The Art of the Holding Game: Strategies for Stalemate Situations


In the intricate world of backgammon, mastering various strategies is essential to become a formidable player. While blitzes, primes, and efficient bear-off techniques are often discussed, there’s one scenario that requires a unique set of skills: the holding game. In a holding game, both players are locked in a standoff, and the dynamics of the game change dramatically. This article explores the art of the holding game in backgammon, providing insights on how to navigate and capitalize on these stalemate situations. Whether you’re an experienced player looking to sharpen your skills or a newcomer seeking to understand the nuances of this aspect of the game, this article has you covered.

Understanding the Holding Game

A holding game, also known as a standoff or standoffish game, occurs when both players are locked in a positional struggle. In this scenario, the board lacks significant development or favorable points for aggressive strategies like blitzing or priming. Instead, both players focus on maintaining strong anchors and maximizing their checkers’ mobility to create a tactical advantage.

Key Aspects of the Holding Game

To excel in the holding game, players should understand the following key aspects:

1. Anchors are Vital: An anchor is a point in your opponent’s home board that your checker occupies, often the 20-point or 21-point. Anchors provide safety and flexibility, allowing you to re-enter safely if hit and control your opponent’s movement.

2. Mobility is Crucial: In a holding game, your goal is to maintain maximum mobility for your checkers. This mobility allows you to adapt to your opponent’s moves, maintain flexibility, and increase the probability of hitting or making points in their home board.

3. Patience is a Virtue: Holding games can be slow and deliberate. Patience is essential as you wait for opportunities to make strategic moves, hit your opponent’s blots, or escape your checkers from key points.

Strategies for Success in a Holding Game

Here are advanced strategies to navigate and gain the upper hand in a holding game:

1. Anchor Management: Protect your anchor at all costs. Losing your anchor in a holding game can be a severe setback. Maintain at least one anchor for safety and flexibility.

2. Secure Points: Look for opportunities to establish key points in your opponent’s home board. Points like the 20-point, 21-point, and 11-point can create tactical advantages in the holding game.

3. Build a Strong Home Board: Concentrate on strengthening your home board, making it less favorable for your opponent to re-enter checkers. This also gives you a safe haven for your checkers.

4. Calculate Pip Count: Track the pip count carefully to make informed decisions. Knowing your pip count helps you determine the optimal timing for moves and when to take calculated risks.

5. Use Holding Game Cubes: The doubling cube can be used strategically in a holding game. If you have a significant positional advantage or strong home board, consider offering a double to put pressure on your opponent.

Sample Holding Game Scenario

Imagine you’re in a holding game with your opponent. Both of you have anchors in their home board, and your board is relatively strong, with the 20-point and 11-point secured. Here’s how you can gain the upper hand:

  • Maintain your anchor at all costs. Protect it and keep the pressure on your opponent.
  • Focus on strengthening your home board further, making it difficult for your opponent to re-enter checkers.
  • Use the doubling cube strategically if you feel you have a positional advantage.
  • Be patient and wait for opportunities to hit your opponent’s blots or escape your checkers from key points.

By following these strategies, you can navigate the holding game with confidence and increase your chances of success.


The holding game is a unique and challenging aspect of backgammon, requiring a distinct set of skills and strategies. While it may not be as fast-paced as blitzes or primes, mastering the art of the holding game is essential for becoming a well-rounded backgammon player. By understanding the significance of anchors, mobility, patience, and strategic cube usage, you can excel in these stalemate situations and seize the upper hand when the opportunity arises. The holding game showcases the depth and complexity of backgammon, making it a captivating and rewarding element of the game for both new and seasoned players.

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