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Backgammon, making sacrifices for good positions

Last updated on April 14, 2021

Beginner’s guide. How to play backgammon.

This Deluxe Backgammon post considers the importance of taking risks during play in order to secure key points. Good positioning is sometimes worth sacrificing a few checkers. There are certain points on the backgammon board which have strategic value depending on the state of play. When you have a chance to take them, do it. Remember checkers can be hit and re-enter the game, but you may only get one chance to seize a specific position in any given game.

The 5-point

The 5-point (the golden point) in your home board is the single most important position on the board. The golden rule for the golden point is to take it at any opportunity. Perhaps, the only time you wouldn’t is if you have broken contact and the game is a pure race. Ideally, you will secure this point early in the game and it is certainly worth risking one or two checkers to hold this point.

5 points.

Along with the 6-point, it creates a 2-point prime on the outer edge of your home board. The 2 prime makes a slightly more difficult obstacle for your opponent to escape their back checkers. It also creates a safe landing place for your checkers as they move into your home board. In the ideal scenario, it will also remove a checker from the heavily stacked 6-point to where it is much more useful. The 5-point is also a likely target for your opponent so that they could create an advanced anchor, which would be a safe landing place for checkers re-entering from the bar. Removing this option is definitely to your advantage.

Read more about the importance of the 5-points here.

Advanced anchors

The 20-point or bar points are the best advanced anchors when forced to play a holding game. They provide the greatest chances to hit your opponent as they bring their checkers closer to home. Points further back get much weaker as they are too deep to effectively attack your opponent’s outer board. Even an anchor on the 21-point is better than leaving the back checkers on 24.

Backgammon layout.

It is often worth risking a checker to secure an advanced anchor because there are several considerable advantages to holding the position.

  • It mobilises your back checkers and moves them closer to home. These two checkers have by far the longest way home. It’s far better for them to sit on advanced anchor. Early in the game, it is often worth the risk of splitting these checkers in order to open up the chance of securing an advanced anchor. If they get hit when split, at least they won’t have lost much ground.
  • It makes it difficult for your opponent to build a prime deep within their home board.
  • As long as you maintain your advanced anchor in your opponent’s home board you always have a safe landing point, in case you get hit and must re-enter from the bar.
  • The opponent’s outer board is within range of a direct as they bring their checkers toward their home board.

4-point and the bar-point

The next most important points worth risking a checker for are the 4-point and the bar-point. This is partly because your opponent will be targeting these points to secure an advanced anchor with their back checkers. It’s also because these points are useful for building a prime around the 6 and the 5-point. It doesn’t even need to be a full prime to hinder the opponent. A barrier of three points can be an effective barricade to escape. Additionally, holding the 4, 5 and 6-points means that your opponent can waste a lot of pips if they roll high when re-entering from the bar.

Keep these points in mind and be prepared to take a risk, particularly early in the game to secure one of these positions. It is all part of the psychology of the game. If you are unlucky and get hit you still have time to recover. Remember the golden rule for the 5-point, it is almost always worth securing this point at any point in the game.

Backgammon rules are available on this link.

Backgammon cheat sheet.

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