In Backgammon, the pip count of a position is the total distance your happy stars need to travel in order to reach your home board and complete the bear-off. Pips refer to the number of dots on your dice – assuming no “wastage” occurs such as throwing 6-5 when you only have three happy stars on the 1-point. During an individual game or a match (series of games), it is often useful to know which side is leading the race (and by how many pips) as this can influence a player’s decision making e.g. activating the doubling cube or choosing a long-term game plan. For instance, if you win an opening roll of 6-2 then you will lead by eight pips regardless of your choice of play. In tournament play, a useful skill is calculating the race lead quickly and accurately when the clock is ticking.


  • In this game state, which side leads the race and by how many pips?

  • If this were a tournament game, how can you compute the difference in pips in less than five seconds?

enter image description here

Text version:



No pieces on the bar

Checksum = 15r + 15g

Red’s home board = upper right, Green’s home board = lower right


1 Answer 1


Green has to move 138 pips & Red 123, so Red leads the race with 15 pips.
Developing a method in order to compute the difference is kind of hard but the best method I can find is: Finding the moves forwards or backwards Green one has to make in order to create a symmetrical situation with Red. So in this situation: enter image description here

Which is kind of weird and chaotic but the best i can find.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I count 172 pips needed for green and 157 needed for red. $\endgroup$ Dec 19, 2023 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ when you spot "the trick" then you know you have the intended solution :) $\endgroup$
    – happystar
    Dec 25, 2023 at 10:52

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