How to Use Rolls in the Backgammon Bear-off

We know that it's correct to start bearing off in backgammon when we have our entire pieces on our inner board. And if we roll pip moves that correspond to a point with a checker on it, we know that we can take that checker out of the board. However, there is more than one choice in the case mentioned above. Also, there are rules about how to use rolls in the backgammon bear-off when the point that's indicated in the roll doesn't have a checker on it. So how can we correctly use rolls in the bear-off phase of the game?

In the backgammon bear-off phase, rolls can either specify an occupied point (with a checker on it) or it can indicate what we're going to call an "empty point". As mentioned earlier, when our roll specifies an occupied point, we are not limited to just taking the checker on that point off. We have another choice which is burying in a checker that's on any higher point before that indicated point as well. To bury in a checker means advancing a piece from a higher point on the inner board to a lower point.

An empty point, on the other hand, has no pieces on it. So if our roll indicates this point, instructions on how to use rolls in the backgammon bear-off are qualified as having checkers either before that empty point or after it.

If there are checkers on points before that roll-indicated empty point, we must use the roll to bury in a checker from any of the higher points. And if there are no checkers before that empty point but there are checkers on the lower points, we must bear off the checker on the highest occupied point first.

For example, you have one remaining piece each on the five-point, four-point, two-point, and ace-point and then you roll a five-three. Following backgammon bear-off rules, you must bear off the checker from the five-point. And since the three-pip move indicates an empty point and there's a checker on a higher point (four-point), you must bury in that piece to the ace-point.

You now have a piece on the two-point and two checkers on the ace-point and you cast a five-three on your next turn. Since those are empty points and there's no checker on higher points anymore, you must first take off the piece from the next highest point which is the two-point. After that, you can remove a piece from the ace-point.

Instructions on how to use rolls in the backgammon bear-off phase are classified as having rolls indicate either an occupied point or an empty point. If it's an occupied point, we can take the piece on it off or if there are checkers on points before that, we can bury those in. If it indicates an empty point, we must bury in a checker on any occupied point before it. But if there's no piece before it, we must take off a checker from the highest occupied point first.

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