The Bear In. This just describes the phase of the game where we are moving our last outfield checkers into the home board. The easiest of these come when there is no more contact. All the opponent's checkers have passed ours and there is no more chance of hitting. The game has become a pure race and we can divide these for convenience into two types, the first of which is the race where all we are trying to do is save the gammon. Our only aim is to get all the checkers home and bear one off. Two techniques help us to do this and they occasionally conflict. Cross-overs are vital, a cross-over just being where a checker moves from one quadrant of the board to another and we must always maximise crossovers. However, what we don't want to do is to waste any pips, so we try to avoid putting checkers deep inside the board and ideally pile everything onto the 6pt.
Here's an example of the sort of thing that I mean. Blue has to play 6-1 from the bar.
Position ID: u20AABD2bDgABA
Match ID: UQmnAQAAAAAE
Blue enters with the 6 and has a choice of ones. Both 19/18 and 13/12 achieve a crossover, but 13/12 is best. It means that Blue can use a six with perfect efficiency on the next turn and it also diversifies the mini-stack on the midpoint. The more points you occupy the more choice you have next turn. How important is this? Not very, the better play trims Blue's gammon losses from 93.2% to 92.4%, but you may as well have everything that you can get!
This next one is pretty easy, 3-3 to play
Position ID: 2xYAAIQ9Gw4CAA
Match ID: UYmtAQAAAAAE
The correct play is 13/10(2), 9/6(2), four cross-overs, no wastage.
Position ID: qwAAQNifGSAAAA
Match ID: UYmtAQAAAAAE
Now Blue rolls another terrific 3-3. 18/6 brings a man exactly to the 6pt with no wastage, but sometimes as I said, the two main rules conflict and here 18/12, 8/5(2) is better, achieving three cross-overs rather than two. It wastes two pips, but with the end of the game so close it is essential for Blue to get down to only three checkers in the outfield and maximise his chances of getting a man off in two (and sometimes one) rolls. With the finishing post in sight, you do need to start thinking of specific rolls next turn, as this next position neatly demonstrates.
Position ID: FQAAEN4fJgAAAA
Match ID: UQmuAQAAAAAE
With White certain to be off in two rolls, Blue must maximise his chances of getting a man off next roll. What's his best play? I'll give you the answer tomorrow, so plenty of time to read the numbers. Until then, enjoy the game!