Strategy--Checker play

Forum Archive : Strategy--Checker play

Golden point

From:   Henry Logan
Date:   10 November 2002
Subject:   Golden Point
Google:   awqz9.28410$

Friends, opponents and backgammon books all advise me to make my opponents
5-point ("the golden point") whenever possible.  My problem is - I don't
know what to do with it when I've got it!

Should I vacate it as soon as I can hit a blot, or stay there until I've
got all my other men home, or what?  Any advice?

Adam Stocks  writes:

Your question is a good one.  Holding your opponent's 5-point serves three
main functions.  In no particular order, these are:

1. Allows you to escape these anchored men if you throw nice doubles at an
appropriate time.

2. Gives you blot-hitting coverage of your opponent's outfield.

3. Stops you from being closed out (as does holding other anchors).

Which of these functions is most important depends on the characteristics
of the position, but they are all tend to be important in most types of
position.  During the early stages of a game, you will be looking for
opportunities to safely escape your back men, even if it is one at a time.
If you don't roll the right combinations to do this, then anchoring them on
a high point such as the 20 or 21 point will create an intermediary
launching pad for future escape attempts.

The Blot-hitting coverage it gives you tends to be most useful either in
the opening stages of the game, when your opponent's return hits will not
be so devastating, (since he still has a weak board), or during the later
stages, when your hit will be devastating to him (you have a strong board).
However, in quite a lot of middle game positions, if your opponent's board
is strong and yours is weak, letting go of your anchor is often
counter-productive, since what you temporarily gain in the race may be far
outwayed by the loss of immediate safety the anchor affords you.
Therefore, don't automatically hit with your anchormen - the 'quality of
shot' is extremely important in middle games.  Only hit if what you stand
to gain by doing so outways the dangers of giving up all that long-term
safety.  It is common to forgo one or two (more, sometimes) hitting
opportunities with your anchormen, in order to wait until the highest
'quality' of shot comes your way.  After you have been closed out and
gammoned umpteen times by hitting too eagerly with your anchors, you will
gain a sense of when to hit and when to hold on for later, better shots.

Hope this helps,

Bob Stringer  writes:

More on what you should "do" with it below.  For now, think
about *why* it's valuable -- it crimps your opponent's style
by covering his entire outfield, it gives you your best
re-entry point when your hit (unless you position is getting
bad enough that you'd rather enter deep in your opponent's
board, to make it hard for him to come in -- if you're only
on his five point, he can dump checkers behind your anchor),
it's the closest point to the safety of your side of the
board when it comes time to run, and if you're never able to
hit your opponent, it doesn't hurt you in the race as badly
as deeper anchors.

Move-by-move, you have to evaluate whether these and other
advantages make the anchor worth holding onto, based on what
the rest of the board looks like.

> Should I vacate it as soon as I can hit a blot, or stay there
> until I've got all my other men home, or what?

The answer is, as often happens, "it depends."

If you're way ahead in the race, you do yourself no favors
by maintaining your opponent's five point while you vacate
your midpoint and otherwise divide your armies in half.  If
you do so, you may have trouble escaping those last two men.
So, your very last idea -- waiting until everyone else is
home -- generally is not a good idea. Yet if you're way
behind in the race, and your only realistic chance of
winning is to hit your opponent, then you usually should
hold the point while using your other men to strengthen your

In cases where your opponent has a *much* stronger inner
board than you do, and you can hit him only by breaking your
anchor, you have to consider that he may easily re-enter and
then hit you while his inner board is very strong.  Since
you'll no longer have a safe anchor to use for re-entry, you
may have just allowed him to close you out.

The bottom line, then, is that you have to look at the
entire board to decide what's best -- which of course is
what makes the game interesting.

If there's a rule of thumb, it should be that *other things
being equal* one of the best ideas is to make your
opponent's five point.  Yet even there, your own 5 point is
usually stronger, as mentioned above.

