To hit or not to hit that is the question
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To hit or not to hit that is the question!. A Backgammon Quiz by Paul Lamford. Black plays anti-clockwise and is at the bottom. Have a pen and paper to hand to write down your 3 choices in order.

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To hit or not to hit that is the question!

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To hit or not to hit that is the question!

A Backgammon Quiz


Paul Lamford

Black plays anti-clockwise and is at the bottom.Have a pen and paper to hand to write down your 3 choices in order.

Position 1 QuestionPips 157-146 Score 0-0 in a 5-point match Black to play 2-1 a) 24/22 6/5b) 9/7 8/7c) 6/4*/3

Position 2 QuestionPips 133-95 Score 0-0 in a 7-point match Black to play 2-1 a) 6/3*b) 9/7 8/7 c) 10/8 6/5

Position 3 QuestionPips 94-84 3-3 in a 5-point match Black to play 6-1a) 9/3 9/8b) 18/12 5/4*c) 18/12 6/5

Position 4 QuestionPips: 24-10 Score 2-4 Crawford in a 5-point match Black to play 4-3 a) 5/1* 5/2*b) 4/1* 4/0c) 4/0 3/0

Position 5 QuestionPips 153-110 Score 0-0 in a 5-point match Black to play 6-5a) b/14*b) b/20 13/7c) b/20 8/2*

Position 6 QuestionPips 86-100 Score 3-4 to White Crawford Black to play 6-2a) 11/5* 7/5b) 24/18 7/5*c) 24/18 11/9

Written down all your answers in your order of preference?

Ok – roll on for the answers and comments!

Position 1 AnswerThe first priority here is to anchor, as White has the stronger board and will be very pleased to hit on the 3-point if he can. It must then be better to slot the more valuable 5-point, as this also unstacks the heavier point, Black's 6-point. Making the bar loses the valuable 9-point and leaves a direct shot so is wrong. The hitting play 6/4* has to be followed by the ugly 4/3 or by exposing another checker, so is wrong here.

  • 24/22 6/5 -0.236 10 marks

  • 6/4*/3 -0.365 5 marks

  • 9/7 8/7 -0.466 2 marks. The last is the sixth best play!

Position 2 AnswerContainment is the order of the day here, but waiting for the opponent to break the five-prime is important too. Hitting off the edge of Black's prime is usually good but not here, despite many poor re-entry numbers. The right idea is 9/7 8/7, making a solid 4-prime, and threatening to complete a 6-prime. White has a shot, it is true, but if he does not roll a five, he will soon break on the other side. 6/3* is the third best play (9/7 6/5 comes second, also threatening to make a 6-prime). If Black does hit, he may buy time to escape, and if he merely enters he will also be threatening to jump. Finally the solid 10/8 6/5 is not right. Although it leaves no shots, it does not address the issue of building a six-prime, which, with the cube in play, can be a lethal threat.

  • 9/7 8/7 0.336 10 marks

  • 6/3* 0.206 5 marks

  • 10/8 6/5 0.150 3 marks.

Position 3 AnswerOh dear, not the time to roll this six. Still, we own the cube and cannot lose a gammon. Desperate measures are called for and clearly correct is the "banana split" 18/12 5/4* at least giving our opponent 16 bad numbers. There is no life after death, however, as being hit is curtains. Some hope after being hit is offered by 18/12 6/5, but the upside is less. Finally 9/3 9/8 buries a checker - to be avoided at double match-point where we have to play the game to the end.

  • 18/12 5/4* -0.294 10 marks

  • 18/12 6/5 -0.334 7 marks

  • 9/3 9/8 -0.387 4 marks.

Position 4 AnswerA different priority here; backgammon the ba….., but don't lose whatever you do! The gammon is of slight but negligible value at this score (it only saves a free pass). And the best two plays do win 13.5% backgammons. Last is bearing two off, as the 27 shots it leaves are just too big a price to pay. I played the flashy 5/1* 5/2* but the problem is that even the very best result (White dancing) leaves about as much clearing up as after a Kate Moss party, and the difference, surprisingly is that the player loses about 2% more games! Backgammon is not a beauty contest, and the simple 4/o 4/1* is correct.

  • 4/0 4/1* 1.304 10 marks

  • 5/1* 5/2* 1.262 7 marks

  • 4/0 3/0 1.145 2 marks.

Position 5 AnswerWell we rolled the five we wanted to, didn't we; now don't be ungrateful to the dice gods by hitting. Keep that anchor! If you hit, then most twos and ones leave you in trouble again. Hitting on the deuce-point is the wrong idea as well. Priming not attacking is the right plan. Slotting the bar with the awkward six assists that goal, and having a spare on the mid-point and eight-point fits in well.

  • b/20 13/7 -0.166 10 marks

  • b/14* -0.221 6 marks

  • b/20 8/2* -0.251 3 marks.

Position 6 AnswerA tough one to finish. I jumped out and hit loose. When Snowie bleeped me I was not surprised; I guessed that 11 shots were too big a price to pay. But the rollout vindicated my choice. The motto is "sixes do not grow on trees". Making the five-point and jumping out at the back and hitting loose win about the same number of games. But the loose hit wins more gammons. And not hitting on the five-point is a clear error. If White gets a five he is well back in the game, so assume he doesn't.

  • 24/18 7/5* 1.088 10 marks

  • 11/5* 7/5 1.050 8 marks

  • 24/18 11/9 0.907 3 marks.

Thank you to Paul.

  • First prize a copy of Starting Out in Backgammon.

    Won by Chris Bickerton

  • Second prize a Backpacker Backgammon T-Shirt.

    Won by Zoe Cunningham and Sue Keeble


  • Snowie rollouts available by sending an email to Mark your heading MMM Quiz.

  • Paul Lamford 12th November 2005

  • Event: Backgammon Live in London 2005

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