This article continues the series on how to play replies to the opening rolls.
Last time, we looked at how to play the 2-1 roll in response to White's various opening rolls. This time, we'll consider how to play one of the small doubles: 2-2.
As before, we'll start with a table of the best plays, and then try to draw some general conclusions from it.
These plays are actually fairly easily understood. They fall into a few large groups.
The first point to notice is that every play save one involves playing 6/4(2). This play is obviously extremely strong, both unstacking the 6-point and making the very strong 4-point. Of course, if White has split to your 4-point (with 3-2 or 4-3) this play hits as well. The main issue is what to do with the last two deuces. Here are some reliable rules:
Against all other moves (with one exception to be noted later), play 6/4(2), 13/11(2). This is the default play which unstacks your two stacked points and builds two new points. Note that you even make this play when White runs out to your 18-point (after 6-2, 6-3, and 5-1), rather than the common error of playing the roll like 6-2 with 13/7* 13/11. Two extra points are very strong in all variations, while hitting often leads to nothing.
- If White slotted his 5-point (with 2-1, 4-1, 5-1, or 6-2), hit the slotted checker with 24/20*, and make your 4-point. Note that after 4-1 played 13/9, 6/5, making your own 4-point is better than hitting the second checker.
- If White runs to the 16-point (with 6-2), hit that checker with 13/9* and make the 4-point.
- If White made an inner-board or blocking point (with 3-1, 4-2, 6-4, or 6-1) step up to the 22-point with 24/22(2). You need to begin the process of extricating the back men.
- If White put a builder on his 9-point (with 4-1, 4-3 played 13/9, 13/10, or 5-4), move up to the 22-point to attack that checker, reducing White's building capability. If White played 4-3 by moving 24/21, 13/9, you do not need to step up and can play the more aggressive 13/11(2). The reason is that you have put White on the bar by hitting him with 6/4*(2), so he is not threatening to use his builder to make a point.
The lone exception occurs when White starts with 6-4 and plays 24/18, 13/9. This gives him a very strong, balanced formation with a huge number of excellent rolls next turn. Now you must hit by 24/16* to take away his offensive potential.
Note that two plays which were often seen in the 1970s and 1980s are never correct.
The first is using the whole roll to make the defensive 20-point, 24/20(2). Barclay Cooke once said in his books that this play couldn't be wrong. In fact, it can't be right! The value of diversifying the stacked points is much too great.
The second is the apparently aggressive and flexible play of 6/4(2), 13/11, 24/22, spreading out three blots rather than making another point. Good points are better than blots!
Next article: Noncontact Match Play Doubles.