Cube Handling in Matches

The Fundamental Point
Mike Labins, 1982

From Backgammon Times, Volume 2, Number 4, Fall 1982.

I couldn't help overhearing the moaning at the next table.

"I was ahead three to nothing while the next game was for match. She rolled two sets of double sixes and won. I'd much rather be lucky that good anytime," he complained.

The young lady, beaming over her victory, was irritated because her achievement had been belittled. "That double you gave me was ridiculous," she said indignantly. "You were rightly punished."

Several players nearby were soon drawn into the dispute and the doubling position was reconstructed.
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 (7 away)
Should White redouble to 4?
White (4 away)
The eventual loser, White, was excited because he had turned his one point game into an advantage. Perhaps he thought Black would drop his double, giving him a five to nothing lead. White probably did not realize that, since he would win the match by winning this game, his opponent might take the cube at 4, turn it back and offer it at 8 to play for the match. Black has nothing to lose—and he may make this game a match victory.

The fundamental point is this: Because the match is at stake, White should be more reluctant to give away the cube and carefully consider the right time to double. If White refrains from doubling Black immediately, then White can rely on having some advantage without as much risk. One of three situations will develop:

  1. White could roll well enough to double Black out of the game and make the score 5–0.
  2. Black could roll well and win the game, in which case White would still lead in the match 3–2.
  3. White can double on a subsequent roll if his chance to win the game will have greatly improved, and Black may still be able to accept the double. Here, White risks the match only when he has a substantial advantage that is equal to or greater than the 5–0 lead he would have should White drop.

As it turned out, White's double was accepted and he rolled double fives, his best number. Black correctly redoubled to 8 since there was nothing to lose now. She rolled double sixes twice in a row and won easily.

Yes, I'll have to agree that White's double was ill-timed and somewhat ridiculous, but not always does the correct player win.

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