Opening moves in backgammon – Part IV

In this the final part of our series on opening moves or rolls in backgammon we are going to be looking at the following rolls.

52, 64 and 54

These are rolls on which there is no wide agreement on how to play them, as usual we will be discussing and illustrating the various ways to play them and discuss the positives and negatives of each possible play.

52

This is one of the worst opening rolls in the game. We will ignore 13/6 as it does not improve blacks position and does nothing to achieve any of the objectives we aim to achieve when opening in backgammon.

With this roll there are only 2 real alternatives 13/8 and 13/11 as shown below

backgammon-opening-moves-partIV-01

This move will unstack the mid-point and bring a builder into play on the 11 point. Not as useful as a builder on the 10 or 9 point but on the positive side it can only be taken out by red if he rolls a 64.

The second option available is to split your back checkers by playing 13/8 and 24/22

backgammon-opening-moves-partIV-02

This moved wasnt played for a long time as players were afraid of being hit by double 5 or double 3 rolls from their opponent. However as these are only 2 possible rolls out of 36 this split works well as it can deter red from freely creating builders in his outer board.

The building play 13/8 and 13/11 on average leads to more complex games than 13/8 and 24/22 which often creates a mutual high anchor game.

Computer analysis will show the 13/8, 24/22 move as a small favorite.

54

This roll has three possible alternatives of which one is almost never played anymore , namely the running option of 24/15.

backgammon-opening-moves-partIV-03

This is not a bad play, it is just that the other 2 plays are much better alternatives.

13/8 and 13/9 is the building play

backgammon-opening-moves-partIV-04

This is not the strongest building play of all the building plays we have looked at, but in backgammon you are faced with what the dice roll. If black does not get hit he has a good chance of establishing a new point on the next roll.

The last option is to slot your opponents 5 point by playing 13/8 and 24/20

backgammon-opening-moves-partIV-05

We look at this as battling for your opponent’s 5 point.. Red will hit the blot with most 1’s and 3’s,in return leaving his own blot if he has to. The importance of the two 5-points in the early stages of the game is so high that both sides should take risks to establish them. An example of this is if red rolls 53 in response to the split play then his correct move is 13/5* instead of 8/3, 6/3.

64

The simplest option with this roll is to play the running option with 24/14. This is much like the option we looked at in our other article detailing the 6/2 and 6/3 options.

backgammon-opening-moves-partIV-06

In the case of 64 running is a slightly better option than running with 62 and 63. In this case there are only 11 numbers that red can hit on and if the blot is not hit it is a stronger builder than in the earlier cases.

An argument for not playing this move is the fact that black will have to take time to move the checker to safety next turn.

Option number two to is to play the split, 24/18 and 13/9

backgammon-opening-moves-partIV-07

As is the case with 62 and 63 this can lead to complicated games with lots of early hitting. The better player should select this option as playing the running move will lead to pretty straightforward game play.

The third option is to create the 2 point by playing 8/2 and 6/2.

backgammon-opening-moves-partIV-08

Is it wrong to establish a point in your home board this early?. Standard backgammon theory tells us that it is a) too early in the game and b) that the 8 and 2 points cannot be in the same prime, so why play this move ?

If you look back at backgammon theory over the course of time, then a century ago this would have been a popular move. When Jellyfish came out it recommended making the 2 point. Snowie came into existence and said to play 24/12. Later versions of this analysis software said 24/18 and 13/9 was the way to go.

What is the play to make in this case? Nobody seems to be certain, as with all the options in this article we recommend taking the option that suits both your style of play and takes into account the strength of your opponent.