Complexity Can Help Beat Beginner's-Luck Factor
Paul Magriel, 1979
New York Times, January 18, 1979
Jason Lester
Jason Lester later took up poker.
(See earlier photo here.)
In tournament matches, the weaker player often has significant winning chances, but he must depend on having the better of the dice. The stronger player, however, hopes that his superior grasp of strategy will overcome the inherent luck factor. To minimize the luck, he will attempt to create complicated positions in which to outplay his opponent.

The weaker player may easily be led astray if he can be forced into unfamiliar ground. Therefore, the stronger player will strive to avoid simple variations in which the plays are self-evident and in which the outcome depends primarily on the throw of the dice.

Jason Lester, one of the world’s strongest players, was the recent winner of the American Backgammon Championships’ Open Tournament in Las Vegas. He frequently was able to throw his weaker opponents off balance with his imaginative style of play. This ability was demonstrated in the diagrammed position taken from an early round of play

Black to play 4-1.
With the roll of 4-1, Lester (Black) recognized that the standard play was 8/3, making the 3-point by covering the exposed man there. The prospects after this play, however, did not please Lester.
Standard: 8/3

Black will now have an awkward position, which he will have difficulty improving — he will be stripped down to two men on each point except for the 6-point, where he still has five men stacked up. White has a flexible position that could allow him to simply and quickly develop a winning game — he has his builders poised to make the 20- and 21-points, and so effectively contain Black’s back men.

Daring: 8/4, 6/5
Lester came up with a daring and unorthodox alternative, 8/4, 6/5. Black boldly slots his 4- and 5-points, giving White a triple direct shot! Black expects to be hit, but is not overly concerned. He will be able to reenter easily because White has not yet established any new points in his home board. With extra men back, he will then attempt to establish some form a back game or holding game.

The play Lester chose will almost certainly create complex positions. Many of these positions may theoretically favor White, but for White to realize his advantage requires precise defense and accurate play at a high level. Thus the weaker player’s ability to avoid error will be severely taxed. Lester, on the other hand, is at home with such intricacies. Despite his youth (Lester is 20), his great experience and familiarity with such positions will give him the best potential for exercising his skill and gaining an advantage against his less experienced opponent.

The standard play is better in the ideal sense, however, the play that is correct in theory may not always give the best practical results.

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Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
Centered cube
Black rolls 4-1

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

4-1: Game BG   Equity
1 8/3 W
−0.4649 x  Standard
2 11/7, 8/7 W
−0.4820 (0.0171) 
3 6/2, 3/2 W
−0.4952 (0.0303) 
6 8/4, 6/5 W
−0.6115 (0.1466)  Daring

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