Backgammon

History

Backgammon is one of the most ancient games in the world. It is traditionally considered that it originates from the region of Ancient Egypt, Shoumer or Mesopotamia (today’s Iran, Iraq and Syria). The last intelligence show that the game originates from the east borders of today`s Iran, near Afghanistan. The name, with which it is known to us derives from the latin TABULA, which means "table". Tabula is a variant of backgammon, which was played in Ancient Rome. It was called so because it was played on a special board. The game resembles the Egyptian Senet which dates around 3000 BC. Tabula`s rules were very similar to modern backgammon. Again each player had 15 checkers and again the goal was to take all checkers as quickly as possible. The difference is that at the start of the game there were no checkers on the board. They had to be entered into game through rolling the dice. Other difference is that three dice were used instead of two as it is today. And the last difference is that both players started from same point and rolled the checkers on the board towards the same direction.

Rules

In Bulgaria there are known three variants of the game depending on the rules: „standard“ or „straight“ backgammon, „gul bara“ and „tapa“. The three variants are played on a board (table) (playing board) which is divided into 4 sectors of 6 points. Two dice are used. Each player has 15 different colour checkers that should be moved through 24 points of the board according to the number of pips shown on the dice. The goal is to move the checkers through the points as quickly as possible and bear them off the board. The rules on interpretation of dice and free move are the same in all variants:
- each player can move the checker two times in case of different numbers (for example 6-1) and four times in case of same dice numbers- “double” (for example 2-2);
- two (four) checkers are to be moved onto as many points as shown on the dice. There are no restrictions concerning the occupation of the mid points, but the outer must be unoccupied, occupied by own checkers or vulnerable opposing checker;
- one checker can be moved more than once in case every move is legally possible;
- when all checkers are moved into the last sector towards movement direction, they can be borne off the board (point 25);
- the first player to bear off all checkers wins. If the player manages to do this before the other player has borne off a checker wins two scores. Such a win is called “Mars (God)” (sometimes „marseillaise“). Each variant has different variations in the initial points, rolling direction, terms of legality of moves and playing of a double.

Standard Backgammon

At the primary arrangement all checkers are on the board - 2 checkers on a point 1, 5 checkers on point 12, 3 checkers on point 17 and 5 checkers on point 19. For one of the players point 1 is at the upper right corner of the board and this player must move the checkers towards opposite clockwise rolling direction. For the other player - movement from the upper left corner towards clockwise direction. Thus each player’s point 1 is other player’s point 24, 6 corresponds to 19 and 12 to 13. A checker can be moved if the final point is unoccupied, occupied by one or more own checkers or one opposing checker. In the last case the opposing checker is “hit” or “knocked out”. A player who has checkers on the bar is obliged to move them from point 0, i.e. to enter them onto points 1 to 6 corresponding to the rolled die. Other checkers cannot be moved until all are entered in the game. Removing a checker from the game leads to losing turns of second move and forfeiting when a checker is blocked out of game. Protection is provided through moving more than one checker onto a point - building of a „prime“ (tower). Building of several „primes“ protects own checkers and restricts the opponent’s turns, but also limits the possible moves at following turns. In some variants of computer backgammon multiplication of the scores in case of a win is possible. Each of the players may propose doubling the stakes. If the other player accepts the winner will gain 2 (in „Mars“4) scores, but the refusal means conceding. The player who accepts can ask for a redoubling. The total number of doublings may be up to 6 (3 per a player) and the final stake may reach 64 (128).



Strategy

There are three main strategies in playing backgammon. The first one is called “blockade”. It appears when 6 consecutive primes are arranged and the opponent cannot “jump you over”. The blockade is a suitable position, if the opponent has a blot which can be hit till you fill your board with your checkers. „Blitz“ is a strategy in which you strike to fill your board with primes while you hold the opponent’s 1 or 2 checkers on the bar. If for example the opponent at the first roll has 2 and moves one of the checkers into your board from 1 to 3, and then you have a double of fives it would be good to hit both opponent’s checkers. The third strategy is used if you are behind in the game. In this strategy it is recommended that you make 1 or 2 primes in the opponent’s board. Sometimes it is good to have a blot to be hit by the opponent in order not to leave only one checker especially a blot in the opponent’s board, but to build a prime. Thus, on the one hand you make it difficult for the opponent to accumulate the checkers because you have good points to hit them if the opponent leave a blot, and on the other hand you make it difficult for the opponent to bear off checkers at the end of the game because the open points where the opponent could roll the checkers are less and also the opponent must watch and be careful not to leave a blot, which sometimes is impossible and then your opportunity will come.

Gul Bara

In Gul Bara (sometimes „dio bara“, „dyo bara“ or„dyu bara“) the checkers are moved towards clockwise direction by both players.



Point 1 is at the bottom left corner for each player and corresponds to point 13 for the opponent. All checkers primarily are on point 1 but usually only two are placed their and the others are on the board or in the player’s hand. The protection of the point is made only by one checker and the opponent’s checkers are not removed from the game by hitting. This allows six consecutive points to be blocked with a small part of the player’s checkers. What is special in Gul Bara is the playing of a double. Besides the four moves with the specified length the player plays also all succeeding doubles in ascending order up to 6, i.e. if the player has rolled 4-4 the player must play four moves with length 4, four moves with length 5 and four moves with length 6 (most moves are being made in case of 1-1). If the player cannot complete a particular double the opponent completes it. A double which is not being played yet (with no legally possible move of main length) and different numbers are not being completed. In most variants doubles are played up to 6 on the third and next turns. The restriction is made to give an opportunity to the players to fill at least partially their primary sectors and be able to move checkers - a small double on some of the first turns may lead to full blockage of the opponent’s sector and loss of strategic element in the game.

Tapa

It is played with 2 dice on a backgammon board. Each of the players disposes of 15 checkers. At the start of the game there are 4 checkers on the board, two for each player, which checkers are placed on 1 or 13 prime respectively. At the start of the game each of the opponents rolls a die and those who roll the higher starts the game. The goal is to move the checkers by primes. If any of your checkers become a blot your opponent may “trap” it which means that you would not be able to move it until it is not “released”.

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