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Backgammon Opening Moves – Strategy Guide & Rules

Backgammon Opening Moves

Like in chess, backgammon opening moves are crucial. You will use these techniques at the start of every backgammon game, so it pays to know exactly what you’re doing.

Identifying the best point and setting up your subsequent rolls are what separates good players from great players. Backgammon moves pretty fast if you get caught behind. Take your time, in the beginning, to think about balanced play and making good points.

Your opening move may not be one of your usual plays but knowing how to “roll” with the punches is part of the game. Here we focus on utilizing all backgammon opening moves to your advantage to secure your home board.

If you have major goals set for your backgammon career, your best bet is to control the game with a great opening move.

The Importance Of Opening Rolls

Setting the tone and getting off to a good start is paramount with backgammon opening moves. When playing with the doubling cube, as you should be, you can back your opponent into a corner quickly and double match point as often as possible.

Since there are no doubles on a backgammon opening roll, there are only 15 possible outcomes on the dice. Also, the checkers are always set up the same way, so you can become very skilled at using a backgammon opening roll to your advantage.

Knowing why you want to take over the bar point or any other important point early on will separate you from the competition. The following is a straightforward guide to help you with all the backgammon opening moves. Use one of these on your first roll to put you in a good position for victory.

A Guide To Opening Moves

A Guide To Opening Moves

Keep this guide handy for your next game – take note of how each backgammon opening roll performs and how your opponent reacts.Great players never stop learning.

Best Rolls

Each opening roll and what they mean for your game:

3 – 1

Make your 5 point. The most coveted point on the whole board will give you a solid foundation right from the start.

4 – 2

Your second-best opening roll is to make your four point. Although deeper in your home board, it still provides resistance against your opponent’s furthest checkers.

5 – 3

Easily make your three point for the same reasons

6 – 1

This roll may be preferred by some over a 5 – 3. It allows you to make your bar point and creates the start of what could be a perfectly placed prime in later rolls. This is an undervalued backgammon opening move.

6 – 4

Here’s where the hard decisions start. This roll allows you to make your two point, but some players would rather use it to extract one of their back checkers from twenty-four to the fourteen point.

Decent Rolls

Decent Rolls

3 – 2

The two best options for this roll are to either split your back checkers or move your thirteen point to the eight; the latter keeps every checker safe.

5 – 1

This roll provides an easy decision but not necessarily a great result. Simply split your back checkers and bring down your thirteen point to relative safety on the eight.

5 – 2

The two options here both involve moving your thirteen to the eight point. Then use your 2 for one of your back checkers, twenty-four to twenty-two, or move another from your thirteen to your eleven.

4 – 1

If you’re feeling frisky, you can make a more aggressive play with this roll. Use the 1 to move from your six to your five point. Although vulnerable for the time being, it lets you start to lay claim to your five point, which is a very important point. Use the 4 to move from thirteen to nine.

4 – 3

This roll offers the most options compared to any other roll. All things being equal, the best move here is to advance a back checker to twenty-one and bring one down from thirteen to nine.

Tough Rolls

2 – 1

You’re not going to get far with this roll, so most experts recommend splitting your back two checkers and bringing one down from the thirteen point. If you want to push your luck a bit, you can stake your five point and hope your opponent’s next roll isn’t a 4.

5 – 4

Your playing style will determine the best course of action with this roll. Either way, bring a thirteen to the eight. For the other checker, you can move a back one up or bring down another from the thirteen mid point and stake the nine point.

6 – 2

This is best used as a running play. You can move your twenty-four point all the way to your sixteen.

6 – 3

This is another running roll and will allow you to move your twenty-four point all the way to the fifteen. You could also move a back checker to your opponent’s bar point and then bring one down from the thirteen.

6 – 5

The king of all running rolls. Move a back checker all the way to your thirteen point. 

If you don’t have a backgammon set or are looking for a new one, read our best backgammon set reviews.

Frequently Asked Questions

The best opening moves in backgammon are the 3 – 1 and 6 – 1. These rolls allow you to make a point and create the beginning of a wall that will make it difficult for your opponent to pass. These keep all your checkers safe in the process so you can go on the attack in your upcoming turns.

The 5 point is so vital in backgammon because of where it’s positioned on the board. By staking your claim around this point you make it very hard for your opponent to advance past it. Taking over this point also gives you an enormous advantage if you can put your opponent on the bar. It will severely hinder their progress and will be your best chance to gammon or backgammon them.

When players roll a double as an opening roll, no checker is moved. The same player will roll again; however, the doubling cube will be rotated to 2. The game is now worth 2 points, and anyone can offer to double from there once play starts. If doubles are rolled again, the doubling cube gets switched to 4, this continues until no doubles are rolled.

Backgammon is primarily a skill. Those who demonstrate proper backgammon strategy will win over the long term against those who don’t. However, in any given game, anyone can win simply because dice are involved. Sound strategy can sometimes be beaten with the right amount of luck which makes the game all the more exciting.

Playing backgammon strategically requires a lot of practice, patience, and memorization. If you can study these opening moves and use them accordingly based on your opponent, then you will gain a strategic advantage. Recognizing a bad play from the best play could be the difference between winning and losing.


Learning how to play opening rolls in backgammon match play will significantly increase your winning percentages. A great opening move can set you up right from the start for the rest of the game. Making an important point here and an important point there is what the veterans of the game do. Slowly but surely, you can learn these ways as well if you put in the practice and learn how to use the best opening move you can.

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