The Art of the Race: Advanced Racing Strategies in Backgammon


In the game of backgammon, the race is a fundamental concept that often determines the course of the game. Racing involves moving your checkers as quickly as possible towards your home board to bear them off. While the basic principles of racing are easy to grasp, advanced racing strategies require a deeper understanding of when to race, when to switch strategies, and how to manage your checkers to maximize your chances of winning. In this article, we will delve into the art of the race in backgammon, offering insights into advanced racing techniques that will help you become a more formidable player.

1. The Basics of the Race

Racing in backgammon is essentially a sprint to bear off all your checkers before your opponent does. The pip count, which represents the total number of spaces your checkers need to move to reach the home board, is a crucial factor in the race. Both players aim to reduce their pip count and bear off their checkers as quickly as possible.

2. Advanced Racing Techniques

To excel in the race, consider these advanced techniques:

  • Knowing When to Race: Timing is crucial in the race. While a strong early game strategy often involves building a solid home board, there comes a point where you should switch to a racing strategy. This switch is typically driven by your pip count relative to your opponent’s.
  • Pip Count Management: Continuously assess the pip count. If you’re ahead in the race, focus on maintaining your lead. If you’re behind, work on closing the gap. Calculate the pip count at various stages to inform your decisions.
  • Doubling Cube Strategy: The doubling cube can play a significant role in the race. If you have a significant lead in the pip count, consider doubling to increase the stakes. If your opponent declines, you’ll win extra points. If they accept, it’s an indication that they believe they have a chance to catch up.
  • The Anchor: In some cases, maintaining an anchor can be a valuable racing strategy. An anchor provides stability and security for your checkers, especially when you have checkers in your home board.

3. Race vs. Priming Strategies

The decision to race or employ a priming strategy depends on the position and the pip count. Advanced players must recognize when it’s more advantageous to focus on racing or maintaining a prime.

  • Racing: Racing is effective when your pip count is lower than your opponent’s, meaning you have fewer spaces to move your checkers. In such cases, prioritize bearing off checkers quickly.
  • Priming: A priming strategy involves building points to trap your opponent’s checkers. It’s effective when your opponent has more checkers to bear off and a higher pip count. You aim to slow down their progress with points while bearing off your own checkers.

Sample Scenario: The Race to Victory

You’re in a match, and you and your opponent are both in the race phase. Your pip count is significantly lower, indicating you have fewer spaces to move your checkers to bear them off. Recognizing your lead, you decide to double the stakes with the doubling cube. Your opponent accepts the cube, and you go on to win the game, capitalizing on your superior position in the race.


The art of the race is a crucial aspect of advanced backgammon play. Understanding when to race, when to switch to a racing strategy, and how to manage your checkers effectively can lead to victory. By recognizing the pip count, employing pip count management, and using the doubling cube strategically, you can optimize your chances in the race. Additionally, being able to switch between racing and priming strategies depending on the position and pip count is a hallmark of an experienced backgammon player. Ultimately, mastering the art of the race is a key step in your journey toward becoming a more skilled and successful backgammon enthusiast.

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