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Backgammon Openings Require a Basic Strategy

Author: Neha Agrawal

Backgammon has been compared to both poker and chess as games of strategy, knowledge and psychology. An area where there is a good deal of similarity between backgammon and chess is in the importance of the opening moves.

Both backgammon and chess have had extensive analysis done to their opening moves. Long and exhaustive books have been written about the openings of both games. The opening moves of backgammon, though, are different from chess in many ways and not just the obvious ones.

In backgammon, the role of the dice, which fist determines who starts, then determines what moves you can make. The chess opening is quite different, as the player who moves first has his choice of any legal move. Technically, there are eighteen possible moves by white to start a chess game, but in reality, only about five of them are ever played. The variations after the first move become much more plentiful.

When you roll the dice to start the backgammon game, there are 36 possible outcomes. That is, the six numbers on one of the dice times the six possible combinations on the other one. But for the opening move, doubles, which are such a big part of the game later, are not allowed. That eliminates six possible rolls. Of the remaining 30 rolls, 15 are duplicates. That is a 4 and a 2 is the same as a 2 and a 4. So that leaves 15 possible rolls for the opening move.

The Backgammon strategy for some of the possible rolls is well-known and long established. The best idea is to get your big stacks shorter and in the process, create and claim other points on the board. Almost everyone considers the best opening roll to be a 1 and a 3, which lets you meet both of those objectives. You can move one checker from one of your five-checker stacks at point six over to point five. Then move one of your three chips from point eight over to point five. This creates a new point for you at that location, blocking your opponent from that spot without creating any weak points, or blots.

The opening strategies in backgammon usually mirror the strategies used in the rest of the game. The principles are the same-get your checkers around to your home board safely while leaving yourself few blots and blocking the other sides pieces as well as you can. The opening moves are easier to learn and practice because all the checkers are always in the same spot.