- Article 5 -
2 Away / 4 Away
2away/4away is one of the most interesting, challenging, and confusing scores for most players. In this topic we will explore strategy for both the leader and the trailer.
IF YOU ARE THE LEADER:
As in any score where you are 2-away you generally must be very conservative with the cube. Of course, you know that if you double and your opponent takes, he or she will immediately redouble and you are playing for 4 points. At this score, you are playing for the match, so your previous point lead is wiped out and the only consideration is game winning chances. Another reason not to give the cube is that winning a gammon with the cube in the center wins you the match. Because of these factors, it is wise to hold off on doubling until your winning chances are very close to 82% (your opponent's take point is around 18%) and even then you might not be wise to double if you have reasonable chances to win a gammon.A lot depends on the volatility of the position but let's also never forget the human factors involved—the things that the bots cannot tell you: the probability that you or your opponent may make cube or checker errors. If you can read your opponent and your position to get an opponent to drop when he should take, or take when he should drop, those considerations should go into your cube decisions. If you are in a position that you believe is much more likely to be misplayed by your opponent, this should be a consideration in making your decision.Relative to taking the cube, as the leader, most players tend to be far too cautious in some situations and far too quick to take in others. While your take point is approximately 20 percent, a major consideration is the price of gammons. If you accept a 2-cube and your opponent wins a gammon, you have lost the match—therefore for price of gammons is 1.0, or equal to the value of winning or losing the game. At the same time, once the cube goes to 2, any gammons you might win are meaningless. Obviously, gammon risks become a huge consideration in your take/drop decision. Again, far too many players drop cubes when there are not major gammon risks and they have well over 20 percent net value, while other players take cubes that should be dropped like a rock.In addition to making common cube errors as described above, many players don't realize that from the opening roll, the leader should play checkers as gammon-save. While it is quite possible that the cube will not be turned if things go well for you, it is far better to start out trying to make an advanced anchor in your opponent's board so as to minimize gammon risks. Once this is accomplished, you have not only made it more difficult for your opponent to turn the cube, you have positioned yourself in a way that you can play more aggressively to win games and gammons yourself. Therefore, with opening rolls such as 3-2, 4-3, 5-2, and other non-pointing rolls, you should be splitting as quickly as possible and playing for an advanced anchor. With an advanced anchor (holding your opponent's 4 or 5 point) you have taken away your opponent's potential to effectively blitz you or prime you. Even if you get additional men sent back, once you have an advanced anchor, they can be effectively recirculated into play.If the cube remains in the center and you take a decided advantage in the game, you can play very aggressively to try to win gammons, provided, of course, you are not taking such great risks that the game could easily turn around on you. If you are cubed, however, you must be far more protective about losing gammons and your checker play should be adjusted accordingly.
IF YOU ARE THE TRAILER:
Here again, most players double either too soon or too late. It's hard to double "too soon" if there is even a hint of gammon potential, and that probably is the most common error for Trailers at this score. For example, if you open with a 6-1 and make your bar and your opponent rolls a 5-2 and splits (as he should), you have a double on the second roll of the game. While it's only a small error not to double here (about .027), it is an error nonetheless. But you can imagine how big an error it is if you had opened with a 3-1 or 4-2, both of which lead to even more gammons than a 6-1 opening.On the other hand, if your opponent is successful at making an advanced anchor early in the game and your gammon chances are low, giving the cube can be a huge mistake. Keep in mind that if you lose a single game with the cube in the center and the score goes to 1away/4away Crawford, you can still win the match about 18 percent of the time—you're far from dead. You want to give the cube when you have reasonable gammon chances, and if not, at least give the cube when it is a difficult decision for your opponent to take or drop so that he will have a chance to make a wrong decision. If you give the cube too early you have little chance to pick up equity by an opponent's cube error.Your checker play is just the opposite of the leader's—you should start out playing gammon-go. Start out with the hope that you can blitz or prime your opponent to maximize gammons, and turn the cube as soon as you have any threats in that direction. If your opponent makes an advanced anchor or thwarts your plans by hitting you or escaping his back checkers, then you can switch gears and start playing to protect gammons.The following positions and the explanations will give you more insights into playing at this very tricky score. Think about the best checker and cube decisions for both the leader and the trailer in each of these positions. With practice and logic, you will greatly reduce your errors at this critical juncture of the match.