by Jake Jacobs
16 October 2015
Who doesn't love pip counts? I can still recall (dimly) the satisfaction of reading Magriel's book, learning about pip counting, and knowing that I had a secret weapon in my arsenal, one most of my opponents knew nothing about. It helped that with very little practice and no training I worked out for myself the theory behind "cluster counting" and could count both sides of the board in a few seconds. I've since learned most people can't do that. But anyone who is serious about the game can learn to count; it is better to be accurate than to be fast, and with practice anyone can be accurate, and will be faster than if they never practice. I once was paid ten dollars to count a board, and earned two dollars a second. If the work was steady I'd be retired by now, but it was a one off.
Trickier than obtaining the count is knowing what to do with it. Some checker decisions are pip related: play safely when leading in the race, boldly when trailing; break contact if the race favors you, but wait for a shot when it doesn't; correct your timing if you are far behind, but not far enough behind. Most race decisions are cube decisions. These depend upon not only knowing the count, but knowing how much of an advantage the leader enjoys. And often knowing it requires making adjustments to the raw pip count.
I once overheard an intermediate player tell Bill Davis that while there were many holes in his game, when it came to pips he used five of the most advanced counts, and went with the majority.
Using any count is better than using none at all. What follows are a sampling of popular counts.
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