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Backgammon Games

Introduction to backgammon

Backgammon is a board game played by two opponents. The players using the dice move their pieces to collect them at one side of the board, and then start removing their pieces according to the roll of their dice. The goal of the game is to remove all the pieces out of the backgammon board first. Skill and luck are equally important to winning the game. In order for someone to win the game he must have acquired considerable skill and technique but still he will need luck.It is somewhat similar to texas holdem, a card game where the odds of winning is also based on tactics and chance. After rolling the dice, the outcome of which is unpredictable, the player must wisely choose to move the right pieces to the right place. Ultimately backgammon is a race. Two opponents, holding 15 pieces of different color each move them around a board divided into 24 partitions in order to remove all pieces from the board. To play the game someone will need a backgammon board, 30 pieces (usually 15 black and 15 white), a pair of dice (numbered from 1 to 6) and according to the type of game, a doubling cube; a six faced die marked with the following numbers: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64. This die is used to keep track of the points that are bet for each different game.

Earlier versions of today’s backgammon games can be found with minor variations even 6000 years ago. Even though many civilizations played different board games very similar to backgammon, it was not until the 17th century that the modern version of the game was shaped. Some people say that the English word ‘backgammon’ derives from the Ancient English language, containing the words “bac”, meaning back and “gamen”, meaning game, giving emphasis to the style of the game, playing backwards referring to the aim of the game, getting all the pieces off the board. The other explanation is that the modern name for this ancient game was drawn from the Welsh language, using a combination of the words “bech”, which means small, and “gammon”, which means war. This combination of words refers to the fast paced, one-to-one race akin to a ‘mini war’ based on strategic plan and luck. Different names and different variations of backgammon games can be found throughout the world. In Turkey the game is called ‘Tavla’, while in Romania, ‘table’, in Portugal ‘gamao’, in Persia ‘takhte nard’ translating to ‘battle on a wooden board’, in Japan it is given the name ‘sugoroku’, in Hebrew language it’s ‘shesh besh’, in Greece its called ‘tavli’ and the most popular game is ‘portes’, in China its called ‘shuang lu’ translating to ‘double sixes’ and finally in the Arabic language the game is referred to as ‘tawilat el-nard’ or ‘tawilat el-zahr’,

If someone wants to track down the origins of backgammon he will have to look all the way back to 3000 BC. According to historians and specialists, the Ancient Egyptians were the first to play a game called ‘senet’, very similar to today’s backgammon. In addition, experts found in Ancient Mesopotamia the first traces of board games, one of them the ‘Royal Game of Ur’. Also in Iran recent excavations revealed remains from possible board games dating back to 3000 BC. The ancient Romans as well played a game very similar to backgammon called ‘the game of twelve lines’. Surprisingly there are no written rules for these games to be found making historians believe that the game kept its popularity with the word of mouth, passed on by travelers exploring new civilizations. The first signs of written evidence date back to 470 AD in an epigram found in a Byzantine city presenting a game called ‘Tabula’, very similar to our Backgammon. It was in France during the 11th century that the final predecessor of modern backgammon appeared called the ‘jeux de tables’. Those table games were also found in Germany and even Ireland, around the 13th century. In a ship wreck dating back to the 17th century a board game was found indicating that the game reached even Sweden. Lastly in the 18th century backgammon became popular among the English clergy. However the popularity of this game was not always constant. Chess came arrived in the 19th century making the backgammon lose its popularity. Nevertheless in the middle of the 20th century, Russian oligarch Alexis Obolinskey fled with his family to Turkey in order to avoid the consequences of the arising communist revolution in Russia. Obolinskey became a passionate player of the Turkish version of backgammon called ‘Tavla’, sharing minor differences, and when he eventually fled to the USA he brought the game with him. This led to the first world championship of backgammon, which took place in the Bahamas and to the first book written about Backgammon strategies by Obolinskey himself. In 1979 the world backgammon championship moved to Monte-Carlo and still takes place every year.

For all the fans of backgammon there is a something about that game that makes it great: backgammon is a game of skill and luck. When someone wins, he can say it was because of his great skills, whereas when someone loses, he can claim that it was because of bad luck.

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