To the casual observer there would seem to be no logical way in which a game of backgammon develops from the starting position. However upon closer scrutiny , much like in chess, there are several different strategies one can use when playing backgammon. There are 8 defined types of strategy or game,
- Running Game (or Race)
- High Anchor
- Mutual Holding Game
- Low Anchor
- Prime versus Prime
- Back Game
Occasionally there is a game that does not fall under one of the specific strategies above , however in 97% of the games played this is not the case. In order to be a good backgammon player it is essential that one has an understanding of all the ‘basic backgammon strategies”.
It is important not only to understand how to develop a game into one of these particular types but also to, once having achieved this, to know how to play each positional type and the associated doubling strategies. This last point is particularly important as the understanding of the correct doubling strategies will gain you far more points than the understanding of how to move the checkers.
Of the eight types, by far the easiest is the running game and the easiest example of this is where both sides start by rolling 65 twice and run both their back checkers out to their mid-points – as shown below. After this there will be no more contact between the two armies and the winner will be the side that rolls the highest numbers on the dice.
A high anchor game is one where you have moved your back checkers at least as far as your mid-point whilst your opponent still holds either your 4pt, 5pt or bar point. An example of this is shown in the position below.
Mutual Holding Game
A mutual holding game is one where both sides have a high anchor (a high anchor is one of three points, your opponent’s 4pt, 5pt or bar point). This position occurs after the sequence: Red 43: 24/20, 13/10; Black 66: 24/18(2), 13/7(2); Red 43: 24/20, 13/10.
A low anchor game can occur in many different ways but is characterised by one player holding his opponent’s 1,2 or 3 point whilst the opponent has escaped his back checkers. The position below is a typical low anchor game where black has escaped his back checkers and red is trapped on black’s ace point.
The blitz is the most volatile of all the game types. A blitz is characterised by one player desperately trying to get an anchor in his opponent’s home board whilst his opponent does everything he can to prevent it. The position below is typical of the early stages of a blitz where red has split his checkers with a 52 played 13/8, 24/22 and black has replied with 55, played 8/3(2)*, 6/1(2)* putting two red checkers on the bar.
Prime vs. Prime
Prime against prime is characterised by both players having one or more of his opponent’s checkers trapped behind a blockade of 4, 5 or 6 points. Prime vs. prime games require fine judgement and are amongst the most difficult of all backgammon game types to play. In a blitz, once you have started it, most of the moves are clear, in a prime v prime each individual move will require much more thought.
The position shown below is a typical prime vs. prime game with both players having two checkers trapped behind 5-point primes.
The backgame game is when you hold two or more points in your opponent’s home board, usually as a result of lots of blots being hit. Now an excellent piece of advice: DO NOT play back games at all costs. When they go well they are wonderful, but if you lose, then you are likely to lose either a gammon or a backgammon.
The position below shows a typical back game where red is playing the back game by holding black’s 1-pt and 2-pt. As we shall see in future articles which two points you hold in your opponent’s home board are critical to the likely success, or not, of your back game.
Last but not least comes the Scramble. This type of position normally occurs after one player has been hit whilst bearing off and is then trying to ‘scramble’ the hit checker back to the safety of his home board. Such a position is shown below where black is trying to scramble home his checker on red’s bar-point.
The vast majority of backgammon games will evolve into one of these eight game types. Many games develop from one type to another, for example, a back game often evolves into a scramble, or a blitz may evolve into a low anchor or high anchor game.