There are a number of different, basic, and easy, approaches to winning at Backgammon. It may not always be the best idea to charge forward 100% and hit your opponent at every opportunity. On the other hand, many newcomers may also have a tendency to avoid being hit at all costs, which also has its downsides.
In the list and descriptions we’ve presented below, you will find a selection of different aspects of the game which need to be considered when determining your general approach. Familiarize yourself with the concepts and constantly revaluate during the course of your games.
Distribution is how evenly your checkers are spread around the board, and whether they are placed in advantageous positions providing the highest amount of options for each dice combination. A player with even distribution will often appear to get lucky rolls because he is able to choose the best possible move from a variety of sound alternatives. Having five or more checkers on a single point is often considered ‘bad’ distribution because it limits your flexibility and often results in a forced play.
One thing many beginners worry a lot about is leaving shots. Any professional will tell you that leaving shots, however, is absolutely essential when trying to establish a particular type of game, but you need to consider when and where to leave them. Be careful when your opponent’s home board is strong or has such potential. The more points that are made in his home board, the more difficult it will be to escape. Leaving shots early in the game involves less risk. On the other hand, if you have made several points in your home board, you have the benefit of being able to play more aggressively. And, if you are ahead in the race, try not to expose any blots, as you want to preserve your lead and keep your opponent out of the game.
If you manage to get good rolls early in the game and are able to escape your back checkers (for example, an opening roll of 6-5 followed by a 6-4, or 6-3) you should immediately launch a ‘running game’. You have an early advantage in the race, and by continuing to move your checkers forward as quickly as possible, you are hoping to utilize that advantage. Running is only suggested, however, when you already have a substantial pip-count lead, or at the initial stage of the match where you roll good numbers (for example double-5s, or double-6s).
The Blocking Game is used primarily when your opponent has thrown much better dice than you, and your only hope of winning the game is to keep a few checkers back and wait for a blot, hoping to prevent your opponent from getting out of his home board. Therefore, it is necessary to build a prime, which will trap your opponent when the time comes. This strategy is defensive and requires fortunate dice rolls, but remember: luck is a huge part of the game!
The Back Game is not exactly a strategy but more of a last-ditch/Hail-Mary effort to win the game from a notable disadvantage. The chances of winning from a back game are not great, but it can happen. This type of game should be reserved for desperate situations. Setting up a back game involves establishing 2 or more defensive anchors with the purpose of holding the points for as long as possible, causing your opponent to bear in awkwardly and expose a blot. When the blot is hit, the idea is to contain it behind a prime and close out your opponent. The back game can be a very effective way to win a gammon or backgammon, if the dice fall in your favor and it is correctly executed.
Anchoring is one of the key strategic positions in backgammon. It means simply establishing a defensive point in your opponent’s home board. Mastery of anchor placement is essential because it enables you to safely re-enter the board when hit and prevents your opponent from making his board in preparation for bearing off. Early in the game, you should try establishing anchors on the higher points (20,21; also called ‘advanced anchors’). If you find yourself significantly behind in the race, the lower points (22,23,24) should be targeted for anchor placement as your strategy is to build your home board and wait for a shot. When playing this type of game, two anchors on adjacent point can be very functional.
No, this doesn’t refer to ‘talking’ but, instead, it means distributing your checkers so that they are kept within six pips of each other in order to ensure that a checker may be covered at a crucial stage. A wide separation in checkers leads to a weakness, which your opponent may exploit.
For more backgammon strategy, visit our Advanced Backgammon Tactics page with more popular, but also more intricate, tactics.