26 March 2013
Before you sigh and give this article the quick skim through you should know that I had a hard time deciding whether I wanted to write about holding games too. People think they're pretty basic, esp. the high anchor games, and they are overly comfortable with them. I decided to break them down an anchor at a time because time and time again I see errors happening in what should be relatively easy positions. Holding games occur often so we should take the time to have a firm grip on them. I like to think that one of the reasons that I'm a strong player isn't because I have a great grasp on weird positions but it's because I've taken the time to master the types of positions that I know I will see time and time and time again like the early game, holding games, and races.
So this month I present you with part 1 of the 20 point anchor holding game and all its flavor. Anyone who has read Kit's excellent book The Backgammon Encyclopedia- Volume 1 Cube Reference Positions will have picked up that the taker's equity in most high anchor holding games comes from a combination of hitting and racing potential. I wanted to get a better grip on how much of that came from contact after the midpoint was cleared when your racing chances were virtually nil. This information has also come in handy in way lopsided score situations when considering cubes with crazy low take points.
In the following 3 examples what do you think White's winning chances are after playing 12/9 in each example?
|to play 21|
|to play 21|
|to play 21|
We see the race doesn't exist for White and any shot he gets and hits is a virtual winner. In the first position with just the 8pt to clear White still manages to win ~8.8% of the time. With the bar point made that dips clear down to ~5.5%! That's a huge difference and something we'll come back to later in the article. Remember that the bar point is big in assisting the doubling player to bring the position home. It's not only because there are more numbers that clear the midpoint or if forced to leave a shot from the midpoint there will be less shots but even when we get to this stage of the game there is a gigantic difference in how easy it is to bring home.
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Great article. I totally agree that thoroughly mastering "basic" positions is more important to playing well than is knowing how to play freakish "quiz" questions. Your article clearly shows that there is more to 20pt holding games than most people think.
Regarding the initial question about how often Yellow wins, I'm curious whether there's a significant difference between how often Yellow wins at DMP and how often Yellow wins in a money game, if we count cashing as a win. The latter can be estimated using GNU's "View Statistics" feature; I'm not sure if there's a way to extract that information from XG. I guess one could set up a position just after Yellow hits a shot and see how often Black still manages to win at DMP; this should be an estimate of the difference between DMP wins and money-game wins.
I never realized that distribution of spares has such a major impact in a holding game. Excellent examples.
Fascinating stuff. Can't wait for the next one.
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