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Bill Robertie’s Backgammon Lesson 3: Making the 5-Point

Here are two early game positions where Black has not much and White has an inner point and some pressure.

Position (a):

White – Pips 152

Black – Pips 160
Black to Play 3-1
Position (b):

White – Pips 150

Black – Pips 160
Black to Play 4-2

When Paul Magriel wrote his seminal book Backgammon in 1976, one chapter that was particularly noteworthy was entitled “The Golden Point”. There he described the importance of the 5-point, both for offensive and defensive purposes, and showed how making the 5-point was a key goal of early game play.

Over the years, theory regarding the 5-point has never really changed much. We’ve found a few exceptions, and certainly expanded our knowledge of when to break the 5-point later in the game, but the 5-point remains a key opening goal in most positions.

The two examples given above are very typical cases. In each position, Black has a chance to make either the offensive 5-point (Position (a)) or the defensive 5-point (Position (b)). In each position, there are alternatives that seem to have strong merit. In Position (a), Black’s rear checkers are under some pressure and seem to require a defensive anchor, which he can grab with 24/21 22/21. In Position (b), Black can actually hit while making a somewhat inferior anchor with 13/9* 24/22.

But in each case, simply making one of the 5-points is better. In Position (a), making his own 5-points smooths Black’s distribution while starting to put White under some pressure. In Position (b), grabbing the defensive 5-point with 24/20 22/20 prevents White from ever building a priming position, after which Black can start to build points on his side of the board.

It’s incredibly hard to go wrong by making one of the 5-points at an early stage. The exceptions are rare and tend to be exceptions by only small amounts. When in doubt, go for the 5-point.

Posted: July 22, 2015 | In Backgammon Problems: Early Game

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