Backgammon is believed to be one of the first board games ever created, it is also a part of the “tables“ family of board games which is one of the oldest board game classes in the world. Backgammon is a game for two players whose goal is to remove all of the pieces from their side of the board by rolling dice. It is a game of luck (from rolling dice), and combinations of strategies. Even if dice may sometimes determine the outcome of one’s game, the outcome of future games will be won by a better strategy, somewhat like poker. Unlike in some casino games, tracking the matches of your opponent will be very helpful for your future games. By tracking other peoples’ games, you can see their tactics and strategies, which will help you win against them. With every dice roll, players must decide from a number of possible movements (which is the best way to move), considering and predicting their opponent’s strategy. Like chess, computer scientists have studied backgammon with great interest. Because of these scientists and their research, backgammon software was created, and is able to defeat even the best of players.
Unlike in some casino games, tracking the matches of your opponent will be very helpful for your future games. By tracking other peoples’ games, you can see their tactics and strategies, which will help you win against them. With every dice roll, players must decide from a number of possible movements (which is the best way to move), considering and predicting their opponent’s strategy. Like chess, computer scientists have studied backgammon with great interest. Because of these scientists and their research, backgammon software was created, and is able to defeat even the best of players.
There are few rules that you need to follow, when playing backgammon. First off, playing pieces in this game are variously known as checkers, stones, man, pawns, pips, chips, counters, draughts, discs or nips. The objective in backgammon is to bear off (remove) all of your checkers from the board, before your opponent does the same. Often, in a series of games, checkers are scattered at first, and are able to get blocked or hit by their opponent. Since every backgammon game is short, it is usually played in matches, and the victor is decided when one of the players reaches a certain number of points.
There are 12 long triangles on each side of the board, called points. The points are seen as connected across one board edge, which forms a continuous track in a horseshoe shape. They are also numbered from 1 – 24. There are a lot of setups, but the ones that are usually used start off with players having 15 checkers, 2 of those checkers are placed on a 24 point, 3 of those checkers on their 8 point, and 5 of those checkers on their 6 point and their 13 point. The players then have to move their checkers in opposite directions, going towards the 1 point from the 24 point. Inner board or home board are the names of points from 1 through 6, and the outer board is the name of points from 1 through 12. 13 point is referred to as the midpoint, and the 7-point as the bar point. The game starts when both players roll one die, and the player who rolled a higher number can move first using the numbers from both dice. If two players roll the same number, they have to roll again. Dice are always rolled on the right side of the board, at the beginning of each turn.
After players roll the dice, they must move their checkers (if it is possible), according to the numbers they previously rolled. For example, if a player rolls a 3 and a 6 (noted as “3-6”), then he must move one of his checkers three points forwards and six points forward with the same or a different checker. Players are allowed to move one checker two times, only if those two moves can be done separately and legally, for example, three and then six, or six and then three. If the player rolls doubles, which are two of the same number, then he must play each number twice. For example, rolling a 3-3 will allow the player to move up to six moves of three spaces each time. On any roll, a player is obligated to move according to his numbers (the numbers he rolled), if it is possible to do so. If one of those two numbers, or both of them, do not allow a legal move, the player must forfeit that amount of the roll and then his or her turn will end. If a legal move can be made according to either
For example, rolling a 3-3 will allow the player to move up to six moves of three spaces each time. On any roll, a player is obligated to move according to his numbers (the numbers he rolled), if it is possible to do so. If one of those two numbers, or both of them, do not allow a legal move, the player must forfeit that amount of the roll and then his or her turn will end. If a legal move can be made according to either number (dice), but not both, the higher number is used. However, if according to one of the rolled numbers, the player cannot move any of his checkers, but that move is made possible by moving the other number, that move is then compulsory.
Players are able to move their checkers on an unoccupied point or an occupied point (if one or more checkers of that player occupy it). The player’s checker can also land on a point that is occupied by just one of the other player’s checkers, or a “blot”. The blot has been “hit”, at least in this case, and is put in the middle of the board, on a playing surface that divides its two sides (called a bar). If there are two or more opposing checkers on a point, the other player cannot put his checker there, which means that no point can be taken by checkers from both of the players, simultaneously. Those checkers that were placed on a bar can re-enter the game through the other player’s home board. A roll of one allows the checker to come back to the game on the 24-point (other player’s 1), a roll of two will land him on a 23-point (other player’s 2), and so on, up to a roll of six, that allows the entry on the 19-point (other player’s 6).
Checkers are not allowed to enter on a point that is taken by two or more of the opposing checkers, but they can enter an unoccupied point, that is occupied only by one opposing checker. Only when all of the checkers that are on the bar are moved back to the game, can the player move. If a player rolls two numbers, and none of them allow him to move from the bar, then he does not move. If the other player’s home board is “closed” (i.e. two or more checkers occupy every point), there is no such roll combination that could allow the player’s checkers to re-enter the game. At that point, the player will stop playing the game until at least one opposing point is opened.
If all of the player’s checkers are in his home board, that player is allowed to start removing them (bearing off). If a player rolls a one, it can be used to carry a checker from the 1-point, and same as that, a roll of two from the 2-point, and so on. Bearing off checkers from a lower-numbered point cannot be done with one die, unless there are absolutely no checkers on a higher point. For example, when a player rolls a 5 and a 6, and has two checkers on a 6 point, and none on the 5, then the 5 and the 6 are used to bear off checkers from the 6-point. If one player did not carry any of his checkers by the time his opponent has already carried all fifteen, then the players loses a gammon, which will count like double of a normal loss. If a player still has checkers on a bar or in the other player’s home board and if he did not carry any checkers, then the player has lost a backgammon (counts as three times as a normal loss).
