Commencing Bear-Off and a Couple of Tricks

There are two universal bearing-off rules in backgammon. One, a player may begin to bear off checkers when all 15 of them are on the home board. And two, the player should bear off a checker on a point from the dice roll. If no checker resides on that point, a checker on a point that's higher than the roll should be legally moved to an open point on the home board. Otherwise, a checker from the next lower point may be borne off.

These are straightforward rules and yet tricky situations may come up when you think you're playing correctly when you're actually not. These two backgammon laws can get lost in translation. Take a look at these cases and see how tricky following the rules can be.

So, you're rolling well and bearing off soundly (except for that annoying enemy checker on your one-point) then bam! You get hit and a checker's sent to the bar. Do you continue to bear checkers off since you've started already?

A sub-rule to rule number one is that the bear-off process cannot continue until all your remaining checkers are in the home board. Therefore, you now have to run that back checker all the way home before you can continue bearing off the rest of your pieces.

In the case of rule number two, here's a rather dicey predicament. You're down to your last four checkers, one is on the six-point and the other three are on the five-point. But there are three opposing checkers on your home board too. One is on your four-point and two are on you three-point. You take your turn and roll a six-two! Ah, the dicey dice has set you up for the hard shot.

As much as you'd want to take that six pip move to bring your blot to safety, you can't. It seems that rule number two says you can, but alas, that rule falls under a little precursor that applies throughout the game. It's that you cannot move pips from one die that would make the move on the other die illegal. So, if the two moves from the combination are possible, both of them should be played.

The solution to this dicey situation is that you must move your blot from your six-point and hit the opposing blot on your four-point (even if you don't want to!). Then, bear off one checker from your five-point (the resultant next lower point) to complete the six-two dice combination.

There are two universal bearing-off rules and they have sub-rules as well. The first specify all remaining checkers to be in the home board. And the second just takes into account the general rule that you can't choose to play one number on a die just so you can ignore playing the number on the other die. And that's how a couple of tricky and dicey situations are brought to order in backgammon.