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Backgammon – the six-prime

Last updated on November 13, 2020

Beginner’s guide. How to play backgammon.

This Deluxe Backgammon post is another in our series for absolute beginners. In this instance we take a look at six-primes.

The ultimate weapon in backgammon is the six-point prime. Four or five-primes are strong, and difficult to escape, but a six-prime is like a black hole, nothing can escape. It doesn’t matter how well you roll, you simply can’t roll high enough to leap over six-primes. It’s like a maximum-security prison, there is no way out. You simply must bide your time and wait. Eventually, the six-prime will disappear, your opponent cannot win the game and maintain the six-prime.

Six prime.

Closed board

If the six-prime closes your opponent’s home board and you are stuck on the bar, there is literally nothing you can do. You will lose turn after turn until your opponent starts bearing off. At that point it may be too late to rescue the game and luck is probably your only ally. However, if you are not on the bar, but just stuck behind the six-prime, all is not lost. Let’s take a look why.

Timing

When stuck behind a six-prime, you need to be patient and direct your attention elsewhere. There is one weakness of a six-prime and that is in the amount of checkers it takes to create. Each point needs at least two checkers to form the prime. That means 12 of 15 checkers are tied up in the six-prime. This leaves your opponent with only three checkers for further manoeuvring. Their options are limited especially if they are trying to maintain the prime.  This leaves you with a few turns to create a barricade of your own. Once the six-prime breaks down, it’s a new ball game, and the advantage can swing quickly, because your opponent can now find themselves with a timing disadvantage.

A rare 7-prime.

The ideal place for building a six-prime is obviously in your home board, particularly if you’ve managed to hit whilst building the prime. You can then take your time and you’re your remaining three checkers forward, hopefully deep within your home board. If you then carefully consider your bearing off strategy you will be a strong favourite to win.

Outer board primes

If you are building a prime outside of your home board be aware of your remaining checkers and try to keep them in the centre of the board as builders. Also be aware of your timing, you don’t want to be in a position where you are forced to break up your prime and a scattered trail of blots. Primes are a great weapon to have at your disposal, but they need to be managed carefully. One slip in timing can see a favoured possible crumble and the game turn in an instant.

Backgammon rules are available on this link.

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