Match Play Lesson by Phil

In the position below, it is a match and Blue has to play 4-3.  Please think about what play you would make, and then scroll down.

The answer is very interesting. 

If you truly understand match play, then you know it is not possible to answer the question of how to play 4-3 without knowing the score of the match.  If you are at a score where it is important to win a gammon ("gammon-go"), the best play is to make your 4 point.  For example, you are losing 1away/2away Crawford.  If you win the game you are 50/50 to win the match, but winning a gammon wins you the match outright, so you should play aggressively for the gammon.

Conversely, if you are at a score where saving gammons ("gammon-save") is critical, then clearly it is best to make your opponent's 5 point.  Holding his 5 point still gives you a very reasonable game to win, but it makes it very difficult for your opponent to win a gammon.

At "most" other match scores, it is also best to make your opponent's 5 point.  While it's true that making your 4 point will get you more gammons, it will also result in more losses, particularly if Red comes in hitting.

This position clearly illustrates that there is a lot more to coming up with the best play than just looking at the dice and the checkers.  The "big picture" is always key.  And the time to consider the big picture factors (score, take points, cube volatility, doubling windows, value of gammons) is BEFORE THE OPENING ROLL OF THE GAME.  These factors can influence even your opening moves.

For the more technical of my readers, below are the ExtremeGammon evaluations for gammon-go, gammon-save, and NMS (Normal Match Scores).