Opening Rolls

Forum Archive : Opening Rolls

Choosing a strategy

From:   Daniel Murphy
Date:   23 June 2001
Subject:   Re: Lover's Leap or Lover's Plunge?

> I am a relatively inexperienced player.  I've been playing all my life,
> but only recently started to study the game.  Up until recently I've been
> playing a safe running game, but since I've been reading this newsgroup,
> playing FIBS, and reading books, I've started to play a more aggressive
> game (with some success).
> My question is related to the opening move with a 65.  I've read all the
> back posts on this newsgroup on this subject, including the computer
> rollouts.  I've started to play 65 as 24/18 13/8 Rather than play it as
> "lover's leap".  My style is to fight early for the 18 point ...

Success at backgammon requires not "a" strategy but the right strategy
dictated by the dice you roll, match score, your opponent, and your
own skills and limitations. A running game might be the right
strategy, or the match score might urge to fight for another type of
game, or the dice might insist that you take a particular course.

An opening play does not tie you to "a" strategy, for the best
strategy in a game may change depending on subsequent rolls of the
dice, but it influences the direction the game is likely to go. You
are wise to explore different strategies, expand your bag of tricks
beyond a simple running game, and improve your ability to both direct
the flow of game and to respond to the demands of the match score and
the dice.

Eventually you will be able to say not that "My style is a simple
running game," or "My style is to fight for the 18 point," but
"Although I have a flair for certain types of positions, I'm flexible
and skilled in adopting my strategy to get the most possible advantage
out of whatever rolls I get."

Many opening rolls can be played in more than one way with little or
no difference in equity, but usually with some difference in the
percentage of games won and lost or gammons won and lost, and with
some difference in the likelihood that a game may go a particular way.
Let's look at two examples:

An opening 64 can be played 8/2 6/2, 24/18 13/9, or 24/14. The three
plays are roughly equal in strength but they do not have the same
strengths, and they anticipate and require different strategies to
best take advantage of those strengths.

The main strengths of 24/14 are that it moves one back man 10 pips and
leaves few decisive return shots. It is not a good play for a fight
for an advanced anchor, or to make a prime, but it improves the
chances of winning with a relatively gammonless running game. It does
not put much pressure on your opponent, but the follow-through is
simple; you get hit and fight it out on your opponent's side of the
board, or don't get hit and try to minimize contact and carry the
fight over to your own.

The main strengths of 8/2 6/2 are that it makes a blocking home board
point, makes it more dangerous for opponent to leave blots, and leaves
nothing to shoot at. It limits opponent's options in interesting ways.
It is not a good play for a running or holding game, but it may be the
start of prime or a blitz and may be advantageous in a subsequent blot
hitting contest.

The main strengths of 24/18 13/9 are that it starts an advanced
anchor, covers the entire board, and brings a point-making builder
down to the 9 point. Of the three plays it is the least committal to a
particular strategy and places the fewest limits on opponent's
responses. It aggressively stakes out territory, exposes your forces
and invites opponent to attack, relying on excellent chances for good
returns of your own to prevail in whatever kind of fight you've turned
out to have started.

You will find expert players who play 24/18 13/9 at normal match
scores, others who feel just as strongly about 8/2 6/2, and some "bot"
opinion that favors 24/14. You should try all three plays, see what
kinds of games they tend to lead to, and become comfortable with them.

The 52 opening roll can be played 13/8 24/22 or 13/8 13/11. The first
play is the flavor of the day, while yesterday's favorite 13/8 13/11
aims to toward a position that is more gammonish for both players.
With 52, actually, it's appropriate to speak of a player's "style"
because the plays are very close in strength. More than one world
class player continues to play 13/8 13/11 always, long after the bots
started telling us that the split is a little better.

21, 41, 51, 32, 62, 43, 63 and 54 all have alternative plays that are
only a little worse or may even be better at certain match scores. But
some opening plays can only be played one way. Any play but 8/5 6/5
with a 31 is a huge blunder. And any play but 24/13 with 65 is wrong.

