Lesson 3: Making the 5-Point - Backgammon Blog

Lesson 3: Making the 5-Point

By Bill Robertie
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Here are two early game positions where Black has not much and Orange has an inner point and some pressure.

When Paul Magriel wrote his seminal book Backgammon in 1976, one chapter that was particularly noteworthy was entitled “The Golden Point”. There he described the importance of the 5-point, both for offensive and defensive purposes, and showed how making the 5-point was a key goal of early game play.

Over the years, theory regarding the 5-point has never really changed much. We’ve found a few exceptions, and certainly expanded our knowledge of when to break the 5-point later in the game, but the 5-point remains a key opening goal in most positions.

The two examples given above are very typical cases. In each position, Black has a chance to make either the offensive 5-point (Position #1) or the defensive 5-point (Position #2). In each position, there are alternatives that seem to have strong merit. In Position #1, Black’s rear checkers are under some pressure and seem to require a defensive anchor, which he can grab with 24/21 22/21. In Position #2, Black can actually hit while making a somewhat inferior anchor with 13/9* 24/22.

But in each case, simply making one of the 5-points is better. In Position #1, making his own 5-points smooths Black’s distribution while starting to put Orange under some pressure. In Position #2, grabbing the defensive 5-point with 24/20 22/20 prevents Orange from ever building a priming position, after which Black can start to build points on his side of the board.

It’s incredibly hard to go wrong by making one of the 5-points at an early stage. The exceptions are rare and tend to be exceptions by only small amounts. When in doubt, go for the 5-point.