Backgammon Tips

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The rich complexity of Backgammon turns generalities into platitudes: “It’s not a game of luck, it’s a game of odds”; “You can’t learn the game from a book, only from play”; “Attitude separates the great players from the good ones”; and so on.

At the more advanced levels of play, tips become meaningless; only strategy, intuition, foresight and experience count. But for those who are just starting out, the following advice can be useful in avoiding pitfalls and paving the way to success.

Roll with Caution – If the dice land on a checker, land outside of the board or don’t land flat, then the roll doesn’t count. Avoid a reroll by rolling both dice together so that they land flat on the surface of the right-hand section of the board.

Leave the Dice Alone – The player’s turn is completed when the dice are picked up, so don’t touch them until all moves have been made as desired. For plays that are incomplete or otherwise illegal, the opponent may either accept the play as is or require the player to make a legal play. However, any previous play must be treated as accepted as soon as the opponent rolls his/her dice or offers a double at the start of a turn.

Remember It’s a Race – Move any of the pieces, but keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to get all of them into the Home Board. Don’t dally. And especially when ahead in the race, break contact and use the advantage. Sprint to the end. Run!

Plan Ahead – Situations change as the game progresses, but there should always be a plan to win. And should a loss become inevitable, there should be a plan for saving a gammon. The result of not planning is a gradual drift into untenable positions.

Location, Location, Location – Always think ahead. Avoid putting pieces on inferior, insignificant points. Don’t abandon a strategic supporting point. Try not to put pieces on the 1 and 2 points too early. Develop primes and extend them. And if a blot must be exposed, leave a shot by putting the piece where it will have the best affect on your game in case it is not hit.

When in Doubt, Hit – Sometimes sending a blot to the Bar is the wrong thing to do (too early, too late, possible counterattack on the Home Board), but when it seems like it cold go either way, the best decision is to bump, especially on the opponent’s side of the board.

Don’t Double Too Early – Loss of the doubling cube early in a game gives the weapon to the opponent, so don’t give it away too soon. Keep the power till it is best used.

Bully with the Doubling Cube – Games can be won and opponents can be hurt by using the doubling cube at the right time. Any turn of the cube should cause pain or anxiety; else it’s too early or too late.

When in Doubt, Double – Sometimes doubling is the wrong thing to do (too early, potential gammons or backgammon at risk, weak position), but when it seems like a coin toss, the best decision is to offer the double. The opponent will most likely be conflicted, too, and may accept or decline in error. Doubling may also cause the opponent to make mistakes in play, such as turning to defense instead of playing aggressively.

Don’t Be Afraid to Redouble – The advantage of redoubling is that the player who does so gets to retain the doubling cube, rather than giving it up with a double before a subsequent roll. Redoubling is especially useful early in a game or to call a “bluff.”

Bear Off When Possible – Don’t waste rolls trying to smooth out the distribution of pieces on the Home Board by filling holes. Use all the numbers available to bear off pieces as a first priority.

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