Celebrating 15 years in backgammon games

Anchors Away

by Stick
26 February 2013


Stick

I think every backgammon player goes through some of the same learning curve when trying to improve initially. One area I think we all faltered in our early backgammon careers is when we should break anchor. I could be wrong but I feel like most if not all players do what I did, break anchor in general (way) too early. Eventually I reeled back and reeled back even more and got a good feel for these types of positions. Still, my understanding of them didn't peak until I took the time to identify the main ingredients that should be weighed when deciding whether or not we should give up the anchor.



Anchor breaking plays I noted are a fancy type of pay now or pay later type of problem so some of the same criteria may be applied. Here are the main points you should consider when facing such plays.



  • The race. More specifically, timing. Probably the biggest consideration with the vast majority of these plays. In the most simplistic terms, if you're ahead in the race you're much more apt to look at anchor breaking plays than if you are not. The more ahead you are the more likely it is you'll run off the anchor at the first reasonable opportunity. The reason for this is that if you play the waiting game you, being ahead in the race, will run out of time and be forced to break before your opponent. If you wait and wait and wait when you are forced off it will likely be at a less than opportune time. If you get a decent chance to break away earlier in the game where the risk isn't so great perhaps you should do so. If the shoe is on the other foot and your opponent is ahead then he'll be the one with the aforementioned issues.

  • Your opponent's offense. This depends on how many men will be poised to attack the one checker you leave behind. How many men your opponent has in the zone and how well diversified they are. If there's little ammunition up front then it makes it a lot easier for you to run than if you have 11 men and 4 diversified builders waiting to trounce on your back checker.

  • Your own offensive position. In the early game we know there are few situations where we both slot and split. This leaves us vulnerable on two fronts. If the opponent doesn't hit our slotted checker then he is much more likely to put our split checkers on the bar in order to divert us from covering the slot. Here it is somewhat the same concept. We don't want to run one of our back men leaving the other man vulnerable unless our own offensive position is solid. It is much tougher for an opponent to attack loose if our own board is formidable rather than it being blotted itself so even if we do bite back our bite is more like a nibble.

  • Opponent's focus. What I mean is if he is focused on other things now may be the time to make a run for it. For example, if he is on the bar you're clearly a lot less likely to be successfully attacked. If he has blots strewn around the board and is trying to put his position back together in general it will make it tough for him to attack without still being vulnerable to a counter attack.

  • How does the roll play otherwise? This is often a key ingredient in any play but it is worth pointing out. You may be able to run from the 21pt anchor with an eight but whether the eight is a 62 or a 53 could make a big difference. There may be another play available that is superior to running. It may be that you have no


With those ideas in mind let's take a look at some basic examples and work from there.


 
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Celebrating 15 years in backgammon games