An Analysis Is Vital before Critical Move
Paul Magriel, 1978
New York Times, August 3, 1978
Jeu De Jacquet In France, backgammon, which is also known as “Tric Trac” and “Jeu de Jacquet,” continues to increase in popularity. As more French players compete in major international tournaments the standard of play also rises. Indeed the important European backgammon championship, held each summer in Monte Carlo, has been won by Frenchmen the last two years. In Paris the renewed interest in the game is evident at the Bridge Club de Paris.

Almost any time of day or night several games can be found in progress. A similar pattern has evolved in the United States; many clubs that in the past were exclusively devoted to bridge now have an active backgammon component.

The diagrammed position occurred during a recent late-night game at the Bridge Club de Paris. Black, an experienced player, went astray when he made a premature hit without analyzing all aspects of the position.

Black to play 4-2.
With the roll of 4-2, he played 18/16*, 18/14, breaking the 18-point in order to hit White’s blot (exposed man) on the 16-point.
(a) 18/16*, 18/14

Of course this leaves Black vulnerable with two men open in White’s outfield. White now has several deadly return shots from the bar — that is, combinations that both reenter and hit. Is this risk (11 chances in 30 hits) justified?

The answer is definitely no. First of all, the hit is ineffective: Even if White stays out, Black has a long way to go before reaching a winning position. Black still has to safety his blots and then worry about extricating his two back men on the 24-point. Indeed the 18-point is the vital point to help these two men escape, so giving it up at this stage is actually a serious loss.

(b) 6/2, 4/2

Secondly, the hit is wrong because Black has a far better winning method. The correct play is 6/2, 4/2, ignoring White’s blot and patiently making the 2-point. This move puts White in a dilemma. With Black’s strengthened home board, White cannot safely give up his anchor on Black’s 3-point.

Furthermore, he cannot give up his mid-point (the 12-point) without giving Black a double direct shot and also losing control of the outfield. In fact, White, with only one spare man (on the 16-point), is almost out of playable moves. Black, with a spare man on the 13-point, can simply wait for White’s game to go to pieces.

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

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

4-2: Game BG   Equity
1 6/2, 4/2 W
−0.0606 x  (b)
2 18/14, 18/16* W
−0.1259 (0.0653)  (a)

Previous Column
July 27, 1978
Next Column
November 9, 1978

Main page for Magriel's NYT Columns

Index to the Columns

More articles by Paul Magriel

Backgammon Galore : Articles