Backgammon Rules – Bearing Off

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 26,605
    Vic Morawksi, expert backgammoner, teaches the basic to the game including the rules that govern the bear off.

    Vic Morawski: Hi, I am Vic and today we are introducing you to the game of Backgammon. We would like now to talk about the rules that govern the bear off.

    There are a few rules that govern how you can legally take your checkers off the board or bear them off at the end of the game. As in the rest of the game the numbers on the dice are considered individually. If you roll the numbers that correspond to points on which you have checkers, you are allowed to take checkers off of those points.

    So, here if I roll a four, I can take a checker off the four point and as I have rolled a three I can take one off of the three point as well. Now, you don't absolutely have to bear off a checker, if you roll a particular number. For instance, suppose your opponent owned the point against you, if I rolled a 6-4 in a situation like this, well I am not -- I can take one off the six point, I am not forced to then take one of the four if there is another legal way I can play that roll and here I would not want to leave a blot, where it could be hit by white.

    So, if I roll a 6-4 and my opponent still has a point in my board, I can take the six off and then I can play the four down another legal way and so now I am not leaving that blot. Now to go back to the original setup I had one thing that's particularly important then is that you would be able to not leave too many gaps, because what happens here if I roll a five? I have no checkers on the five point. Here I must move the checker down, you are required to take all of your roll, if you at all can possibly do that. So I must move the complete five down and I can't get a checker off and that can be important when you're in a race.

    Now suppose the situation were different and I had all of my checkers on the lower points. Now, here if you rolled a 6-5 or in this case, say a 6-5, there is no checker on the six point, there is no checker on the five point. The rules say that you must bear off from the next highest point.

    So, here I could take two checkers off the four point and the rule say, it's that point that I have to take them off of and so it's important then not to leave gaps. Now, in the case of doubles, doubles can be particularly good for you. Suppose I'm in a situation and had the good fortune to roll double threes, well doubles in the bear off just like doubles in the rest of the game give you not two threes but four threes and what that means in the bear off is that I can take four checkers off my three point.

    Now, of course I could also move them legally from my four point, but I would want to take them off if I at all could and by the way there is no limit to the number of checkers that can be on a given point. So there are some games where you end up with a lot of checkers stacked upon your lower points and that's perfectly legal. The last thing I want to cover in the bear off rules is the subtlety in the rules that could save you from being in a world of trouble, if you know it.

    Remember, we said that in Backgammon you must play both numbers, if at all possible and you must play a complete number, if it's at all possible to do so. Now, here is a situation where in the bear off, blue has just been missed on the previous turn and blue would definitely not want to be hit by white because white has a very strong position what we called a full prime on the other side. Blue has a good chance even with this many checkers off of losing the game, if blue were hit.

    Now, blue has been unlucky enough to roll a 6-2 in this position. Now, note what happens if I roll and if I take off the six from the six point. Where do I play the two? Well two's are blocked, I cannot move either of these checkers at two. So , the two would expose two blots to being hit by white, if I take the six off. But remember that the rules do not say that you have to take the numbers in any particular order.

    So, it is entirely consistent with the rules that I play the two first which puts my checker there and then play the six and remember if no higher points are open, this is considered to be playing a complete six by doing that. So, these situations do come up and when they do they can save you from being in the lot of trouble, if you know this subtlety in the rules.

    Next, we are going to give you an insight into the strategy of the game and an overview of the basic game plans.