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# Some Unusual Cube Decisions Mike Senkiewicz, 1982

 From Backgammon Times, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 1982.

If you think you have seen it all in backgammon, you're wrong. Backgammon is so diverse that even the most experienced players continually encounter positions and situations they've never seen before.

And so it should be. Backgammon wouldn't be the great game it is if we could encounter all its possibilities with only a few years experience. The combination of familiarity and novelty gives backgammon its irresistible fascination.

Below are eight positions that have turned up in my backgammon travels involving unusual and surprising cube decisions. Before reading what I have discovered about them, decide for yourself what the proper cube action should have been by both sides. If your answers agree with my playouts of the positions drop me a line and let me know if you need a backer. Now read on, dear reader, and be surprised. (All judgments are based on a high level of play.)

### Position 1

 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
 Cowley (Black) White doubles. Furland (White)
This position originally occurred in a chouette of beginners. The two experts then got into a proposition over whether White's double should be beavered or not. Well, Black got slaughtered after many games. In fact, White's double is excellent. True, he has to leap a five-point prime with three men, but the position is such that he will have plenty of time to do so. Verdict: Double and take, the double being worth somewhere between 6 and 8 points in ten games.

### Position 2

 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
 (Black) Black redoubles. (White)
This position has fooled many an expert. In the actual game Black redoubled and White passed. Hundreds of playouts have shown that Black's position is not strong enough to redouble and that White is closer to a beaver than a pass. Black's problem is that if he doesn't hit a second man White can consolidate his blots and become a favorite. Even if Black hits a second man White retains good chances. Notice the duplication of threes and ones in the position for Black. Conclusion: Black should not redouble and, if he does, White has a trivially easy take.

### Position 3

 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
 (Black) White redoubles. (White)
This position occurred in a money game between two relative unknowns during a tournament in a London club. White had been losing and was visibly steaming. When they reached this position, White had already fanned several times even though Black's home board had crumbled. At this point White angrily redoubled, to the great amusement of all the kibitzing experts. Not one expert (both then and subsequently) who saw this position would have doubled for White or considered passing for Black, yet both actions are completely correct and proper.

I spent the entire night giving Paul Magriel a point to take the double for Black and, even though he out played me for much of the session, I won comfortably. Impossible to anticipate in the position is the extreme difficulty Black has in getting his last two men home and the unusual frequency with which White wins gammons. The trick is that Black's collapsed home makes it almost impossible for him to defend successfully. Conclusion: Redouble and pass.

### Position 4

 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
 Lester (Black) Black doubles. Waterman (White)
This position came from a match between Jason Lester and Dennis Waterman during the 1980 team matches in Monte Carlo. Up to this point Lester had been playing to win a gammon at the one level. Finally he decided to "claim" the point and doubled. Waterman agreed with his opponent and passed. It never occured to any of the kibitzing experts that he should have taken. Only when David Liebowitz successfully defended White's position by taking a point to accept Black's double did we have second thoughts. Subsequent testing of the position indicates that Black has a marginal take, an amazing fact considering White's ruptured board and Black's thirteen men off. Verdict: Double and close take.

### Position 5

 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
 Furland (Black) Black doubles. Rand (White)
This position took place in a money game. Rand accepted Furland's double and then went on to win easily. Though some of the kibitzing experts thought that White might have a marginal take, no one anticipated the very easy take which subsequent testing of the position showed White to have. This position is not that surprising but it does illustrate how the threat of being gammoned can affect the judgment of even the best players. In fact, Furland, who is normally very conservative with the cube, was so convinced of his gammon chances he gave Rand a point a game to continue taking this double. He lost badly in only a short space of time. Conclusion: Double and a clear take.

### Position 6

 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
 Horan (Black) Black redoubles. Senkiewicz (White)
This position comes from one of my own games. I took this redouble and was promptly gammoned. When my take was criticized by several experts, I decided to see if I was right. Surprisingly, I discovered not only did I have a clear take, Black should not yet redouble. The trick is if Black now rolls any six except 6-1 he will have to leave another direct shot. That, coupled with a potentially awkward bear in, militates Black waiting a roll before redoubling. Conclusion: Wait on the redouble and, if doubled, an easy take.

### Position 7

 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
 Arnold (Black) White redoubles. Senkiewicz (White)
Position 7 comes from another of my games. This one was so unique I had no experience with which to judge it. Nevertheless, my redouble was clear because of the strong gammon possibilities in the position. Most experts felt this was a pass of Black, yet preliminary testing of the position indicated Black has a take. Since the position is such that a great many more playouts may be needed to reach a reliable conclusion, I'll leave this one to the reader to explore for himself rather than give a judgment.

### Position 8

 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
 Team (Black) White redoubles. Rand (White)
Our final position comes from a chouette played at the Mayfair Club in New York. Rand redoubled as White, receiving a lot of critical disapproval from his opponents despite the fact they just managed to scramble off the gammon. Obviously they were highly skeptical of a redouble in which the doubler had seven men in the opponent's home board. Yet for the next three days no one was able to win a game as Black much less demonstrate a take! Later, however, Black won his share of games and proved himself to have a take. Surprisingly, since Black has a take, White should not redouble. The reasoning behind this idea is simple: by not redoubling, White's equity in the game would be very nearly the value of the cube as he can (almost certainly) later use the cube to win the game as more favorable positions arise. Since Black was shown to have a definite take in the present position, White actually reduces his equity by doubling immediately. So the criticism of Rand's double was justified, but for none of the reasons given by his critics.