Backgammon Opening Rolls

By Michael Strato
With the development of programs that can analyze positions in Backgammon, strategists of the game have been able to advance their knowledge of how the backgammon opening rolls should be played.

Programs (also known as bots) such as Snowie or GNUBG, allow you to set up a backgammon starting position, and for that matter, any other possible position thereafter, and perform what is called a “rollout” of the position. A “rollout” instructs the program to play that position out so many games with random dice rolls (500 games, 5,000 games or more) until it becomes quite clearly defined, what are the best backgammon opening moves.

You can also indicate in the settings of the rollout what kind of game the position is from. For example, if you are playing a 1-point money game, and the opening roll is 2-1, you might want to play it more aggressively than if you are playing the backgammon starting position of a 7-point match, in which you are winning 6-1, as you will want to protect your lead by playing conservatively.

While we know that some of the backgammon opening rolls are easy to play, such as the obvious ones of 3-1, 4-2, 5-3 and 6-1, rollouts help us to learn how to play those more difficult rolls, such as 6-2, 6-3, 5-4, 5-2, 5-1, 4-3, 4-1, etc.

If you learn to play the first few backgammon opening moves perfectly, whether for money play or match play (based on the score), you will have a huge advantage over an opponent, who has not studied the subject. After you know how to correctly play each backgammon starting position, you can then move on to learning the best second-roll and third-roll moves, etc. In Chess, the best moves for both sides have been worked out for up to 25 moves or more – so far, backgammon experts have figured much less, up to most of the first three, and perhaps some of the fourth opening plays.

Many of the world’s top professional players are studying backgammon opening moves because they know that if you can play those first few rolls of a game flawlessly, it will allow you to win more often, more so when the luck also happens to be on your side.

Nack Ballard, the All-Time #1 player in the world, has even invented “Nactation”, which are codes or notations for the actions of checker movements. His terms, for example, in the opening roll of the game, are abbreviations of the actions (to making a Running move, Splitting move, Slotting move, etc.) and the directions (to play a checker Up or Down). You may learn how to use and understand Nactation at this link

To find out how to use the GNUBG backgammon analyzing program click GNU; GNU software is free and may help you understand the full potential of backgammon opening rolls.