Brays Learning Curve: Hit or Point?

Money Play. How should Red play 42?

2018 - Beginners 8


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.

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USBGF Quizzes 2010 – 2012

California State Quiz – Los Angeles, California, December 2012

Ernest Ho, winner
Ernest Ho, winner


Cheryl Andersen
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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



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Advanced Division winner










USBGF World Giants Quiz Winners

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

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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

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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:

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Al Tesoro Memorial Quiz

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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.”    

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