Two Fundamentals of a Backgammon Race

Backgammon is basically, like every popular children's board game, a race to the finish. A fine example to make a parallel of which is the classic game Snakes and Ladders (also known as Chutes and Ladders). Whatever strategy any player may favor, every now and then a game will usually turn into a pure race. What do we do when that happens?

A backgammon game will eventually turn into a pure race when all checkers on both sides have steered clear of all contact with the opposing side. At this point most players are hoping to get the double numbers on the dice. At a glance the game seems to be hanging on either player's luck.

Let's have a look at a couple of fundamental elements of a pure race. One basic feature of a race as mentioned is that both players have their chips at a point in the game where there's no contact with the opposing checkers.

This doesn't necessarily mean that all of the checkers are safe and sound at each player's home board and ready to bear off. Actually that would constitute a separate issue in a backgammon game. The old fashioned backgammon race starts off even when other checkers have not yet made a home run.

Given this fact, one key skill every player should acquire would be how to do a pip count. A pip count would help players determine who is in the lead whether in a race or in other situations or strategies. Simply put, a pip count is the total number of points all the checkers need to run before the bear off.

For example we only have 3 checkers left on the 9 point. Let's say these are our last checkers that need to finish the race. Each of these would have 9 units on the pip count. Adding these three checkers' pip counts totals to 27 to our current pip count.

Given the above elements of the race one item that both players need to consider is wastage. When a backgammon game turns into a pure race both players need to maximize on the outcomes of the dice rolls. Wastage is basically the loss of distance covered on the backgammon board when a result from the dice rolls are not fully utilized before or during bear off.

A more technical definition we can use is that wastage is mainly the difference between a lousy or perhaps an average pip count and a truly effective pip count. We determine this by the number of rolls needed for a checker to bear off and the pip count of the actual position on the board. Players ought to choose the best checker to move first given the total number of rolls necessary, the pip count, and the outcome of the dice. Of course this would entail a deeper discussion.

Doing a pip count and making the moves with the least wastage are two fundamentals necessary to win when a backgammon game turns into a pure race.

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