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The Initial Backgammon Moves

Andrew Polochkin The beginning of a game is a very important part of the game in a backgammon match. This part often determines who will take the lead in the game, and who will stubbornly defend. Of course, much depends on the dice. However, knowing the basic principles that should be followed early in the game, gives you the opportunity to place the checkers in the most efficient way, using the rolled combinations.

There are 15 different numbers combinations in total, which you can roll when starting a backgammon game. The probability of their occurrence is identical. Experienced backgammon players know well how to play each of these options. Players, who have played a lot, have already studied the advantages and disadvantages of each combination. The initial backgammon moves, listed herein, can be very helpful for beginners.

At the beginning of a game, it is important to keep the right balance between offense and defense. Backgammon attacking moves are:
  • Direct capture of the rival's checkers in your home area.
  • Accumulation of builders, needed for occupying points.
Backgammon protection moves include the following:
  • An arrangement of the rear checkers ("fugitives") so they can hold the opponent under control, not allowing him to quietly accumulate builders out there.
  • Positioning an advanced anchor in points 5 ("golden anchor") or 4, as this will be a strong counteraction, preventing a potential prime that can block your rear checkers.
  • The fastest occupation of points in your home area is the primary goal of the first backgammon moves. This will help obstruct the opponent's rear checkers escape, and with re-entering checkers that were hit throughout the game. To capture the perfect first points you need to roll 3-1 (best shot), 4-2 and 5-3. These rolls will allow you to block points 5, 4, or 3. It seems that a roll of 6-4 also allows you to block point 2, but it is preferable to implement this option, after capturing one of the "higher" points (such 5, 4, and 3). At the beginning of a backgammon game you better use this roll in a different way, as described below.

    If you cannot just block one of the key points in your home area, you should work to increase the chances for it to happen in your next move. For this purpose it is necessary to prepare builders. The builders are checkers, which can help the checkers located initially in points 6 and 8, to capture the most important points of 5, 4, 7, 3 (in order of importance). It is best to place the builders in locations, which are inaccessible to a direct hit of the rival's checkers. Such points are points 11, 10, 9. If, for example, the builder will be placed on point 9, one of the capture points, rolls 4-3, 5-4, 4-1, and 5-2, will be considered as 'successful rolls', on top of rolls 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3.

    To ensure a balance between offense and defense it is necessary to make an attack move, and another - for protection. For the initial rolls 6-2, 6-3, and 6-4, the best thing is to use the higher number for a long move with a back checker, trying to escape or to build an advanced anchor, and to use the lower number for removing checkers from the middle point, adding a new builder. When rolling 5-1, 4-1, or 5-2 you should do precisely the opposite.

    Division of rear checkers is not exactly a safe way to play backgammon, since these checkers are subjected to a blitz threat, but the benefits of such a move outweigh its disadvantages. Do not be afraid your back checker might be hit; there is a chance you might lose a little speed, but in most cases you will be able to install an anchor. Even while one checker is on a bar, you can establish a good anchor with the right roll of dice. For example, a roll of 4-3 or 5-4 will do the job; because of the value of the roll, 5-4 got a special name - "Barabino".

    Very successful first rolls are 6-1 and 6-5. The first one allows you to block the strategic point 7, often referred to as bar-point. A roll of 6-5 allows you to withdraw with one of the fugitives (back checkers) to a safe place, completing the so-called "lover leap" - 24/13.

    Try not to exceed with the security measures of checkers early in the game. If to avoid a strike you need to add a checker to a point, where there are already more than 4 checkers, you better not do so. As a result of such clumsy moves you will create high "candles", which are very difficult to disassemble later on; and, most importantly, concentration of checkers on a small number of points dramatically reduces your potential number of successful rolls.

    The most difficult rolls to play, when starting a backgammon game, are the ones, in which the value of the difference between the dice numbers equals to one - 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, and 5-4. These rolls allow several moves, approximately equal in strength. Therefore, a player must make a move aligned with its preferences by choosing from the following list of backgammon options - focusing efforts on the accumulation of builders, attempting to establish an advanced anchor, or preparing to flee the rear checkers.

    If during the initial stage of backgammon you have some good opportunities, but you cannot simultaneously achieve several goals, then you should choose your moves according to the following priorities (in descending order of importance):
    • Hit your opponent's checker in his home area;
    • Hit your opponent's checker in his outer home area;
    • Block a point in your home area.
    • Hitting your rival's single checker in your home area is considered to be a very aggressive backgammon game. This method is recommended when lagging in the score while playing a match or during a game against an inexperienced player, but only if the checker is located on points 4 or 5 and the opponent's home is free.

      It is best to decide in advance how to play backgammon under certain initial rolls and to try not to change this decision. This way, you will quickly collect the necessary experience in playing backgammon initial moves.

      This article provides only an overview of the principles of the beginning of a game. This topic is very extensive. For more information address special literature dealing with the theory of backgammon.
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