Sometimes when players want to speed up a match they use a doubling cube. This cube is marked with the numbers two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two and sixty-four. At the beginning of every match, the doubling cube is put on a bar, with the number 64 facing up, after which the cube is “centered on 1”. After that, the player who is about to roll can ask for the game to be played for double the current stakes. Their opponent can then either accept (“take”) the offer, or refuse (“drop”) the offer. Every time a player accepts this offer, the cube will be placed on his side of the board (with number two facing up), to show that the right to double again, belongs only to him. The game can also be redoubled by four times (there are no limits on the numbers), but that happens rarely. Even if 64 is the highest number on the cube, the stakes can go as high as 128 or 256…and so on. In the games for money, the player is usually permitted to “beaver”, when he is offered the cube. This doubles the stakes again.
The “raccoon” is a variant of the “beaver”. Sometimes when players who have doubled, see their opponents beaver the cube, they would double the stakes (“raccoon”), before any dice are rolled. The doubling cube then remains in the hands of the player who has not doubled last. Some players may even call upon the “automatic double rule” or The Murphy rule (this rule is not official in the backgammon game, and is almost never used in the tournaments). When both of the players roll the same first number, the doubling cube is increased gradually on each occasion, while remaining in the middle of the board. The Jacoby rule, that got its name from Oswald Jacoby, will allow the backgammons and gammons to count for their triple and double values, but only if the bets were already been offered and accepted. If the player who is in a big lead doubles, he can possibly end the game.
Unlike The Murphy rule, this rule is widely used when playing for money, but it is not used when playing a match. There is also another rule in this game, called The Crawford rule, and is named after John R. Crawford. This rule is made to make the match more equitable, for the player who is in the lead. The player should always try and double as early as possible, if his opponent is one step away from winning. To keep the situation balanced, after a player first reaches a score that needs 1 point to win, doubling cube may not be used in the following game, which is called the Crawford game. This rule is routinely used in tournaments, but it is also possible for it to never appear in a match. When the Crawford rule is used, there is another rule called Holland rule, which was named after Tim Holland, that says that after the Crawford game, players cannot double until both players have done at least two rolls. This rule is rarely used today, but it was used quite often in the tournaments played in the 1980s.
Backgammon has a confirmed opening theory; however, it is less detailed form a chess theory. There are a lot of possible positions that can be made on each turn, because of the number of possibilities that you can get by rolling dice. Some computer analysis offered a lot of different opening plays, but they all reach midgame very fast. After the first roll has been made, players often rely on these general rules and strategies. They switch and combine them, so that they can adapt to changing rules and conditions.
Avoiding getting hit, held, or trapped in a standoff is the most direct strategy. When players move as quickly as possible around the board, it is called a running game. The player who is already far ahead has more success with this strategy. If this fails, a player can ask for a “holding game”. This will maintain control of a point on one player’s side of the board, and it is called the anchor. As the game continues, this player can gain advantage in the game by hitting his opponent’s blot, or he can roll a large double that would allow his checkers to escape to a running game.
The “prime game” builds a wall of checkers, which is called a prime and it covers some of the consecutive points. This blocks the opponent’s checkers that are behind the player. When a checker is trapped behind a six-point prime, it will not be able to escape until that prime is broken. A strategy that can cover the entire home board as quick as possible, while it keeps one’s opponent on the bar, is called a “blitz”. Because of the opponent’s difficulty to re-enter the game, a player can easily gain a running advantage that will help him win.
A “backgame” strategy, is a strategy that holds two or more anchors in the other player’s home board, while he is still substantially behind in the race. The anchors create possibilities for the player to move home while obstructing opponent’s checkers. This strategy is only used if the player is significantly behind, and should not be used as a general strategy, since it is typically unsuccessful.
A “duplication” is when the player places his checkers so that his opponent needs the same dice roll to be able to move. For example, players can sometimes position their checkers in such a way that their opponent would need to roll a 2 in order to hit them.
A lot of positions need a measurement of a player’s place in the race, for example, when making a doubling cube decision or when deciding whether to begin bearing off or to run home. The “pip count” is the minimum total of rolls that are needed to move one’s checkers off the board and around the board. Pip counts are usually used to measure the difference between two players. In live play, players have to use mental calculation to see the pip counts.
There are two ways to play backgammon, which is “Money” and “Match” play. Match play means that the players have to play until one of the players scores or exceeds a decided number of points. Money play means that every point is going to count evenly and that every game is standing alone, whether the bet is made or not. These formats have different effects on players’ strategies. In a match, the player’s objective is to reach the score that is needed to win the match. For example, when a player who is leading a 9-point match with a score of 7-5, is unwilling to turn the doubling cube, since their opponent would be able to make and take a lot of redoubles.
In the past, there were possibilities to cheat in a face-to-face backgammon game, with a dice cup and a set of precision dice. Today, there is a common method used for cheating in an online backgammon game with the use of a program that can find optimal moves on every turn. However, many online sites use a software that can identify if the player is using such moves that a program would use. Since then online cheating has become nearly impossible. Backgammon is a highly popular ancient game, which can be played with two players (or online against a person or a computer). There are several strategies that you can use or come up with that will help you win this game. Even if this game is difficult to learn, you will get hooked as soon as you get a hang of it.