Caution and Restraint May Salvage a Game
Paul Magriel, 1977
New York Times, November 17, 1977
Often when it seems that the game is virtually lost, a player will move quickly and carelessly — especially when a particular play appears inconsequential. In fact, the vast majority of mistakes are made in situations such as this.

In the diagrammed position, Black is in serious trouble. He has one man on the bar, as well as two men on the 23-point, all hopelessly trapped. His only chance to win in this position is to hit his opponent during the bearoff. Even if he is fortunate enough to do this, Black will still need a strong formation to insure a victory.

Black to play 3-2.
The obvious play for Black is bar/23, 6/3, reentering on White’s 2-point (the 23-point) and making his own 3-point. This will give Black a solid 5-point home board.

A closer examination of the position, however, shows that Black has no prospects of getting a shot immediately. White still has a man on the 10-point to bring around and five men in his outer board. Black therefore has no immediate need to close his 3-point. Black’s real concern now should be to avoid being forced to break his board and pile up men on his 1- and 2-points while waiting to escape with his back men.

bar/23, 9/6

The correct play is bar/23, 9/6, reentering the man on the bar and bringing home the man on the 9-point. Until he can free one of his trapped men, Black wants to move forward as slowly as possible to prevent his home board from crumbling.

Now if Black rolls a 6 next turn, he will be unable to play it — with no men remaining in his center board, he no longer has any 6’s left to play. Thus, by depriving himself of 6’s, Black may be able to slow himself down. These six pips that Black may avoid having to play could be a vital factor in preserving his board in preparation for a possible future shot at White.

The careful player can salvage many extra games by playing precisely and making the best of a bad position — on every roll.

XG logo
Tom Keith 2013 
Money play
Black owns 2-cube
Black rolls 3-2

1296 games with VR
Checker play: 2-ply
Cube play: 3-ply Red

3-2: Game BG   Equity
1 bar/23, 9/6 W
−0.8356 x 
2 bar/23, 6/3 W
−0.8482 (0.0126) 

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