• In this variant, doubles are powerful: four moves are played as in backgammon, followed by four moves according to the difference of the dice value from 7, and then the player
    has another turn (with the caveat that the turn ends if any portion of it cannot be completed).

  • [42][43] Movement[edit] 6:36 Video of a game of backgammon, showing movement around the board, entering from the bar, formation of primes, use of the doubling cube and bearing
    off To start the game, each player rolls one die, and the player with the higher number moves first using the numbers shown on both dice.

  • To balance the situation, the Crawford rule requires that when a player first reaches a score one point short of winning, neither player may use the doubling cube for the
    following game, called the “Crawford game”.

  • As before, if there is a way to use all moves showing on the dice by moving checkers within the home board or by bearing them off, the player must do so.

  • [2] Backgammon is a two-player game of contrary movement in which each player has fifteen pieces known traditionally as men (short for ‘tablemen’), but increasingly known
    as ‘checkers’ in the US in recent decades, analogous to the other board game of Checkers.

  • [30] The cube required players not only to select the best move in a given position, but also to estimate the probability of winning from that position, transforming backgammon
    into the expected value-driven game played in the 20th and 21st centuries.

  • When the cube is still centered, either player may start their turn by proposing that the game be played for twice the current stakes.

  • Some terminology, such as “point”, “hitting a blot”, “home”, “doublet”, “bear off” and “men” are recognisably the same as in the modern game; others, such as “binding a man”
    (adding a second man to a point) “binding up the tables” (taking all one’s first 6 points), “fore game”, “latter game”, “nipping a man” (hitting a blot and playing it on forwards) “playing at length” (using both dice to move one man) are no
    longer in vogue.

  • If a player’s checker is hit while in the process of bearing off, that player may not bear off any others until it has been re-entered into the game and moved into the player’s
    home board, according to the normal movement rules.

  • If both opponents roll the same opening number, the doubling cube is incremented on each occasion yet remains in the middle of the board, available to either player.

  • The aim, board, number of pieces or “men”, direction of play and starting layout were the same as in the modern game.

  • For example, a roll of 5-5 allows the player to make four moves of five spaces each.

  • all six points are each occupied by two or more checkers), there is no roll that will allow a player to enter a checker from the bar, and that player stops rolling and playing
    until at least one point becomes open (occupied by one or zero checkers) due to the opponent’s moves.

  • The achievement of this while the opponent is still a long way behind results in a triple win known as a backgammon, hence the name of the game.

  • If all of a player’s checkers are on points lower than the number showing on a particular die, the player must use that die to bear off one checker from the highest occupied

  • [58] Many positions require a measurement of a player’s standing in the race, for example, in making a doubling cube decision, or in determining whether to run home and begin
    bearing off.

  • As the playing time for each individual game is short, it is often played in matches where victory is awarded to the first player to reach a certain number of points.

  • The player with the higher number on the second roll moves using only the numbers shown on the dice used for the second roll.

  • If a player is one point away from winning a match, that player’s opponent will always want to double as early as possible in order to catch up.

  • [58] When this fails, one may opt for a “holding game”, maintaining control of a point on one’s opponent’s side of the board, called an anchor.

  • [42][43] For example, if a player rolls a 6 and a 5, but has no checkers on the 6-point and two on the 5-point, then the 6 and the 5 must be used to bear off the two checkers
    from the 5-point.

  • [b] However, there was no doubling die, there was no bar on the board or the bar was not used (men simply being moved off the table when hit) and the scoring was different.

  • Whether the game is worth one point or two, the trailing player must win to continue the match.

  • In the most commonly used setup, each player begins with fifteen pieces; two are placed on their 24-point, three on their 8-point, and five each on their 13-point and their

  • If the losing player has not yet removed any pieces from the board AND has any pieces in their opponent’s home area OR up on the bar, that is called a “backgammon” and is
    worth 3 points.

  • For example, a player leading a 9-point match by a score of 7–5 would be very reluctant to turn the doubling cube, as their opponent could take and make a costless redouble
    to 4, placing the entire outcome of the match on the current game.

  • The objective of the game is to move the fifteen pieces around the board and be first to bear off, i.e., remove them from the board.

  • [35] In the second half of the 20th century, new terms were introduced in America, such as ‘beaver’ and ‘checkers’ for men (although American backgammon experts Jacoby and
    Crawford continued to use both).

  • For example, if a player has exactly one checker remaining on the 6-point, and rolls a 6 and a 1, the player may move the 6-point checker one place to the 5-point with the
    lower die roll of 1, and then bear that checker off the 5-point using the die roll of 6; this is sometimes useful tactically.

  • While the dice may determine the outcome of a single game, the better player will accumulate the better record over a series of many games.

  • A “running game” describes a strategy of moving as quickly as possible around the board, and is most successful when a player is already ahead in the race.

  • The backgame is generally used only to salvage a game wherein a player is already significantly behind.

  • Checkers placed on the bar must re-enter the game through the opponent’s home board before any other move can be made.

  • If moves can be made according to either one die or the other, but not both, the higher number must be used.

  • “Match” play means that the players play until one side scores (or exceeds) a certain number of points.

  • [8] The overall aim was to be first to bear one’s pieces off; the board had the typical tables layout, with 24 points, 12 on each side; and there were 15 counters per player.

