On the first article " Backgammon Opening Rolls- 1", we looked at opening rolls that are always played the same way. On this second article we are going to look at a further group:
Rolls on which there is broad agreement (2): 62, 63
Both of these backgammon opening rolls can be played at least two ways and we will examine the pros and cons of the various plays and the backgammon strategy of these rolls.
Let’s remind ourselves of what we are trying to do in the opening:
• Make new points
• Mobilize the back checkers
• Unstack the heavy points
These two rolls are 62 and 63 and the same theory applies to each of them, although with 62 there is an (old-fashioned) additional option.
The backgammon strategy behind this play is twofold. Let’s consider the first part of the move, the six, played 24/18. Firstly it attempts to make the opponent’s bar-point by slotting it. If red doesn’t hit the blot then black will be nearly even money to make the point on his next turn.
Secondly, the play may provoke an exchange of hits on the bar-point. For example red may roll 42, played 13/7* and then black could roll 26, played bar/23, 24/18*. This exchange of hits favors black as he gains in the race by sending one of red’s checkers from his-mid-point all the way back to the start. In contrast black has only lost a few pips because it is one of his back checkers that got sent to the bar.
The second part of the move, the three, played 13/10, provides a builder for black’s home board and gives black some flexibility on his next turn (if he has not been sent to the bar). For example, let’s say red rolls 52 and plays 13/8, 24/22 and now black rolls 51 on his next turn. He would have the choice of making his opponent’s bar-point with 24/18 or his own 5-pt with 10/5, 6/5
Of course red may roll something like 61, played 13/7*, 8/7 making his bar-point which gives him a slight advantage. Like all things in backgammon it is a question of balancing risk with reward – sometime you will gain the advantage and sometimes not.
Playing 24/18, 13/10 quite often leads to complex backgammon games with lots of early hitting.
In contrast the second option, 24/15 as shown here:
is an attempt to race for home. If red doesn’t roll a number that hits the checker on red’s 10-pt then black will, in all likelihood, be able to move it to safety next time and he will have successfully escaped 50% of his rear checkers.
24/15 leads to much simpler games. We will see in later articles that, particularly in tournament situations, it is sometimes right to play for complexity and sometimes for simplicity and this can quite often be determined by the choice of opening move.
Beginners facing a superior opponent should opt for 24/15 and try to keep the game simple.
and the simpler option is 24/16 as shown below:
When I first started playing backgammon game (The year, 1979) ,62 was commonly played 13/5 as shown here:
However, as theory developed the need to move the back checkers early in the game became apparent and I have seen 13/5 only a couple of times in the last few years.
The vast majority of players move 24/18 and 13/10 or 13/11 with 63 and 62 and use this moves as key backgammon strategy – the pure running plays are falling into disuse as players strive for complexity, normally on the (erroneous) assumption that they are stronger than their opponent!
If you have never read a book or had a lesson then the likelihood is that you will make the simple running plays. I know I did. When I bought my second book, “Backgammon for Profit” by Joe Deck, I have learnd the concept of splitting to my opponent’s bar-point and I quickly recouped the cost of the book with my improved playing style and . This is actually true of the vast majority of backgammon game books – they may seem expensive but they very quickly pay for themselves.
In the 1970’s a gentleman by the name of Bruce Becker wrote a book called “Backgammon for Blood”. Becker was a very weak player but like many others at the time he wanted to cash in on the backgammon craze. He advocated playing 13/7, 13/10 with 63 and 13/7, 13/11 with 62. The idea with both of these plays is to quickly build a strong home board.
Sadly it is the wrong idea and it often leads to exchange of hits on black’s bar-point. When this happens it is now black who loses ground in the race when its checkers get sent back. Remember that backgammon is fundamentally a race so getting an early lead is to be encouraged.
Only two rolls were discussed here and yet we managed to cover quite a number of the key aspects of opening theory. The time to take risks is early in the game before your opponent has built any new home board points. This concept of splitting to your opponent’s bar-point with 62 or 63 plays precisely to that theory. We will see that the same theory can also be applied to 64 but there is also a third option for 64.
In the next article: "Backgammon Opening Rolls - 3 ", we will look at the three slot or split rolls: 21, 41 and 51.