On Playing One Point Matches

Bernhard Kaiser (FIBS : one_pointer)

Reprinted from rec.games.backgammon

Subject: one_pointer: On Playing One-point Matches
From: darse@cs.ualberta.ca (Darse Billings)
Date: 14 Jul 1995 17:12:01 GMT
Message-ID: <3u68h1$nid@scapa.cs.ualberta.ca>

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.

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:

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:

Any comments are welcome!!

Loner, how about an article from you ?? :)

Bernd, alias one_pointer

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