Last updated on October 17, 2023
In this Deluxe Backgammon post for beginners, we take a closer look at the 6-2 opening move. This is considered one of the more awkward opening moves as it doesn’t secure a point and inevitably leaves from one to three blots. For many beginners, terrified of leaving blots, this is one of the most intimidating opening rolls. There are three common ways to play this move
24/16 (running a back checker).
The 24/16 is a running play where one of the back checkers is moved forward 8 pips to the 16-point. The idea is to move this checker to safety on your next roll assuming it isn’t hit. This play is great if it works. However, your opponent will have the opportunity to hit on 14 out of 36 rolls (39%). If you are hit, you will lose 9 pips in the race with a checker on the bar. Re-entering shouldn’t be a problem unless you roll 6-6 (3%), but your opponent now has a builder on the 16-point which is ideal for securing a home board point on their next roll. Playing the 24/16 opening is all about chance. However, for many players, the gain from running is not enough to justify the risk of being hit.
13/5 (slotting play).
The 13/5 is an aggressive slotting play. Slotting involves moving a single checker to a vacant point with the intention of securing it with another checker on a subsequent roll. Slotting is a risky backgammon tactic. However, it is the fastest way to secure points on the board. This move aims to secure the important five-point on the next roll. If your slot is not hit, you can secure the 5-point with any 1, 3, or 8 (66%) on the next roll. The issue with slotting the 5-point is that if you are hit you lose 20 pips in the race and have a checker on the bar. Is it worth the risk?
The problem with slotting the 5-point is that your opponent wants to secure that point as an advanced anchor and they will take any chance to hit it. Even if they leave a blot on the 5-point after hitting, it is worth their while as a return doesn’t cost them much in the race. The five-point is certainly valuable. However, the problem with slotting the 5-point is that it brings down a checker from the mid-point, which is more useful being a builder in your outer board. The checkers on the over-stacked 6-point are better used to slot the 5-point. That is why slotting the 5-point with opening rolls of 2-1, 4-1 or 5-1 is preferred to the 6-2.
24/18, 13/11 (splitting to the opponent’s bar-point and bringing down a builder from the mid-point).
This 24/18, 13/11 play is a solid move because it develops both sides of the board. It splits the back checkers and brings a builder down from the heavily stacked mid-point. The 24/18 moves one of the back checkers up to your opponent’s bar-point. If it is not hit, you will hopefully secure the bar-point on the next turn. Otherwise, you can run the same checker forward to a secure position.
The bar-point is one of the key points on the board so your opponent will be looking to secure it early in the game. However, they may be reluctant to attack the blot unless they hit and secure the point with a 6-1. If they hit and leave a blot, they risk being hit on return and lose a lot of ground in the race. The checker on the bar-point also provides an attacking option in the outer board for any builders your opponent may bring in from their mid-point.
The 13/11 move brings a builder down from the heavily stacked mid-point into your outer board. This provides an attacking option in your outer board and also acts as a builder to secure a point in a subsequent turn. It is a reasonably safe place to leave a blot because only a roll of 6-4 (6%) can hit it.
The checker on the opponent’s bar-point and the builder brought down from the mid-point creates an increased presence on both your outer and inners boards. This limits your opponent’s options on subsequent turns. Overall, this play provides a balanced option and is generally the preferred move for the modern player.
The splitting play, 24/18, 13/11, comes out best in the XG Mobile Backgammon rollout. The 24/16 running play comes out next best. The 13/5 slotting option is the third-placed option in the rollout. New players should experiment with all three plays to determine which option they are most suits their style of play. Aggressive players will probably favour the 13/5. Defensive players will choose the 24/18, 13/11.