Mastering Backgammon

Build or Hit?
by Bill Robertie
This article originally appeared on, January 20, 2007.

In the opening, plays that hit blots or make key points tend to easily dominate all other maneuvering plays.

Interesting choices, however, arise when both choices are available.

Do you hit, or do you make a point?

Position 1.
Black to play 5-1.

Four simple rules guide most of these plays.

  • The stronger your inner board, the more you want to hit and the less you need to make an additional point.

  • The better the point you can make, the more you want to make it.

  • If you can make a point while unstacking, your desire to hit goes down.

  • If you have to break a good anchor to hit, your desire to hit goes down.

How do these apply to our current position? Black has no board right now, so his desire to build is strong. If he passes up the hit, he gets to make the 5-point, the best point of all. Making the 5-point has the added virtue of unstacking the 6-point. And in order to hit, Black would have to break his anchor.

Four arguments for building, no arguments for hitting. The right play is 10/5, 6/5, by a good margin. Now White is left with the problem of trying to pull his disconnected game together. With a vulnerable checker on the 3-point, another loose blot on the 9-point, and stacks everywhere else, it won't be easy.

Next time:  Playing Efficiently

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