I know that many of you have been playing backgammon online for years , and have never played in a live backgammon tournament. For many of you,this will be because you live in a place where there are very few, or no tournaments at all.. But for many of you who could easily get to a live event from time to time, I would recommend that you do so.
Many people who have played online are “afraid” that they won’t be able to play over a real board. Yes, there are some differences, and there are some rules that apply to live play that are different from those that apply to online play, but I can assure you that these differences are not complicated and that you will quickly understand everything you need to know to play live. Also, at every tournament, the director, or one of the experienced players will be more than willing to help a new player understand the rules and differences and give you a short tutorial before you play your first match.
Even if you are a experienced player, you probably should enter the Novice or lowest division in any live event, to gain experience before moving up. You will find that backgammon players are very friendly, nice people, and always happy to see new faces.
There are two major differences that really come into play when playing in a live event. First, there is no automatic pip counter. So you have to learn to keep track of the race yourself. Most of us simply keep an “estimate” of the race in our head as we go along, and we only really stop to get an accurate pip count when there is a critical play or cube decision where the pip count really matters. At first, you will find counting pips to be laborious, but after learning some shortcuts and some practice, it will not be difficult at all.
The second major difference is illegal moves. When playing on a computer, all the moves are legal, but over the board, you or your opponent may accidentally make plays that are not legal. You might move a checker too many or too few pips, or you might take too many or too few checkers off on a bear off, or you might think you did not come in from the bar when in fact you did. It is important to be careful and watchful of all moves carefully when you play live.
Now that we’ve talked about the differences, why bother to play live backgammon at all? First, and most important, it is fun. Live Backgammon play offers great competition and you get to see, first hand, how different people approach the game. At most tournaments you will see some really top players, and for no charge, you get to watch and learn from them. You will find that the top players are almost all happy to offer advice and discuss specific plays if you have a question.
There is nothing like the excitement of playing in a live Backgammon tournament and winning a match or tournament. There are friends around to share the joy, and there are usually prizes and trophies to make it more than worth your time.
It’s a great experience and a fun way to advance your game. I strongly recommend you take the time to get out to your local club or tournament and play every opportunity you get.