Lesson of the Week--The Big Picture
By Perry Gartner and Phil Simborg

This week’s Lesson of the Week is about a most important approach to making the right checker play than it is about a specific play.  But let’s take a look at a specific play.


The score is 11away/11away, and Red gets and opening roll of 3-2.  He moves 24/21 13/11.   White rolls 6-5 and runs a checker.  Now, Red rolls 6-3 and he has two very obvious choices:  he can make his 5 point or make his opponent’s bar point.


Which play do you think is right?





It turns out that the two plays are very close.  There are obvious advantages of both plays.  The XGRoller+ prefers making the opponent’s bar by .001, but an extensive rollout shows that play is better by .015…still pretty close.


Now, what if we change the score to Red is 4 away and White is 2 away?   What play do you think is right then, and do you think it is close.   And what if we change the score to Red 2 away and White 4 away?  Again, what play would be right and would it be close.


In the case of Red being 4 away, we have a score where Red would like to turn the cube fairly quickly and that would make gammons extremely valuable to him…in fact, he would be on what we call “Gammon-Go.”  Winning a gammon wins the match for Red, and gammons have a value of 1.0 (twice as much as a money game and most Normal Match Scores). 


At that score, the right play is to make the 5 point.  Red wants to make an offense play that would lead to more gammons.   As you can see from the evaluation below,  it would be a 16% blunder to make the bar, and you can also see that by making the bar would yield about 50% fewer gammons.


Red on Gammon-Go



When Red is 2-away, his position is reversed.  He knows White will turn the cube as soon as he has reasonable gammon chances, and with the cube turned he is not concerned about winning gammons, but with saving gammons.  He is on “Gammon-Save.”   In this situation, making his opponent’s bar point, giving him an “anchor” and reducing the number of blots on the board is safer.


If you look at the eval for Red at this score, you will see that making the 5 point would be 7% error and he would get gammoned about 50% more that way.



Red on Gammon-Save



As you can also see, the win percentage doesn’t change more than about 1 percent with either play…it’s the gammon chances that become critical.   At 11away/11away the value of gammons is about .5 with the cube on 2; at 2away/4away it is either 1.0 for the trailer and 0 for the leader with the cube on 2.


The obvious lesson here is that even very early in the game, the score can have make a huge difference in your checker play strategy as well as your cube strategy.  By the way, this same thinking affects the first roll moves, but in most cases the affect is not as dramatic as it is in the above example.


And this leads us to THE BIG LESSON of the week.  And the big lesson is this:  there is more to checker play than just looking at the dice and the board and trying to figure out what play is best.  You must consider the “big picture” or strategic items first, and that includes the score, position of the cube and cube strategy, value of gammons, and the game plan given the big picture items and the position of the checkers and the roll at that time.


In our lessons, we teach a methodology to making checker plays that incorporates all of these factors, and we add rules of thumb, basic principles of play, counting tactics and shortcuts, and reasoning strategies to make the process more accurate.