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Posted By: Nack Ballard
Date: Sunday, 13 December 2009, at 6:40 p.m.

In Response To: Killing the fetish point (Matt Ryder)


While I’m not sure of the best answer, I feel that I know the wrong answer – the move that most experts play reflexively: $ (Slot 13/7 6/4). What you should avoid most is allowing your opponent to (a) hit and get (b) to the edge or escape in the same move.

Illustrated below is one of the most useful of my opening reference positions: 62S-31P-66. I see most experts misplay this third roll position and positions like it.


1O ' ' '2X4X1O2X ' ' '4O

2X ' ' ' '5O '3O ' '1O5X


Position ID: sGfwATDgc+RBIA Match ID: cAkbAAAAAAAA

With three 6s, you should obviously make both bar points, leading to the position below, with one 6 to play:


 ' ' ' '2X4X2O2X ' ' '2O

2X ' ' ' '5O2O3O ' '1O5X

62S-31P-66, one 6 left to play141

Position ID: sGfwATDg25HBAA Match ID: cAkbAAAAAAAA

Black has one more 6 to play. Snowie’s eval is [$ D20], but the rollout reverses it to [D $30] (where $ means 11/5 and D means 13/7, and $ beats D by .030). Unless strong players have seen the position (or one like it) before, they will slot the 5pt, in order to retain an extra point overall, and there seems to be no good reason to break the midpoint anyway.

Paul Magriel is one of the few players I know to get this right. (Another would be Paul Weaver.) I reached a similar position in a match I played with him a few years ago, played three 6s, and Paul M. said “I know what’s right here.” I said, “So do I,” and brought the fourth one down. I actually didn’t know yet: I was racking my brain to see if I could remember if the specific position was an exception, but Paul’s comment made me feel more confident that it was right to come down as usual.

The reason that it is wrong to slot the 5pt is that it allows the opponent to too easily meet two great objectives in the same move: to hit and to split.

Now let’s give White only one back checker instead of two, with 65R-62S-31P-66, shown below, and with Black having already played the obvious three of his four 6s:


 ' ' ' '2X4X2O2X ' ' '2O

1X ' ' ' '5O2O3O ' '1O6X

65R-62S-31P-66, one 6 to play141


Most people, including experts, will slot the 5pt because they have been convinced it is expensive to break the midpoint. However, the midpoint is less valuable once you have made your 7pt; and, more than ever with only one opposing checker back, you don’t want to let the opponent hit and escape (or get to the edge) with the same number. I can’t find the rollout at the moment, but it might be as big as [D $50].

That brings us back to Matt R's position, 65R-31P-55P-66P-51$-62:

0-0 to 3 points130

 ' '2X '1X4X2O4X ' ' '3O

1X ' ' '2O4O2O2O ' ' '3X


Position ID: TM+DAyCwt8HBAA Match ID: cAkLAAAAAAAA

I believe that $ (Slot 13/7 6/4) is wrong. I’m a little out of my element because this is a 3-pointer instead of a longer match (i.e., money equivalent), but I still feel pretty sure that the other two plays (D and I) are better. The 3-duplication feels compelling (and it’s far from irrelevant), but to be clear, White will be delighted to hit with any 3.

Which of D and I are better? I’m not sure. D (Down 13/7 13/11) gives Blue more shots if White runs (63 62 53) and gives Blue a great follow-up spot for an ace (6/5). By contrast, I (In 13/5) avoids being hit with the 31 11 jokers, and upgrades Blue’s 7pt spare from a semi-active builder to a fully active builder in the event that White comes up with a 2 or 3.

I'm pretty much on the fence here between D and I, being satisfied to make my main point: that $ is the wrong idea in these kinds of positions and I doubt this specific position is an exception.


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