Lesson 33: Slotting In Back Game - Backgammon Blog

Lesson 33: Slotting In Back Game

Lesson 33: Slotting In Back Game

By Bill Robertie
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In this position Black has established a solid grip on the position. He’s escaped all his back checkers, built his 4-point and his 7-point, and leads the race by 68 pips (122-190) before rolling.

If Black has accomplished all that, then White probably hasn’t done nearly as well, and in fact he’s stuck in what’s called a 2-5 game with an as yet undeveloped front game. Some players refer to the 2-5 as a back game, but I think of it more as a hybrid between a back game and a holding game. The 2-5 game can’t really be primed, so White never has any trouble recirculating checkers, effectively eliminating the main strategy for busting a back game. The flip side for Black is that the 2-5 game won’t generate nearly as many shots as a pure back game, so Black’s in less danger of being hit.

Did Black miss a chance to double before his roll? No, not at all. While he has an edge, he still has plenty of work to do: he needs to fill in the 3-point and clear his midpoint for starters. While he’s doing all that, White will be filling in his home board. Although White’s position looks weak now, it will be much more formidable when the crisis comes a few moves down the road. But the simplest way to see this isn’t a double is to note that Black doesn’t have any market losers. No matter what he throws (5-3 is probably his best shot) White will still have a take next turn. If your opponent is always taking next turn, there’s no need to double this turn.

So what should Black do with his 5-2 roll? The obvious play is 13/8 6/4. It leaves no blots, continues the process of clearing the midpoint, and creates a third builder for the 3-point. Black’s ongoing plan will be to bring down more spares, make the 3-point naturally over the next few rolls, clear the midpoint, and find a good spot to double. Most players would choose this route, and it’s perfectly sound. A better choice, however, is the slotting play: 8/3 6/4! Black needs the 3-point badly, and while he might make it naturally over the course of the next few moves, there’s a good chance he may not. Slotting gives him by far the best overall chance to make the point. It’s also much safer than it looks, since White should only hit if he rolls 1-1. With any other ace (even 3-1) White should just make his 5-point and keep building, because hitting leaves him too exposed at a time when his front position is still very weak.

It’s easy to overlook plays like this because it appears that Black will make the point naturally at some time in the future. That’s never guaranteed, however, and if your opponent’s position is weak enough right now then slotting the needed point will often be the right play.

About the Author
Player: Bill Robertie
Bill Robertie
William Gerard Robertie is a backgammon, chess, and poker player and author. He is one of four backgammon players to have won the World Backgammon Championship twice.