One of the most useful rules of thumb is "when in doubt,
don't break an anchor." The more you play, the more you'll
get a feel for when you can break your opponent's five
point.  In this case, as in most others, try to get into the
habit of looking at the entire board before you make your
decision.  Consider things such as the fact that if you're
behind in the race, you usually can play more aggressively;
likewise if you have a stronger inner board.  Consider also
the when you have a strong anchor, that lets you play more
aggressively, since that gives you a good re-entry point if
you're ever hit.

Bob Stringer
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     


Strategy--Checker play

Avoiding major oversights  (Chuck Bower+, Mar 2008) 
Bearing off with contact  (Walter Trice, Dec 1999) 
Bearing off with contact  (Daniel Murphy, Mar 1998)  [Long message]
Blitzing strategy  (Michael J. Zehr, July 1997) 
Blitzing strategy  (Fredrik Dahl, July 1997) 
Blitzing technique  (Albert Silver+, July 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Breaking anchor  (abc, Mar 2004) 
Breaking contact  (Alan Webb+, Oct 1999) 
Coming under the gun  (Kit Woolsey, July 1996) 
Common errors  (David Levy, Oct 2009) 
Containment positions  (Brian Sheppard, July 1998) 
Coup Classique  (Paul Epstein+, Dec 2006) 
Cube ownership considerations  (Kit Woolsey, Apr 1996) 
Cube-influenced checker play  (Rew Francis+, Apr 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Defending against a blitz  (Michael J. Zehr, Jan 1995) 
Estimating in volatile situations  (Kit Woolsey, Mar 1997) 
Gammonish positions  (Michael Manolios, Nov 1999) 
Golden point  (Henry Logan+, Nov 2002) 
Hitting loose in your home board  (Douglas Zare, June 2000) 
Holding games  (Casual_Observer, Jan 1999)  [Long message]
How to trap an anchor  (Timothy Chow+, Apr 2010) 
Jacoby rule consideration  (Ron Karr, Nov 1996) 
Kamikaze plays  (christian munk-christensen+, Nov 2010) 
Kleinman Count for bringing checkers home  (Øystein Johansen, Feb 2001) 
Late loose hits  (Douglas Zare+, Aug 2007)  [GammOnLine forum]
Mutual holding game  (Ron Karr, Dec 1996) 
Pay now or pay later?  (Stuart Katz, MD, Nov 1997) 
Pay now or pay later?  (Stephen Turner, Mar 1997) 
Pay now or play later?  (Hank Youngerman+, Sept 1998) 
Play versus a novice  (Courtney S Foster+, Apr 2004)  [GammOnLine forum]
Playing doublets  (Grunty, Jan 2008) 
Playing when opponent has one man back  (Kit Woolsey, May 1995) 
Prime versus prime  (Albert Silver+, Aug 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Prime versus prime  (Michael J. Zehr, Mar 1996) 
Saving gammon  (Bill Riles, Oct 2009) 
Saving gammon  (Ron Karr, Dec 1997) 
Splitting your back men  (KL Gerber+, Nov 2002) 
Splitting your back men  (David Montgomery, June 1995) 
Trap play problem  (Brian Sheppard, Feb 1997) 
When in doubt  (Stick+, Apr 2011) 
When to run the last checker  (Stick Rice+, Jan 2009) 
When you can't decide  (John O'Hagan, Oct 2009) 

[GammOnLine forum]  From GammOnLine       [Long message]  Long message       [Recommended reading]  Recommended reading       [Recent addition]  Recent addition

  Book Suggestions
Computer Dice
Cube Handling
Cube Handling in Races
Extreme Gammon
Fun and frustration
GNU Backgammon
Luck versus Skill
Magazines & E-zines
Match Archives
Match Equities
Match Play
Match Play at 2-away/2-away
Opening Rolls
Pip Counting
Play Sites
Probability and Statistics
Source Code
Strategy--Bearing Off
Strategy--Checker play


Return to:  Backgammon Galore : Forum Archive Main Page