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Beginner Tactics

The game play is simple enough - each player wants to be the first to move his game pieces to his home board and bear them off before his opponent. Backgammon involves strategy, intuition and luck, as each roll of the dice a player has the opportunity to choose between many possible moves. In addition, the doubling cube raises the stakes of the present game; and, rules like Jacoby Rule and Crawford Rule add to the strategic possibilities. However, there are general strategies for play - such as anchoring, blocking, distribution, and hitting.

Anchoring, done in your opponent's home board, is a technique to build defensive points. At the beginning of a game, anchoring on the points adjacent to the bar - i.e. 20, 21 point - gives you a spot to come in on if you get hit. In addition, it prevents your opponent from getting to his home board. However, if you begin to loose your position, the lower points - i.e. 22, 23, 24 - come to have more value because your strategy is to build your home board. If you can establish two anchors, try to establish them on adjacent points.

Blocking establishes points, one after the other, directly in front of your opponent's pieces in your home board. Establish essential points as early as possible on the 5, 4, 7 points to start your blockade. All six points blocked is called a prime. With a prime established, it's impossible for your opponent to escape. Hold a prime as long as it is feasible, without putting your game in jeopardy.

Knowing how to divide your pieces among the points occupied is called distribution. One possibility is to distribute your pieces evenly over the board, enhancing the flexibility of your rolls. Spreading pieces within six points of each other can establish an edge by being able to cover whenever needed. However, it can be better to have three pieces on each of two different points than to have four pieces on one and two on another. Keeping five or six pieces on the same point doesn't serve any good defensive or offensive strategy.

Placing your piece on a blot puts your opponent's piece on the bar - they've been hit. They have to get that piece back on the board before they can move any other piece. Skill and strategy lie in knowing when to hit and when to be hit. A suggestion is only hit when it will give you an advantage. For example, if you already have two opponent pieces on the bar, they're somewhat "disabled." It seems more important to make another point on your home board than it does to hit a third piece. Try to hit pieces that are most advanced. Also, hit pieces that your opponent would like to cover to establish an important point. Refrain from hitting if it makes your position more vulnerable than your opponent's. The objective is to bear off your pieces before your opponent.

As you play more your skill and intuition will increase, learning how to read the game. You can't control the roll of the dice. However, you do have control over learning how to influence decisive opportunities.

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