Truly a Dream of an Attack
Paul Magriel, 1977
New York Times, August 18, 1977
Sometimes a single roll radically alters the course of the game — particularly when one player rolls doubles while on the bar.

Such is the case in the diagrammed position. Black’s game was in dire straits; he faced an immediate redouble unless he rolled a combination with which he could both come in and hit one of White’s blots. Black actually did even better. He rolled his “dream number” — double 1’s.

Black to play 1-1.

Black now has four 1’s to play, three of which are easy: bar/24 and 13/12*/11*, reentering and hitting both White’s blots.

After bar/24, 13/12*/11*,
leaving one 1 to play.

The fourth 1 requires care. There are several constructive alternatives. One option is for Black to split his back runners by playing 24/23. With White’s two men on the bar, Black could begin to extricate his own back runners. White, however, might well reenter before Black could complete his escape with both men. Then White would have a solid positional advantage.

Black has another promising game plan besides attempting to escape immediately. He can press home his advantage with ruthless attack. If Black can keep White on the bar — and preferably close him out — then Black will later be able to take his back men out unimpeded. Black must decide which game plan is better — and pursue that one exclusively. He cannot afford a half-hearted run-and-attack scheme. In order for the attack to succeed, every tempo is vital.

To prepare for attack, Black has to construct more points in his home board and hit White as White comes in. He needs to have as many builders as possible bearing on the three remaining open points in his home board. (Technically, the number of builders for a given point is determined by counting the different locations within six pips on which there is at least one spare man.) As it stands, Black has only two builders, one on the 7-point and one on the 8-point. A seemingly natural move for Black would be to play his fourth 1 11/10, creating another builder for the open 4-point.

(a) 11/10
(b) 7/6

The correct play for the fourth 1, however, is 7/6. This move also creates a third builder — but one that bears directly on all three open home-board points, not only on the 4-point. The bar-point (7-point) loses its usual value in an attacking game such as this, where builders are crucial and a blockade is unnecessary. Because Black already owns his 1-point the value of the bar point is further diminished — with two men already out of play, a blocking game is also highly impracticable.

Two important principles may be derived from this position:

  1. When you roll a double, you should always take care to play each of the four numbers in the most effective way. Many times the best play is simply overlooked because of the many possibilities.

  2. When your opponent has two or more men on the bar, you should always give highest priority to maximizing your builders — even though you may have to break points in your outer board to do so.
XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
White owns 2-cube
Black rolls 1-1

1296 games with VR
Checker play: 2-ply
Cube play: 3-ply Red

1-1: Game BG   Equity
1 bar/23, 13/12*/11* W
−0.0544 x  Split
2 bar/24, 13/12*/11*/10 W
−0.1798 (0.1254)  (a)
3 bar/24, 13/12*/11*, 7/6 W
−0.2147 (0.1603)  (b)
4 bar/24, 13/12*(2), 12/11* W
−0.2149 (0.1605) 

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