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Bearing In Your Checkers

Most players don't take a lot of care when bringing their checkers into their home board in a pure race situation.  But they should.  Not only is it important to bring your checkers in first, it is important to bring them in to the points that will do you the most good.  For years we have been told that it is important to fill gaps and to put more checkers on the 4 point where they can be used most efficiently in the bearoff.  We know it is wrong to "waste" pips by throwing checkers to the lower points if we have the option of bringing them in to the 4, 5 and 6 points.  But we also know that our goal is to get them in so we can bear them off.

One of the key questions comes up when we have an ace to play, as in the position below.  Should we bring in both checkers, or should we use the 1 to fill the gap on our 5 point?  Scroll down for the answer.

In situations like this, it is clearly right to fill the gap.  In fact, if the choice is between bringing the last checker in or filling the gap on EITHER the 4 or 5 point, filling the gap is best.  If the gap is on the 3, 2, or 1 point, however, it is better to bring the checker in. 

Don't sluff this off as a small error.  As you can see from the ExtremeGammon rollout below, it's actually a 6.5 percent error to bring the checker in, and it will result in your winning about 3 percent fewer games with just that one little mistake.  I know, 3 percent doesn't sound like much, but if you make a 3 percent error here, and a 4 percent error there, before you know it, you are losing a lot more games and you'll find your wallet a lot lighter at the end of the day.