Brown trails Yellow 3-4/5, and must play 6-1

This week’s problem comes from a critical moment during the last game of a 5-point match.  Brown has survived the Crawford game and immediately cubed in this game making this effectively a double-match-point or “DMP”.  Whoever wins this game will win the match and therefore gammons and backgammons become irrelevant, and the cube serves no further purpose.  With this 6-1, Brown has many interesting choices:


This play could be very tempting as it accomplishes two important objectives, escaping a checker from behind yellow’s five prime and hitting a checker.  However, it abandons the important 22-point anchor for the moment.


Escaping a checker and retaining the 22-point anchor has merits but it does leave a direct 1-shot for yellow to hit on the 16-point.


This is the imaginative play which creates a second backgame anchor on the 22 point and slots the prime.  It may look attractive for the moment, but brown simply doesn’t have the proper timing to play this type of game.  Backgames can generate many shots during the opponent’s bear-off but are most effective when the hit checker can be contained.  In this case, brown’s front position may be too advanced by the time the shots are generated to exact any real damage to yellow.


With the bar point secured, brown traps the two yellow back checkers and still has some time to hold the five-prime with the flexibility of being able to play the extra checker on the mid-point.  Brown will now escape yellow’s prime with any six, even at the expense of giving up an anchor.  Brown’s prime kills much of yellow’s flexibility and Yellow may be forced to dismantle his own prime without being able to escape the rear checkers. An Extreme Gammon analysis of this position confirms that Brown wins the match at least 10% more often by making his bar point (13/7,8/7) than with any of the alternative plays.