Last updated on November 1, 2023
In this Deluxe Backgammon post for beginners, we are going to explore the options for the 4-3 opening move. It is an interesting opening because there are a number of very reasonable ways to play this roll. There are five viable options, we will take a look at each of these in turn. This is the last in our series of guides on the opening rolls. The other posts can be found in the Playing Guides section.
The five most popular ways to play the 4-3 opening roll are:
24/21, 13/9, splitting the back checkers and bringing a builder down from the mid-point.
24/20, 13/10, splitting the back checkers and slotting the 20-point, plus bringing down a builder from the mid-point.
13/10, 13/9, bringing down two builders from the mid-point.
24/21, 24/20, splitting the back checkers and slotting the 20-point.
13/9, 8/5, slotting the 5-point and bringing down a builder from the mid-point.
We will take a look at the pros and cons of each of these moves in turn.
This is a balanced approach, splitting and building. It develops both sides of the board. In this move you are slotting the 21-point, hoping to be able to secure an advanced anchor on the next roll. However, the ideal advanced anchor is the 20-point, therefore this move is focused on having a builder in a deeper position in your outside board. The builder is outside of the range of a direct hit, so it is relatively safe. Ideally, the builder will be used on the next roll to secure a home board point.
This is very similar to the 24/21, 13/9 move. It develops both sides of the board. However, in this instance, the focus is on the 20-point as the ideal advanced anchor. The builder on the 10-point is relatively safe being out of range of a direct hit. However, it has slightly less reach into your home board than a checker on the 9-point. One thing that can be certain is your opponent will be after their 5-point and will hit your checker sitting on the 20-point at every opportunity.
This play is all about bringing down two builders to quickly build a barricade in subsequent rolls to lock in your opponent’s back checkers. There is a risk of being hit, but it is minimal since both blots are outside the range of a direct hit. Additionally, there is no roll that would allow your opponent to hit both of these checkers. If neither blot is hit, they are in an excellent position to allow you to secure the bar-point, 5-point, or 4-point. Otherwise, you may be able to bring down the spare checker on the mid-point to cover one of these blots.
This is an interesting move because it splits both of the back checkers. Ideally, you would be looking to secure the opponent’s 20-point on the next roll. The downside of the move is that it is only developing one side of the board. It is normally advisable to develop both sides of the board to create greater flexibility on subsequent rolls.
This move involves bringing a builder down from the mid-point and slotting the 5-point. It is a high-risk play, as your opponent wants to capture your 5-point just as much as you do. Any opportunity to hit the blot on the 5-point will be taken. As per the 24/21, 24/20 move, the downside of this play is that it is only developing one side of the board. Of course, if the blot is missed and the 5-point is secured the gamble will have paid off.
According to XG Mobile Backgammon rollouts, all of these options are very close and conceivably any could be the correct move depending on the state of the match. However, in order of straight-out win percentages, the moves are ranked as:
24/21, 13/9 49.9%
24/20, 13/10 49.9%
13/10, 13/9 49.9%
24/21, 24/20 49.7%
13/9, 8/5 48.4%
Note: the top three rolls have the same win percentage, XG Mobile Backgammon ranks them according to the likelihood of winning by a Gammon or Backgammon. 24/21, 13/9 comes out slightly on top.
The 24/21, 13/9, is definitely Deluxe Backgammon’s favourite play, but as the rollouts suggest, there is not much between any of these opening moves. Practice them all, and determine, which is your preferred option, based on the score in the match. If you are risk-averse, the 13/9, 8/5, is likely to be the least preferred option, but make your decision on your style of play.
Backgammon opening theory at Wikipedia.