*by Phil Simborg*

3 January 2008

Phil Simborg

Backgammon is an easy game to learn, but a hard game to play well. Even the best players are often unsure of the right play, and even the best computer programs get confused.

Over the years, I have learned several excellent guidelines to checker play that generally guide me to the best moves. I teach all of these to my students, and I know they will be helpful to you as well.

**Analysis:**

In figure 2, however, you are well behind in the race, and with the same roll it would be a blunder to move off of the 7 point. You will probably not win this game racing, so your best chance is to hit a shot...so stay back and make it difficult for your opponent to race.

**Analysis:**

**Analysis:**

**Analysis:**

In the early game, one of the toughest decisions we often have to make is when to split our back checkers (the two checkers that start out on our opponent's 1-point). One of the key determinates to help us make this decision is the strength of the opponent's 8 point. If he has 2 checkers on the 8 point, splitting is an excellent play as it "freezes" the checkers on the 8 point. By freezing, I mean that he cannot use one of those checkers to make any key, unmade points, without leaving a direct shot. Take a look at Figure 5, below, for example. Your opponent, white, got an opening roll of 4-2 and made his 4 point. You are black and have to play 4-1. By splitting your back checkers, if he rolls a 6-1 or 3-1 on his next roll he cannot make 7 or 5 point without leaving a direct shot at the blot remaining on his 8 point. If you did not split, he could make one of these key points with little risk. Your split might actually stop him from making a key point or could make him pay dearly if he does.

**Analysis:**

Now look at Figure 6. White opened with 5-2 and brought 2 checkers down, and now you roll a 4-1. Here, according to Snowie (and Kit and Nack and Paul), splitting would be a mistake. You are not freezing his checkers on the 8 point, and in fact, because he has the extra checkers on the 8 point, they can be used as "ammunition" to attack you and blitz you if you leave shots in your inner board and give up your anchor. The best play is actually to slot your 5 point and play aggressively on the other side of the board. Slotting your own 5 point offers the additional benefit of "unstacking" your 6 point.

**Analysis:**

**Analysis:**

In Figure 8, you are ahead in the race by 13 pips before the roll; you have your 4-point made and your opponent has only one point in his board. Clearly you are in an offensive position and you should make the offensive play of making your 5 point. If you were in a defensive position, you should make your opponent's 5 point, as this would be clearly defensive play. In figure 9, the correct play would be to make your opponent's 5 point in order to prevent being blitzed (hit in your opponent's inner board and closed out.) In figure 9, now it's your opponent that has more inner board points and is ahead in the race. You are in a defensive position, so make the defensive play.

**Analysis:**

**Analysis:**

In figure 11, however, your opponent has 3 inner board points and you have 1, so instead of hitting, it is right to make an "anchor" in your opponent's board by making his 4-point. Notice that this concept works well with the concept of offense/offense, defense/defense.

**Analysis:**

**Analysis:**

The position in Figure 13 is an extreme example to illustrate the point, but often we have the choice of leaving 7 shots vs. 3 shots. Even there, with a difference of only 4 shots, the equity difference is substantial. Remember, errors accumulate. If you make a few 4 percent errors in one game, before you know it you've given up 12 or 15 percent winning chances.

**Analysis:**

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great article to review the basics. i usually pick up magriel's book every few months and find something i forgot...

a good article to keep u aware of different ways of looking at things u already do, that allow u to do them better or more quickly!!

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