Cube Quandaries #1 (2023-11-20)

A recurring topic where you get a glimpse into the crazy world of an aspiring intermediate player (me) learning proper cube action. Please feel free to offer some analysis, feedback, general advice, perspective, etc. …or just take in the chaos. :sweat_smile:

As a (new) intermediate player I can’t offer world-class insight or post amazing articles with the promise of upping your game. I can, however, provide a view into some of the struggles with learning proper cube action at an intermediate level (it can be easy to forget/overlook what you once didn’t know). I aim to improve (faster) by exposing my, often atrocious, blunders and taking in any help the community is willing to offer. Ideally we get some good discussion going and others beyond myself find the exchange beneficial as well.

Quandary #1


White on roll, cube action?

Analyzed in XG Roller++
Player Winning Chances:   60.06% (G:35.75% B:2.46%)
Opponent Winning Chances: 39.94% (G:6.39% B:0.23%)

Cubeless Equities: No Double=+0.526, Double=+1.086

Cubeful Equities:
       No double:     +0.708
       Double/Take:   +0.673 (-0.035)
       Double/Pass:   +1.000 (+0.292)

Best Cube action: No double / Take
Percentage of wrong pass needed to make the double decision right: 9.6%

Over the Board

This was the first game of a match to 7 (and my first match of the day). This was not the start I was hoping for: down 75 pips with two on the bar facing a double (and still on my first cup of coffee).

My take/pass behavior (especially in gammonish positions) is very much an underdamped system. I get burned for taking too deep, and then overcompensate only to get burned for dropping. I lack the rational tools (and/or overall experience) to work past my gut reaction and end up making fear-based decisions… not ideal.

Here I very much let my fear get the best of me and dropped. I did pause to consider that I perhaps had some backgame potential, but the position was (and still is) too scary for me. I have two on the bar against White’s three builders aimed at their home board (with the 4-point slotted) and am way down in the race. I figured I am getting gammoned for sure.


After some ++, XG actually says that this was a bit early of a double and a (~triple!) blunder to drop. Black apparently has almost 40% wins from here! I definitely did not figure such.

I apparently do not understand the position and plan to play it out until I get a better grasp on where Black’s wins are coming from. Best I can figure is that Black gets a second anchor, resulting in a 2/3/4-5 backgame with good timing? …I shall return, feel free to comment in the meantime.



I would label this position as a proto-backgame (I added a tag to the OP) and, after playing this out some, I can safely say that there is significant contact value here for black. I am still working through how to play from here after the take but am making good progress. I at least understand how (most of) the wins transpire.

Concerning the take, after some tweaks I have found that you can (amongst others) make this a pass by:

  • moving up all the outfield checkers to close the gap on the 7-point (decreases contact value AND further extends race lead),
  • making White’s 4-point using a spare from the outfield, or
  • bringing White’s straggler around onto the 8 or 9-point (borderline take/pass here; again decreases contact value for Black and extends White’s race lead… interesting though that putting the straggler onto the 11-point isn’t enough).

Variations where Black has only one on the bar are no doubles.

My rule of thumb is that a well-timed backgame yields at least 40% winning chances, sometimes closer to 50%. So as long as I don't have any dead checkers, I'm taking. But the moment you get any impurity - like a single checker on your 2 point - things change drastically for the worse.