Backgammon rules

Backgammon is a game with a long and rich heritage. It is especially popular in the Middle East, where it is one of the daily rituals for many people – mostly men – in the local coffee shops. It has also become one of the most popular skill-based games online, with regular online tournaments held. The following guide explains not only the rules of the game, but also takes a look at its history and evolution throughout the ages.

Origins of backgammon

Backgammon is an Anglo-Saxon derivative of French games jacquet and trictrac, which themselves are descendants of a large family of 72-line chequers games, many of which have been played since the days of the Roman Empire. There are many international backgammon tournaments held online and offline.

The game of backgammon belongs to the board game family. Indeed, it is one of the earliest recorded board games. Its origins can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where it was known as ‘tabula’. Such is its popularity that nowadays, the Backgammon World Championship is held every year in Monaco.

The goal of the game

The objective of backgammon is to remove all of one’s chequers from the board first, while preventing your opponent from moving forward. Using similar skills to poker, backgammon requires strategic reasoning such as probability theory, mixed with a bit of kindness from Lady Luck. When playing for points, a dice in the middle of the board allows players to double the points during the game.

The board

A backgammon board contains 24 arrows divided into four sections (table quarters), each with six arrows. Checkers (often also referred to as “stones”) are moved in a horseshoe-like path around the entire board, with the player’s checkers going in one direction, and their opponent’s in the other, until the checkers are removed from the board.

Playing Backgammon

Players throw the dice using a dice cup, ensuring a random outcome for each throw. In tournaments, a player is not allowed to throw the dice before his opponent has withdrawn the dice from the board.

Free your chequers

When a chequer is located on the central bar, its owner cannot make a move. He or she must first release the chequer. To do this, the player must move it by throwing the dice from the furthest point on the board, from the opposing internal sector. If the dice roll is not sufficient to release all the chequers, the turn passes to the player’s opponent.

Removing the chequers

The player can begin to remove his chequers from the board once all of them are inside the internal section of the board. To do so, the player must throw a number on the dice that is higher than the last point on the board.

The cube or doubling cube: strategic tool

The cube is a special dice which bears on its sides the numbers two, four, eight, 16, 32 and 64. It is used to multiply points when you play a points game. It loses its importance when you play only one game. In general, at the beginning of a game, the cube is placed on the central bar of the board, on 64.

The player may, at any point in the game, decide to increase the challenge by using the cube. He or she then turns it to two, which doubles the points on offer. The player who turns the cube is now known as the bidder. His or her opponent has two possibilities:
  • Judging that he or she does not have a very high probability of winning, the opponent opts not to continue and forfeits the game, thus losing.
  • Alternatively, the bidder’s opponent accepts the challenge, and the doubling of the bet.

The multiplier can be increased further, should the bidder so desire. Should the cube show the number two, it can be increased to four; this can later be increased to eight, and so forth. The number displayed on the cube is the factor by which the points are multiplied. The bidder is the only one who can continue to bid. This subtlety naturally encourages both players to attack at the earliest opportunity.

Therefore, we may conclude that there are three ways to win at backgammon:
  • When you are the first to remove all chequers.
  • When you employ the cube, and your opponent chooses to forfeit the game.
  • When your opponent forfeits the game directly, deeming themselves to already be beaten.

Gammon and backgammon

There are three different ways of winning at backgammon:
  • Remove all chequers before your opponent, if he or she has removed at least one.
  • Remove all chequers before your opponent removes one (this is known as a gammon).
  • Remove all your chequers while your opponent has remaining chequers on the bar or in the inside section (this is known as a backgammon).

Additionally, a now-accepted rule of the great player jacobv states that if the cube is not proposed, the gammons and backgammons are disregarded.

Points

  • When you win a game without cube, you score 1 point.
  • When you win a game with cube, you win the number of points multiplied by the number on the cube, whether the opponent accepted or refused the cube. When you win a gammon, it is multiplied by 2.
  • When you win a backgammon, it is multiplied by 3.
  • When you win following the forfeit of your opponent, you win 1.

A match can be played to a predefined number of points. Usually in a tournament, games are played out of 5 points, the final out of 11.


Learn rules of other casino games: Blackjack
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