It's All in the Game Plan, so Always Keep It in Mind
Paul Magriel, 1979
New York Times, January 11, 1979
Hotel George V PARIS — Last weekend the French backgammon championship marked the opening event of the Merit European championships. This is the first of a series of five tournaments to determine the 1979 European champion. Based on a new point-scoring system, the player amassing the most points at the end of the five individual competitions will be awarded the title. This event drew strong players from all over Europe to the Hotel George V here.

Nihat Erdeniz, a Turkish player living in Zurich, took first place by overcoming Marcel Baquiche of Paris; Ata-Ullah Vasai of Iran and S. Pietranu of Paris were semifinalists. In the finals of the consolation, Roger Low, the young American star, defeated the Irish champion, John Garratt. Sabine Wolf of Berlin won the last-chance competition.

Black, a local Parisian player, went astray in the diagrammed position because he failed to recognize his proper game plan.

Black to play 4-1.
With three men in White’s home board he mistakenly assumed that his racing chances were marginal. He decided his best chance to win was to play a holding game; to wait, improve his home board, and hope for a shot as White comes home.
(a) 9/4

With the roll of 4-1, Black was unable to move from the 20-point, so he played 9/4, closing a fifth point in his home board. He realized that he was giving White a direct 2-shot at his remaining man on the 9-point, but was not too concerned. Even if White hit this man, Black was in no immediate tactical danger: White has only three points closed in his home board and furthermore Black has the security of a solid anchor on the 20-point.

Black failed to appreciate that he had excellent racing chances, which he jeapordized by making his play. In fact, Black is slightly ahead in the pip count after he plays his roll. Consequently, he has no need to resort exclusively to a holding game because he could easily win without ever hitting White.

(b) 5/4, 6/2

The correct play is 5/4, 6/2, keeping the 9-point intact and safely playing the entire roll in his home board. Black, of course, is not pleased to give up his 6-point and “kill” a checker on the 2-point. In order to preserve his racing equity, however, it is vital to avoid being hit.

In the actual game, Black was punished for his misjudgment. White hit Black’s blot on the 9-point and thereby gained a significant lead in the race. Black reentered immediately, but the damage had already been done — there was no further contact, so the 16 extra pips White gained by hitting enable White to win the race.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
Black 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 6/2, 5/4 W
+0.0525 x  (b)
2 5/4, 5/1 W
+0.0319 (0.0206) 
3 5/1, 4/3 W
+0.0161 (0.0364) 
6 9/4 W
−0.0377 (0.0902)  (a)

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