30 March 2015
I love the direction some things in backgammon have been headed over the years. Albeit slowly, we've seen clocks and one set of dice make their way into the game over the past decade. (Since I've been around, can't be a coincidence) We've also seen a huge spike in match recording, streaming, and matches being released to the public thanks to varied advances in technology. For example, here it is as the Ohio State Championships haven't been finished even a day and already the matches publicly available are in the double digits.
That means once a month, whether I get off my fat ass or not, I get to comb through quite a few live matches and see what I can learn from them. I go through all the matches that are posted. Depending on the players involved some I may go through more quickly than others but even in skimming every move of a match quickly I'm likely to pick up on an interesting problem or a habit I see amongst a certain type of player. For example, in going through matches I've noticed a huge weakness amongst most players and that is cube handling at lopsided scores. It's all over the place depending on if you're the leader or the trailer and the exact score but it's something you can expect when you get into those types of matches. I had noticed this years before in reviewing matches from Monaco where the matches eventually get up to 25 points. Most players throughout the world aren't used to playing this long of a match so when they do and a score becomes lopsided they find themselves in some truly unfamiliar terriroty and it shows. Before going to Monaco myself I made an effort to better understand these scores but I could sure use some more work.
What I've done this month is wade through all the currently available matches from the latest ABT event and pick out problems where I think the theme or lesson could help a lot of players. Take a stab at the following. Most of them I've converted to a normal score unless the score would have had a significant impact in the match itself and I want to use that to make a point. I think it's best to look at things at a normal score and see what is generally correct before trying to wrap your mind about some odd play being correct only because of the score. Per usual, scroll slowly as the answers are immediately after the diagrams and gl!
|to play 42|
|1.||XG Roller++||8/4 6/4||eq: -0.280|
|2.||XG Roller++||13/9 13/11*||eq: -0.357 (-0.078)|
eXtreme Gammon Version: 2.19.206.pre-release
We start with one I'd deem easier but I see it and many similar positions commonly misplayed. The problem often is when we see a blot we often want to hit so badly we let that take over our decision making. The first issue here that should give us pause is that after hitting we have no good four. It's true that 13/9 makes the 9pt which is a good point to have but it comes at a steep cost. It gives up the midpoint early in the game when our back checkers haven't even started their trip around the board while leaving twelve shots.
The other option is making the 4pt. This develops our stacks nicely by making a strong upper board point. The race is close so it isn't critical that we hit the blot. We also avoid all the previously mentioned pitfalls that accompany the hitting play. As early as the second roll we see instances where we pass on hitting a blot in order to make a strong point. We have learned those by rote though so they're easy to follow. The questions we've answered in analyzing this problem should be answered in every similar problem such as If we hit exactly how bad does the other half of our roll play? If we don't hit how good is our alternate play? From there if it's a hit v. point making problem as this one is we can further ask ourselves how badly we need to hit to keep his man from escaping or how good the point is that we'll be making etc... It would also obviously be a much different story if he were escaping his last remaining checker.
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