Shrewd Exploiters Capitalize on Opponents' Weaknesses
Paul Magriel, 1979
New York Times, December 30, 1979
Backgammon Upon reaching a highly favorable position many players tend to relax and let the position “play itself.” This is the best time, however, to bear down and take advantage of your opponent’s weakness. By exploiting the defects in his game, you can reduce his chances of winning and possibly gammon him.

In the diagrammed position, Black has formed a broken five-point prime in front of White’s two men on the 3-point. Despite his strong position, Black must not be complacent about winning — merely by sitting on Black’s 3-point and waiting, White may eventually have chances in a straight race. Instead, Black must examine White’s position and choose the play that will create the most difficulties for White.

Black to play 4-1.
White’s home board is shattered. He has piled two spare men on the 24-point, and one each on the 22- and 23-points. These checkers are “dead”; they will be permanently out of play for the rest of the game.

In order for Black to translate his positional superiority into a victory, he must make use of the fact that all of his men are very much “alive” and in play, whereas four of White’s men are “dead.” White will always be short-handed and so cannot afford to play a prolonged game.

21/20*, 6/2

With this in mind, Black decides on a novel move. He correctly plays 21/20*, 6/2, hitting White and slotting (leaving a single man exposed) on the 2-point.

Black welcomes an exchange of hits if White reenters on the 2-point. By sending Black back, White would create a longer and more complicated game, which he is ill-equipped to play. Because his flexibility is so limited, White will repeatedly be forced to play awkward rolls. Indeed, it is quite likely that White may end up with four or five men back and lose a gammon.

If White doesn’t hit, Black will be happy to make the 2-point, strengthening his home board and making White’s position more precarious. Furthermore, Black also gains by keeping a man back in White’s home board: the back man exerts control over White’s outer board and makes it harder for White to avoid contact as he attempts to come home. The more entangled the play, the more White’s weakness will tell.

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 21/20*, 6/2 W
+1.0575 x 
4 21/20*/16 W
+0.9658 (0.0917) 

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