Off the Bar and Out?
Jerry Nathan, 1983

From Backgammon Times, Volume 3, Number 2, Summer 1983.

13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24
12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
White to play 6-2.
There were only two ways to play 6-2. White could enter and remain on the 19-point, using his 2 to slot on the 1-point, or he could play the entire roll to the 17-point. When White elected to come out, Black questioned the move, wondering whether slotting on the 1-point might not have been better.

In a discussion of this position after the game, Black advanced several telling arguments for the slotting play. On the 19-point White could be hit with 21 rolls (17 ways of throwing 6 plus 5-2 and 4-3), compared to 28 rolls that would hit on the 17-point (and 5 or 4, plus 3-2, 3-1, 2-2, 1-1, 6-6, and 3-3).

With many of the numbers that could hit on the 19-point White would have a direct 6 return shot, whereas being hit on the 17-point would enable White to return hit from the bar only with a 6-2.

Furthermore, since White had possession of the cube he would be in the game to the end. With 6 of White's men already off, it could become a close race. Filling the gap by slotting on the 1-point might save White a roll in the bear-off.

Black had presented a strong case. Nevertheless, White's play was correct. The open 6-point was a serious detriment to Black's prospects. Even though White might be hit repeatedly as he attempted to get the last man around the board, there would be the constant threat of his entering and slipping by before Black could bear off a few checkers.

To combat this, Black's best course would be an attempt to recover his 6-point. If White stayed on that point, Black could hit loose with any of the 21 rolls, hoping to bring a second man to cover the point before White could throw another 6. (Incidentally with 6-5, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, or 6-1, Black should not hit and bounce; that is a frequent misplay in positions of this kind. By contrast, if White comes out, Black can hit on his 8-point and slot on the 6-point only with 5-2, 5-6, 4-2, or 2-2, and might never recover the 6-point.

Regardless of other considerations, for White to slot on the 1-point would be hazardous because of a likely exchange of hits. Black has no problem reentering White's board, but White can't afford a second man back, which would probably result in a win for Black even if he failed to recover the 6 point.

For the sake of a very small chance of turning a loss into a win by filling the 1-point gap, White should not take the risk of Black picking up a second man.

On all counts, White's play to the 17-point was superior to staying on the 19-point.

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