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Surprising Benefits of Splitting

In the position below, Blue rolls a 3-2.  Most people would simply play two checkers down from their Midpoint (13).  That's a reasonable play, but not as good as splitting the back checkers 24/21 and then 13/11.

In fact, with just about every roll with a 1 or 3 it's best to split.  Again, most people would play both checkers from the 13.

It's also interesting that with 6-3 and 5-4 you don't bring 2 down from the Midpoint...you run a back checker all the way out.

Scroll down for more explanation.....

Most people have a natural aversion to splitting when your opponent has builders ready to make points on his side of the board.  And most people have a tendency to want to first work on extending their own prime when they have a 4 prime and 2 opponents checkers trapped.  But splitting not only helps you get your own back checkers moving, it makes it HARDER for your opponent to make points on his side of the board because now he also has to worry about cleaning up those two blots.  There are many good rolls for your opponent that make points but still leave a blot, and if you are split, those rolls because "bitter-sweet" and create problems for him.

There is a very interesting side benefit of splitting that is not readily noticable.  One of the goals of your opponent is to get his own back checkers moving.  When you split and put pressure on his blots on his side of the board, he now has to use many of his small numbers, 1's, 2's and 3's, to clean up those blots.  Those are the very numbers he needs on your side of the board to split or move up to the edge of your prime...so again, you duplicate his numbers and cause him difficulty if he rolls those numbers.  If he's forced to play on his side of the board, those checkers on your side of the board are more likely to be frozen on the ace point and contained.

There is one interesting exception to all of the other rolls:  if you roll a 3-4, the best play is to bring 2 down from your 13 point.  The reasons for this were not very clear to me, so I went to my mentor and teacher, Perry Gartner, to find out why we shouldn't play 24/21 13/9 in the same theme of the other rolls.

Here is Perry Gartner explanation of this conundrum:

The splitting rolls are 1-2,1-3,1-4,1-5,1-6, and 2-3, 3-4.    Look for what your 5 prime potential is when you come down without splitting for each of these rolls .  None of the coming down rolls are as effective as 4-3 in terms of 5 prime potential.


  4-3 down makes you a strong favorite to make at least a 5 prime on your next roll ( 4-3 makes a 6 prime), when not hit with 6 shots. The hitting shots don’t hurt as much  since 6-3 and 6-2 make good points for Red on the other side- the good anyway principle.


If you split with 4-3 you would have to come up to Red’s 4 point.  You are now creating a number of hit loose numbers and the pointing numbers that put pressure on you, with an additional blot on your 9. You also are not likely to take care of business on both sides of the board at the same time so on one side or the other you will likely be exposed to another chance at being hit loose or pointed on.


  None of the other split numbers except 2-3 moves up to the 4 point-coming under the gun.  Splitting to the 23 is a desirable tactic because here and in many other situations for the same reasons :

 A.  Getting pointed on when it doesn’t work for you leaves a double gap on the 4 and 5 point, a much better down side than getting pointed on on the 4 or 5.

 B. 24,23 split doubles outfield coverage.

C. Creates several more advanced anchor numbers- more than those created by staying on the 24.

D. Doubles the running into the outfield numbers including another one that brings you home to the mid, if Red doesn’t make his bar point on the next roll.


Why not 2 down with 2-3?  The 2 to the 11 is a builder for outside points-not as effective a 5 prime builder as 4-3, but it is out of harms way.


The upside of coming to the 21 is that more pressure is put on the blot on the 9 and 11, a potential forward anchor is created, it is easier to get away from this point, and outfield sphere of influence is enhanced.


The bottom line is the 5 prime potential outweighs the major split benefits at this stage.


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