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Backgammon Opening Rolls


When discussing opening rolls in backgammon, you can consider the following possible rolls of two dice. One of the dice is represented as blue and the other dice is represented as red. Altogether there are 36 different roll possibilities, which you can see in this table:

There are six possible doubles, each of which can only occur once, plus each of the non-double rolls can occur twice, which means that altogether there are just 15 possible opening rolls and five of these will always be played in an identical way.

65 is played by running one back checker to the middle point (24/13), 61 is played by making the bar-pt (13/7), 53 is played by making the 3-pt (8/3, 6/3), 42 is played by making the 4-pt (8/4, 6/4) and 31 is played by making the 5-pt (8/5, 6/5).

Choices are provided for all other opening rolls and there are a total of three different types of choices:

  • Play for contact or run a back checker

  • Split the two back checkers or slot the 5-pt

  • Split the back checkers or bring down builders from the mid-point

You can see in the first category that the remaining rolls which contain the number 6 include 64, 63 and 62.

It is possible to play each of these rolls by respectively running one back checker with 24/14, 24/15 and 24/16. These plays are in fact often recognised as old-style plays, with the more normal plays being:

64 24/18, 13/9 63 24/18, 13/10 62 24/18, 13/11

Using these particular moves is designed to encourage a positive exchange of hits on the opponent's bar-point or make it on the following roll of the dice. It's also worth remembering that 64 may also be played 8/2, 6/2, which would be the appropriate play at specific match scores.

We can see from the second category the following rolls: 51, 41 and 21.

The slot plays include:

51 13/8, 6/5 41 13/9, 6/5 and 21 13/11, 6/5

which leaves the following corresponding split plays:

51 13/8, 24/23 41 13/9, 24/23 and 21 13/11, 24/23

Complicated games can occur with slotting plays, whereas split plays generally lead to much simpler positions.

You can see the last category contains 54, 52, 43 and 32 and you can build with the following choices:

52 13/8, 24/22 54 13/8, 24/20 43 13/9, 24/21 or 13/10, 24/20 and 32 13/10, 24/21.

As mentioned, more complex positions can be attributed to building plays and simpler ones can be attributed to splitting plays. It's up to you but try to remember that the tournament match score can play a big role in which choices you make. It's a good idea to play more complex moves when you are trailing in points. Your play should also be based on how good (or bad) your opponent is.

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