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Sportive Cubing

Posted By: Colin Owen
Date: Thursday, 29 November 2012, at 4:18 p.m.

In Response To: Feedback: Dead Cubes (Chris Haviland)

Though backgammon is a mind sport, and there is an argument that all mental aberrations should be penalised, it doesn't seem unreasonable to apply the rule that Chris suggests: define a held cube as dead where the cube owner need not redouble. (Procedures would need to be in place, of course, if it did happen.)

To this player though, such a rule does not go far enough. It is one thing to allow gammons and backgammons to count for the trailer when they are of no value to the leader; quite another to allow the trailer to redouble when none of the additional points are required by his opponent. Permitting such an action IMHO seems an abuse of the doubling principle. I also believe, therefore, that allowing even an initial double, post Crawford, amounts to the same. Why not modify the Crawford Rule to always kill the cube when the leader is 1 away?

The principle that helped create the Crawford Rule, back in the Sixties, was that it was felt rather unfair to allow the trailer to turn the cube in these situations. On the basis that a bg tournament match is an attempt to find the better player, and that player is more likely to get to 1 away, this held perception seems reasonable. But to limit cubing in this way might have led to (a few) very long matches - and in the pre-clock era. So, John Crawford's proposal was adopted.

As I've implied before on this forum, I believe that the proposal put forward in Barclay Cooke and Jon Bradshaw's 'The Cruelest Game' was the purest application of the Table Stakes principle. If the leader needs one point then that is all the trailer can win in each game. If the leader needs 3 than a redouble by either player kills gammons and increases the value of the game by only that single point, and so on. It probably wouldn't have been practicable in the pre-clock era, though might not be so now. But certainly, to allow cube turns where all of the additional stake is born entirely by the leader seems wrong IMHO. This is why, with automatic recubes, beginners sometimes do not redouble: they believe they can't!

In poker, one can only win as many points from each opponent as one can lose oneself. I believe it would make for a better game - one where the stronger player would more likely prevail, yet also one that would appeal to many newcomers sense of fair play - to ban overage altogether. But, at least with regard to the permitted use of the doubling cube in tournaments, the principle applied in poker should be practised in our game too. It seems to me that, to allow the punishment of the mental aberration of a leader pointlessly turning the cube, actually has some argument in it's favour (though probably not enough) - the permitted use of the cube by the trailer, enjoying 100% overage, does not.

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