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Playing Backgammon - Chance is Fine

By: tcads

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In playing the game of backgammon you are playing a game that requires dexterity in thought and movement, it also requires a calculated risk as with every dice throw the players positions invariably change. There is really no Chance aspect in this game, moreover the skill and performance of each player is based upon a well planned strategy. Well that is not exactly true, because in this game luck plays a vital role in the outcome of any game. Other than the professional players the rest of us rely on good old fashioned instinct to help us make our plays. Besides you can't always make informed choices. Sometimes itís better to say 'I will take this double, my chances are at least 25%.

Sometimes, there is no choice or decision to make, if the play determines as in the following examples two checkers on your ace-point and the opposition has two checkers left, on his 5 and 2 points. He doubles. Leaving 19 rolls to get both checkers off out of 36, a 53% chance to win. You take. Now what if they were on the 5 and 1 points, thatís 23 good rolls now the chances are up to 64%. You still take. But, what if they are on the 4 and 1 points. 29 good rolls or 80%. This is the time to drop. In most cases you can only guess. The better your guess or estimation of the play the better youíll play backgammon.

Suppose you're playing a game and your opponent doubles. You grab the cube and snicker 'What an awful double!' Or you're kibbitzing and the player doubled drops and you say 'No way! That's a take.' And suddenly you hear a voice say 'For how much?'

You've just been challened to a proposition. In effect the two players are expressing a difference of opinion as to the proper action - and backing it with money.

Consider the second case. In effect, you are saying that the equity in the game is greater if you accept the double than if you drop. So you might set the board up and agree to play the game out ten times for a certain stake. Since you feel the game is a 'take' - you play the side that has been doubled. So you would start with the cube at 2 on your side, and your opponent giving you one point per game - because your opponent is saying that this position is so bad that even with the cube on your side, he would be willing to pay a point rather than have to play on.

Propositions are very common at tournaments - because backgammon players love to gamble, and they love to argue.

Board Game Timing

Have you ever rolled double-5's or double 6's Ė thought it was a good roll Ė and then, a roll or two later, you realize you're in trouble?

When you are in a non-contact position, high rolls are always good. But sometimes your game depends on getting your checkers home without being hit. If you are ahead in pip count, your opponent can often leave checkers back to try to hit you.

When one side has a significant lead in pip count, both sides need to be sensitive to timing. Suppose you are trailing in the race by, say, 30 pips. You have an anchor in your opponent's board. You may actually prefer to have a checker hit! You are unlikely to catch up in the race (especially if your opponent has lots of points made so that even a big set of doubles won't let you run), so you may want to stay back as long as you can and try not to have your board collapse.

Likewise, the side leading may prefer not to hit. Recognizing the right situations to be sensitive to timing is something that comes with experience.

Backgammon Notation

When discussing or explaining a backgammon position, it's helpful to have a set of notation. A pip or a point is merely one of the 24 spaces on the board where checkers are put. The bar is the place where checkers that are hit go - this is sometimes called the 25-point. The remaining points are numbered from highest to lowest as far as how far they are from being taken off. The 24-point is the point furthest from being borne off - it's the point that you start the game with two checkers on. Every point has two numbers. Your 24-point is also your opponent's one-point (also called the ace-point). Your 5-point is your opponent's 20-point. So, for example, if you roll an opening 3-1, the usual move would be denoted 8-5/6-5.

On the Internet Gaming Zone, you can show the board with notation by using the Game/Settings/Display/Show Board Notation option. This will give you descriptions like 'W10' and 'B5.' W10 would be white's 10-point, but also brown's 15-point. On FIBS, each point has only one number, from 1 to 24, and whether you move from lowest to highest or highest to lowest varies each game. On this web site, I will use the accepted notation, in which each point has two definitions, rather than either the Zone's or FIBS'.

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