Stick No. 17/Answer

Another of my opponent's plays and one that I jumped on quickly when I saw it.  I would have laid 3-1 that he and many others would play the safe point clearing play of 11/8 11/7 and I would have laid 5-1 that it was wrong. 

While the 20-23 backgame isn't that great of a game you still need to know how to play against it to make it as worthless as it is in theory.  Here your opponent currently has a double blotted no board position.  You can play with little fear this turn.  In all likelyhood I would have simply made the 4pt if it was my OtB play but if I had seen the computer's play of 12/8 12/4 I would have preferred it.

First we have the weakness of clearing the 11pt.  Will it need to be cleared eventually?  Maybe.  I say maybe because with our opponent's suspect timing and position we may win this thing with a cube along the way.  Let's say we do have to clear it later, is it that big of a deal?  No.  We have our 8 through 6 points made and clearing it if the time comes shouldn't be a problem.  Is the 11pt worth anything to us right now?  Yes indeed.  It keeps our opponent from springing his last spare on [61 62 63] and completely collapses his position on 66.  His position is just about overrun as is, at this point we want to turn the screws and really lock down the game.  Picking up the 11pt is not the right idea.

The other two plays follow the same theme.  You want to fill in the 4pt and you want to do it at a time when your opponent can do nothing about it short of rolling a 35-1 shot.  (if you slot instead of flat out make it)  Keeping the 8pt and slotting is best because of what I already mentioned in relation to the other play, how 63 and 66 will play if the 8pt is released.  Slotting forgoes those variations and almost assures you of making the point smoothly next turn.

(Note from Phil:  Also note that in a money game, with the cube in the middle and gammons having no value because of the Jacoby Rule, you can and should take chances to significantly improve your position that you might not make if the cube were turned or in a match where a gammon on a 1 cube might be painful.)