Classic position


This is a classic position that no expert would get wrong from either side but which is frequently misplayed in two ways by beginners.

Backgammon strategy position

Backgammon strategy position

Firstly black does not redouble. He sees that he is very likely to leave a shot and worries about that shot being hit and then losing the game. He therefore holds onto the cube and doesn’t redouble until he has safely cleared his 10-pt or, alternatively, he has left a shot and it has been missed.

Secondly, when black does redouble white often passes. He notes that while he might get a shot he also notes that he will not be favourite to hit it. He spots that he is thirty-seven pips behind in the race and therefore decides he must pass the redouble.

Now let’s look at the position from the expert’s perspective. First black’s analysis:

“I have a big lead in the race so if I am not hit I should win the game. I leave a shot next roll with 61, 62, and 63. My good rolls are 11, 22, 33, 44, 55 and 54 – the good and the bad nearly balance each other out. However, even if I have to leave a shot with something like 53 (played 10/5, 10/8) then my opponent will only hit one time in three. Even if I have to leave a shot about 70% of the time that means I will only get hit 23% of the time. The position is highly volatile and it looks as if I will win close near to 77% of the time then I must redouble. Anyway, maybe my opponent will pass. I redouble.”

And now white:

“ Not great as I am so far behind in the race. However, black will quite often have to leave me a shot and if I hit it I will have a nearly certain win (especially owning the cube). Do I hit a shot often enough to be able to take? Without showing all the calculations I believe I do. Also, in my playing experience, I have seen this position (or one very similar to it) before and I remember that this is a take. As a point of interest I also remember that if black’s two men on his 10-pt were on his 9-pt this would be a borderline pass. I take.”

The rollouts prove that the expert analysis is correct.

Backgammon strategy position

Backgammon strategy position

Key Lessons:

  • Calm objective analysis will help you come to the right decisions more often than not.
  • Don’t fear the cube getting to high levels even though you may lose the game – accurate redoubling is the essence of winning backgammon.
  • A big database of reference positions is essential if you are to become an expert.

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