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Should I Stay or Should I go
By Robert Wachtel
I’d like to bring you something cute from WSOB Prague. The WSOB format was best two-of-three 7 point matches. I was leading 5 to 2 in the first match of the second round. My opponent doubled me quite early. I had to take, but things went very well for him indeed. I had nothing but a busted ace point game as we reached an ugly version of the coup classique:
I was in danger of being backgammoned and losing the match outright, but I finally had a bit of luck. My opponent rolled a six-ace, leaving a double blot. I hit him, picked up the second checker, and was even able to close my 4 point. But then things started slipping away again. He hit me a few times, came in with both men with 66, and ran around the board some more. Finally we reached this weird position as I rolled a 2-1.
A new variation of the stay-or-go decision which was the theme of my only backgammon book, In the Game Until the End, written fifteen years ago: should you come out to the 18 point with both checkers, conceding the gammon but saving the backgammon; run with one from the 19 point; or leave them both in place and just move 12/9? A backgammon loses the match for you, a gammon puts you down 6-5 at Crawford; a gammon save leaves you ahead 5-4, and a miraculous win wins the match as well. What would you do?
I stayed with both checkers, moving 12/9. My opponent responded with a 6-6, winning the match outright. No soon had my doom been sealed than one of those ambulance-chasing spectators who always seem to find me at these moments volunteered that he would have come out with both men. As if I cared!
For the record, staying back with both checkers as I did is right:
At this score gammon saves trade about equally with backgammon losses: the one gains about 30% match equity while the other loses about the same. But gammon saves occur far more often than backgammon losses with the correct play.