How to Give a Gammonish Recube (Slava vs. Lars Part II)
This article in the May/June edition of Prime Time Backgammon explores the psychological dimensions of backgammon match play by analyzing the cube strategies of Lars Trabolt and Slava Pryadkin in their 2013 World Championship finals match. My goal was to examine those situations in which the world’s best players deliberately vary from the computer-recommended moves. I observed that Lars Trabolt’s “non-bot plays” (I prefer not to call them errors) earlier in the match (before he fell behind significantly) were small issues of deliberate cautiousness (i.e. avoiding leaving lots of blots, not cubing/recubing when he technically should have, and dropping too early). These sub-optimal decisions could be thought of as having been forced by Praydkin’s aggressive tactics and cube play — which this article explores in more detail. Studying the match in its entirety, I find that Slava’s doubling strategy was consistent and global: it reveals a clear plan calculated to maximize his chances against a technically superior opponent who was well versed in modern theory.
Generally, the advice to weaker players playing long matches against the best players in the world is to cube early in gammonish positions, while also taking deeply/aggressively in high-volatility situations. Study of Slava’s play provides a tutorial in this strategy. As such this article is a must read for Open-level backgammon players who wish to beat the world’s best. This installment looks in particular at Slava’s recube to 4 trailing 20-away, 19-away. By cubing a smidge early, Slava forced Lars to take but gave himself plenty of opportunities to score a gammon and split the match right open. This recube should be understood as an example of the money strategy of ‘doubling the opponent in’ rather than ‘out’. Slava executed this flawless and the dice favoured him allowing him to pull ahead 13-6. To read the full article click here.