On Playing One Point Matches
Bernhard Kaiser (FIBS : one_pointer)
Reprinted from rec.games.backgammon
Subject: one_pointer: On Playing One-point Matches
email@example.com (Darse Billings)
Date: 14 Jul 1995 17:12:01 GMT
Bernhard Kaiser (one_pointer on FIBS) has updated his article on strategy for
playing one-point matches. It is due to appear in an English backgammon magazine
next month, although I do not know which one. He is temporarily without r.g.b.
access, so I am posting it on his behalf (after doing some minor editing).
Cheers, - Darse.
Playing One Point Matches
Bernhard Kaiser is a 26-year-old student of mathematics from Germany and has
been playing tournament backgammon for eight years and on the Internet server
FIBS for the last two years. Yerry Felix, consultant to Games & Puzzles,
asked him to write an article about one-point matches / double matchpoint. The
text was edited and typeset by Paul Lamford [PL].[Note.. this version was
reprinted from r.g.b and converted to html by yours truly....KM]
To set the scene, let me say I am rather experienced at this special score,
because I played a great deal on FIBS under my alias one-pointer. I was
interested in how I would fare playing only double-matchpoint situations, and I
managed to climb to second place in the ratings.
First of all lets summarize the basic properties of a one-point match (OPM).
You might say, one-point-matches, I never play them, so why should I learn about
them?. But, of course, one point matches are basically the same as
double-matchpoint (DMP) situations, where both players only need to win the last
game. The special characteristic of DMP, as opposed to money games or other
match-situations, is that both players only want to win the game, and do not
care whether they win a gammon or lose a gammon. This irrelevance of gammons
leads to situations in DMP, where you have to make different moves from those
you are used to in money games.
I will now try to give some examples of such situations and to outline some
general rules. Later in the article I will try to give some tips how to play OPM
against very weak players. There may not be such weak players in your
tournaments that you have to adapt your moves [don't you believe it PL], but on
FIBS it is very important also to get maximum results against players with a
rating, of, say, 1400 or less. [Equivalent to a BIBA rating of about 900
PL])Opening Rolls. Lets first have a look at some opening rolls:
There are some opening rolls, where you have the decision between different,
normally equal good possibilities.
- 5-4. In a money game you can choose between 13/9 13/8, and 13/8
24/20. Mostly I pick the second choice. But at DMP the situation is different.
Here it would be a slight error to play 24/20, 13/8. Why? Because this play
tends to give you an advanced anchor. Although to have such an anchor is nice,
at DMP its not your highest priority. You don't need the safety of an advanced
anchor as an assurance against getting gammoned, because a gammon doesn't cost
you any extra. Lets have a look at 13/9, 13/8: This one tends to lead to
slightly more gammonish situations, but with you being a slight favourite to
win one. So you are favourite to win a gammon with both plays. But,
paradoxically as it seems, you don't want to be the favourite to win a gammon
at DMP, because you cant use this extra equity! So this play, although
probably better than 13/8 24/20, doesn't feel so great at DMP either. But is
there anything else ? Yes there is! A mostly underrated third play is 24/15,
which, in a money game, is nearly as, if not equally good as the two
previously mentioned. But lets have a look at it at DMP: If you don't get hit
with a three, you have the better game in most cases. If you do hit, your
opponent has much the better game, mainly because of his increased gammon
chances. In fact, after you play 24/15, your opponents chances of winning a
gammon in a money game are better than yours! But you are still the favourite,
because you are simply winning more games. These are just the plays you want
to make at DMP, giving your opponent extra gammon-chances, but increasing your
own winning chances a little. Computer roll-outs confirm this theory; while
all three plays are rather equal in overall equity, the third play, 24/15 wins
considerably more total games than both the others (about 51.7% against 50.5 %
and 50.0 %). I am rather sure it must be the right play at DMP.
- 6-2, 6-3, 6-4. A similar reasoning could be applied to these
opening moves. Since 24/18, 13/x is a bid for an advanced anchor, its not that
attractive at DMP. So I prefer running (24/14) with 6-4. Because playing
24/18, 13/x with 6-3 and 6-2 is considerably better than running in a money
game, and also gives some useless gammon chances to your opponent, the right
play is not so clear here. I tend to alternate between running and bringing a
man down with the 6-3 and play 24/18, 13/11 with the 6-2 (also agreeing with
my computer roll-outs).
- 2-1, 4-1, 5-1. Playing 24/23 13/x tends to result in an anchor, and
13/x, 6/5 tends to produce a gammonish position. Its not clear at all, which
is the better approach. Do we have a third play here? Yes! Just playing 13/10.
But although its much closer than in a money game, this try is unfortunately
just a little bit too weak. So my preference is to play 6/5 with every ace,
because I like to keep my position smooth; but I could easily be talked into
the split. [note: In the original thread, Toni Wuersch commented "don't slot
unless you are already way behind; if way behind, slot more aggressively".
This seems reasonable, given the large setback in race position (pips)
whenever the slot is hit. -drb]
- 4-3, 3-2. With these rolls I think at DMP its better to bring two
men down instead of going for the anchor, for the same reasons given above.
