Middle game doubles - Backgammon double
In the two positions we have discussed so far a gammon was out of the question. When there is a chance of a gammon the whole situation is completely changed. If you accept a double from 1 to 2 and then lose a gammon, your decision to accept the double has cost you an additional three points because you have lost four instead of one. That's a very different matter from the additional one point it costs if you merely lose a single game. Suppose you were doubled in a situation where your downside risk was a gammon, but you only stood to win a single game; and suppose you had a 50 per cent chance of winning. If you rejected the double, then you would lose two points in two games. If you accepted the double, you would lose four points once and win two points once. So on balance you would come out the same, having lost two points. No better and no worse than refusing the double. Without the danger of the gammon it would have been the most obvious of takes. Of course, in practice you don't get such a straightforward Situation. Normally there is quite a chance that, although you may lose a gammon, you may lose only a single game. A good rule of thumb in these cases is: if you think that you have at least as good a chance of winning the game as of losing a gammon, then take the double. Otherwise drop it.
In the section before on doubles offered towards the end of the game, the message was that you should be inclined to accept doubles even though the odds were against you. You can't lose a double game and, on balance, you lose less by accepting the doubles unless your chance is below one in four. But here in the middle game the general message for the average player is that he should be very cautious about accepting doubles. All too often the beginner sees that the situation is one where things could well turn round. He forgets that things can also get a lot worse so that he loses a gammon. There is no golden rule which teils you whether you are more likely to win a single game or lose a double. But all the same, it s a good way of looking at the problem because, with experience, you will come to have a much better feel for which is the more likely. I am going to give you some examples of common situations and tell you what to do. This will obviously help you when these situations come up. It will also teach you how to think about other positions.
Middle game double examples
Here you (White) have split your back men with a 2 for some reason. Black threw the double 5s which you were afraid of and pointed on your two blots. It is now your turn to throw and, unless you get something special, you will be doubled immediately, and straight into gammon territory.
- Twenty-five per cent of the time neither of your men will come in. In that case there is not the slightest doubt that you should drop the double. You are in great danger of being blitzed and losing a gammon before you know what hit you. Even if that does not happen and you manage to make one of Black's points, which would be lucky, you are still way behind in a running game.
- Now what about the situation if one man comes in and the other does not? It depends on your opponent. If he is a good enough player to hit your blot even when he cannot point on it, you must drop. You will have both men in the air and the danger of the blitz is too high. But if he is the timid type who won't hit you unless he can point on you, take the double. This is a position in which it's a great help to know your opponent.
- If you are very lucky and throw double 2, double 4 or double 5, thus making a point as well as getting both your men in, you undoubtedly have a good take. In fact, Black should not double.
- If you get both men in on separate points, the situation is still very serious but you can certainly take the double. Black may point on one of your blots, but if he does not it's going to be dangerous for him to hit you.
Now look at another common situation. In Diagram you are well ahead in a running game but you have a man on the bar and Black has a five point board. Only his five point is open. If you can come in quickly and get your man round without being hit again, you are going to win because you are far ahead. But your chance of getting in with a 5 is less than one in three each time, and even after you have come in you run a considerable danger of being hit again. This is the kind of situation which is hard to calculate. But take it from me, you must accept the double. It is going to take Black several throws to get his outside men into his own board and he will have to get a particularly lucky throw to make his five point. Any time you do come in with a 5 there is the chance that you will be able to hit one of his men which is trying to get back into the board. If you do lose the game, it will most likely be only a single game. Certainly it is depressing to sit there trying, throw after throw, to get a 5, while Black moves his men round towards his home board. But the fact is that, if you drop this kind of double, you are a very easy person to play against. You are giving away too much. However, it is important that Black's open point was a high one. If it had been the one or two point, you should have dropped. The danger of being pointed on after getting in but before you could get out of Black's board would be too great.
Now, another common Situation. In diagram, Black has been playing a back game against you and he has built up a good position. You threw a number which forced you to leave him a double shot. He now has 20 throws out of 36 which will hit you, and he redoubles you from 2 to 4. His timing is good and he has an excellent home board. So if he does hit you, he almost certainly wins. But you must take the double. The point is this. He will miss 16 times out of 36, and whenever he does miss you win immediately, because he would have to be mad to accept your redouble, with a gammon staring him in the face. So by doubling you he has, in effect, abandoned his chance of a further shot later. Actually you might, if you were feeling greedy, refrain from doubling him and play on for a gammon. But that would be dangerous, unless he had thrown double 1 or double 2, which would force him to seriously weaken his home board.
'But,' you may ask, 'What happens if he is brave and accepts my redouble?' The answer is that you should be delighted, unless, like one old-timer I know, you are too nervous! The only way you can lose this game is for him not only to get another shot, but also to hit it. Most of the time you will win a gammon. So you have a very good chance of winning 16 points once he accepts your redouble (remember he doubled you from 4 to 8). If he does accept it, you can be fairly sure of two things. One is that he is a bad player, the other is that he has already lost a lot! Make him pay up before accepting another similar redouble! Even a bad player is unlikely to give you this kind of opportunity unless he has got to get it back.