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Live by the Sword

Posted By: Nack Ballard
Date: Tuesday, 2 February 2010, at 2:08 p.m.

In Response To: Live by the Sword (Stick)

[To Stick]: I imagine that after all the double 1s positions you've (kindly) rolled out for me, you've developed a few rules with them, as have I.

If your rule/guideline in these positions is "Always make the 4pt" or "When in doubt, make the 4pt, or "The 4pt is stronger than you think," as vague as any such axiom is under close scrutiny, it has doubtless served you well.

[To general readership]: A good example of the strength of making the 4pt can be found with most any 31P-xxx-11 position. For example:


2O ' ' '2X4X '2X ' ' '5O

2X ' ' '2O4O '2O ' ' '5X


Is it better for Blue to do three good things -- split, make the 7pt and spread a builder 6/5, or do one good thing -- make the 4pt?

The best play here won't surprise everyone (especially after that QF-laden intro), but the size of the margin is very likely to:

Making the 4pt with 6/4(2) beats split, 7pt and spread (24/23 8/7(2) 6/5) by about .120. The latter move, which is commonly played, is a whopper.

There are a large number of 31P-xxx-11 positions. Make "xxx" anything you like for White that is a remotely reasonable play, other than the obvious one of splitting to Blue's 7pt (6xS) or slotting her 5pt (if leaving that direct shot qualifies as remotely reasonable) and in every case but one Blue should make the 4pt, and in most cases any other play is a whopper.

The single exception is 31P-66B-11. In that case, anchoring on the 22pt is better. Not by a lot, though. Typical perception is that since the horses have left the barn that 24/22(2) should beat 6/4(2) by a country mile. In fact, the margin is small -- between .02 and .03.

That brings us to the position at hand, diagrammed below. The result of voting is much as I would expect. Most people chose not to make the 4pt, and I can't help but wonder if all the couple/few that did would have done so facing the situation OTB.

Granted, the arguments in favor of the 9pt are compelling, and in this case I'm not sure the 4pt is right (like it is in the vast majority of 31P-xxx-11 positions). I feel sure only that the 4pt is more right/reasonable than the masses would think, and more right/reasonable than even the experts on this forum think when polled as a group.

What would I play here? I would make the 4pt, though it's not really my point. I seek only to help others adjust their (prevalent) bias against making the 4pt because other plays look pretty or seem to accomplish more.

After 6/4(2), there are "only" 13 numbers (63 61 31 41 66 44 33 22 11) to make a fifth point in the prime, as opposed to 20 numbers (54 52 51 42 41 21 62 61 66 33 22 11) to do so after 10/9(3) 6/5, but the 4pt is still the 4pt. Blue doesn't want White splitting to her 21pt (which I believe she should with any ace except 61R), threatening to make a second anchor; Blue is much better equipped to attack if he makes the 4pt and White runs out with a 6 or 4 instead and he already has his 4pt in hand. Moreover, potential accidents of bearing in without ever making the 4pt (especially when White ends up owning it, but even without that) are avoided.

There is substantial value in the greater containment of White's 22pt checkers (by making the 9pt or 7pt instead of the 4pt), particularly in the event that she attacks Blue's lone blot. But that's not the only countermeasure available. Blue's 4pt is an asset if/when that battle is waged as well.

Finally, I suggest that this position be used as a counting exercise. The point-numbering is in Naccel, first from Blue's perspective, than from White's. Any thoughts on how to count it, Naccelers?


 ' '1O '2X3X '2X ' '2X2O

 ' '4X '2O4O '3O '3O '2X

 ' '1O '2X3X '2X ' '2X2O

 ' '4X '2O4O '3O '3O '2X

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