Be Bold and Brave with Frontal Attack
Paul Magriel, 1977
New York Times, December 15, 1977
Strategy in backgammon has evolved considerably in the last few years — particularly with regard to the opening stages of the game. Experts today emphasize quick and efficient development, rather than the safety of individual men. Bold play like this often leads to complicated positions in which both sides have several men back early in the game.
Black to play 6-1.
The diagrammed position, taken from the early stages of a game, is typical of such strategy. Black has just been hit and now has a 6-1 to play. He must first use the 1 to reenter on the 24-point (bar/24), then consider how to play the 6. Examine Black’s three choices.
(a) bar/24, 8/2
(b) bar/18
(c) bar/24, 13/7
The least advantageous play for Black is 8/2, starting the 2-point. This move violates the standard opening rule of trying to make the most valuable points (the 5-, 7-, 4-, and 3-points) first. Making the 2-point is a particularly poor choice early in the game when your opponent already owns your 4-point. Furthermore, by playing 8/2, Black “strips” the 8-point of its last active builder.

The obvious play is 24/18, continuing with the back man out to White’s bar-point. This play prepares Black to run, should he roll a high double (except 6-6). While this move is acceptable, Black has a more dynamic play.

The correct play is 13/7, exposing Black to a double direct shot on his side of the board. This seemingly large risk, however, is strategically justified. Black still has many men stacked up on his 13-point; by moving a man off his mid-point, he activates another builder and prepares to make his key points. Not only does Black mobilize his men with this play, he also hinders his opponent’s development. Black can use this back man to hit White and stop him from making important points. Besides, by staying back on the 24-point, Black incurs minimal liability — there is no rush for him to escape.

In addition to these strategic reasons, there is an important tactical consideration that makes this play advisable. Note that White needs to use 1’s and 3’s to cover his own blot on the 20-point — the identical numbers he needs to hit Black on the 5- or 7-point. Because White’s best numbers are duplicated, Black’s two blots are safer than they appear — White, in fact, has very few numbers that both hit and cover.

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Money play
Centered cube
Black rolls 6-1

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

6-1: Game BG   Equity
1 bar/18 W
+0.1408 x  (b)
2 bar/24, 13/7 W
+0.1293 (0.0115)  (c)
3 bar/24, 8/2 W
+0.0013 (0.1395)  (a)

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