Pip Counting
 Sweet FifteenA new method for counting pips Pierre Viau (Peyo)February 2011

### Introduction

This counting method was inspired by the Cluster-Count (Jack Kissane), which I enjoy using. It also comes from the fact that I enjoy the mental shift technique, I really find it fun (yeah, I know ...), and if you hate it you probably should look away now :-)

It is intended for late(-ish) positions, in situations like non-contact races, quasi-non-contact races or prime battles, and is based on:

• approximating the position to a single cluster of 15 men
• visualizing the approximate center of gravity (hereafter called CoG) of the 15-men cluster
• using the mental shift technique to reduce the number of count adjustments to be made
• making count adjustments for men straying too far from the cluster

### The Method

Consider this method when most of your men are on your side of the board; a handful of isolated men further back is ok. In this case, chances are that you have a prime of some kind, maybe a broken one; this is your cluster, and assume it is a 15-man cluster; ignore the isolated men for now.

1. Estimate where the center of gravity (CoG) of your cluster is.

This is the point where a roughly equal number of men can be found on both sides of that point. Chances are that the CoG will be your 6-point, maybe your 5- or 4-point; other points are possible of course, in particular for more lopsided positions.

2. Compute the approximate count by multiplying the CoG by 15.

• CoG on 4-point: approximate count is 60
• CoG on 5-point: approximate count is 75
• CoG on 6-point: approximate count is 90
• CoG on 7-point: approximate count is 105
• you get the idea

3. Make the cluster perfectly symmetric versus the CoG by using mental shift techniques. While doing so:

• Use neutral shifts; i.e., if you move men N pips forward, move other men N pips backward. This keeps the count unchanged so far.
• Try to make as few mental shifts as possible. Just smooth out your cluster shape.
• If neutral shifts are not enough to get a perfectly symmetric cluster, shift the "un-cooperative" men to achieve symmetry, but make adjustments by adding/substracting pips as necessary.

4. Make count adjustments for the isolated men.

• Add pips for men trailing the CoG; yes, that could be many pips for men in your opponent's infield, or on the bar (don't forget about those).
• Substract pips for men ahead of the CoG; there should not be many of those men, if any at all; but they may include men already off (don't forget about those).

### Issues

This generally seems a more complex method, but it is easy to master with some experience.

Estimating the CoG may seem tricky, but:

• It really is not, after some practise you will visualize it instantly.
• It does not need to be absolutely accurate. Again, with practise it will be.

The mental shift to make the cluster symmetric may seem complex, but:

• It should be familiar to anyone who is used to counting methods.
• More often than not, a few symmetric shifts will do the trick.
• You're not trying to pile up all men on the CoG; you're trying to get a nice symmetric cluster, of roughly the shape of your (possibly broken) prime.
• Un-cooperative men are likely found at the edge of the cluster; rarely in the middle of it, depending how crafty you are with mental shifting.
• In most cases, there really should not be more than 1 or 2 un-cooperative men. If more, you need to practise the mental shift more ...

There should not be many isolated men, therefore not many count adjustments; if there are, you should have used another method. Remember, this method if for late(-ish) positions, like (quasi-)non-contact races and prime battles.

And let's not forget:

• It is quite easy to forget men already off: they count as men on your 0-point, you can't just ignore them!
• They can be part of your cluster if relevant. This may be the case in really late games, with men deep in your infield.
• If not, they have to be adjusted for as any other stray men ahead of the CoG.

And let's not forget also:

• It is quite easy to forget men on the bar.
• It is even easier to remember men on the bar indeed, but forget to count them only for pips until the CoG (and not 25 pips each).