65 is a great running roll but a poor roll for any other strategy. As
a running roll, it plays best as 24/13. Trying to twist 65 into
serving another strategy simply doesn't make the best of the dice. I'm
not surprised you do well playing it as 24/18 13/8; with that play
you're about as well off as if you had played a 64 as 24/18 13/9. But
you're not as well off as after 24/13. Rather than forcing 65 to adapt
to your "fight for the 18 point" strategy, and no matter how skilled
you become at complicated, agressive positions, you should realize
that sometimes the best expert strategy is the beginner's simple
running game.

By all means, though, continue experimenting and exploring and
building your own skills and perceptions. That's the way to better

Daniel Murphy
Raccoon on FIBS, GamesGrid
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Opening Rolls

At different match scores  (Louis Nardy Pillards, July 2002) 
Average advantage of winning opening roll  (Chuck Bower, Oct 1998) 
Choosing a strategy  (Daniel Murphy, June 2001) 
Early game rule of thumb  (Rich Munitz, Feb 2009) 
Factors to consider  (Kit Woolsey, July 1994) 
How computers play  (Kit Woolsey, Mar 1995)  [Recommended reading]
Magriel's Chapter 5  (Hayden Alfano+, May 2006)  [Long message]
Mloner vs Jellyfish  (Kit Woolsey, Dec 1995) 
Nactating a whole game  (Nack Ballard+, Jan 2011)  [Long message]
Nactation  (Jim Stutz+, June 2010) 
Nactation overview  (Nack Ballard, Oct 2009) 
Nactation--Why use it?  (leobueno+, Jan 2011) 
Opening 1's: Split or slot?  (Douglas Zare, Dec 2003) 
Opening 21: Rollout  (Stick, Mar 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 21: Split or slot?  (Dick Adams+, Dec 2003) 
Opening 32: Rollout  (Stick, Feb 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 43: In GOL online match  (Raccoon+, Feb 2004)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 43: Pros and cons  (Stick+, Jan 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 43: Which split is better?  (Peter Backgren+, Aug 2000) 
Opening 43: Which split is better?  (Michael J. Zehr+, Mar 1996) 
Opening 51: Rollout  (Stick, Feb 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 52: Merits of splitting  (Peter Bell, Apr 1995) 
Opening 53: Magriel's recommendation  (George Parker+, July 1997)  [Long message]
Opening 53: Split to 21?  (Alex Zamanian, Aug 2000) 
Opening 53: Why make the three point?  (Kit Woolsey+, Feb 1996) 
Opening 6's: Slot the bar point?  (Chuck Bower+, Feb 2000) 
Opening 6's: Slot the bar point?  (David Montgomery, June 1995) 
Opening 62: Could running be best?  (Gary Wong, Sept 1997) 
Opening 62: Split, run, or slot?  (Chuck Bower, May 1997) 
Opening 63: Middle Eastern split?  (Mark+, Apr 2002) 
Opening 63: Slot the four point?  (Dennis Cartwright+, Mar 2002) 
Opening 64: Make the two point?  (William Hill+, Jan 1998) 
Opening 64: Make the two point?  (Darse Billings, Feb 1995) 
Opening 64: Rollout  (Peter Grotrian, Jan 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Opening 64: Split to 20?  (Peter Bell, June 1995) 
Opening 64: Three choices  (Brian Sheppard, July 1997) 
Opening 65: Becker on lover's leap  (Jeffrey Spiegler+, Aug 1991) 
Opening 65: Computer rankings  (Chuck Bower, Jan 1997) 
Opening rolls ranked  (Arthur+, Apr 2005) 
Rollouts of opening 21 and replies  (Alexander Nitschke, Oct 1997) 
Rollouts of openings  (Tom Keith+, Jan 2006) 
Rollouts: Expert Backgammon  (Tom Fahland, Aug 1994) 
Rollouts: Jellyfish 3.0  (Midas+, Sept 1997) 
Rollouts: Jellyfish 3.0 level 6  (Chuck Bower, Feb 1999)  [Recommended reading]
Rollouts: Snowie 4.1  (Rene Cerutti, Apr 2004) 
Slotting the four point  (Joe Loria+, Oct 1999) 
Snowie's openers and replies  (rcerutti, Feb 1999)  [Long message]
Splitting versus building  (Dave Slayton+, Aug 2000) 
Splitting versus slotting  (Daniel Murphy, Apr 2001) 
Splitting versus slotting  (Daniel Murphy, Sept 1997) 
Trice's rankings  (Marty Storer, Feb 1992) 

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