|Magriel's NYT Columns|
Bill Robertie The Granite State mixed-doubles championship was held this month in Teterborough, N.H. A powerful team of William Robertie and Nancy Laiderman won the event handily. Robertie is considered one of the game’s top theoreticians and the foremost match player in New England. Miss Laiderman is New England’s top-ranked female player. The only real challenge they had came in the finals match against Nancy Hilton and Paul Weaver.
The diagrammed position, taken from the finals match, shows why, even at the beginning of a game, it is necessary to continuously reassess one’s strategic objectives. The Robertie-Laiderman team (Black) began the game with 6-6, and now on their second turn, have another powerful roll, 5-5, to play. In terms of the running game, this roll puts Black far ahead (25 pips after the roll). To take advantage of this lead, Black’s best strategy is to play for a straight race.
||Black to play 5-5.|
With the remaining two 5’s, a natural play is to continue forward with the same men 13/8(2). Although this play makes Black a strong favorite, he will still have some concern about bringing his men home safely. White will lurk back on the 1-point, hoping to get a shot at Black and salvage an otherwise lost game.
On the very next roll, for example, four combinations, 6-3 and 5-4, will force Black to leave a direct shot. By staying back on the 1-point, White exerts control over all the opening points in Black’s home board and so prevents Black from moving freely.
The Robertie-Laiderman team (Black) found an alternative that appears unnatural but is correct. After clearing the 18-point, 18/13(2), they played 6/1*(2), making the 1-point and hitting White.
The purpose of this play is not to attack White, but merely to drive him off the 1-point. By forcing White forward, Black hopes to give himself space to move behind White. Indeed, the higher White reenters in Black’s home board, the less of a nuisance he will be. An immediate benefit is that Black has no combinations that force him to leave a direct shot on the next roll.
The correct play at first appears unnatural because making the 1-point early in the game is usually a mistake — especially if no other home-board points have yet been established. Nevertheless, this play gives Black the best chance of getting home safely and racing White. Indeed, White will be extremely hard-pressed to accept the doubling cube, no matter what his next roll.
Tom Keith 2013
Black rolls 5-5
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Checker play: 2-ply
Cube play: 3-ply Red