Cube Handling in Matches 
Kit Woolsey It would seem that once the Crawford game in a match is reached or passed, cube decisions are trivial and checker play is considerably simplified. This is not necessarily the case. An understanding of the intricacies of the Crawford game can give the knowledgeable player that little extra edge which might make the difference. In the following examples, assume an elevenpoint match.
In Position 1, Black must decide whether or not to play for the gammon. If he runs by without hitting, gammon chances are negligible, but the win is virtually assured. If he hits with 12/7*, 6/2, he will almost surely lose if White hits back. If White misses Black's gammon chances are very good — I would estimate about seventyfive percent. So of the thirtysix possible rolls we can say that Black loses eleven times, and of the remaining twentyfive rolls he gets about eighteen gammons. 18 to 11 odds would not be sufficient for money play; you need to be twice as likely to score up the gammon as to lose the game to make it worthwhile.


Position 1. Black to play 54. 
The match score changes the picture. This is the Crawford game, and Black is behind 10–7. If Black wins a single game he must then win two straight (or one gammon), with a probability of about 30%. However, if Black wins a gammon the next game will decide the match (the value of the free drop is probably about 1%) so Black's equity to gain 19%, and at 18 to 11 odds this is a worthwhile gamble. Of course had the score been 10–8 the gammon would be practically worthless, so hitting would be lunacy.
I had Position 2 in a late round match in the jackpot tournament in Monte Carlo. What could be simpler — 6/off, 5/1 seems automatic. However this was the Crawford game, and I was trailing 10–6. A close examination of the score shows that a gammon is virtually no better than a win (I have to win two games or one gammon in either case), while a backgammon is very valuable, as the next game would then decide the match.


Position 2. Black to play 64. 
Opening Rolls
What could be simpler than an opening roll, right? Wrong! Suppose you are behind 10–9, Crawford game is over with, and you have an opening 41.


Position 3. Black to play 41. 
Some other examples:


Position 4. Black to play 63. 


Position 5. Black to play 53. 
Free Drop
The use of the free drop takes some care. The principle is that if you have a free drop available (i.e., your opponent has an even number of points to go, so losing a single point is meaningless since he will presumably double every game), you should drop if you are an underdog when he doubles.The next game of the match in which I scored the backgammon (score now 10–9) started as follows: I rolled 65 and ran, he rolled 31 and made the five point. I now doubled, of course. Should he take?


Position 6. Black doubles to 2. Should White take? 
Mandatory Double
Obviously, the player behind in the match should double as soon as legally possible after the Crawford game is over, right? Not necessarily! Consider the following situation: You are behind 10–8, having just won the Crawford game. Your opponent does not have a free drop available, for if he loses as much as one point you can double the next game for the match. Consequently, he should take any double unless he is more likely to get gammoned than to win the game, and a position has to be pretty bad for that to be the case. Consequently, if you double on the opening roll he will surely take, and that will be that.Now, picture the following scenario: You wait a few rolls, until your position gets strong. If a real gammon threat looms you must double before it materializes, and he should take, of course (but you never know). If there is no gammon threat, you can play on until you are a substantial favorite (say 85%) to win the game. Now you double. He should take, of course, but it can't cost to give your opponent a chance to make a mistake and drop. If he does, your 85% becomes 100%, since the extra point you would get if he had taken and lost is of virtually no value.
I have had several opponents err in this situation. A weak player might not know better, and even a strong player may go wrong if he underestimates his opponent and thinks that he doesn't know enough to double after the Crawford game. Imagine his surprise when his adversary whips it on the opening roll of the next game!
At a 10–9 score, the trailer obviously must double immediately, it seems. However, even this is debatable. Suppose you opening with 31 and make your five point, and your opponent counters with 52, bringing 2 men down.


Position 7. Should Black double? 
I think that it is, in fact, correct to play for the gammon in this situation. Paul Magriel disagrees, feeling that the gammon chances are outweighed by the cost of becoming the underdog in one roll if your opponent rolls a lucky number at some point in the game. Judge for yourself.