Backgammon: Primers for Strategies

Backgammon essentially boils down to race. Players move their checkers around the board and bear them all off. So every strategy for backgammon translates to finishing the game first in every way possible.

The most basic of these strategies is not to leave a blot (a single checker) on a point because blots are vulnerable to getting hit by an enemy checker. On the other hand, it is a lot safer to have two or more checkers on a point, which can also be used to trap or block an enemy checker.

Another basic strategy, although less obvious, is the idea that it isn’t always a straight line when crossing the short distances of two points. What this means is that you should prefer not exposing a blot to sacrificing a hit just to reach a point first.

With these two basic primers in mind, we can now expound on more strategies:

On Distribution. You should always divide your checkers evenly around the board. That means you increase your betting odds of winning if you have 3 checkers each on separate points. This would work best than having 4 checkers on one side and only 2 in the other. Worse, if you have 6 checkers in one point and none on the others. With a balanced checker distribution, you would appear to be luckier with the dice because of the flexibility of movement.

  • On Exposure. Try to establish your defense and/or offense early in the game by leaving shots. Get as many points in your outer board (opponent’s home board) so that you could play bolder. And if this is so, limit your blots to a maximum of four.
  • On Priming and on Blocking. Prevent your opponent’s checkers from escaping by building points in front of them and with no gaps. Your blockade should be built as early as possible. The best blockades are in points 5, 4, and 7. If you have several consecutive points, you have a prime that cripples your opponent’s escape plans.
  • On Hitting. Hit an opponent’s checker who you think is gunning for cover of an important point. Remember, hitting is a matter of taking advantage. And so taking an advanced checker is the best one to hit. On the other hand, when you have two opposing checkers on the bar, make a point on your home board then hit the third checker. Avoid hitting if it will only make you vulnerable to your opponent. Lastly, when in doubt about whether to hit or not to hit, just hit.
  • On Anchoring. To anchor is to capture a point in your opponent’s home board. Look at anchoring as your Normandy in attacking your enemy. As much as possible, build your anchor on high points like 20 and 21. And if you plan to have two anchors build them on adjacent points.

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