  • Such a move adds greatly to the risk of having to face the doubling cube coming back at 8 times its original value when first doubling the opponent (offered at 2 points, counter
    offered at 16 points) should the luck of the dice change.

  • If one or both numbers do not allow a legal move, the player forfeits that portion of the roll and the turn ends.

  • The difference between the two players’ pip counts is frequently used as a measure of the leader’s racing advantage.

  • For example, players may position all of their blots in such a way that the opponent must roll a 2 in order to hit any of them, reducing the probability of being hit more
    than once.

  • If the Crawford rule is in effect, then another option is the “Holland rule”, named after Tim Holland, which stipulates that after the Crawford game, a player cannot double
    until after at least two rolls have been played by each side.

  • [58] A particularly successful priming effort may lead to a “blitz”, which is a strategy of covering the entire home board as quickly as possible while keeping one’s opponent
    on the bar.

  • This encourages a player with a large lead to double, possibly ending the game, rather than to play it to conclusion hoping for a gammon or backgammon.

  • Tables games[edit] Main article: Tables game Backgammon is a recent member of the large family of tables games that date back to ancient times.

  • If a player rolls two of the same number, called doubles, that player must play each die twice.

  • When each player is in the process of bearing off pieces and a winner emerges, that is called a “game” and is worth 1 point.

  • [44] If the players roll the same number, they must roll again, leaving the first pair of dice on the board.

  • If one player has not yet removed any pieces from the board, that is called a “gammon” and is worth 2 points.

  • However, unlike modern Western backgammon, there were three cubical dice not two, no bar nor doubling die, and all counters started off the board.

  • Bearing off[edit] When all of a player’s checkers are in that player’s home board, that player may start removing them; this is called “bearing off”.

  • The game was won double if either the winning throw was a doublet or the opponent still had men outside the home board.

  • The Jacoby rule is widely used in money play but is not used in match play.

  • These other tables games commonly have a different starting position, restrict certain moves, or assign special value to certain dice rolls, but in some geographic games even
    the rules and direction of movement of the counters change, rendering them fundamentally different.

  • For instance, if the cube showed the number 2 and a player wanted to redouble the stakes to put it at 4, the opponent choosing to drop the redouble would lose two, or twice
    the original stake.

  • In money play, the theoretically correct checker play and cube action would never vary based on the score.

  • For example, if the player rolls a 6 and a 3 (denoted as “6-3”), the player must move one checker six points forward, and another or the same checker three points forward.

  • A checker may never land on a point occupied by two or more opposing checkers; thus, no point is ever occupied by checkers from both players simultaneously.

  • Whenever a player accepts doubled stakes, the cube is placed on their side of the board with the corresponding power of two facing upward, to indicate that the right to redouble,
    which is to offer to continue doubling the stakes, belongs exclusively to that player.

  • [22] However, it is clear from Willughby that “tables” was a generic name and that the phrase “playing at tables” was used in a similar way to “playing at cards”.

  • The Royal Game of Ur from 2600 BC may also be an ancestor or intermediate of modern-day table games like backgammon and is the oldest game for which rules have been handed

  • The minimum total of pips needed to move a player’s checkers around and off the board is called the “pip count”.

  • [42][43] After rolling the dice, players must, if possible, move their pieces according to the number shown on each die.

  • On any roll, a player must move according to the numbers on both dice if it is at all possible to do so.

  • Some are played primarily throughout one geographic region, and others add new tactical elements to the game.

  • Usually the 5-point for each player is called the “golden point”.

  • As the game progresses, this player may gain an advantage by hitting an opponent’s blot from the anchor, or by rolling large doubles that allow the checkers to escape into
    a running game.

  • Together, the three are referred to as Tavli and are usually played one after the other; game being three, five, or seven points.

  • [54] Players start with no counters on the board, and both players move in the same direction to bear off in a common home board.

  • [58] The “priming game” involves building a wall of checkers, called a prime, covering a number of consecutive points.

  • Acey-deucey is a relative of backgammon in which players start with no counters on the board, and must enter them onto the board at the beginning of the game.

  • For instance, only allowing a maximum of five men on any point (Britain)[48] or disallowing “hit-and-run” in the home board (Middle East).

  • Irish had been popular at the Scottish court of James IV and considered to be “the more serious and solid game” when the variant which became known as Backgammon began to
    emerge in the first half of the 17th century.

  • The players then take alternate turns, rolling two dice at the beginning of each turn.

  • It was common in tournament play in the 1980s, but is now rarely used.

  • [42][43] There is no limit to the number of checkers that can occupy a point or the bar at any given time.

  • In money games, a player is often permitted to “beaver” when offered the cube, doubling the value of the game again, while retaining possession of the cube.

  • [27][23] Modern backgammon[edit] By no later than 1850, the rules of play had changed to those used today.


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(eds.). Francis Willughby’s Book of Games. Farnham: Ashgate. ISBN 1-85928-460-4. (Critical edition of Willughby’s volume containing descriptions of games and pastimes, c.1660-1672. Manuscript in the Middleton collection, University of Nottingham;
document reference Mi LM 14)
• Willughby, Francis, A Volume of Plaies containing descriptions of games and pastimes (“Francis Willughby’s Book of Games”), c.1660-1672. Manuscript in the Middleton collection, University of Nottingham; document reference
Mi LM 14