Strategy--Checker play

Forum Archive : Strategy--Checker play

Playing when opponent has one man back

From:   Kit Woolsey
Date:   1 May 1995
Subject:   Re: 43 play

Michael J Zehr wrote:
> This came up in a chouette during the New England Championships with me
> in the box:
>       24  23  22  21  20  19      18  17  16  15  14  13 b
>      -----------------------------------------------------
>      | X                   O |   |     O           O   X |
>      | X                   O |   |     O               X |
>      |                     O |   |     O                 |
>      |                     O |   |     O                 |
>      |                     O |   |                       |
>      |                       |BAR|                       |
>      |                       |   |                       |
>      |                       |   |                     O |
>      |                    X  |   |                     O |
>      |         X       X  X  |   | X                   O |
>      | O       X       X  X  |   | X   X           X   O |
>      |_______________________|___|_______________________|
>        1   2   3   4   5   6       7   8   9  10  11  12
> X to play a 4-3 (cube in the middle)
> A) 11-7 8-5
> B) 11-8 24-20
> C) 11-8 13-9
> Other possibilities:
> D) 8-1*
> E) 8-4 7-4 (followed by a cube if O doesn't hit on my bar or roll
> something like 11 or 33)
> F) 11-4 (I think it's Robertie's book that comments players often slot
> against 2 checkers back but don't think of is vs. one checker back.  In
> fact, I didn't see this play at the time, and while I think other
> choices are better, I don't think this is worse.)
> Bonus question:  Should I have cubed before this roll?  I don't think I
> gave it much thought during the play but looking at it now I'm wondering
> why I didn't.  (Any double is quite strong, 42, 64, and 65 are also great
> shots.)  Given the strength of X's position, A has an advantage of being
> a very low volatility play.)

My reflex play would be the simple 24/20, 11/8.  There are several
reasons for this:

1) Making the 8 point is a definite plus.  Never underestimate the value
of locking up an important asset.  You never know when it will come in
handy later in the game, as a crucial landing place or blocking your
opponent's joker.

2) Leaves no direct shots on your side of the table.  This is also
important.  Since your opponent has only one man back, the last thing you
want is to be on the bar while this checker is fleeing.

3) Splits the back checkers.  This is also very valuable, particularly in
this sort of position.  Right now O's position is a stacked up mess, but
if you leave him alone he will get his builders into position and start
to make points, equalizing the game.  By splitting now you force him to
act before he is ready.  Granted you won't like it if he points on you on
the five point, but it is hardly the end of the world and if he rolls a
number to make the five point he will do so whether you are there or
not.  However, just look at the trash you make of most of his other
numbers.  For example:

1-2:  Instead of being able to bring his builders down, he either has to
stack up on the eight point or hit loose and risk getting hit back when
you have the stronger board -- neither is an attractive option.

1-4:  Will make the bar point anyway, but you are clearly much better off
being split up to his five point.

1-5:  A bad roll regardless, but really ugly if you have split.

2-3:  Instead of comfortably bringing two builders down, his play is a

2-4:  Now he must settle for the nine point and an awkward structure,
while if you let him along he will make the four point and have good
distribution to follow through.

3-4: Instead of bringing some builders down, he has a nightmare and will
have to leave a direct shot.

3-5: He can't comfortably make the three point while his blot on the 11
point is under attack.

4-5:  A great running number with the back man, but not so great when he
also has to worry about the blot on the 11 point.

4-6:  As above.

These are just some of the examples.  In short, 11/8, 24/20 does good
things on both sides of the board with great upside and not much
downside.  No other play comes close to accomplishing these objectives.

Even though X has an advantage, he does not yet really have a double.  O
has escaped one back checker safely, and the other is hiding back on the
ace point out of harms way.  O hasn't started to develop his offense, but
his men are decently placed to do so quickly.  X has two men back, a
clear disadvantage in that respect.  Also X really doesn't have that much
going in the way of strong threats.  Easy take for O if X doubles, and
while a double would not be terrible I think it is a bit premature unless
you think there is a chance that your opponent might err and pass.  Since
there is clearly some doubt in the minds of some players about this, it
looks like a double would be ok.

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Strategy--Checker play

Avoiding major oversights  (Chuck Bower+, Mar 2008) 
Bearing off with contact  (Walter Trice, Dec 1999) 
Bearing off with contact  (Daniel Murphy, Mar 1998)  [Long message]
Blitzing strategy  (Michael J. Zehr, July 1997) 
Blitzing strategy  (Fredrik Dahl, July 1997) 
Blitzing technique  (Albert Silver+, July 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Breaking anchor  (abc, Mar 2004) 
Breaking contact  (Alan Webb+, Oct 1999) 
Coming under the gun  (Kit Woolsey, July 1996) 
Common errors  (David Levy, Oct 2009) 
Containment positions  (Brian Sheppard, July 1998) 
Coup Classique  (Paul Epstein+, Dec 2006) 
Cube ownership considerations  (Kit Woolsey, Apr 1996) 
Cube-influenced checker play  (Rew Francis+, Apr 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Defending against a blitz  (Michael J. Zehr, Jan 1995) 
Estimating in volatile situations  (Kit Woolsey, Mar 1997) 
Gammonish positions  (Michael Manolios, Nov 1999) 
Golden point  (Henry Logan+, Nov 2002) 
Hitting loose in your home board  (Douglas Zare, June 2000) 
Holding games  (Casual_Observer, Jan 1999)  [Long message]
How to trap an anchor  (Timothy Chow+, Apr 2010) 
Jacoby rule consideration  (Ron Karr, Nov 1996) 
Kamikaze plays  (christian munk-christensen+, Nov 2010) 
Kleinman Count for bringing checkers home  (Øystein Johansen, Feb 2001) 
Late loose hits  (Douglas Zare+, Aug 2007)  [GammOnLine forum]
Mutual holding game  (Ron Karr, Dec 1996) 
Pay now or pay later?  (Stuart Katz, MD, Nov 1997) 
Pay now or pay later?  (Stephen Turner, Mar 1997) 
Pay now or play later?  (Hank Youngerman+, Sept 1998) 
Play versus a novice  (Courtney S Foster+, Apr 2004)  [GammOnLine forum]
Playing doublets  (Grunty, Jan 2008) 
Playing when opponent has one man back  (Kit Woolsey, May 1995) 
Prime versus prime  (Albert Silver+, Aug 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Prime versus prime  (Michael J. Zehr, Mar 1996) 
Saving gammon  (Bill Riles, Oct 2009) 
Saving gammon  (Ron Karr, Dec 1997) 
Splitting your back men  (KL Gerber+, Nov 2002) 
Splitting your back men  (David Montgomery, June 1995) 
Trap play problem  (Brian Sheppard, Feb 1997) 
When in doubt  (Stick+, Apr 2011) 
When to run the last checker  (Stick Rice+, Jan 2009) 
When you can't decide  (John O'Hagan, Oct 2009) 

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