To understand backgammon it is important to learn a little bit about the history of this most ancient of skill games.
Backgammon is the oldest known game in the recorded history of mankind. It is widely accepted today that the origins of the game go back to ancient Mesopotamia . Backgammon was played using a wooden board , stones or small rocks as checkers or men, and numbered dice made from a wide range of ancient materials.
Throughout it history backgammon has been seen as a game of royalty and nobility. Archeologists have uncovered many ancient backgammon artifacts that indicate the popularity of the backgammon among the aristocrats and nobility of Rome, Greece, Persia, and the Far East.
In the 1st century AD, Romans introduced backgammon to the British Isles. The Romans introduced it to the locals as a game called “Tables”. Most historians believe that the name “Backgammon” derives from the two English Words: “Bac gamen” meaning “Back Game”, either referring to the re-entry of checkers or men from the “bar” , or the more advanced strategy of playing backgammon commonly referred to as the “Back Game”.
An Englishman named Edmond Hoyle was the first person to compose a standard set of rules for backgammon and publish a complete guide to the game. This contributed greatly to the popularity of backgammon and the game spread rapidly throughout the European continent. Although several variations to the game emerged at that time, for example “Tric-Trac” in France and “Puff” in Germany these variations still followed the rules set out by Hoyle.
These basic rules of backgammon remained unchanged until the year 1931 when in the rules of the game were revised to the rules to which we use to play the game today.
Today, there are many variation to the game of Backgammon which use the same board and number of checkers such as: “Kotra”, “Tabard”, “Sixy-Acey”, “Acey-Deucey”, the Greek “Plakot”, the Arabic “Jioul” and the multi-player “Chouette”.
The game of Backgammon is played by two players and it is played on a board which consists of 24 triangles called “Points”.
The narrow triangles are grouped into 6 triangles in each quadrant of the board. There are 4 quadrants on the board, 2 on each side and the triangles alternate in color (to help with the counting of the moves).
The quadrants are referred to as a player’s home board (the quadrant that is on your right) and outer board (the quadrant that is on your left), and the opponent’s home board and outer board.
The home and outer board are separated from each other by the seam of the board which goes down the center of the board called the bar.
Each of the points (the triangles) are numbered for each player starting in that player’s home board. The point starting from the right corner of the home board is the one point and the point directly opposite to the one point is the twenty-four point, which is also the opponent’s one point. Each player has fifteen checkers of his own color. The starting position of the men is as follows: two on each player’s twenty-four point, five on each player’s thirteen point, three on each player’s eight point, and five on each player’s six point.
The Object of the Game
The object of the game is for a player to move all of his men into his own home board and then remove them off the board (referred to as “Bearing Off”). The first player to “bear off” all of his checkers will win the game.
The picture above shows the Direction of movement of White’s men starting at his 24 point (where he has 2 men on the starting position). Red’s men move in the opposite direction.
Movement of Checkers
The game starts with the throw of one die by each of the players. This will decide which player will go first and the numbers that are to be played. If the same number comes up, then the players are to roll again until they roll different numbers. The player throwing the higher number now moves his men according to the numbers showing on both dice. After the first roll, the players throw the dice on their respective turn. The player is to move his men across the points, or pips according to the roll of the dice. The men are always moved forward to a lower-numbered point towards your home court. The moves that are allowed are as follows:
1) A single men may be moved only to an open point, which is not occupied by two or more opposing men.
2) The numbers that come out on the two dice indicate the moves that are available to the player. Each number on a dice is one move. For example, if a player rolls 4 and 2, he may move one man four spaces to an open point and another man two spaces to another open point, or he may choose to combine both numbers and move one man a total of six spaces to an open point, but only if the respective point in the middle of the move (either two or four spaces from the starting point) is also open.
3) A player who rolls doubles plays the numbers that are shown on the dice twice. If on a throw a player rolls 5 and 5 means that the player has four moves of fives to use, and he may move any combination of men that he feels would be the best moves for that outcome. Just like in the first example, he can move 4 different men 5 points each or a combination of one man to a total of 20 points.
4) A player must use both of the numbers of a roll as long as it is legally possible (in case of a double, then all four numbers of that double). The player must play all his numbers, even if only one number is legally possible. If both numbers can be played individually but not both, then the player must always play the higher number. The player will forfeit hit turn if neither number can be played. In the case of a double, a player must play as many numbers possible if not all numbers can be played.
Hitting and Entering
A “blot” is a single checker of either color occupying a single point. If the opposite player moves his man to land on that “blot”, then that is called a “hit” and the blot is removed and placed on the “bar”.
It is compulsary for a player when he has any number of men on the bar, to enter his men to the opposite home board (between the 18-24 point). For a player to re-enter his men into the opposite home board, he must roll a number on the dice that is open.
For example, if a player rolls 2 and 5, then the player may enter his man into either the two point or the five point on the opposite home board, as long as it is not filled with 2 or more of the opponent’s men.
This picture shows if White rolls a 4 and a 5 while having a man on the bar, he must enter the man onto Red’s Four point since Red’s Five point is occupied by two opposite men and therefore is not open.
A player will lose his turn his either of the points on the opposite home board are not open. If a player has more then one man on the bar, then he must try to enter as many men he can during any one turn. If he can only enter one man but still has men on the bar, then the player will forfeit the reminding roll.
Once all of the player’s men are entered to the opposite home board from the bar, then the player must use any remaining roll to move either the re-entered men or any other men on the board
Bearing Off in Backgammon
Bearing off is possible once a player has moved all of his own checkers into his own home board. To bear off, a player must take out any man that corresponds to the number of the dice thrown. For example, rolling a 5 allows the player to remove a checker from the five point.
If on the roll, the number that comes out is not occupied by any men, then the player must make any legal move using any man on a higher numbered point. If there are no men on any higher-numbered points, the player will remove a man from the highest point available on which one of his men resides. Bearing off will be done under the discretion of the player and if the player can make any legal move without bearing off, he/she is entitled to do so.
This picture shows White rolling a 6 and a 4 therefore white bears off two men.