Strategy--Checker play

Forum Archive : Strategy--Checker play

Hitting loose in your home board

From:   Douglas Zare
Date:   23 June 2000
Subject:   Re: a question of strategy

> When I play against Jelly Fish or other programs of backgammon, or even
> against certain human players, I have difficulty understanding why they
> take the risk to hit me in my interior jan (brings in 19 and 24 for
> example), whereas I can hit them in return. They will have to nearly
> redo the course complete then whereas, for my part, I was in the
> beginning the course. Is this someone has elements of answer?

It can be really frustrating when you see someone do a silly move and get
away with it. It could be because they were foolish but lucky, however, in
this case, the reason is that the move is probably not silly.

You might be thinking about the number of steps JF gains in the race (1-5)
versus the number of steps it loses if hit back (20-24). However, the
immediate dangers of losing ground in the race are not as severe as they
might seem, since

1) When it hits, you are definitely hit, but you will not always hit back.

2) When you are on the bar, you don't get to play 6-6 (assuming that the 6
point is still made), which is already 24 of the 294 possible pips to roll.
If your opponent's 4 point is already made then you can't play 6-6, 4-6,
6-4, or 4-4, for a total of 72 pips, or 2 pips on average even though you
would only stay on the bar 1 time in 9.

That is not enough, though, but there are many other factors which
encourage it to hit loose in its inner board. The race is only part of the

1) The fastest way to make a point is to slot it, then cover. When you
don't hit back, your opponent gets to make its board quickly. 3-1 is a
better start than 6-5.

2) If you are very much behind or very much ahead in the race, it doesn't
hurt very much to lose ground. If you are behind, it might be worth more to
gain a few pips than to lose a lot.

3) You don't have much control over where the hit checker enters. JF might
prefer it further forward, where it may cause less danger. JF may prefer it
to be back away from the edge of a prime, or the start of an advanced

4) By hitting, it deprives you of a chance to make a new point, such as
when you have a lot of builders poised to make your 5 or bar points. When
you enter, you might not have much flexibility in how you play the rest of
the roll, so it might get additional chances at hitting your other blots.

5) Sometimes there is nothing good to do elsewhere with its dice.

6) Sometimes it is good to get hit, since it may increase one's flexibility
or improve one's timing.

Hmm. I wonder if I missed any major reasons.

Douglas Zare
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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) 

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