Keep Eye on Whole Board in Playing Leftover 1
Paul Magriel, 1979
New York Times, June 14, 1979
Often a player completes one half his roll and still has a stray 1 left over to play. Because the 1 seemingly makes little difference, it may not receive proper attention. The exact play, however, of such an “inconsequential” 1 often provides the accomplished player with his margin of victory.

In the diagrammed position, taken from an early stage of a game, Black has just rolled a favorable 6-1.

Black to play 6-1.
This gives him two basic choices: hitting White’s blot on the 17-point or making his own 5-point. As much as Black would like to make the valuable 5-point, hitting is preferable because it serves three important functions:

  1. It sends a third man of White’s back.
  2. It allows Black to escape with one of his two back men from White’s home board.
  3. It prevents White from making another point on his side of the board and thereby strengthening his position.

After hitting 23/17* with the 6, Black still has a 1 to move.

After 23/17*.
(Still a 1 to play.)
A common play is then to continue forward with the same man, 17/16. By examining the exact placement of his other men, however, Black may be able to spot a better play.
(a) 23/17*, 24/23

The correct play is 23/17*, 24/23, using the 1 to move his other back man up to the 23-point. The key to this play is that Black positions his back men, on the 23- and 17-points so that they are within six pips of each other. By keeping these two men in direct range — within six pips — of each other, Black allows them to “communicate.” Note that there is no communication if Black leaves his men on the 24- and 16-points.

Black’s two men are linked together so that the man on the 23-point can support the man on the 17-point. Black benefits in two ways from this communication. First, if White reenters and hits Black on the 17-point, Black will have a direct return shot, a 6, at White. Second, if Black is not hit, he will have a good chance to make the 17-point by rolling a 6 and so safely link up his back men.

The placement of an individual man is seldom arbitrary. Each man should be considered, not in isolation, but as part of an integrated network of men. The backgammon board as a whole is highly interconnected — the communication play reflects this.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
Centered cube
Black rolls 6-1

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

6-1: Game BG   Equity
1 24/17* W
−0.0016 x  (a)
2 23/17*/16 W
−0.1023 (0.1007) 

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