To Have and to Hold or to Hold and Have
Paul Magriel, 1978
New York Times, June 1, 1978
Le Club International Every year, backgammon welcomes to its ranks thousands of newcomers eager to pick up the game. Unfortunately, though, it seems that most expert players often lack the patience and dedication required to instruct beginners, and serious backgammon teachers are sorely needed.

Owen Traynor of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was a devoted teacher of backgammon who is credited with having instructed more new players than anyone else. Until his death at 67 this year, he was a well-known figure in the Fort Lauderdale-Miami area. For many years, he directed the Fort Lauderdale Backgammon Club. In addition, he was a familiar face at major international tournaments. When he wasn’t busy officiating, he took part as a player and was noted for a steady, conservative style of play.

The diagrammed position is taken from the finals of the 1970 Le Club International Backgammon Classic played between Traynor and Les Boyd. Traynor (Black) is well ahead in the race. His major problem now is to “clear” the 12-point — to bring these two men home without being hit by Boyd (White). This might well prove difficult as long as White has a stronghold on the 7-point.

Black to play 6-3.
With the 6-3, Black could make a run for it immediately by playing 12/9, 12/6, although this would leave White a direct shot. Still, the temptation to make this play is strong, because by waiting Black will probably be forced to leave a direct shot anyway. Moreover, a direct 2-shot is slightly less likely to be hit that a direct 3-, 4-, or 5-shot, which Black may have to give White later.

Traynor resisted this temptation and correctly played 8/5, 8/2, clearing his 8-point instead.

(a) 12/9, 12/6
(b) 8/5, 8/2
The deciding consideration was White’s development. Although White’s present position is strong, he will probably not be able to maintain it for long. Indeed, on White’s very next roll he will likely be faced with a dilemma: If he brings his blot on the 18-point into his home board, he will no longer have any spare 6’s to play. In this case, White may be forced off the 7-point and so give Black the first shot, instead of vice versa. If, on the other had, he keeps the spare man on the 18-point, it will probably be at the expense of tearing up his home board. In this case, Black will still have winning chances, even if he is hit.

In backgammon, it is not always wise to seek an immediate resolution to a problem. Sometimes the most prudent course of action is to simply wait patiently to see what will happen. In the game between Traynor and Boyd, Traynor was rewarded for not leaving his opponent an immediate shot. On his next play, he unexpectedly rolled 6-6, enabling him to clear the 12-point and easily win the race.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
Centered cube
Black rolls 6-3

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

6-3: Game BG   Equity
1 8/5, 8/2 W
+0.7137 x  (b)
2 12/9, 12/6 W
+0.3704 (0.3433)  (a)

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