Simple strategy tips for backgammon beginners

For many beginner backgammon players, their strategy doesn’t go far beyond hoping they roll a lot of doubles. While this is OK, there are plenty of simple ways to improve your skills that will give you a competitive edge and make the game more enjoyable.

Here are some strategies you can use to raise your gameplay to the next level.

Be patient, build primes when you’re behind: If your opponent pulls ahead and you’re looking for an opportunity to hit one of their checkers, make sure you’re also strengthening your home board (that’s where you bear off your checkers). The goal is to fortify your home board with what’s called a prime.  A five prime is five points are covered and a six prime means you’ve covered all six points in the home board so any of your opponent’s checkers on the bar are completely blocked. Building primes gives you a chance to trap their checkers on the bar and catch up.

Know when to step on the gas: When you’re a long way ahead (advanced players will look at something called a pip count) it’s a good strategy to make a run for it without hesitating. Take advantage of your lead by turning it into a running game because the odds favor you in this situation. However, there are no guarantees because your opponent can gain ground with a series of high rolls. 

Distribute checkers evenly over the board: Distribution refers to how evenly your checkers are arranged on occupied points. In general, it’s better to have three checkers each on two different points rather than four checkers one and two on the other. Shoot for rarely having six checkers on a point and almost never have any more. An even distribution gives your moves more flexibility which means the dice will favor you a bit more.

Don’t waste rolls when bearing off: If you are racing your opponent to bear off and you can bear off a checker using both dice results DO IT. Taking checkers off the board is almost 100 percent more effective that trying to smooth out your distribution. Also, avoid over stacking single points as this can limit your options.  

Build a better bear-in: When positioning your checkers to bear off and there’s chance of hitting or being hit, a bigger stack on the 6-point, sloping down to the 4 or 3, is best. The goal is to get maximum value from your later rolls. For example, you don’t want to have to use a 5 or 6 to bear off from the 4-point.

Hit the Blots! A general backgammon strategy is to take every opportunity you can to hit your opponent’s checkers. Sending that piece back to the bar creates a big advantage that increases if you can hit multiple blots. It also gives you an opportunity to strengthen your position and take control of the game while making your opponent scramble to catch up.

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