General rules. What style of game do you want to reach?
a) Blitz: Of course a blitz is not the type of game you want to play,
because if you win, you mostly win a worthless gammon, but if things do not go
well, you become an underdog quickly. There are many plays in blitz situations
which you have to handle different. Lets have a look at an example: Your
opponent opens with 5-4 and moves 13/8, 24/20. Then you roll a 5-5. In a money
game making both inner points is routine and the best play by a wide margin,
because you are winning a lot of gammons. At DMP I would rather play 13/3(2)! I
think this gives you just slightly more winning chances. Generally its important
to keep your position smooth and flexible at DMP. You should not be stuck in a
single game plan too early, especially not a blitz. So you shouldn't hit loose
on the ace or make your ace-point, if you don't have to, because hitting on the
ace favours a blitz, which isn't attractive at DMP, and it reduces the chances
of other game types, such as a backgame, which is quite a good plan at DMP (see
below). Of course you should not overdo this rule. Sometimes hitting on the
ace-point or going for the blitz is just plainly the best approach.
As stated, a backgame is a plan you would of course prefer to play at
DMP than in a money game. With the right timing you are often the favourite to
win, as gammons don't count. The problem is to get the right timing. So you
should not become committed to a back game from move one. This could backfire
quickly. You only should tend to like a backgame more than usual. And if playing
a backgame, you should go for a full-blooded one, meaning that you have to do
all you can to preserve your timing. Believe me, I have won a fair number of
games just by making hara kiri plays such as leaving blots on every point in my
home board, because my timing was about to deteriorate. Remember, you don't have
to fear a gammon or, not unimportantly, even a backgammon! With 15 men on two of
your opponents deep home points, the backgammon chances are high, but your
winning chances are better than you might think!
In some ways similar to backgames are ace-point or deuce-point games.
With proper timing, you have winning chances in both games of about 20%, making
these types of game considerably stronger than in money game because there is no
gammon danger. So, if things are going badly, and you have a low anchor, you are
still not out of the game, no matter how many men you have on the anchor or even
on the bar. So you should tend not to give up the opponents ace-point too early,
because its an assurance of some winning chances until the end, no matter what
happens. This is a further reason for my leaving the back men unmoved on some
opening rolls (such as 4-1).
Lets make a short summary of all these points:
- a) In the opening, going for an advanced anchor is less important
than in money games.
- b) Play positionally and smoothly; be reluctant to hit on or make
the ace-point. A blitz is not the type of game you should aim for.
- c) A backgame is quite an attractive game plan, but don't go for it
from the outset. If playing a backgame, do all you can to preserve your
- d) Ace-point and two-point games are still not desirable, but
considerably better than in money games. So you should think carefully about
breaking a low anchor prematurely.
- e) Don't overdo these rules! In most positions (say about 95%) the
best play in a money game is also the best play at DMP!
Playing against a much weaker opponent.
If you are playing against a much weaker opponent (this could happen if you
play on FIBS, or if you want to prove to a beginner that backgammon has nothing
to do with luck, or if you are playing one single game for $500 against a pimp,
who has not the faintest idea about the game, as I did recently), you should at
least consider the following thoughts of mine:
- a) In the opinion of many people, you should try from the beginning
to complicate the game, to force the beginner to make errors. This surely
isn't wrong at all, but I have a slightly different suggestion: Firstly, I
think, you should try to get a solid racing advantage! If you are 30 pips or
more ahead, your win is almost guaranteed, because most beginners don't know
the concept of building up their board while waiting for a shot. I really get
the feeling that if I am way ahead in the race, I cant lose against a very
weak opponent. Only if you cant manage this, say if the race is still rather
even or worse, should you complicate the game, meaning that you start playing
very positionally, slotting points, and falling back on a backgame or other
type of holding game.
- b) I think a rather important point against a beginner, more so
than against an average player, is to hold the ace point as long as possible!
Then you'll be in the game till the end, no matter what happens. Also a
beginner will make terrible errors at the end of the game, so with proper
timing you could easily become even the favourite by just playing an ordinary
ace-point game! If you make an advanced anchor, your opponent could easily
out-roll you with some lucky numbers and there may then be little scope for
him to make major errors. For example, with the opening rolls of 6-2, 6-3 and
even 6-4, I usually play 13/7, 13/x against a known weak player! Why is this?
Well, lets assume you subsequently make the 18-point after opening with 24/18.
Then a very weak opponent may roll some big doubles, get behind you, and
you'll have virtually no chance in the race. By holding your ace-point as long
as possible, you give your opponent the possibility to make errors until the
end, and most of the time he or she will make them! Also, making your own bar
point is rather strong against a weak opponent, because it avoids some jokers
such as 6-6.
- c) This brings us to a minor third point -- avoid Jokers. You
should try not to give your weaker opponent any game-winning jokers, even if
its mathematically correct to do so. So you should, if possible, avoid
positions, where he has, for example, a few chances to roll boxes and win the
race easily. If you don't give him many jokers, he will be doing hard to win,
because of his weaker play. [This is why you should also try hard to stop a
weak player making an advanced anchor when he or she has a race lead, the
opponent is then often one roll away from winning PL]
- d) You shouldn't overdo any of these points, either. Often
opponents are not as weak as they first appear and sometimes much stronger
than their rating! By the way, I lost against the pimp!
Any comments are welcome!!
Loner, how about an article from you ?? :)
Bernd, alias one_pointer
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