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0001 – Middle Game – Flexibility and Foresight


Score is 0-0 at this 11-point match. How should Black play its 6-4?

Here is some related information about this position: Pip count before the move is 175 for Black and 153 for White, therefore Black trails in the race. Cube is in the middle.

Below you will find the XG++ analysis of this move. Then you will see the blunder performed by a player over the board. After that there are explanations/annotations in two different styles. And finally, you will see the move that lead White to this position:

This position is stored in the position database with id 2966 where you can see the results of XG++ analysis. However for convenience, a screen snapshot of this position is provided below.




1) A Comment Relating to Life Issues
They say that “Your 5-point has strategic importance, therefore don’t let your opponent make it“, but there are exceptions to this. They say that “If you have more checkers back than your opponent has, play aggressive“, but this too has exceptions. If there are exceptions to every rule, it is necessary to understand the game more than we memorize it.

It is not possible to achieve something by hitting checkers in every move. Some moves can be preparations for later attacks. If we evaluate the situation from our opponent’s perspective, we can more easily decide which moves are to get ready and which moves are to attack.

2) A Comment More Seasoned with Reason
This problem can be approached at a strategic level. Since Black is behind in the race, it shouldn’t think of racing as a game plan but should also refrain from getting behind more if it doesn’t increase its hitting chances. There are two reasonable game plans for Black: Black needs to hit White to remedy its deficit in racing or it should block White. Since White is ahead in race, it will favor racing more and by anchoring it will continue with its racing plan. However, the position reached by the blunder made over the board is weak. It will cost White only 5 pips in the race but it will also incur a risk of getting hit with 20 numbers such that if it gets hit, it will lose 20 pips. Since this risk is worth 11 pips, Black will approximately lose 6 more pips in this exchange. Another set back of this hitting action will be leaving control of White’s inner board by moving out of 24-point. This might mean a future loss in Black’s hitting potential.

In this position, it is easy to find moves that looks thematically correct but in fact blunders. Above strategic approach to this problem can be tested at a tactical level. If Black make the correct move of buttoning up by making its 7-point, it will be difficult for White unless it throws a number totaling 4 like 3-1. Otherwise White will continue to have a blot. If Black makes the wrong move shown above and leaves its 24-point, it will give White some safe space to play behind with some of its numbers. Therefore, Black should button up and get ready for an attacking situation where White might not have an anchor. This means that Black will add another game plan available depending on the dice.

The lesson learned is that we need to test our candidate moves especially if our opponent’s flexibility is limited. Computer analysis programs do this with 2-ply and deeper simulation methods. Moves that look like thematically correct should be tested with such simulation analysis. We shouldn’t end our moves before testing our candidate moves and our opponent’s potential answers. This is one of the most important issues separating backgammon giants like Falafel from other players.

White must have played a terrible move before to reach such an inflexible position. When I checked the match recording, White actually did the following bigger blunder (0.241 blunder, meaning it is worth almost a quarter point) to reach this infertile situation. The smaller blunder (worth 0.097) Black performed by hitting and running its back checker somehow diluted White’s bigger blunder. Therefore it might be critical to optimize our gain from our opponent’s blunders by noticing what has just happened and playing our next move with maximum efficiency. In the real match after one exchange of moves, Black profited 0.144 points, however it could have gained 0.241 net.



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