Forum Archive : Strategy--Backgames

Defending against a backgame

From:   Michael J. Zehr
Address:   tada@ATHENA.MIT.EDU
Date:   8 January 1995
Subject:   Re: Defensing the Backgame.
Google:   3eprbt$125@senator-bedfellow.MIT.EDU

> Lately I have been in a losing streak where I can't seem  to manage to
> win no matter what, but, I have noticed that back games have been beating
> me almost every time I play against one.
> It seems my opponents have been very capable of keeping excellent timing
> every time they go into a backgame. I have no idea what to do about this.
> I try to play slower, but it doesn't seem to help.  What should I do?

Backgames themselves are pretty complicated, and likewise the defense
against them is pretty complicated.  Are you losing to deep multi-point
backgames, like a 1-2-3 backgame?  Or to a more common games like a 1-2,
1-3, or 2-3?  Or a split backgame, like a 1-7, 1-5, etc?

Whether or not you should be hitting more checkers depends on a lot of
factors.  Generally, hitting more checkers gives you more gammons and
backgammons in exchange for a few extra losses.  If you only have 2
points to go in the match and the cube is already turned, you might not
want to hit more... but if you're way behind, the gammons and BGs might
be of extra value.

Keep in mind that "a point cleared is a point not to be feared."
Though you usually want to "clear from the rear and don't ask
questions," sometimes you want to clear a point that's in direct range
of your opponent's points (like the 7pt) while you still have outfield
checkers or points.

You're more interested in blocking points that have spares on them than
you are in blocking ponts that don't have spares.  (Generally, you want
your opponent to have to give up one or more of the anchors as you're
ready to start bearing off... on the other hand, you don't want your
opponent to be able to recirculate checkers.

If the cube's been turned already, a backgame is going to be a long
game, so you want to take extra care not to bury checkers and put them
out of play.

Maybe you're doing all these things and just getting unlucky.  Once in a
7pt match I lost 3 doubled games when my opponent had ace point games,
and I don't think I was doing anything really wrong -- it just happened
that way.

Without seeing a position or a game I can't give any specific advice.
Hopefully if any of my generalities are wrong, one of the better players
here will correct them.  (Hi Kit, Walter, et al! *grin*)  Of course,
knowing when to apply the general rule and when to break it is important

-michael j zehr
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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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