Take it Easy on the Greedy Bear-Off

The objective in backgammon is to bear off one's entire checkers first. And there are times when contact breaks and a pure race commences that a seemingly in-the-bag game blows up in your face. Even if it looks like you're in the lead, you can't seem to bear-off right and it costs you the game. And in these sticky situations (however unusual they may be), it's better to take it easy on the greedy bear-off and land on a point trouble-free.

Let's say you've got five checkers on your ace-point, one on your two-point, three on your three-point and two on your four-point and you roll a five-two. A greedy bear-off takes one checker on the four-point and the lone checker on the two-point off the board. Well, the better checker play in this case is to bear off a checker on the four-point and land another checker on the two-point.

The reason for this better checker move is that it takes advantage of subsequent lower dice rolls. Because when you roll any two on the dice after that greedy bear-off, you'll have to make a legal move to cover the pips and miss the chance to bear off more checkers when you roll low numbers later on.

Without a doubt, you should land on a point when you can't bear off. And it's desirable to build a curve peaking on the middle of your home board to take advantage of combination rolls at bear-off.

You see, if you have an over-stacked six-point or five-point, you'll have to roll a single die six or a single die five to capitalize on the bear-off or else play down a six or five combination if you want them borne-off. So rather than waiting in vain for these high numbers, use lower rolls to bring checkers on these high points closer to the middle or edge of the board.

There are times when the bear-off phase will cost you the game even if you're ahead in the backgammon race. If that's the case, then you should take it easy on the greedy bear-off. Keep in mind that you'll not always roll high numbers so you should position your checkers to take advantage of lower dice rolls. If you have the choice of creating a gap on a lower point or bearing in closer to the edge of your home board, it's better to choose the latter because it will fully use all your rolls in this deciding phase in the game.