Correct Diagnosis, Wrong Prescription
Paul Magriel, 1978
New York Times, March 2, 1978
Skillful play in backgammon often depends on the ability to anticipate danger and take effective countermeasures. In the diagrammed position, Black, an experienced player, correctly diagnosed the problem but still failed to take the necessary steps to minimize his danger.
Black to play 6-1.
Black has already doubled and now has a 6-1 to play. Because he is far ahead in the running game his only concern is to bring the men on White’s bar-point (the 18-point) home safely. These two men are held in check by White’s men on the 12-point: Black cannot move off the 18-point with only one man without giving White a potentially fatal direct shot at the remaining man.

In order to avoid this Black must either wait until he escapes with a double or else outlast White (by having White break the 12-point first). In either case, Black must prepare to stall as long as possible.

With this in mind, Black rejected playing 7/6, 7/1, making a strong home board. Black realized that by moving both men off his 7-point he would needlessly increase the vulnerability of his two back men. With no spare men in his outer board Black would now be forced to run as soon as he rolled any 6 (except 6-6).

Saving a six: 7/1, 6/5

Black anticipated this danger and so played 7/1, 6/5. By leaving a man on the 7-point, Black was employing the standard procedure of “saving a 6.” In other words, Black took the precaution of keeping a 6 to play in reserve.

Black’s reasoning was in the right direction. Unfortunately, Black should have taken the same logic one step further. Black failed to anticipate that 5’s, as well as 6’s, were in short supply.

Saving 5's and 6's: 7/1, 4/3

The correct play is 7/1, 4/3, taking the added precaution of keeping a man on the 6-point and so preserving an extra 5 if needed. In this way Black might have gained additional time and thus minimized the danger to his back runners.

Indeed, in the actual game Black paid dearly for his mistakes. He next rolled 5-2 twice in succession. Because he failed to save 5’s, the second 5-2 forced him to run off the 18-point prematurely. White hit Black with 3-3 and redoubled to win the game.

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Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
White owns 2-cube
Black rolls 6-1

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

6-1: Game BG   Equity
1 7/6, 7/1 W
−0.1205 x 
2 7/1, 6/5 W
−0.1874 (0.0669)  Save 6
3 18/11 W
−0.1891 (0.0686) 
4 7/1, 4/3 W
−0.2940 (0.1735)  Save 5+6

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