I'm on a bit of a losing streak at the moment and at these times, it's always good to keep a close eye on the blunders, the plays where one gives away a lot of equity. If you start to see where the big mistakes are and more importantly, why you made them, you can begin to put right the faulty thinking that led to the mistake in the first place. Here's one where I could have done better with a bit more attention to detail.
I lead 2-0 in a match to five, I trail 148-170 in the race and I am on the bar. The roll is 6-5. of course I enter with the 5 and look round for a 6. It hits on the 7pt and without much more thought, that's where it went. This is a fair sized blunder.
Hitting is usually correct when you trail in the race, so why is it wrong here?
Hitting has several drawbacks. The first is that it doesn't achieve all that much. It only costs White 7 pips in the race and Red doesn't have either a board or a prime to contain the blot when it re-enters from the bar. When the play "works", i.e. when White re-enters and doesn't hit one of the three blots lying about, it still doesn't gain much because the bar point isn't particularly valuable here.
The second big drawback is that it means giving up Red's midpoint. With both players holding a high anchor after this roll, the mostly likely game type is a mutual holding game, where both sides struggle for positional supremacy and try to build points. The midpoint, controlling the outfield and providing a useful landing point for checkers moving from back to front, is vitally important.
It's so important that White on her turn will be very reluctant to give it up in order to hit, so playing 23/17 is relatively safe and that is Red's best play. 8/2 is as bad as hitting.
Of course 23/17 doesn't achieve much either, but it makes a position with only one blot which is nice and keeps the vital midpoint. These quiet plays are hard to find, as we are conditioned to "do" something, to make things happen, to hit and be aggressive, but sometimes quiet is good and a bit more thought here might well have led me to a better play. It's bad to make mistakes of course, but it is worse to make them when you just haven't thought for long enough!
Until next time, enjoy the game!