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5-4 Answer and Analysis

This position came up in one of my matches in a tournament recently, and my opponent played this wrong and lost the match. 

As you can see from the ExtremeGammon rollout below, you must hit.  You can't just play quietly and allow White to escape with a 6 and possibly win the race.  Equally important, if the hit is successful, you win a lot more gammons, and at this score gammons are very important.  In fact, since a gammon wins the match and is worth it's full value, the Value of Gammons here is 1.0...meaning that winning a gammon means as much as winning the game.

So the only question is where to leave the blot and how many blots to leave, and it took quite a long rollout to be sure...it's that close. 

Another key to hitting is the weakness of White's inner board and that blot in his board.  Even if you get hit back, you still have good winning chances, and if you pick up that blot you might even increase your gammon chances. 

In Backgammon, you must take calculated risks.  We have a name for people who consistently avoid leaving shots and avoid taking risks:  losers.  My opponent did not hit, I rolled a 6-5 and escaped and won the game.  He walked away mumbling something about how lucky I was to roll that 6-5.  It is amazing how lucky I get when my opponents play poorly!