Brays Learning Curve: Risk and Reward

Money Play. How should Red play 61?

2018 - Beginners 7


Red stands well in this position but has not yet won the game. The question is whether he should play this 61 relatively safely with something like 8/2, 5/4 or whether he should play boldly with 13/7, 8/7.

With the cube in the middle you can win the game either by making a well-timed double or by utilising your checkers efficiently. Once you have doubled only the latter option is available to you, so you need to optimise the placement of your checkers.

Beginners have a hatred of leaving unnecessary shots when they think they have already won the game, but the harsh reality is that your opponent will nearly always have winning chances – you must do your best to limit those chances. Everything in backgammon is risk and reward so it is a question of weighing one against the other.

In this position the race is close so White can win by rolling a couple of big numbers. If Red makes the bar that option is largely denied to White but 13/7, 8/7 leaves 13 hitting numbers for White (all 1’s plus 52). Is the risk worth the reward. The answer is yes, Red does better to make the bar than play relatively safely (the safe plays leaves 4 shots).

One key point is that if White hits the blot on Red’s mid-point he won’t be strong enough to redouble unless he has rolled precisely 12 or 21. That is because Red’s broken prime is a still a fearsome barrier that White has to leap with a 2 and then a 5 or a 6.

Learning when to take a calculated risk is key to winning at backgammon. Too often I see beginners shy away from risk because they only look at the negative aspects of a play. They improve when they learn to see the positives, but I admit that it does take time to learn how to think

Rollout Data from Extreme Gammon

Beginners 7 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




  1. Edward Januska says:

    Why is hitting 8/1* so bad in this position? If you’re leaving 1’s with 13/7 8/7 anyhow why not put white on the roof and try to close the 1 point? Red has plenty of builders. Is it because White has a stronger board and Red has a small race lead?

Speak Your Mind