Lowly 1-Point Can Take On
Great Importance in Bear-Off
Paul Magriel, 1980
Las Vegas Backgammon Magazine, June 1980
Paul Magriel
Paul Magriel
The Eldorado Backgammon Classic was held recently in Reno. The host for this event was the Las Vegas Backgammon Club. The tournament drew most of the top players from the West Coast. The Las Vegas Backgammon Club, under the direction of Michael Maxaculi, has become the largest and most active regional backgammon organization in the country.

Results in the championship division: Paul Magriel defeated Dennis Stone in the finals; semifinalists were Charles Papazian and Bill Arkin. Bill Eisenberg overcame Tom Wheeler in the consolation.

Zim Alyosha triumphed over Patrick Maxfield in the intermediate section, and Del Simone won the beginners' section.

Black to play 5-2.
Stone (Black) demonstrated his skillful technique in the diagrammed position taken from his semifinal match against Magriel (White). Black has doubled and has an overwhelming advantage. Two of White's men have been hit and are on the bar. In addition, White has two more men exposed on the 5 and 1 points. Thus, Black has good prospects of closing White out by completing his home board. White, with four men on the bar, would then almost certainly lose a gammon. Black, however, must be careful to avoid being hit during the bearoff — White, with a strong home board, could still win the game.

With the roll of 5-2, Black must contine his attack. He has the happy choice of either playing 6/1*, 3/1, hitting White and making the 1-point, or 7/5*, 10/5, hitting White and making the 5-point. Many players would automatically choose to make the 5-point because the higher points in the home board are usually more valuable than the lower points. Indeed, in the early stages of a game, the 5-point is considered the most valuable point to own, whereas making the 1-point early is often the mark of a beginner.

Furthermore, by making the 5-point, Black builds his points in sequence and so creates a prime. As a result, even if White manages to establish the 1-point, he will still be trapped. Nevertheless, as Stone recognized, making the 5-point would be a serious mistake.

Stone correctly played 6/1*, 3/1, making the 1-point. He realized that in the final stages of a game, the relative value of the home board points is actually inverted. Black's sole concern must be to prepare to bear off safely. Thus, blockading White no longer has any relevance.

For a safe bearoff, it is essential to make the 1-point in order to prevent White from doing so. If White is allowed to make the 1-point, then O will have what is called a "well-timed 1-point game." The bearoff will then be surprisingly dangerous. In fact, trial and error have shown that even with the best play, Black will be forced to leave a shot almost 90 percent of the time.

With the correct play, White is prevented from making the 1-point but may be able to establish the 5-point. Black, however, has little to fear in this case. Black should have no trouble bearing his men past the 5-point and off safely. Indeed, as happened in the actual game, even if White rolls a 5 immediately, White is quite unlikely to avert a gammon.

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