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Backgammon opening moves, a simple list

Last updated on September 27, 2021

Beginner’s guide. How to play backgammon.

In a previous Deluxe Backgammon post, we went into detail about the best opening moves in backgammon. This is a far simpler guide for backgammon beginners that will allow you to immediately begin playing with the best opening moves, without going into extreme detail. For the most part, these opening moves have been confirmed as the best by computerised rollouts. If you follow these backgammon opening moves it is statistically proven that you will win more games.

To start the game, each player throws a single die. This determines both the player to go first and the numbers to be played. If equal numbers come up, then both players roll again until they roll different numbers. The player throwing the higher number now moves their checkers according to the numbers shown on both dice. Because we exclude doubles from the opening roll there are fifteen possible opening dice rolls.

2 – 1

Split your back checkers (24/23) and bring one checker down (13/11). Alternatively, if you wish to gamble, slotting your 5-point (6/5) and bringing one down (13/11) is another option. 

3 – 1

This is the best opening roll. You should secure your 5 point (8/5), (6/5). Do not consider any other moves for this roll.

3 – 2

Split your back checkers 3 (24/21) and bring a checker down from the midpoint (13/11). 

4 – 1

Split the back checkers (24/23) and bring one checker down from the midpoint (13/9). Alternatively, if you wish to gamble, slotting your 5-point (6/5) and bringing one down (13/9) is another option. 

4 – 2

The best move is to secure your 4 point (8/4, 6/4).

4 – 3

There are a number of reasonable rolls to consider for a 4-3, however, we will just look at the best based on the results of a computerised rollout. The (13/10,13/9) brings down two builder blots that can be used to form points further along the board on subsequent rolls. 

5 – 1

Split the back checkers (24/23) and bring one checker down from the midpoint (13/8). Alternatively, if you wish to gamble, slotting your 5-point (6/5) and bringing one down (13/8) is another option. 

5 – 2

The (24/22, 13/8) move has the best results based on the computerised rollout. It splits the back pair, leaving them relatively unlikely to be hit, but in position to form an advanced anchor.  

5 – 3

The best move is to secure your 3-point (8/3, 6/3).

5 – 4

The best option for this roll, based on rollouts, is (24-20, 13-8). It’s a balanced play, creating opportunities on both sides of the board.

6 – 1

The second-best opening roll. The only option worth considering is to secure your bar point (13/7, 8/7).

6 – 2

The (24-18, 13-11) is by far the most popular move for this roll. This is because it tries to advance checkers on both sides of the board.

6 – 3

The (24-18, 13-10) is by far the most popular move for this roll. This is because it tries to advance checkers on both sides of the board. 

6 – 4

Computerised rollouts confirm that the best move is to make your 2-point (8/2, 6/2).

6 – 5

Rollouts confirm that the best move is to run one of your back checkers to the midpoint (24/18, 18/13). This move is known as the Lovers Leap.

Read about the general principles for replying to these opening moves.

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