In Trying for a Blitz, There's No Place for Inexact Play
Paul Magriel, 1978
New York Times, June 22, 1978
Backgammon DALLAS — The International Backgammon Association sponsored the annual Metropolitan Backgammon Open, held in Dallas June 8–11. Although most participants were from the New York metropolitan area, first place went to David Groner of Indiana.

Dave Milton was runner-up, with Jim Pasko and Cathy Posner as semifinalists. Roberto Hoffman took the consolation flight, and Avi Samuels won the last-chance competition. The winning doubles team was Fernando Arce and Adrian Scotto.

During the first round of play, a classic “blitz” situation came up. Such positions, in which one player goes all out in attacking his opponent, are treacherous and frequently mishandled. In the diagram, for example, Black has already doubled and has launched a strong attack. He has hit two of White’s men and is now seeking a closeout (that is, making all of his home board points with White on the bar) for a sure gammon. White is struggling to stay alive by establishing a point in Black’s home board.

Black to play 4-1.
Black threw a 4-1, an excellent number, but he failed to capitalized on it. He unthinkingly played 3/2, 24/20*, making his 2-point and putting a third man on the bar. Black should have ruthlessly pressed home his attack, correctly playing 3/2, 13/9. With this play, he brings down a builder bearing on the two remaining open points in his board.
(a) 3/2, 24/20*
(b) 3/2, 13/9
Although Black’s play (24/20*) seemed natural, Black had in fact made a serious tactical blunder. He strayed from his all-important objective — completing the closeout. In effect, Black and White are racing each other; Black wants to see whether he can bring down reinforcements to his home board before White can establish a point there.

By stopping to hit a third man on the other side of the board, Black actually gave White a vital extra tempo in his life-or-death struggle to come in and make a point. Picking up the third man at this time is irrelevant to Black’s attack scheme. Besides, Black is almost certain to be able to hit it later.

In blitz situations, you cannot allow yourself to be distracted from your primary objectives. The entire game can be dramatically turned around on any one move. In this fine balance, there is no place for inexact play.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
White owns 2-cube
Black rolls 4-1

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

4-1: Game BG   Equity
1 24/20*, 3/2 W
+0.8707 x  (a)
2 13/9, 3/2 W
+0.8083 (0.0624)  (b)

Previous Column
June 15, 1978
Next Column
June 29, 1978

Main page for Magriel's NYT Columns

Index to the Columns

More articles by Paul Magriel

Backgammon Galore : Articles