What’s the best way to quickly improve your backgammon skills? Cube actions, Doubling theory, Strategy theory?
It’s improving your opening game! Why?
Almost every single game you will play the first 2-3 rolls.
This means that you have a risk of losing equity quickly if you don’t have solid knowledge of the opening game. It all adds up in the long run.
This article gives you a few fast rules to learn that will instantly improve your game and win more matches. If you want to master the opening game like a Grand Master check out our Official Backgammon Galaxy ebook here: The 2nd Roll
These tips apply to the 2nd roll and are references to different ways the 1st roll has been played:
When the opponent has made an inner board point, you should always use a double to make an advanced anchor (Expect with 11).
This rule could be easily explained by referring to rule number 7 and the doublet rules, but I’m going to make a few additional remarks. The main theme here is to neutralize the opponent’s early prime position, by making an advanced anchor. The deeper the point is, the less need there is to advance the back anchor.
With 22 in a similar situation, we should make the strong 4-point after making the anchor. With 33 and 44 we should make a quiet but robust play by bringing two down from the midpoint (a deeper explanation can be found below in the doublet rules).
You should always counter slot with 21 (optional to split), 51 counter slots except against 21: (24/22, 6/5), rolls containing a 2 must be slotted against 51: (13/8, 6/5) - due to duplication of 3s and only two builders, 11 always make two points except against 41: (13/9, 6/5), 31 always hits, the running rolls should be run (except when the first roll 21 is played (13/11, 6/5) and the 2nd roll is 63). Match play: If you’re behind you should make the reverse split with 63 against 21.
This rule contains a lot of concepts, but let’s keep it simple and look at the counter slotting moves (I’m only going to explain counter slotting even though splitting is just as good).
In general, the main reasons to slot is when we’re 1) in a race deficit, 2) there’s duplication going on or 3) if the opponent has a blotty position. In the example above the opponent has two blots lying around, allowing us to play freely. If we slot he has to roll a joker to both hit and make the 5-point, which he has only a 17 % chance of doing.
Counter slotting against a 51-slot with 2-rolls shows the strength of duplication. Here the opponent has even fewer chances to both hit and make the 5-point, in fact only 11 % percent of the time. If the opponent does hit without covering the slot we're probably able to hit him back from the bar.
Unless there’s another obvious play, you should hit from the midpoint, including hitting with 53, 54, 62, 63, 64 (and thereby not making points with 53 and 64).
Initiative is important in the early game because both players fight for the key points, these being mainly the 4 and 5-point on both sides of the board. If we don’t hit and instead make the 2-point we allow the opponent to anchor or escape and nullify the blitzing value of the 2-point. If the opponent has not split making the 2-point acts as a deterrent to split, but when the opponent has already done this it’s senseless making the point, since we’re probably not getting a chance to attack on the next roll. Running all the way is too passive since it allows the opponent to anchor, make a new inner board point, or hit. Also, the opponent has extra hitting numbers from the split checkers and not only from the midpoint.
Do you want to learn even more about the opening game? We have created an extensive ebook on opening game rules. After reading the ebook you will be able to master the opening game like a Grand Master. You can get it from our shop right here: The 2nd Roll