The Flying Star Restaurant
4026 Rio Grande Blvd NW

(between Griegos and Montaño Blvds.)


Challenging Positions: The positions in this section are typical of those that you will come up against playing at the club, in tournaments, or in a lively chouette or with your partner. Review them carefully and see if you can get the right solutions. 

                         How to Play            Equity

Challenging Positions

These positions are presented from many different perspectives to allow you to evaluate positions as White or Red moving clockwise or counter-clockwise as noted.


1. Second Man Up?

Unlimited Match - Jacoby
Red to play 32
(Red is moving clockwise with his home board at the bottom left).



A few tables had already started their weekly play at our club’s regular venue. In a head-to-head competition, Red and White reached this position. Red’s 3 is forced. What should he do with the 2?

If you thought the lack of builder support means you should forgo the hit, you earned a -0.272 equity loss as you can see in the table.

Best Choice: Bar/22* 7/5*

There are three main reasons for choosing Bar/22* 7/5*. One, if White’s second man is not hit and White comes in on the 5pt, Red will have his hands full trying to come home. Two, Red’s net gammon gain is 8.4% ((35.8 - 4.9) - (27.2 - 4.7)). Third, White’s board is weaker with only 4 made points vs. 5 for Red. Those three factors justify the additional shots offered up from the hit.

2. A Choice of Three Sixes

Unlimited Match - Jacoby
Red to play 56
(Red is moving clockwise with his home board at the bottom left).



Often in backgammon, when one comes in from the bar the first portion of the roll is forced. It is the second portion that challenges our brain. Such is the case here. Red is forced to come in with the 5 but which 6 is correct? Two of the 6s hit White’s checker (on either the 14pt or the 2pt) and the only other 6 starts the valuable barpoint. What would you do?

Red reasoned that retaining the anchor was important although the immediate threat was minimal. Hitting on the 2pt was too far forward so he chose to start the barpoint with the 6. Was he right?  What does eXtreme Gammon’s analysis tell us?

Best Choice: Bar/14*

Red made a blunder here. eXtreme Gammon’s analysis shows us that abandoning the safety of the 5pt and hitting on the 14pt is correct. Taking away half of White’s role is important and doing so only leaves nine numbers (52, 42, 32, 21, and 22) to hit Red’s blot on the 14pt. Why is this important? The secret is in the count. Before the roll, White leads 135 to 159. If Red comes in and hits with the 56, he gains eleven pips from the roll and White loses fourteen pips from the hit (yes, the gain/loss from a hit is always 25), essentially tying the race at 149! In the heat of the battle, Red looked for safety and position but ignored the race.



3. Pressure From A Four Cube Chouette Double

Unlimited Match (Chouette)

White on roll ad doubles. Take?

(Red is moving counter-clockwise. His home board is at the bottom right). 




A chouette normally has two or more players (the Team or Crew) play against a single player (the Box). The team is led by the Captain who rolls and is responsible for final decisions after consultation with the team.   

That evening, Red sat comfortably in the box when Captain Braveheart convinced his crew that it was time to pressure the box with this interesting double. Four against one! It hardly seemed fair but such is the reality of a 5-player chouette. It looked like Red’s back checkers were going to be pinned in and the blot on his 5pt. was threatened with 15 shots. What do you think he should do?

Red took the double, thinking that he had a secure 1pt anchor in the team’s home board and that the impending threat on his lone checker did not appear too catastrophic. The game had a lot of play left and owning the cube(s) could easily work to his advantage. 



Best Choice: No Double

Oops, it looks like Captain Braveheart led his mates astray. Not only was Red’s take correct, the position was way too fluid to even warrant a double. In fact Red has a 41% chance to win this game. Doubling was a significant blunder (an equity loss of - 0.137). 

The important lesson is don’t give the cube away on questionable positions. A few moves later, Red redoubled the entire team out. It’s rumored that Captain Braveheart will soon be trading in his sextant for a new GPS system.



4. Is It A Take With 13 Checkers Off?


3 Point Match

White on roll. Double? Take?

(Red is moving counter-clockwise. His home board at the bottom right).

White 44  2a


Red 43  3a

Knowing when to double and when to take is the essence of fine backgammon play. Doubling decisions are completely in the control of each player. The art and science of doubling is  probably the most difficult backgammon skill to learn. 

For that reason it is necessary to build up a mental array of reference positions to help in the decision making process. Here is such a position from a match at the Albuquerque Backgammon Club.

White leads 1-0 to in a 3 point match. Before arriving at this position, White was bearing off while pursuing a gammon. In the bear off, White left two blots. Red hit both of them. A few rolls later, White had managed to get one man in and Red had advanced his prior hitter to his barpoint. From the bar, White has a decision to make. Should White double? Should Red take?


Best Choice: Double/Take

Yes, it is a double and a take (a drop would be a loss of nearly a half point in equity, 0.489). Unfortunately for Red, after he accepted the double, White immediately rolled 66 and it was all over. 

C'est la vie!