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Basic strategies for moving checkers:
1. Learn the correct opening moves for all dice rolls
2. Focus on making key points early in the game. Key points include your 5 point, 4 point and bar point, and your opponent’s 5 point and 4 point.
Making key points is part of a broader game plan. For example, your broader plan might be to build a prime (6 made points in a row) to trap your opponent in your home board or to close your home board (making all 6 points in your home board) to prevent your opponent from re-entering after they are sent to the bar.
3. Hit blots when you have the chance. It’s usually the right move, especially early in the game.
But realize that there are times to avoid hitting blots. For example, when you are ahead in the race and would prefer to break contact with your opponent (get all your checkers past their checkers) and bear off. Or when you have several blots in your home board that are vulnerable when your opponent re-enters.
4. Don’t build towers. It’s better to have 2 or 3 checkers on many points than 6 or 7 checkers on a few points. Better distribution of your checkers gives you more options for moving with a wider range of dice rolls. Building towers is symptomatic of overly cautious play.
5. Pay attention to the pip count. Most online games display the pip count.
You need to use this information to help determine if you are ahead or behind in the race and to formulate a plan to win. For example, use the pip count to help you determine whether you should double or take a double, if it is time to run your back checkers or hold your anchors, if it is time to take chances or play conservatively.
6. When ahead in the race, break contact with your opponent and bear off.
When you are behind in the race, keep an anchor in your opponent’s home board and focus on making points in your home board while you wait for the chance to hit a blot and catch up.
7. Take chances, when the potential benefit outweighs the risk. Luck is part of the game.
For example, sometimes you need to take chances by slotting a point, hoping to make it on a coming turn. But you will have to weigh the benefits of making the slotted point against the possibility of getting hit.
8. Consider your opponent’s game plan when making checker decisions.
For example, if your opponent is on the verge of completing a prime, you may need to run your back checkers immediately while you can still escape. Or if your opponent is closing their home board, be more cautious about leaving blots since you might have trouble re-entering.
9. Bear off as many checkers as you can with your dice rolls. Don’t move a checker when you can bear off instead.
Basic strategies for using the doubling cube:
1. As a general rule, you should accept a double when you estimate you have at least a 25% chance to win the game.
Here’s why. If you play 4 games and decline the double 4 times, you will lose 4 points. If you play 4 games and accept the double 4 times (assuming a 25% chance of winning in each game), you will lose 6 points and win 2 points for a net loss of 4 points. This calculation does not include the possibility of being gammoned. If there is a good chance you could be gammoned, be more inclined to pass the double.
2. When deciding whether or not to double, consider what you would do if you were in your opponent’s position.
If you would pass the double (or believe your opponent should pass), it’s probably correct to double.
3. Understand that owning the cube has value.
When you own the cube, you have the right to double and your opponent does not. You can use the cube to end the game, or prevent your opponent from doing so.
4. Double at the first opportunity when your opponent needs only one more point to win the match.
Your opponent will be forced to accept. If you win the game you could earn 2 points instead of 1, and your opponent gains nothing since they will win the match if they win the game, regardless of the score. Although most online games use the Crawford Rule (which prohibits doubling for one game when a player is one point away from winning the match), you can still use this strategy in the game following the Crawford game, if you win the Crawford game.
Trapping your opponent’s back checkers – Early in the game, it’s usually a good strategy to try to make your 5 point, 4 point and bar point. Your ultimate goal is to build a prime and trap your opponent’s checkers in your home board. A prime is 6 made points in a row. An opponent cannot move past a prime. Even if you can’t build a prime, a partial prime can still be effective in limiting your opponent’s movement and options.
Closing your home board – At some point in the game your opponent is going to leave a blot and you will hit it. When you hit blots you want to have as many made points in your home board as possible to make it difficult for your opponent to enter. Ideally, you would like to make all six points in your home board and close your board.
Playing a back game – When you are considerably behind in the race, it may be time to focus on your back game. Instead of running with your back checkers, keep them anchored deep in your opponent’s home board while you focus on closing your home board. If luck and timing are on your side, your deep anchor may give you the chance to hit your opponent and trap him on the bar while you catch up.
For more strategy information, we recommend books by winning players such as Paul Magriel, Bill Robertie and Kit Woolsey.