Use the Cube As a Weapon . . .
Gaby Horowitz and Dr. Bruce Roman, 1979
Gammon Magazine, Preview Edition, 1979

Many times you will hear someone say, "It was a happy take." One of the least desirable actions is to take a "bad" double. The worst possible action is to give a bad double.

Occasionally you may take a questionable cube if you wish to attempt to demoralize your opponent by accepting the double and subsequently turning the game around. This may be forgivable, but it is never forgivable to give a bad cube. In the following six positions, we are going to examine some "gifty" doubles and some sound doubles.

Diagram 1.
Should Black double?
Should Black redouble?
Black doubles in Diagram 1. He has all of his men in his inner board while White still has to bring in four men before he can begin to bear off. Black figures he will be able to bear off several men before White bears off any men. Before we can determine whether Black has given a sound double we must evaluate two factors: distribution and pip count.

White has a more even distribution of his men in his inner board and thus will tend to miss less once he starts to bear off. The pip count shows that Black is barely ahead in the race (Black 69, White 71). Black is a favorite but not enough of a favorite to double at this point. If White gets several good shakes, he may wind up redoubling. Even experienced players at times get lured into giving a bad cube by the illusion of having all their men in their inner board while their opponent has several men to bear in.

How much of a favorite do you have to be to double? Tables have been constructed which relate the disparity in pip count to the length of the race. As a more general rule of thumb, you should have enough of a lead so that if your opponent throws a big double, he can't double you out on his next few throws. This rule works until you get down to within the last four or five rolls of the game. You do not want to put yourself in the position where a couple 6-5's by your opponent and a miss by you will allow your opponent to double you out. By doubling in Diagram 1, Black makes White the favorite in the game because White now owns the cube. Obviously Black should not redouble in this position.

Diagram 2.
Should Black double?
Should White take?

Diagram 2 occurred in a chouette with Black, one of the top women backgammon players, in the box. In this position she redoubled to 4. Should White take? Absolutely. If Black does not roll an immediate 5 or 6, Black's board will start to crash. Black is a 5-to-4 favorite to throw either a 5 or a 6 but 5-to-4 odds hardly justified a redouble! This is a gifty redouble. If the cube were in the middle, Black could double this position because White can get gammoned and Black would be giving up less equity than if he already owned the cube.

Black could have redoubled this position if the two men on his 2 point were on his 6 point (Diagram 2a).

Diagram 2a.

Then if Black failed to roll a 5 or a 6, he could maintain his board with any roll except 3-3 or 4-4. When you double, you want your opponent to feel the pressure, not give the cube away and hope for the best.

Diagram 3.
Should Black redouble?

In Diagram 3 would Black's redoubling be a pressure redouble or a gifty redouble? This is a gifty redouble because Black's game is "too good to redouble." Black has definite gammon possibilities. He has 25 numbers with which to hit White's blot on the 12 point. White will then have two men on the bar and Black will have enough artillery to close White out before he can establish an anchor. White is stripped on his 6 point (19) and may be forced to leave an additional blot, which Black may hit, thus increasing his chances to gammon White. This could occur after Black hits White's blot and White then re-enters his men behind Black's prime and throws a 1-3 or 1-4 on his next roll. The fact that Black has two men behind White's broken four-point prime should not concern Black. He has 4's and 6's to come out and the rest of the numbers (i.e., 1's, 2's, 3's, and 5's) to extend or advance his prime.

Diagram 4.
Should Black redouble?

In Diagram 4 Black must determine what his chances are to gammon White before he can make an intelligent decision in regards to redoubling or not redoubling. Black's position here is not as strong as it was in Diagram 3. Even if Black were to succeed in putting both of White's men on the bar against a five-point board he would not be a favorite to gammon White. Note that Black has only a four-point board and therefore much less chance of gammoning White. Black must redouble White out now. He should not give him the opportunity to hit him with a fly shot* from the bar as he brings his last two men in. By the way, if your opponent takes this redouble, you should be happy to provide him limousine service to wherever he wants to play you, and pay for his dinner and all other expenses to boot. You will still wind up plenty ahead.

* Fly shot: An indirect shot from the bar that hits one of the opponent's blots.

Diagram 5.
Should Black double?
Should Black redouble?

In Diagram 5 Black is on roll and is considering doubling. White has a 3-5 backgame, which is not the best backgame to have, but it can be very effective against an outside prime. If Black should double this position, he would not be using the cube as a weapon but as a gift and White should happily take. White has excellent timing, and he should get at least two double shorts for a win or perhaps even a gammon. You should never double your opponent when he has a well-timed backgame. However, some special tournament situations may dictate an exception to this rule.

Diagram 6.
Should Black double?
Should Black redouble?

Black should double White out immediately. He gains nothing by waiting. White cannot get gammoned in this position. Black should not be intimidated by White's five-point board. White needs to make the 3 point immediately and/or come out with a man from Black's home board to have much of a chance. Even if White is successful in establishing the 3 point, he is faced with a timeless backgame in which he can get gammoned and Black cannot.

Black should not redouble this position. He should wait a roll and should he get one of the nine good numbers (1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 2-2, 2-3, 3-3) which eliminate the gap on the 3 point he can continue to play on for the gammon. Black can always redouble later if his position becomes inflexible or stripped.