Strategy--Checker play

Forum Archive : Strategy--Checker play

Cube ownership considerations

From:   Kit Woolsey
Date:   2 April 1996
Subject:   Re: Cube ownership

Dave McNair wrote:
> Does anyone have any general rules about chequer play when owning/not
> owning the cube? I meant to put forward my own ideas as a starting
> point, but I seem to get a headache everytime I start thinking about it.
> Should you be aggressive/conservative?
> Should you go for big decisive plays, or dull snivelly plays?
> Beats me...

Good question, but no easy answers.  It isn't just a question of being
aggressive or conservative -- it depends on the type of the position.
And, most of the time you just make the best play regardless of where the
cube is.  Here are a couple of concepts to ponder:

When you have access to the cube and roll a joker, don't overplay the
position.  You don't need to get to a 90% position -- all you need going
into the next roll is 75% chances and you opponent will have to drop the
double.  Thus, you might play safer than normal to make sure he doesn't
get any immediate counterplay.  The only reason to take any immediate
risks is if you are planning to play on for the gammon if you get away
with it.  Of course if you had previously doubled you would just make the
strongest play.

All other things being equal, when you own the cube you should tend to
aim for racing but when your opponent owns the cube you should tend to
aim for contact.  The reason is that in a race the advantage tends to
change fairly slowly, so the person owning the cube will have a good
chance to put it to use effectively.  When there is contact, on the other
hand, it is often a question of one key shot -- if you hit it you are
winning by a mile, while if you miss it you are dead.  If this is the
case, possession of the cube isn't too important -- you just get to lock
up what was an almost certain win anyway if things go well.  For example,
consider the very common sort of situation where you are a little ahead
in the race and are considering hitting a blot loose in your home board
when you have a 5-point board but your opponent also has a very strong
board.  If you are missed you will have an almost certain victory, but if
you are hit it is an almost certain loss.  If you own the cube it is
probably better to play safe and count on the race, but if your opponent
owns the cube it is probably better to put it all on the line now.

When your opponent is playing on for a gammon (meaning he has access to
the cube but rather than doubling when you will pass he refuses to double
hoping to score a gammon), it is generally not worth taking chances to
win the game if these chances involve greater gammon risk.  The problem
is that even if it works your opponent will be able to double and you
probably won't be able to take anyway, so you have nothing to gain and
everything to lose.  Only if your gain will be so sudden and so great
that you will be able to take the double if things go will is it worth
taking the risk.  Conversely, if you are the one playing for the gammon
you do not want to take risks which will allow your opponent to have a
take after the next exchange.  Other than that you can take all the risks
you want, since if things go badly you can still double and he will have
to pass.

If you have access to the cube you want to look for plays which will give
you an optimal double (one where your opponent has a borderline decision
whether to take or pass).  For example you might consider a risky slot of
a key point if you know that if you get away with it you will have a strong
double which your opponent might have to pass.  If that is the case it
won't be necessary to cover the slotted blot -- merely threatening to
cover it will be sufficient.  If your opponent owns the cube, you will
still have to cover the slotted blot in order to make it pay off, so the
risk might not be worth it.  Conversely if your opponent has the cube you
want to avoid positions which will give him an optimal double.

Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     


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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