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The Five-Three Opening Roll

There are only fifteen possible opening dice rolls in backgammon. Since there couldn't be a double on the starting move, these limited probabilities have opened more opportunity to study the best starting move per roll. The five-three opening roll, for instance. There are two moves that are most likely played with this combination. So, what are they and which is the best one to carry out?

The first option is advancing two checkers each from the 13-point to the eight-point and ten-point. The second option is advancing a checker from the eight-point over five pips and one checker from the six-point over three pips.

The first option obviously leaves a blot in the ten-point. While nobody really likes to leave a blot, this position is fairly advantageous to running more checkers from the opponent's outer board to yours. Since there are lots of pips to cover, running checkers off the bat is a fair move. Whilst the option to move a checker from the 24th point is feasible, it's really not recommended to leave two vulnerable blots as opposed to only one.

The second option will make or anchor the three-point. Making an inner or home board point has opened the prospect for a blocking strategy at the onset of the game. While anchoring the three-point may not look good for some as it leaves a break in the potential three-pip block, it's more advantageous than the first option.

An anchor on your third point sets up a prime on either your inner or intermediately through your outer and inner boards. And it's common sense that a prime is the key to a good blocking strategy as long as there's at least an opposing checker behind it. In addition, the second option doesn't leave a blot and that's good. Leaving a blot early on is okay and is recommended in a back game, but if you have another choice at the start, it's best to opt for the move that's safe.

The two common moves with a five-three opening roll in backgammon are moving a checker to the eighth point and one to the tenth point, and the other is creating an anchor on the third point. The first leans toward a running strategy and the second a blocking strategy. While they set-up different game plans, the second move is undoubtedly better than the first. It's better for two reasons: it wouldn't leave a blot and it assures an anchor on your home board.