In this article we shall continue to look at the complexities of doubling by studying the position illustrated above. But before we do that we should take another look at the basic skills that you need to play backgammon well.
These are ;
Pattern Recognition – backgammon is to complex to analyse every position anew. You have to rely on your knowledge of the game that you have built up over time. When you are faced with a problem you call upon your experience and your mental model of the game. You make use of your store of reference positions so you can make a reasonable assessment of any new problem that you face. Without that storel of previous positions the game would be impossible and this explains why it will take a number of years to become a good player – you need to invest time building your reference library.
Arithmetic – it is impossible to become a good player without being able to do the basic arithmetic involved when calculating pip counts (although when playing backgammon online this is done for you) and counting shots. Good match players have to be able to make the match equity calculations.
Psychology – it is important to always remember that you are playing another human being. He/she will make errors of judgement and can be subject to psychological pressure particularly in situations where there is a threat of a gammon.
Of these factors the most important one is pattern recognition, making it critical to build your library of reference positions as quickly as you can . One way to do that is by studying and reading and that is why articles like this one can accelerate your learning. So what about this position? Should black double? Should white take?
Let us use our key criteria to examine the position:
Black is 7 pips ahead before the roll of the dice. A small advantage to black but there is a long way to go yet.
Both sides have two point home boards. Black’s is better because he has the 4-pt rather than the 2-pt. He also has his 8-pt and his bar-point and is only one point away from having a five point prime. White has lost his 8-pt but has his mid-point. Black has slotted his opponent’s 5-pt whilst white’s three checkers are in danger of being hemmed in. Whilst white’s structure is weak all his checkers are still in play so he should be able to improve his position. Overall – a fairly large advantage to black.
Black is threatening to immediately make both 5 points. If he can make his own 5-pt he will have be in a very powerful position – having virtually won the game. White has no immediate threats but one good roll, for example a small double, could improve his position. Overall the advantage lies with black.
The Opponent. This is a unknown in this particular position so we will assume both players will make ‘normal’ cube decisions.
Black is ahead in all three of the key elements so he should double. Does white have enough chances so that he can venture a take?
This is where the reference library and experience come in. Many players would give this up as white but in fact he has just enough structure to make this a take. A big point is that he holds an anchor in his opponent’s home board. This will give him chances throughout the game and save him from being gammoned (at least for a lot of the time). Those who have seen this type of position before will know it is a take. Those trying to work it out from first principles may well pass. Thus here we see the advantage of experience.
The Snowie rollouts confirm that black must double and that white has a close but correct take.