A Strategy and Style: The Holding Game

Let's say you are behind in the pip count and it seems that your opponent might start a running game. What can we do? Many players prefer to execute a holding game when faced with this situation. Other players who favor this strategy even set-up a holding game given any circumstance, thus there are those who say that the holding game is more of a style rather than a strategy. Let's try to grasp the fundamentals of such a style in playing backgammon.

Whenever one is trailing in the pip count (that is if you have more checkers and/or your checkers are further away from your home board when compared to that of your opponent) common advice would be to execute a holding game. This strategy is also a good way to counter an opponent who is poised to do a running game.

This strategy is not merely executed near the game's end. Consider it more as a method for having a defensive back end to hinder your opponent's progress and facilitate your own.

The principle of the holding game is to keep a point in you opponent's home board in your control. Many players prefer to set this up at the 20 point or the bar points. Keeping control of the points nearer to your opponent's home board. With your block dug in deep into your opponent's home board gives you positional advantage.

Points further back are weaker as most of your opponent's checkers would be off those points. And since there are fewer enemy-checkers your chances at getting a hit and stalling your opponent's progress is diminished.

A well-positioned block when executing a holding game will give your opponent second thoughts about executing a running game. Some players even add a short prime at their opponent's back end to further facilitate this strategy. When a hit is made that prime would provide chances to keep that checker in the bar or at least hinder it a couple of turns. Thus facilitating your other checker's opportunity to move on and catch up on the pip count.

Just remember that when we execute a holding game we intend to set that point we control as a place where we can make hits. Some players keep a point in control high on the opponent's board to get more chances to make this hit whether they are behind in the pip count or not. This is some sort of a backup plan just in case the numbers on the dice don't go your way. This is the main reason why the holding game is sometimes referred to as a style in playing backgammon.

Once your trap is set, and the holding game is in play, just wait to make those hits. Once a hit is made move your checkers in position as quickly as possible. There will be times when you will be left far behind but would be able to recover and win by executing a perfect holding game. This strategy proves useful at any point when playing backgammon.