that rule has stood me in good stead throughout my playing career. If Red had a 65 to play then 23/27, 8/3 would be correct.

Note that 23/17, 8/5 is much better than 23/14 because it halves the gammon losses. The former is an error, the latter is a blunder. Players often forget to take gammons into account properly when deciding upon a move. 23/14 exposes three blots and that is too many when there is a sensible alternative.

So, remember, hardly ever turn down a full prime!

Rollout Information from Extreme Gammon

Intermediates 8 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

 

 

Brays Learning Curve: Hit or Point?

Money Play. How should Red play 42?

2018 - Beginners 8

XGID=aa—BD-C—eDa–c-dA—A-:1:-1:1:42:0:0:3:0:10

This is a type of position that I constantly see misplayed by beginners and intermediates.

They nearly always play 20/14*, putting a second checker on the bar. Hopefully not many players would select the craven 24/20, 13/11! Such a passive move is not the way to winning backgammon.

As the great Paul Magriel used to say, “put ‘em where you want ‘em”. This should give you a clue!

The correct play is 8/4, 6/4. This gives Red an excellent long-term asset and considerably reduces White’s chances of counter-play. A quarter of the time he will still be shooting at the White blot on Red’s 14-pt next turn.

8/4, 6/4 wins more games and more gammons than 20/14*. That may surprise many, but that extra home-board point, which is also part of a potential prime, really stifles White’s play.

If you don’t believe this try playing the position a few times. You will soon see that making the 4-pt is much stronger than hitting the extra blot.

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 8 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

 

 

Simborg Video Lesson: The Rule of Four

USBGF Teaching Pro Phil Simborg explains the Rule of Four and how using the formula will help you make a decision about doubling.
Featured content exclusively for USBGF Premium, Youth, & Basic Members.

[Read more…]

USBGF Quizzes 2010 – 2012

California State Quiz – Los Angeles, California, December 2012

Ernest Ho, winner
Ernest Ho, winner

 

Cheryl Andersen
Cheryl Andersen, winner
 

Giants World Challenge Quiz – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: February 2012

 

 

 

Falafel Natanzon, Open Division
 

Andrew Liebenthal, Advanced Division

 

USBGF Illinois State QuizPeoria, Illinois; October 16, 2011

Mary Hickey, Open Division winner

Ben Friesen

 

 

Ben Friesen,

Advanced Division winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USBGF World Giants Quiz Winners

Giants Winner Falafel Natanzon and Open Winner Ed Rosenblum with USBGF President Perry Gartner and USBGF Board Member Lynn Ehrlich. Advanced Winner Irving Gold not present

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USBGF Last One Standing Quiz – Novi, Michigan – July 2011

Mary Hickey, Open Division winner
 

 

USBGF Chicago Open Quiz by Mochy – Chicago, IL, May 30, 2011

Open Division–Petko Kostadinov, Falafel Natazon, Kit Woolsey (tied); Advanced Division–Lucas Bauer
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USBGF Ohio State Quiz — Last Man Standing Cleveland, OH, March 2011

Open DivisionMary Hickey, 1st

Mary Hickey

Mary Hickey

Advanced Division — Ben Friesen, 1st
 

 

USBGF Al Tesoro Memorial Quiz and Lecture — Fort Lauderdale, FL; August 2010

Ray Fogerlund

 

Open Division — Ray Fogerlund, 1st

 
 

 

Advanced Division— Efim Liberman, 1st

 

 

 

USBGF Howard Ring Memorial Quiz — Van Nuys, CA., June 2010

Alex Eshaghian and John O’Hagan

Open Division — John O’Hagan, 1st; Richard Munitz, 2nd
Advanced Division — Alex Eshaghian, 1st; Cheryl Andersen, 2nd

MathFest 2011 Backgammon Quiz

In August 2011, over 1000 mathematicians gathered in Lexington, Kentucky for MathFest 2011,  the annual summer meeting of the Mathematical Association of America. MathFest 2011 featured “Backgammon Night,” a free social event offering backgammon group lessons, a backgammon quiz designed especially for top-level mathematicians, and a backgammon tournament to test their newly-acquired skills.

The quiz, which we are presenting here, poses ten problems, with some weighted more highly than others, so that a perfect score nets 13 points. Art Benjamin, math professor at the Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, and a member of the USBGF Board of Directors, constructed the quiz. Art, along with Jennifer Quinn, math professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma, gave a post-quiz lecture, explaining the answers.

You can see the quiz, with answers, by downloading the PDF version (about 627 kB):  MathFest 2011 Backgammon Quiz.

USBGF Ohio State Quiz

By John O’Hagan and Phil Simborg


You can view the problems and answers below, and see how well you do.

The Problems:



Chuck Bower’s Monte Carlo Quiz, Part 2

Chuck Bower

Play Along at Monte Carlo, Part 2

By Chuck Bower


This is the second and final piece of a two part Magriel-Gartner Quiz. Part 1, with an introduction is found here.

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Chuck Bower’s Monte Carlo Quiz, Part 1

Chuck Bower

Play Along at Monte Carlo, Part 1

By Chuck Bower


   

Introduction


The move-by-move type of quiz I am presenting here was invented by the great theoretician and teacher Paul Magriel. It is also a favorite of USBGF chairman and master instructor Perry Gartner, who long ago recognized its value as a learning tool. To use it most efficiently, please follow these guidelines:   1) Work through the entire quiz, making all of your play or cube choices before looking at the scoring and commentary section.
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Al Tesoro Memorial Quiz

USBGF Al Tesoro Memorial Quiz and Lecture

By Karen Davis and Rochelle Hasson    

Al Tesoro, a beloved member of the Florida backgammon community for almost three decades, was no intellectual lightweight. Born in Rome, Italy, he moved with his successful business-oriented family to New York at age 4. He returned to Europe for his education, acquiring a bachelor’s degree in Geneva, and then came back to the USA to complete the process, getting his Masters and Ph.D. in physics from Columbia. His 1967 doctoral dissertation was entitled “On the Production of Neutrino Pairs by the Annihilation of Two Photons.”    

After teaching for a few years, Al focused his intense intellectual curiosity upon games. He loved everything from cards at the Mayfair to chouettes in New York and Fort Lauderdale bars to pick-up chess games on the sidewalks or in the parks of Manhattan. His best backgammon event was the doubles, where he teamed up with Dr. Bob Hill, coming in first or second in 2001 (Florida State); 2002 (Mid-West Championships), and 2004 (Florida), and taking fourth place in the Michigan Open in 2003. But Al would always be a “pre-bot” player. He had worked hard to learn the game before software existed to point out the “right” play, and continued, to his dying day, to study the game “au natural.”