The Blitz
Antonio Ortega, 1993
Fascinating Backgammon, © 1993 Ortega and Kleinman

What is a Blitz?

In a blitz, you attack enemy blots seeking to close all six points in your home board while your opponent has one or more checkers on the bar.

A blitz is a double-edged sword. If your blitz succeeds, you usually win a gammon. But if it fails, you remain with what Barclay Cooke has called isolated armies — checkers to bring around from your opponent’s side without support from the checkers you have moved from the outfield to attack and make points deep in your own home board.

In other kinds of games, you seek to make your inside points in order, higher points first. In a blitz, contrariwise, it is the number of points that is primary. The quality of those points is secondary, significant only for fall-back in case the blitz fails.

Example 1

Black to play 5-2, with white sitting on the bar.

Black must hit 8/3* with the 5 to keep the attack going. If black delays hitting on the three point, white may make the anchor that ends the blitz. Black has four plausible plays with the 2: (a) 24/22, (b) 11/9, (c) 10/8, and (d) 5/3.

We may dismiss play (a) as a wasted move which does nothing to sustain black’s attack. Black will have time enough to advance his rear checker after he closes white out.

Play (b) brings a builder into direct range of the three point around which the battle now rages, and gives black 22 rolls to cover it next turn.

Play (c) also brings a builder into direct range, but produces only 21 covers for the three point. It is thus slightly inferior to play (b). A time-saving principle for comparing builders: In direct range (1 to 6 pips away from the target), farther away is better, but in indirect range (7 to 12 away), nearer is better.

Play (d), switching points, would be unthinkable in many other kinds of games, for the five point is generally superior to the three point. But in a blitz, this consideration is secondary.

In shifting a point two pips forward, black shifts his slot two pips backward. In effect, black has played two 2’s and advanced both outer court builders into direct range. Not only are these builders ideally placed at distances of 6 and 5 from the target, but they also utilize the 6’s and 5’s black cannot use for reentry to hit back if white hits on the five point.

Play (d) yields 29 covers and is best here. Look for similar point-switching plays in other blitz positions where it is important to activate builders quickly.

Example 2

Black to play 3-1, with white sitting two on the bar.

The “obvious” 13/9 is weak because with two men out of play on the one point, black cannot convert a blitz into a priming game.

9/5 is only slightly better, for it adds a new builder only for the two point.

13/10, 7/6, is the right idea, bringing a new builder for the four point and activating another builder for all three unmade points. But 8/5, 7/6 is better still, activating two builders for all three unmade points, admittedly at some cost if white rolls double 4’s.

In another kind of game, breaking two points which form part of a prime would be unthinkable. Here, having committed himself to a blitz by making the one point, black must think builders, builders, builders to be able to attack any white blot that enters and threatens to anchor.

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