Opening Rolls

Forum Archive : Opening Rolls

Opening 53: Why make the three point?

From:   Kit Woolsey
Date:   15 February 1996
Subject:   Re: 5-3 opening roll.

> Why is making the 3 point with a 5-3 stronger than bringing up builders?
> It essentially kills your chances of building a solid prime against your
> opponent.  Admittedly it gives you a second point in your home board but
> ...

In the late 1970's, a majority of the experts were playing 13/10, 13/8
with an opening 5-3.  The emphasis was on playing purely, and going to
the three point seemed too deep.

Since then the tide has shifted.  Now almost all experts make the three
point with an opening 5-3.  There are several reasons.

1) A point is a point.  Just making an second inner board point increases
an opponent's chances of flunking when hit from 1/36 to 1/9.

2) The three point is part of a potential full prime from the three point
to the eight point.

3) Playing 13/10, 13/8 starts to strip the midpoint very early, which can
lead to awkwardness later on.

4) The blot on the ten point gets hit with 5-4 and 6-3.  Since these are
otherwise very unproductive responses, the cost when the opponent rolls
one of them is quite severe.

5) The builder on the ten point is not functioning fully due to
duplication -- it is two away from the men on the eight point, while the
men on the eight point are two away from the men on the six point.  This
means that followup rolls of 3-1 and 5-3 both make two decent points.

If you stylistically still like bringing the builders down, go for it.
However computer rollouts have consistently indicated that the play is
considerably inferior to making the three point, which is the same
conclusion experts came to over the past decade without the computers.


Daniel Murphy  writes:

First, the difference in value between the two plays (making the 3-point,
or playing two checkers from the midpoint) is not large, so it's not
surprising that over the years expert opinion has swung back and forth
between the two plays. The current consensus is
that making the 3-point is best.  Computer programs such as Jellyfish,
TD-Gammon and Expert BG agree (which should be viewed not as directing
expert opinion but as confirming it; note that experts have *not* rushed
to adopt all the favorite openings of the programs, such as the 43 and
32 rolls, which the programs tend to play as building moves and experts
tend to play as splitting moves).

Second, making the 3-point does *not* kill your chances of priming
your opponent; it *does* tend to direct your efforts to filling in the
5-point and 4-point  -- points you usually want to make anyway -- in
order to make your 3-point even stronger.

You start the game with two points of a potential prime already
made -- your 8- and 6-points. Your 3-point works well with these points,
since all three points can become members of the same prime.

Theoretically, you could build a prime starting all the way out at the
11-point, but the lower primes (8-4, 8-3, 7-3, 7-2 are usually better.
They are easier to make (because you have more builders to make them with)
and tend to be more effective, because they force your opponent to stay
anchor on a low point. The endgame result is that *when* the back checkers
finally escape, they'll escape later in the game and have farther to go to
get home. Outside primes (extending from the 11- to 6-points, or 10- to
5-points) are often ineffective, because the endgame result is likely to
find you well behind in the race, struggling to break up your prime, bring
10 checkers into your home board, avoid leaving shots, and still manage to
keep your opponent's last two checkers from galloping on home.

Third, that second point you've made in your home board can be very
useful if your game turns into a blot hitting war. In such games, every
additional homeboard point you make greatly increases your opponent's
chance of fanning or having to play his rolls awkwardly.

Fourth, making the 3-point allows you to immediately put one of the extra
checkers on your 6-point to use.

Fifth, bringing two checkers from the midpoint leaves only one spare
checker there. Your midpoint is often a valuable point to keep until
quite late in the game; you want to be a little reluctant, at the game's
beginning, to lose the flexibility that midpoint spares give you.

(Example: Play 53 off the midpoint. Your next roll is 61, practically
forcing you to make the bar point. You now have no spares left on the
midpoint; you might very well wish you still had one spare left to
hit or point with, without having to give up the midpoint entirely.)

Sixth, although the 5-point is certainly more valuable than the 3-point,
a *made* 3-point is more valuable than a *potential* 5-point.

Finally, if memory serves, Paul Magriel didn't actually
recommend *either* play in his book. I would venture that how your
friends play the move depends very much on which move was most popular
when they first learned to play.
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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


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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