Woolsey's Law--The Best Doubling Tool in the Game

Kit Woolsey is one of the best players, teachers, and writers to ever play backgammon.  When I first decided to take the game seriously and play in tournaments (about 25 years ago), I asked around who was the best teacher, and I was told by virtually everyone that it was Kit.  So I took lessons from Kit on line ($75 an hour, on Fibs, and we typed everything in the chat area because long-distance was too expensive then) and he gave me some of the best lessons I’ve ever had.


In the first lesson, he taught me THE BEST LESSON I HAVE EVER HAD:  He taught me how to apply Woolsey’s Law.


Simply stated, when you are trying to decide whether to double or not, first put yourself in your opponent’s shoes and ask yourself if you are SURE if it is a take or SURE if it is a pass.  If you are not sure of either, THEN FOR SURE, IT IS A DOUBLE!


If you are not sure, after considering the position, match score, relative strength of the opponents, and all factors combined, if you are reading the situation properly, it probably falls into that category where you are supposed to double and your opponent is supposed to take.  Or it could be a very close take or drop.


By doubling, you give your opponent the chance to make a mistake and drop the cube.  Possibly you are a little off, and he really should drop it, but even then, by giving the cube, you give your opponent the chance to make a mistake and take the cube.  Either way, you come out ahead by doubling as opposed to not doubling.   Even if your opponent does not make a mistake, there is a reasonable chance that you were right to double anyway. 


Now, what if you are sure it is a drop…then, unless you are “too good” to double (meaning that you are too likely to get gammons as opposed to losing the game), your decision is easy:  give the cube.


What if you decide you are SURE it is a take?  Well, then you must be more careful.  Even if it is a take, it is often right to give the cube.  Again, he might make a mistake and drop, but even if he does the right thing and takes, it may well be right for you to give the cube anyway.


When you are sure it is a take, you have to decide how much you might lose by waiting…if you have too many “market losers”—too many rolls that are so good there is almost no way he can take the next roll, that is a good reason to give the cube. 


The best thing about Woolsey’s Law is that it solves the problem for when you are not sure…when you are on the fence.  On the fence-- give the cube!

w the rule - When in doubt, split.  A better rule (empahsis - on the 2nd roll) would be, when in doubt, slot