• 2018 - Position 198

    XGID=aBBbBBC--A--b-b--dBd-A----:1:-1:1:53:0:0:3:0:10

    Money Play. How should Red play 53?

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  • 2018 - Position 197

    XGID=aB-BBBBB----a------A-bcbAA:1:1:1:00:4:3:0:7:10

    Match Play. Red leads 4-3 to 7. Should Red redouble? If redoubled, should White take?

    A simple question for White. Can he win 18% of the time from here to justify taking?

    Incredibly difficult if not impossible to calculate accurately over the board but so many things have to go well for White that it looks unlikely. The rollout has him 1% shy of a take, so it is quite close. If White is the inferior player he should probably take .and let the dice decide. His position is easy to play as most of his moves will be forced.

    Technically, however, it is narrowly a blunder to take.

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  • A Backgammon Lesson from Mochy - Part 2

    This is the second article on my match against Mochy from the Cyprus tournament. After he accepted my redouble to 4 in the position discussed last week he slowly but surely gained the advantage until we reached this week’s position. Mochy is playing Black. At this point he redoubled me to 8, potentially putting the match on the line. Should I accept the redouble to 8?

    On the previous set of moves Mochy had made one of his few errors in the match when he played his 64 by moving 7/3, 7/1 instead of the correct 8/4, 8/2. Sadly, his error paid off when I rolled 33 and had to crash my home board.

    Mochy’s redouble to 8 is clearly correct as there are a lot of market losing sequences when, after his next roll, I have to move a checker from his 5-pt and the remaining one gets attacked and probably closed out. The race is roughly equal as I have a lot of wastage in my home board. A lot of my moves will be forced, something that often happens when you have two checkers stranded in your opponent’s home board with the rest of your checkers in your own home board.

    If I drop the redouble then my match winning chances are about 26% (using the Janowski formula). Note also that if I accept the cube, I cannot subsequently use it to win the game because we will effectively be playing double match point. And, of course, gammons are meaningless for either player. So, if I take, will I win this game more than 26% of the time?

    I took several minutes to try to evaluate it and came to the conclusion that I could not. Unfortunately for me this was a small error as White actually wins from this position about 27% of the time, giving me a close take. White can win by hitting a shot and scampering round the board and also by rolling a timely set of doubles and then winning the race.

    The other factor I should have given more thought to is the skill disparity. Mochy is undoubtedly a better player than I am. I should have been be more than willing to put the match on the line with a close decision, even if I got it wrong technically, than to try to win from 1-5 down to 9 against the number one ranked player in the world.

    In the end there wasn’t much in the PR ratings. Mochy played at 2.69 while my PR was 3.35. However, the disparity was sufficient for me to go ‘all in’ and accept Mochy’s redouble to 8.

    Both positions from the match that I have discussed added to my backgammon knowledge, particularly the first one. Both were key doubling decisions and let me remind you that such decisions are the key to winning backgammon. As Magriel famously said, “good checker play will never compensate you for the bad errors you make with the doubling cube”. Hopefully, I will be able to reuse that learning in future matches. We shall see.

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  • 2018 - Position 196

    XGID=aB-BABB-C---cBb--b-dc---A-:0:0:1:00:3:3:0:7:10

    Match Play. Score is tied 3-3 to 7. Should Red double? If doubled, should White take?

    This is the most common error I see in match play backgammon - the application of money play thinking to match play.

    Red is too good to double by quite some margin and should play on for the undoubled gammon. The Jacoby Rule precludes this in money games and players forget this when playing matches. It is nearly a double blunder to offer the cube here.

    Of course, White should drop the double and be grateful.

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  • 2018 - Position 195

    XGID=baBdBBDAB------b-AabA--ab-:1:-1:1:31:0:0:3:0:10

    Money Play. How should Red play 31?

    The key here is to prevent White establishing a well-timed back game. The one must be played 2/1*.

    The three is less important. 17/14 is marginally best, closely followed by 7/4.

    This sort of play is often overlooked over the board but should be in the armoury of any good backgammon player.

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