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# Opening 6-4

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### lanc...@axp2.acf.nyu.edu

Feb 6, 1995, 1:52:36 PM2/6/95
to

I tried that 6-4 opening (making the 2-point) in a recent FIBS match against
a world-class player. (I will omit the guy's name to prevent embarrassing him)
I won the game, and the match. Which proves nothing. Once, many years ago, a
friend of mine won a tournmament chess match against Joel Benjamin by playing
the "polish" opening (b4, P-QN4). My friend won, even though he was the lower
rated player. Which proves, of course, that b4 is the best opening as white in
chess :-). Just for fun, I'll try making the 2 point more often. i remember
when I was first learning the game, I made the 2-point, and a more advanced
beginner tried to explain to me why it was bad. i won that game, too. I've
had a few annoying games in which my opponent opened with a 6-4, making the 2
point, and i lost. Therefore... nothing. There is no way to prove or
disprove whether the 2-point with a 6-4 is best, or if 6-4 is just such a good
number it generally tends to give an advantage no matter how it's played.

-Bob Lancaster (no longer deceased, wearing plaid)

### Darse Billings

Feb 7, 1995, 12:33:37 PM2/7/95
to
lanc...@axp2.acf.nyu.edu writes:

>I tried that 6-4 opening (making the 2-point) in a recent FIBS match
>against a world-class player. (I will omit the guy's name to prevent
>embarrassing him) I won the game, and the match. Which proves nothing.

I suspect that making the 2-point with an opening 64 is one of the most
overstated "errors" in backgammon (along with splitting the back men to
the 22-point because of the risk of 55). At worst, making the 2-point
is a small error; and for certain players (like those who much prefer
complicated fighting positions over running games) it may even be the
best move, given there unbalanced style of play.

When is making the 2-point correct as a *response* to the opening move?

Suppose your opponent opens 64 or 63 by running out a back man, and we
roll 64. Now the usual running play (24-14) leaves us exposed to a
double shot, so it isn't nearly as much fun as with the opening roll.

I would have to think making the 2-point is better here, since it is
safer, unstacks the 6-point, and makes an inner board point when we may
hit next roll (the opponent's position is considerably looser than when
we play 64 as the opening roll). The only other consideration seems to
be 24-18 and 13-9, so perhaps a strong player could comment on the
relative merits of each?

Are there any other examples where making the 2-point is a correct
response? And could it be that TD_Gammon was occasionally observed
playing 64 to make the 2-point on the *second* move of the game?

>Once, many years ago, a friend of mine won a tournament chess match

>against Joel Benjamin by playing the "polish" opening (b4, P-QN4). My
>friend won, even though he was the lower rated player. Which proves, of
>course, that b4 is the best opening as white in chess :-). Just for fun,
>I'll try making the 2 point more often. i remember when I was first
>learning the game, I made the 2-point, and a more advanced beginner tried
>to explain to me why it was bad. i won that game, too. I've had a few
>annoying games in which my opponent opened with a 6-4, making the 2
>point, and i lost. Therefore... nothing. There is no way to prove or
>disprove whether the 2-point with a 6-4 is best, or if 6-4 is just such a
>good number it generally tends to give an advantage no matter how it's
>played.

In chess, it is fairly common to play a known "inferior" move, just to
rattle one's opponent. If the move leads to positions you know well,
and if they feel they must punish you for your insolence, then they can
be in for a very rude awakening. In fact, I've often said something
like "this strange move has the distinct advantage of not being nearly
as terrible as it looks". :-)

But the psychological benefits of such a move are not as great in
backgammon, I would think, since the opponent's follow-up is largely
governed by the dice rolls, making it less likely that they will
over-react to the perceived weakness of your play.

BTW, if someone tries to freak you out with the Polish opening, respond
with d5 and Qd6! intending e5 (due to Uhlmann). It is a sound plan, and
they'll likely be counter-flabbergasted. :-)
Cheers, - Darse.
--

char*p="char*p=%c%s%c;main(){printf(p,34,p,34);}";main(){printf(p,34,p,34);}

### Michael J Zehr

Feb 7, 1995, 3:41:23 PM2/7/95
to
In article <3h8ath\$g...@scapa.cs.ualberta.ca> da...@cs.ualberta.ca (Darse Billings) writes:
>But the psychological benefits of [making 2pt] such a move are not as great in

>backgammon, I would think, since the opponent's follow-up is largely
>governed by the dice rolls, making it less likely that they will
>over-react to the perceived weakness of your play.

Not necessarily true. Once in a club match I played a visitor in the
first round. Opening roll 64, he made the 2pt. Having bought into the
conventional wisdom on the play, I immediately underestimated the guy.
At one point I gave him a slightly early cube in what I thought was a
"scare" position, trying to steal a point, and he took. Not something I
would have done against Trice or Barabino or Diamond no matter what
opening roll they would have played. Surely a top player wouldn't have
let their play be affected by a first impression of their opponent...
but I suppose I did to some degree. (I soon decided the guy knew what
he was doing.)

It poses an interesting question though. Against a player you've never
faced before, but who you know is not a top ranked expert, to what
degree can you get an edge in a long money session or a match by
intentionally playing a weak first or second move? It's in human nature
that we evaluate others quickly and it takes some time before we'll
reevaluate a person. It's probably best to play a weak non-volatile
move rather than a weak volatile one so you don't get caught badly by
it. Any comments? Do others consider this gamemanship or simply part
of the game?

