Forum Archive : Strategy--Backgames

Which anchor is best?

From:   Kit Woolsey
Date:   14 July 1996
Subject:   Re: unclear move 4

robert lawrence wrote:
> from a fibs match on sat, jly 13.
> score o = 2, x = 0, to 5, co=2.
>    . . . . . .   . . . . . .
>    o x     x x   x x o x   o
>    o x     x x   x x o x   o
>              x   x
>                  x
>                  o o o   o
>          o       o o o   o
>    . . . . . .   . . . . . .
> o to play 11.
> whats the move?

I think I remember having this position, and I played 24/23(2), 13/11.
There are several reasons to move the anchor up.

1) Having your points closer together generally makes it more difficult
for your opponent to clear his outfield points safely.  In this position,
suppose you stay back and your opponent manages to make the two point.
Then he will be able to clear the eight point if he rolls two numbers
which don't contain a four.  If you come up to the two point, he will
have to roll two numbers which don't contain a four or a six in order to
clear the eight point safely.

2) Getting off the ace point forces your opponent to play all his
numbers.  Suppose you stay back, and your opponent successfully clears
his eight point so all his checkers are on the bar point or inside.  Now,
he doesn't have to play any sixes, which will slow him down.  If your
timing for the back game is shaky, which it obviously is here, then this
stall may cause you to crunch or give up one of the anchors before he is
forced to leave a shot clearing the bar point.

3) Hanging back on the ace point is more likely to get you gammoned or
backgammoned if things go badly.  If you move up to the two point what
usually happens is that your opponent is forced to dump several checkers
behind you on the ace point in order to play safely.  When this happens
it is safer for you to hold your back anchor or stay back with one
checker in order to get a last ditch shot and still be able to scramble
off the gammon because these checkers on the ace point have to be taken
off before he gammons you.  If you are on his ace point, waiting until
the very end involves severe gammon or backgammon risks.

The main advantage in staying back on the ace point is that it will tend
to give you more shots later in the bearoff, particularly if your
opponent is unable to fill in the two point.  This is significant, and
under different circumstances (better timing, gammons not counting,
opponent having such a ragged position that he is unlikely to make the
two point) it might well be correct to stay back.  In the actual
position, however, the arguments for moving up are more persuasive to me.

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After an early blitz attempt  (Daniel Murphy, Apr 1997) 
But they're so much fun!  (Laury Chizlett+, Oct 2000) 
Checker problem  (David Montgomery+, May 1995) 
Defending against a backgame  (KL Gerber+, Jan 2003)  [Long message]
Defending against a backgame  (Michael J. Zehr, Jan 1995) 
How many men back?  (Brian Sheppard, July 1997) 
Play for a backgame from the start?  (Alan Webb+, Dec 1998) 
What is a backgame?  (Daniel Murphy, Apr 2001) 
When to double  (David Montgomery, May 1995) 
Which anchor is best?  (Kit Woolsey, July 1996) 
Which anchor to break  (Brian Sheppard, May 1997) 
Which anchors are best?  (sebalotek+, Jan 2012) 
Which anchors are best?  (Adam Stocks, Apr 2002) 
Which anchors are best?  (Mary Hickey, Mar 2001) 
Which anchors are best?  (Jerry Weaver+, Apr 1998) 
Which anchors are best?  (Chuck Bower, Jan 1997) 
Which anchors are best?  (Marc Gray, Nov 1995) 

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