Position 93, page 173
From Backgammon, the Cruelest Game, by Barclay Cooke and Jon Bradshaw

Black to play 6-4.

There are at least three good options, but expert opinion is invariably divided.

First, you could cover your 2 point with the 4 and play the 6 in to your 5 point. White cannot escape on his next roll unless he rolls a 6-5, and even then he is vulnerable to a return 6-1. The reason for this choice is not that it is conservative but that it forces white to move. Any double is awkward, and should white not roll a 5 or a 6 he will (except for 2-1) have to put builders out of play or weaken his five-point prime.

Secondly, you could hit white’s blot on your 3 point, using a man from white’s 12 point. This play leaves two blots in your board. It is true that white also has two blots, but these do not concern him much because he has a five-point prime, and every man of yours that is hit will have to get first to his 4 point and only then follow with a 6 to be free. If you choose to hit in an effort to keep the lone white piece from escaping, you could be defeating your own purpose because he may be prevented from moving at all, which could be to his advantage.

The third choice would be to hit his blot with the 4 from your bar point and to come out to his 10 point with the 6. This is wild, wide-open and imaginative, but it makes the next roll crucial. White could annihilate you, or could be destroyed himself, depending on the dice. There is style and boldness in this play, and if circumstances and the score are such that winning a gammon happens to be more advantageous to you than losing one is disastrous, you should consider taking this plunge.

Which of the three should you pick? An unequivocal answer is impossible. But this very fact is why backgammon is such a fascinating game. Of course it is frustrating not to know for certain what to do. You know that you should make your 5 point with an opening 3-1, but as you progress you must learn to improvise to the best of your ability, and the longer you play, the more aware you will become that a countless number of inscrutable dilemmas like this example will occur.

Size up your opponent, the situation (is this a tournament or for money? head-to-head or chouette?), and the score. Try to weigh every angle and then choose what is best, considering the circumstances. We are not hedging when we say that a sound argument could be made for each of the three moves above, depending on the situation.

(1) 6/2, 11/5
(2) 13/3* x
(3) 7/3*, 21/15
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Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
Centered cube
Black rolls 6-4

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6-4: Game BG   Equity
1 13/3* W
+0.0158 x  (2)
2 11/5, 6/2 W
−0.0857 (0.1015)  (1)
3 13/7, 6/2 W
−0.1141 (0.1299) 
4 21/15, 6/2 W
−0.1585 (0.1743) 
5 13/9, 11/5 W
−0.1949 (0.2107) 
6 11/5, 7/3* W
−0.2246 (0.2404) 
7 13/7, 11/7 W
−0.2752 (0.2910) 
8 21/15, 7/3* W
−0.3178 (0.3336)  (3)

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No. 89, page 162
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List of Positions

List of Positions from Backgammon, the Cruelest Game

Backgammon, the Cruelest Game (1974), by Barclay Cooke and Jon Bradshaw

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