-michael j zehr

### Mark Damish

Feb 7, 1995, 4:23:29 PM2/7/95
to
In article <3h8ath\$g...@scapa.cs.ualberta.ca> da...@cs.ualberta.ca (Darse Billings) writes:

[...]

>When is making the 2-point correct as a *response* to the opening move?
>
>Suppose your opponent opens 64 or 63 by running out a back man, and we
>roll 64. Now the usual running play (24-14) leaves us exposed to a
>double shot, so it isn't nearly as much fun as with the opening roll.
>
>I would have to think making the 2-point is better here, since it is
>safer, unstacks the 6-point, and makes an inner board point when we may
>hit next roll (the opponent's position is considerably looser than when
>we play 64 as the opening roll). The only other consideration seems to
>be 24-18 and 13-9, so perhaps a strong player could comment on the
>relative merits of each?

I'm not a strong player, but I'll add my 2 cents. I prefer 24/18 13/9 after my
opponent runs out with 9 or 10 (and also 11). The split makes it hard for my
opponent to safety his runner, make a useful point, and prevent me from making
a defensive anchor or running. The opponent might do one, but not all with his
single roll. The split adds pressure where it belongs in this situation, while
making the 2-point adds little immediate pressure to my opponents game plan of
bringing the runner around, and using it as a builder to make good points.

>Are there any other examples where making the 2-point is a correct
>response? And could it be that TD_Gammon was occasionally observed
>playing 64 to make the 2-point on the *second* move of the game?

I make the 2-point with 64 when my opponent opens with a 41, splitting
the rear checkers.
ie:
Opponent Mark
1. 41: 13/9 24/23 64: 8/2* 6/2

Again, my motive here is to not let my opponent have the entire roll to
create his offense. As a bonus, many entry numbers are messy for the opponent.
This theme is often seen when someone hits on the ace point to prevent the
opponent from using the entire roll to make points, or blitz, as he must use
part of the roll to enter. It is called a "tempo play", and in the case of
the 64 making the 2-point, you seize the innitiative quite often.

>In chess, it is fairly common to play a known "inferior" move, just to
>rattle one's opponent. If the move leads to positions you know well,
>and if they feel they must punish you for your insolence, then they can
>be in for a very rude awakening. In fact, I've often said something
>like "this strange move has the distinct advantage of not being nearly
>as terrible as it looks". :-)

>But the psychological benefits of such a move are not as great in
>backgammon, I would think, since the opponent's follow-up is largely
>governed by the dice rolls, making it less likely that they will
>over-react to the perceived weakness of your play.

An opening 43: played 24/20 24/21 is inferior to either of the other 43
openings, more so than using the 64 to make the 2-point, but it is often
quite effective in obtaining a complex position against a weaker player.
Has anybody worked out the correct replies to this opening?

At double match point (or equivelant) I sometimes play 21: as 6/5 6/4, which
sometimes yields a strong front, or an extremely well timed back game ---
starting with move number 2! No I won't prop it. It's a great exercise
in timing though --- Starting with move 2, prepare a position in which you
will be >50% to win the game. Be prepared to slip 50-100 pips, or to go
forward. If your opponent anchors, slip more timing. such that his anchor
ceases to function, and he is required to leave. Don't get primed.
Obtain this position 95+% of the time. Above all, when you're not training,
make the strongest move possable, which probably isn't this 21.

...Mark

### Albert Steg (Winsor)

Feb 9, 1995, 3:08:29 PM2/9/95
to

In a previous article, ta...@ATHENA.MIT.EDU (Michael J Zehr) says:

>
>It poses an interesting question though. Against a player you've never
>faced before, but who you know is not a top ranked expert, to what
>degree can you get an edge in a long money session or a match by
>intentionally playing a weak first or second move? It's in human nature
>that we evaluate others quickly and it takes some time before we'll
>reevaluate a person. It's probably best to play a weak non-volatile
>move rather than a weak volatile one so you don't get caught badly by
>it. Any comments? Do others consider this gamemanship or simply part
>of the game?

Depends what you understand by the term "gamesmanship" --I think examples
like the one you discuss are perfectly reasonable tactics to employ in a
money game, which, after all requires a great deal of psychological strength
of a good player. Bluffing, psyching out, using body language or posture,
the physical act of offering a cube{(gingerly? aggressively? with a
cavalier toss?) are part of the intrigue of money play.

After all, if you are making what you consider to bew an inferior play, you
are paying for your chance to delude your opponent. Is it worth the
investment? I think your opponent would need to be on the egotistical side,
and you might have to make an occasional repeat of that sort of "begine{'s
play" to sustain the illusion. ...But I have seen players start to steam
after falling behind in a money game against opponents for whose skill they
have contempt. (and I've fallen prey to that ugly feeling myself, and paid
for the privilege).

I'd say it can't hurt{much to try with some {hecker play, but I'd advise
against getting "clever" with your cube action ---that can be very costly,
especially if you start doubling early: I think you stand to win more from
having a weak opponent _take_ proper drops than you stand to gain from
harvesting the occasional timid _drop_.

Albert
--
"When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books,the
first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt
themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure.
-Jorge Luis Borges, "The Library of Babel"

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