Backgammon Opening Play

Backgammon opening play is similar to two armies positioning themselves to win a battle. Both players mobilize their men, or checkers, to prepare for upcoming battles, strategizing and counter strategizing.

Opening play is the most important phase of a game, but also the most difficult because so many choices are possible. If you play too aggressively you'll quickly find yourself training in the race to bear your men off the board. If you are too passive, you'll enter the middle game with few points and poor prospects for winning more.

Balancing a successful offense and defense, risk and reward are essential. Your opponent's moves largely dictate your moves and vice-versa. One wrong move can end up hurting you big time so planning your strategy ahead of time is the key.

Here are some general guidelines to make it through the maze of beginning play:

  • Stacking up your checkers just to play it safe doesn't usually work. Instead, be flexible and take risks, thus improving your chances of winning points.
  • Double-hits are often strong plays.
  • Include as your two major goals in the opening round hitting and making points. But remember: hitting is usually slightly more important than making a point at the beginning.
  • If you have a choice of points to make, try to figure out which is more valuable in the position at hand.
  • If you must leave a blot, pick the slot with the most valuable point available.
  • While under pressure, look for a hit that will take away half of your opponent's next roll.
  • Evaluate your opponent's playing ability from his opening moves. If he is a weak player, play aggressively. If he is strong, regroup and pick your battles wisely.
  • Don't strip your midpoint.
  • Prime two checkers; attack one checker.
  • Moving your checkers on the board: Key moves to consider.

With only 15 checkers at your disposal, it is crucial to move them wisely to create points and block your opponent. You can't just run your checkers to safety and hope to automatically make good numbers. You must place your checkers in a way that increases your points. Here are some ways to create good positions:

Diversifying: If there is a key point to be made, create as many builders as possible bearing on that point.

Unstacking: Avoid huge stacks if possible because they give you less flexibility in terms of future moves. Look to move off stacks.

Duplication: Give your opponent the same good number of checkers in different parts of the board rather than different good numbers.

Slotting: This involves putting a checker on a point you need to make, with the idea of covering it on your next turn.

After you learn the rules of backgammon doubling, it is critical that you get off to a good start. Opening backgammon play strategies are essential to winning a game of backgammon.

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