Backgammon Wisdom from the Masters - Backgammon Blog

Backgammon Wisdom from the Masters

Backgammon Wisdom from the Masters

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In the world of board games, backgammon stands out as a timeless classic, known for its blend of strategy, skill, and luck. Over the years, backgammon enthusiasts and experts have developed a wealth of insights and strategies to excel in this captivating game. In this compilation, we bring you a curated selection of tips and quotes from some of the giants in the world of backgammon.

From early game strategies that set the stage for victory to middle game tactics that navigate the complexities of the board, these pearls of wisdom provide guidance for players of all levels. Learn from the likes of Woolsey, Robertie, Leet, Magriel, and others as they share their decades of experience, offering invaluable advice on everything from prime-building to bear-off techniques.

Whether you're a novice looking to improve your game or a seasoned player seeking to refine your skills, the collective wisdom of these backgammon experts is sure to inspire, educate, and elevate your approach to this timeless game. Join us on a journey through the minds of these backgammon luminaries as we explore their strategies, insights, and philosophies, all aimed at helping you become a more formidable backgammon player.

Dive in, absorb their knowledge, and let their words guide you towards backgammon mastery.

Early Games


  • When your opponent has started with a good inner-board point, it is generally better to split than to build. He already has the lead in the board building contest. Building approach is against his strength.

  • When your opponent makes an inner-board point on the opening roll, it is often correct to split your back men in response. One reason for this is that your opponent's 8-point is stripped, so some of his attacking plays cost him the 8-point.

  • When the opponent has made a point on the opening roll, it is generally best to split the back checkers rather than slot. Slotting is worse than usual when hit, and if not hit you are still one roll behind in the board-building contest.

  • When your opponent has made his 2-point early in the game, he is in more of a blitz mode than a priming mode. By splitting your back men, you are playing into his hands.

  • Hitting loose on the ace-point is more effective than usual when your opponent has split to the bar-point. Not only do you make it more difficult for him to make the anchor, but many of his entering numbers play badly with a 6.


  • If your board is stronger than your opponent's and he can't anchor, a loose-hit on the ace-point might be right.

  • A double-hit, culminating with a hit on the ace-point, can be right if your opponent's two checkers are on low points in your board.

  • If one of your opponent's checkers is on a high point in your board and one is on a low point, the double-hit is usually wrong.

  • Once you've hit on the ace-point in the early going, you probably can't play a priming goal. You might as well cover the blot on your ace-point as soon as possible.

  • It's better to split to a good anchor than to run on into the outfield.

  • Making the 2-point early on has many of the characteristics of a desperation play. It rises to the top of the heap only in the absence of any reasonable alternative.

  • If you're hoping to outplay your opponent, rely on slotting and building. If you're happier letting the dice decide the game, split whenever possible.

  • If your opponent has made strong blocking points (5, 4, or the bar-point), you are more inclined to split.

  • If your opponent has made weaker blocking points (2, or 3-point), you are less inclined to split.

  • In general, if you have a choice of splits, split to the point your opponent least wants to make.

  • Although splitting and building plays are often close calls, 3's and 4's tend to be especially good splitting numbers, while deuces tend to be better building numbers.

  • When your opponent has splitted to your 2 or 3-point, the double-hit with 4-1 or 3-2 is a routine play. After hitting on the 2 or 3-point, that checker is too deep to be effective as a blocking point. Hitting two is more effective than hitting none.

  • If your opponent has split to your 4 or 5-point, the double-hit with 4-1 or 3-2 is generally wrong. After hitting on the 5 or 4-point, that blot does tremendous work by starting a key point. The double-hit commits you to a blitzing formation, while other alternatives are less commital and offer you better long-run prospects.

  • In general, breaking the 8-point to make the 4 or 3-point in the early game is at best a marginally correct play, and often quite wrong.

Middle Games


  • If you have hit on the ace-point, be eager to cover the blot, rather than leaving it around to be hit later.

  • Once your opponent has started to prime you in, you must split your back men as soon as possible. Every roll that doesn't build an additional blocking point of your own is a candidate for splitting.

  • When your opponent has one man back, all inner-board points are important, even the ones behind his backman.

  • If your opponent has anchored, blocking points are important. Points behind the anchor are pretty useless.

