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Playing Guide: Bearing Off Strategies

Last updated on April 15, 2021

Beginner’s guide. How to play backgammon.

Backgammon is a great game and a lot of fun. There is the element of luck which makes the game so thrilling. Fortunes can change on a single roll and the game can ebb back and forth with the lead changing many times in a match. However, at its core, backgammon is a game of skill and strategy. Luck is fleeting, skill will win over the long run.

Bearing off is the process of removing checkers from the backgammon board. The bearing off process can only begin once you have moved all fifteen of your checkers into your home board. The winner of the game is the first person to bear off all fifteen of their checkers. The concept is relatively easy to understand if you have broken contact and there is no chance of being hit, the game simply becomes a race. However, if your opponent still has checkers on the bar or in your home board the process becomes slightly more complicated. We will look at the general principles to apply in both of these situations.

Broken contact

Where there are no contact positions (checkers can no longer be hit), the correct way to play is to remove a checker from each of the points that correspond to the numbers rolled on the dice. For example, with a 6-3 you can remove checkers from the 6 and 3-points. If you roll a number which is greater than the highest occupied point then you must remove a checker from the next highest occupied point. For example, if you roll 6-3, but your highest occupied point is 4, you would remove a checker from the 4-point. The excess pips or wastage (2 in this instance) are lost. You can only ever bear off a single checker per die. Typically, this is two, but a double will allow you to move up to four checkers.

Contact

If your opponent still has checkers on the bar or in your home board the process becomes slightly more complicated. Hits are still possible. Your opponent will be waiting for any opportunity to hit. You need to adopt a strategy that focuses on not leaving any blots.

· Start by moving pieces off your highest points when it is safe to do so without leaving a blot. As you clear the higher points, a high roll from your opponent can force them to leap over your checkers and break contact. At this point, you should be ahead in the race and have a clear advantage.

· Try to keep an even number of checkers on your highest occupied points, this is to avoid being forced to leave a blot due to a high roll. For example, if your highest occupied point is the 5 and it has three checkers, a roll of 6-5 would force you to bear off two of those checkers. A vulnerable single blot would be left for your opponent to hit.

The next two points should be exercised with caution. Only apply these points if it avoids leaving a blot.

· Try to avoid stacking too many checkers on a single point. Because this can limit your options.

· Try not to leave any gaps between points. Because this minimises the potential for wasted pips.

Apply these principles to your game and you will enjoy winning more often on your Deluxe Backgammon set.

Bearing off against checkers in your home board.

Bearing off against a checker on the bar.

A complete list of Playing Guides is available on this link. Backgammon rules are available on this link.

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