Up until now, we’ve addressed the matter of when it’s appropriate to accept a double. However, deciding when to initiate a double is equally important, if not more challenging. It’s easy to overlook the significance of this topic and believe it’s not critical. If you’re considering doubling, it’s apparent that you’re in a good position in the game. However, think about it from Black’s perspective. He’s highly interested in whether or not you’ll double. If you appear to be considering doubling too soon, he’s silently pleading with you to double. There’s nothing better than being doubled too early and enjoying all the advantages of having the cube on your side of the board. Black will be anticipating a shift in the game in his favor, allowing him to double you back to 4 and potentially win a gammon for a satisfying eight-point victory. Alternatively, if his position is poor and he believes you should double him, he’s dreading it. He probably hasn’t decided whether to take or drop and would like a couple of “free throws” to make up his mind. Therefore, you must charge him for the privilege of continuing to play.
In fact, you’re quite easy to play against if you double too soon or too late, even if you’re moving your checkers effectively and making wise decisions when offered doubles, you may still end up losing money. What’s causing this? It’s most likely not just bad luck. It’s simply that you’re doubling at the wrong time. Consider the swing of winning 1 instead of 4. That’s what occurs when you wait too long to double, and Black drops instead of losing a gammon.
How should you determine when to double in backgammon? Some experts suggest that it depends on the odds being in your favor, such as doubling when the odds are three to two. However, this is not the only factor to consider. If you can see that Black will still be able to accept a double after their next move, even if you have an advantage now, it would not be wise to double. For example, if you have a good chance of winning but only if Black does not come in after your double 6, then it would not make sense to double now.
On the other hand, there are situations where you have a small advantage but the stakes are high, and if you do not win this turn, you will lose the game. In this case, you must double and charge Black for the privilege of playing on. The crucial factor in this scenario is the drama of the situation. If the game is likely to be decided before your next turn, you should be prepared to double even with a small advantage. If not much is likely to happen before your next turn, even with a big advantage, it may not be wise to double.
In certain situations, experts may choose to double when a typical player would not even consider it. My advice regarding these doubles is to avoid them unless you are an expert yourself. Otherwise, you may end up paying a hefty price.
Doubling vs Redoubling
Until a player doubles, the cube remains in the center. However, if your opponent doubles you, they have given you a powerful tool they no longer possess – control of the cube. If the game becomes even, this advantage can make a significant difference. You may gain such an advantage that your opponent has no choice but to concede when you double, even though a small stroke of luck could have changed the outcome. By possessing the cube, you can win a game you might have otherwise lost.
Additionally, if you redouble your opponent and they accept (whether it is the correct decision or not), you stand to win twice as much, on average, as you would have if they had not previously doubled the stakes. Thus, you should be cautious about doubling too early in the game, as your opponent may double you back, unless you have a strong chance of winning a gammon.
When facing the possibility of losing a gammon, you should exercise great caution before accepting a double. Conversely, when your opponent is at risk of losing a gammon, you should be quick to offer a double. However, you must still be mindful of the dangers that come with doubling, as you will not be able to double your opponent out of the game later on.
The key point is that you stand to gain a lot more by doubling in situations where a gammon is likely. Consider the scenario in the diagram where it is still early in the game and you have an advantage, but Black could easily turn the game around. Despite this, you have a clear-cut double. From Black’s perspective, they may soon find themselves trapped behind a five-point block with little hope of saving the game and a significant risk of losing a gammon. They may reluctantly accept the double, but they will not be happy about it.
If you wait too long in this type of position, Black may be unable to accept the double later on, and you will only earn one point instead of having a good chance to win four. Therefore, it is crucial to seize opportunities to double when the chances of a gammon are high, even if there are risks involved.