  • If your backmen are likely to be attacked, be very cautious about leaving outfield blots.

  • Don't try to build outside primes once you've made low points in your board. Work on closing the board instead.


  • When facing an enemy defensive bar-point, spares on the 8-point are crucial for maximum flexibility.



  • When conducting a blitz, each move choice must be evaluated both for its contribution to the closeout and its contribution to escaping the backmen.

Priming Games


  • Given a choice in priming games, do what is hardest first.

  • Attack at the edge of the prime.

  • Build your prime first, then escape.



  • Only when it is clear that your opponent is committed to a backgame do timing considerations become paramount. Until then, don't give him a free shot to go forward.

  • Backgames with two points not including the ace-point tend to work better than the deeper back games. They get gammoned less, and they generate quite a few wins.


  • A blocking game is substantially better than a running game, about 65%.

Anchor Leaving


  • The closer you approach the point of ultimate squeeze, the more you want to run rather than wait.

  • The more disjointed you are, the more urgent it is to get off the anchor.



  • When stacks are present, the possibility of unloading them has to be factored into every checker play.

  • Spare checkers belong at the rear of a structure. This placement maximizes their chances to cooperate with other checkers.

  • Accumulate assets in general, but not any asset in particular; the dice will dictate which assets to pursue at which time.

Gammon Saving


  • If all other things are equal, it is usually better to be on an even numbered point in the enemy outer-board when trying to race off a gammon, so some big doubles take you right to the 6-point.


  • If you can't bear in exactly to the 6-point, move in the outfield.



  • Use spare aces to unstack and fill gaps in your home-board; don't waste them limping pathetically through.


  • A gap on the 3-point is not a problem if you have extra checkers on the 6-point since a 3 can be played from the 6-point. However, a gap on the 4-point is bad immediately, since a 4 will miss and still leave a gap.


  • Having multiple checkers on your bar-point is not flexible for the race.

  • Gaps on your 1, 2, and 3-points are okay, but gaps on your 4 and 5-points are bad.

Bearing In


  • When coming in against a two-point game, it is always good to have spares on the 6-point. The bar-point can be the tough point to clear, and 5's can get very awkward. Every checker on the 6-point can help.

  • It is generally wrong to put checkers on the ace-point when coming in against a two-point game.


  • Clearing any point against a good holding game is an accomplishment, and the spares you get from clearing an intermediate point are generally more useful than the point itself. The idea of clearing from the rear should be seen as a guide only when you have a choice of points to clear.

  • If a gammon is very likely or very unlikely, you would be better off by putting the checkers deeper (4 and 5-points) during bear-in.



  • Points cleared are points not worried.



  • Most common checker play errors don't occur when a player makes the wrong choice between two candidates. They occur when a player never even sees one of the candidates.

Safe vs. Bold


  • When a lone back checker is likely to be attacked, it is important to clean up all other blots on the board.


  • Compare the strength of the inner-boards. If your inner-board is stronger, make a bold play. If his inner-board is stronger, make a safe play.

  • If you are behind in the race, make a bold play. Otherwise, make a safe play.

  • If you have more men back, you are inclined to play boldly. If your opponent has more men back, you are inclined to play safe.


  • As your home board becomes stronger than your opponent's, you can play as aggressively as the position allows, placing your checkers exactly where they belong for maximum board control.

  • Leaving or slotting a blot in front of opponent's stripped positions may not be much of a liability, since the cost of hitting will be high.



  • The better a player, the likelier he is to get a good roll on any random turn; Good players roll well because they have taken pains to obtain positions in which as many rolls as possible are good rolls.

To Be a Winner


  • Envisioning a successful outcome makes it much easier to find the means to the desired goal, even when that goal is unlikely.

  • In a backgammon match, anybody has a reasonable chance to beat anybody else. The player who doesn't respect his opponent and thinks himself deserving to win is likely to get greedy.

  • Winners are prepared to give at least the same degree of effort and attentiveness to the last play of the match as to the first.

  • Do not let your emotions dictate the plays you make.

  • Winners are thinking about something, and their thought process always leads to a conclusion and a decision.

  • Winners are happy to make unpopular types of plays, and to trust their own understanding of the game rather than try to imitate fashion and cutting-edge theory.