• Never Forget the Match Score

    The two most common errors that I see in match play backgammon are: a) taking a single point by doubling out the opponent when in fact it is correct to play on for an undoubled gammon; b) making a money game decision without giving due consideration to the score. Of course, these two errors are closely aligned. The rule is quite simple: never ever forget you are playing a match and crucially, never forget the influence the precise score has on your cube handling.

    Take a look at this week’s position. White is nine pips behind but has a Black checker trapped on the bar. He has an exposed blot on his ace-point but even if Black hits that blot White will not worry too much as a return hit could generate some gammons for him, given the state of Black’s home board.

    For money Black must pass this position because, unless he enters next turn, White will be very well positioned to win the race and even if he does enter, as already discussed, he could end up losing a gammon because of his weak position on the other side of the board.

    The position actually occurred with Black leading 3-0 to 5. You might think that given his lead, Black should pass more quickly than in a money game but the two points that Black can win with the cube on 2 are precisely what he needs to win the match, and as we have seen many times before that will reduce the take point of the leader.

    We could resort to match equity tables and work out Black’s precise take point but using those tables is beyond most players and many will just know that, provided there is not a significant gammon threat, Black’s take point will be lower than for money.

    Positions like this one are largely calculated on the race and here Black still leads. Therefore it is likely to be a borderline take for money which means it should be a take at this match score.

    Rollouts show that for money Black should pass and taking is a small error. As we surmised, at this score taking Is correct and passing is a small error. NEVER FORGET THE MATCH SCORE

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