Forum Archive : Terminology

"Pure play"

From:   Casey Forrest
Address:   clf@efn.org
Date:   15 February 1996
Subject:   definition of "pure play" wanted
Forum:   rec.games.backgammon

I often come across the term "pure play", such as

  "Bob is making the pure play"


  "In the 1970s, pure play was in vogue."

What exactly does "pure play" mean?  Thanks!

Casey (fibs alias:  ms)

Michael J Zehr  writes:

I think if I had to sum it up in one sentence I'd say that pure play
means imagining your opponent doesn't have any checkers on the board
and putting your checkers where you want them.

In more detail, this means making points in the order that you want
them, slotting as necessary, and getting your back checkers moving
early in the game.

Although I haven't heard it discussed this way, I think I'll use the
35 opener as an example.  It used to be considered best to bring two
down from the midpoint -- what you want to do is make your 5pt first,
so make the play that gives you the best chance of doing that.  You
don't want to make your 3pt because that isn't making your points in

If you get hit a lot while you're bringing down builders and slotting
key points, that's okay because you'll fall back on a "well-timed
something-or-other game."  Since you kept your side of the board pure,
with no structural defects, you can win after getting a shot when your
opponent is bearing off.

Another example is hitting on the ace point early in the game.  Since
it isn't a point you want to make, putting a checker there is impure.

But after a while some experts starting doing better with a different
style.  While their opponent was slotting key points, they would do
things like make the 3pt with a 35 opener.  Describing it as trying to
make it painful for your opponent to play purely doesn't do justice to
newer style, but tht's part of it.

Blitzes are not part of playing pure, but blitzing at the right time
works better for you in the long run.  (The impurity of blitzing lies
in making the points anywhere in your innerboard, rather than in
order.  If your opponent survives the blitz, you have problems because
you have no structural integrity.  But if your opponent doesn't
survive the blitz, you chalk up a gammon.)

Because pure play is intended for staying in the game until the very
end and not going for a quick knockout, it's still appropriate at
double match point, for example.

I know this is oversimplification, and maybe I'm just defining
"purity" in terms of "structure" which I havent' really defined, but I
hope this helps get the sense of pure vs. impure play.

Caveat:  I give this definition as someone who *wasn't* playing during
the 70's when pure play was in vogue.  I'm sure it will be interesting
to contrast my own definition with that of people who have more first
hand experience of the changes in the game.

-michael j zehr

Peter Bell  writes:

If I am a pure player, I want to build a prime.  I really really
really want to build a prime.  Not just any prime, either, but a prime
from my 8-point to my 4-point, with the 9- or 3-point added in later,
if necessary.  I already have my 8- and 6-points, so I'm going all-out
to make my bar-, 5-, and 4-points.

If I'm ultra-pure, I make my points in a specific order: 5 first, then
4, then bar.  Ultra-pure players might make a move like 6-1: 13/7 6/5.
This is a horrible move.  Needless to say, ultra-pure didn't catch on.

Back to pure play.  If I can't make one of these key points, I slot
one. If I can't slot, I bring down builders. Using this strategy, if I
don't get hit, I win.  The perfect night for a pure player:
Slot/cover, slot/cover, slot/cover = 5-prime.  Double out opponent.

If I get hit, that's OK.  I keep slotting.  If I keep getting hit, I
play a back game.  I wait for my opponent's position to collapse, hit
a checker, hit another one later, and win a gammon, or at least a
single game.

Sometimes I play defense: I might try to get an advanced anchor to
stop my opponent from playing purely against me.

Good thing about pure play: you can roll an unsophisticated opponent
off the board, game after game.

Bad thing about pure play: it doesn't work very well against talented

Reason to understand and experiment with pure play: it is an excellent
strategy at double match point and other match scores where gammons
don't hurt you, since your equity in a back game is excellent in this
case if your forward game fails.

Peter Bell (USRobots)
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