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Backgammon tips for beginners

Last updated on October 9, 2021

Beginner’s guide. How to play backgammon.

1. When you are ahead in the race, break contact and race. When you’re behind in the race, adopt a back game strategy.

Don’t race when you are behind. It sounds obvious, but many beginners panic and run their back checkers when they are behind in the race. If you are behind in the race, breaking contact will play to your opponent’s advantage. Instead, adopt a back game strategy.

2.     Avoid stacking your checkers.

You only require two checkers to secure a point. A third or fourth checker provides additional material to secure a subsequent point, but anything more is a waste of resources that could be used elsewhere on the board.

3.     Tactics to be prioritised on every move, hitting blots and securing points.

When your opponent leaves a checker alone on a point, it becomes a “blot” and is vulnerable to being hit. When a blot is hit it is sent back to the bar and must re-enter, which pushes the opponent further behind in the race. This is a definite advantage and should be pursued in most circumstances. Securing points with two checkers should also be a priority. A secure point provides a safe place for your checkers to land and acts as a block for your opponent’s checkers.

4.     Build primes.

A prime is a sequence of consecutive secure points, which help block your opponent’s checkers. The perfect prime is a six-prime. When you have a six-prime in place, none of the opponent’s checkers can move past as long as the prime remains intact. That’s because a checker can’t land on a secured point and can never advance more than six points in a single move. No matter how well your opponent rolls, they can’t escape from behind a six-prime. An opposing checker trapped behind a prime cannot escape until the prime is broken. A prime is more effective deep on your side of the board. In fact, if your prime is in your home board and your opponent has a checker on the bar, they forfeit their move, as they are unable to enter on any roll.

Six prime.

5.     Review your strategy on every move.

Your strategy should be reviewed after every move, the game changes quickly and you need to adapt. For example, if your opponent breaks contact, playing a back game is pointless, you must race.

6.     Always make the 5-point.

Also known as “The Golden Point”. The golden point is your own 5-point. The golden anchor is the 20-point (your opponent’s 5-point). Securing the 5-point starts the process of building a prime in your home board. In addition, if you secure the golden anchor it is much harder for your opponent to build an effective prime against you. If you have the opportunity to secure either of these points it will rarely be wrong to take it.

The 5 points.

7.     Miracles can happen.

Don’t give up too easily. The game can change with a couple of rolls of the dice. It is extremely satisfying to come back and win from an unlikely position.

8.     Move builders into your outer board.

A builder is a checker that is brought into your outer board with the intention of using it on subsequent moves to secure key points in your home board. Don’t be frightened to leave blots in your outer board, but avoid leaving them within hitting range of a single roll of the dice (6 or less).

9.     Patience is a virtue.

Although some moves are obvious, such as an opening 3-1, time should be taken to consider all of your options. It is very easy to focus your attention on a single quadrant of the board and miss a better opportunity elsewhere. It is good practice to review all of your checkers individually on every move.

10.   Stay even on top when bearing off against contact.

Try and keep an even number of checkers on your highest points when bearing off against an anchor. This is important to avoid leaving shots if you roll high doubles.

Backgammon rules are available on this link.

Backgammon cheat sheet.

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