In this post, we'll shed light on some frequent missteps made by beginners in the game of backgammon.
Avoid Overplaying It Safe
One of the most common errors novices commit is playing excessively safe instead of focusing on developing their position, especially in the early stages of the game. Developing your position means enhancing the overall structure of the points on the board to increase your flexibility. To achieve this, you'll need to take calculated risks early on. These risks may involve leaving blots on the board to secure valuable points in subsequent rolls.
For instance, consider the strategy of splitting your back checkers to potentially capture your opponent's 5-point on a future roll. Splitting your back checkers not only increases your chances of establishing an advanced anchor but also enhances your coverage of your opponent's outer board. It makes it riskier for your opponent to bring their builders down to their mid-point, as they could fall victim to a direct hit (a roll of 6 or less). Additionally, it complicates their attempt to slot their 5-point.
Figure 1: The 5 point.
Early in the game, it's generally advisable to take some risks to secure key points in the subsequent moves. Remember that there's plenty of time to recover from hits. Leaving a lone checker within range of a direct hit is a risk, but the shorter the range, the less likely your checker is to be hit. For instance, a lone checker left six spaces from your opponent's checker can be hit on 17 out of 36 rolls, while a checker left just one space away can only be hit on 11 out of 36 rolls.
|🎲||** 1 **||** 2 **||** 3 **||** 4 **||** 5 **||** 6 **|
|** 1 **||(1, 1)||(1, 2)||(1, 3)||(1, 4)||(1, 5)||(1, 6)|
|** 2 **||(2, 1)||(2, 2)||(2, 3)||(2, 4)||(2, 5)||(2, 6)|
|** 3 **||(3, 1)||(3, 2)||(3, 3)||(3, 4)||(3, 5)||(3, 6)|
|** 4 **||(4, 1)||(4, 2)||(4, 3)||(4, 4)||(4, 5)||(4, 6)|
|** 5 **||(5, 1)||(5, 2)||(5, 3)||(5, 4)||(5, 5)||(5, 6)|
|** 6 **||(6, 1)||(6, 2)||(6, 3)||(6, 4)||(6, 5)||(6, 6)|
Table 1: Outcomes with two dice.
|Total||Number of Combinations||Probability|
Table 2: Probability with two dice .
Don't Squander Your Checkers
Another prevalent mistake among beginners is wasting their checkers, often by burying them in the depths of their home board or building candlesticks. This often occurs because beginners tend to err on the side of caution.
Burying a checker means moving it down into the deeper points of your home board, rendering it useless for making new points or hitting your opponent's checkers for the rest of the game. Given that you have a total of only 15 checkers, it's crucial to use each one efficiently, keeping them in play.
Consider the following scenario where a beginner might contemplate burying a checker. It's still early in the game, and White rolled a 4-1. Moving a checker from the 6-point to the 1-point might seem like a good idea, as it frees a checker from the heavily stacked 6-point and moves it to safety on the 1-point. However, this would be a grave mistake as the buried checker remains inactive for the remainder of the game, unable to contribute to point securing or opponent's checker hits.
Figure 2: Don't bury checkers.
A sound strategy involves aiming to secure the open points in front of your opponent's rearmost checkers. In this scenario, the correct move is from point 13 to point 8, as it keeps all your checkers active and provides a useful builder on the 8-point to assist in closing the 7, 5, or 4-points in subsequent rolls.
In some situations, you may be forced to waste your checkers, especially in priming games where you can't or won't move checkers from your opponent's home board. This is known as crunching in backgammon.
Another counterproductive strategy employed by beginners is stacking too many checkers on a single point, creating what is known as a candlestick. Beginners often find themselves with several candlesticks on their board. Heavily stacked points are inflexible and make it challenging to develop your position. To avoid this, try to limit the number of checkers on any single point to four and create flexible positions where your builders are out of the direct hit range. This approach will provide you with more flexibility in subsequent rolls.
Figure 3: Candlesticks.
By recognizing and rectifying these common backgammon mistakes, beginners can significantly improve their gameplay.