Strategy--Checker play

Forum Archive : Strategy--Checker play

Breaking contact

From:   Alan Webb
Date:   31 October 1999
Subject:   Breaking contact in a close race
Google:   7vidba$v8k$

I woul like to ask the theme/strategy of a situation where the pip count is
more or less even and you have the opportunity to break contact from a
holding position such as the following:

X to play 6-5

  |    O  X        X |
  |    O  X        X |
  |                  |
  |                  |
  |                  |
  |                  |[64]
  |                  |
  |                  |
  |                O |
  |                O |
  | X              O |

This kind of decision occurs often and in the various books I
have, I don't believe it is addressed for the occasions when races are
close. Up until now I've run against stronger players than myself but
stayed against what I perceive to be weaker players. And I have been
comparing boards as I THINK this is the deciding factor. eg. if my
opponent has gaps on his 5 point with many checkers stacked on the six
point I would run IF my distributuion was better.

Is this the overriding factor? or is it say, after the
roll if you are xyz pips in front then run if not stay? There are many
instances where you have to decide to run for it and not waste pips at the
expense of an anchor. On most occasions the race standings decide for me
when to run or not but when it is even I go on hunches and have no real idea
apart from what I've outlined above. I'd appreciate it if someone could tell
me exactly what the theme and strategy should be on breaking contact on even

What is the theme and strategy for breaking contact in even races?

Kind regards
Alan Webb
Webby's Backgammon Site

Stein Kulseth  writes:

Other considerations:

* Is the race *really* level?
  eg. do you have an edge in crossovers, better structure, less waste?
  Then you may well have the racing edge even if the pip count implies an
  even race.

* Where is the cube, and what is likely to happen with the it?
  Generally if you have the cube you will want to make small plays that
  allows you to creep slowly up to an efficient double. Conversely if he
  has the cube, you don't mind making big plays that either work or don't,
  making it difficult for him to cube efficiently.

  In a level-race holding game this usually transform to your wanting to
  run if you hold the cube. In a straight race cube turn are often quite
  efficient, whereas if you stick to the holding game, your cube turn will
  often come about something like:
    - he rolls high, and is forced to break his point first. As he now
      leads the race, doubling is not justified,  then you hit the shot
      and lose your market by a country mile.
    - you roll high, yet because of the growing risk of you leaving the
      shot you cannot yet double. Then you have to leave the shot, he
      misses, and you lose your market.

* Who is most likely to leave a shot or will have to play awkwardly to
  avoid doing so? If this seems to be you, you'd better start running.

* Who faces the better board - and will be hurt more if hit?
  Again, this beeing you argues for running.

* Last, *and* least, which type of position is your opponent most likely
  to misplay? Neither racing nor holding positions require high skill, so
  in both cases you must depend on getting the better dice. Yet, there is a
  penalty for inflexible play in both types of games, and if you have
  reason to believe that your opponent mishandles one of them you could
  take that into consideration. But correctly assessing what extra equity
  can be gained from your opponent's mistakes is no easy task, and my guess
  is that you're better off thinking about other things.
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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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