Last updated on July 19, 2022
In this Deluxe backgammon post for beginners, we take a look at making or securing points. In backgammon, the concept of breaking contact is to move past the last of the opponent’s checkers, so that no further hitting is possible. At this point, the game becomes a pure race and the tactics are limited. It is all about who has the greatest lead or who rolls the best dice. However, prior to breaking contact, there are a number of tactics available on each move. Players have to decide between hitting, racing, slotting, splitting, moving builders and securing or making points. The player needs to choose which of these tactics apply to the current strategy and the state of the game.
Making or securing points
A secure point is one that is occupied by two or more checkers of the same colour. It is called secure because those checkers cannot be hit and sent to the bar. In many cases, the safety aspect is a good enough reason to secure a point. However, a secure point confers several other benefits.
A secure point becomes a safe landing place for checkers on subsequent moves. This is of great benefit as a safe checker cannot be hit. However, a common beginner’s mistake in backgammon is playing overly safe and creating stacks of checkers known as towers or candlesticks. In the middle stages of a game, it is not unusual to see a beginner with all of their checkers stacked on three or four points. This lack of distribution means that each roll has a limited set of plays available. This creates a lack of flexibility and forms an illusion of poor luck. A general rule of thumb is to keep no more than four checkers on a point at any one time.
As well as being a safe haven for your own checkers, a secure point also creates a barrier for your opponent’s checkers. Since your opponent cannot land on a secure point, the only way to get past the obstacle is to roll high enough to leap over the point. A single point may not seem to be much of a barrier, but a series of them can become impassable. Adjacent secure points are known as a prime. The longer the prime becomes, the harder it is to pass. The ideal prime is the six-prime, although seven-primes are possible. Any of your opponent’s checkers behind a six-prime become trapped and cannot pass. Priming is an important strategy to understand in backgammon.
Location, location, location
Secure points anywhere on the board are beneficial in most circumstances. However, some locations have more value than others. A secure point in your opponent’s home board gives you a safe place to land should you be hit. Ideally, it would occupy your opponent’s 4 or 5-points creating an advanced anchor. It also limits your opponent’s ability to build an effective prime. Secure points in either of the outer boards provide a safe place to land and provide building material for subsequent moves.
Secure points within your home board are particularly valuable. Especially the 5-point which, along with the opponent’s 5-point, is considered the most important on the board. Secure home board points not only provide a safe place to land but can also prevent your opponent’s checkers from re-entering from the bar. Secure points on the 1 and 2-points, unless part of a six-prime, are the least valuable. This is because they are so deep in the board that they are effectively out of the game until bearing off begins.
Backgammon at Wikipedia.