- (Welsh) Backgammon is a two player game where each player has fifteen pieces (men) which move between twenty-four tall triangles (spikes), sub-divided into four ‘quarter-boards’ of six spikes each, according to the roll of two dice. The main aim of the game is to be first to check out, i.e. move all fifteen men off the table. As a general rule, the winner of the match is the first player to reach (or exceed) twenty-five games.
- Starting positions : The spikes mark out a race in the shape of a ‘horseshoe’, traversing all four ‘quarter-boards’, and the two players move their men in opposing directions, such that their two ‘back men’ end up in the quarter-board where the opposing back-men started. In the illustration below, Red’s movement is clockwise, meaning his home (destination) is top-right; and this is also Black’s ‘Back Board’ (for anti-clockwise movement). The right-hand side of the whole board contains the inner (start/ finish) boards; the left-hand side contains the outer boards (aka ‘the stream’). Read right-to-left for the number of each spike (1-6) within each quarter-board. Just ahead of the ‘final’ spike (‘Home 1’) is deemed ‘check-out’ point. The ‘Roof’ is a ‘start all over again’ position, just behind ‘Back 1’. Place two Back men in the ‘Back Board’. Five men start in the ‘Far Outer Board’, three men start in the ‘Near Outer Board’, and another five men start in the ‘Home Board’ (they are already near the ‘finishing line’, but have to wait for the others to catch up).
6 spike to 1 < ——-
- The ‘doubling die’ is not a rolled-die, but a marker with the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64 inscribed on its sides. Either player about to roll may decide that the game be played for twice the current value (ie, it immediately becomes worth two games). Initially, he indicates this by showing the die with the ‘2’ showing. The right to re-double (showing ‘4’) then belongs exclusively to the other player. This right ‘passes over’ again each time a player elects to use it.
- Gammons If one player has not checked-out any men by the time the opponent has checked-out all fifteen, then the player has lost a gammon, which counts for treble (three times) what the loss would have been, otherwise.
- Backgammons If the losing player has not checked out any men and still has any men ‘on the roof’ and/or outside his final quarter-board (see later), then the player has lost a backgammon, which counts for sextuple (six times) what the loss would have been, otherwise. Note: As ‘Gammons’ and ‘Backgammons’ require one player to fully check-out, they do not apply to ‘extraordinary endings’ to games/ matches (eg, ‘Three On The Roof’ , ‘Timed Out’, ‘Rectangle’ ~ see later).
- Maximum Scores The maximum the doubling-die can go up to (‘per game’) is times-64 games. In theory, therefore, the maximum score from ‘one’ game is 384 (64, multiplied by 6 for a backgammon).
- Setup To begin with, one player shakes his two dice, but conceals them (this time only) under his cup. The other player calls ‘odds’ or ‘evens’ (for their combined value). If the other player is right, he chooses whether to go first or not (or else, the shaking-player chooses). For a new game (in the same match) , it is ‘mugs away’ (the right to go first) to whoever lost the previous game. The players take alternate turns, rolling two dice out each time. Both dice must land completely flat on the game-table – or else they are ‘cocked’, and both re-thrown. If one player has the exact same ‘throw-outcome’, on three of his turns in a row, then he must roll both dice again for that third turn, until at least one of the numbers is different. Players move their men according to the numbers rolled. It may well be that a player ‘can’t go’ on a turn (or for a ‘half’- turn). But a forward move cannot be voluntarily ‘waived’, and the ‘value’ of the dice must be satisfied to the greatest possible extent. When only one die-value can be played, the player must play that number. Or if either number can be played but not both, the player must play the larger one. Similarly, at the end of the game, one of the men who cannot check-out (see later) may have to just move by that number instead. Otherwise, there is no general requirement to move one die-value before the other. If a player rolls two of the same number, called doubles, that player uses those numbers twice-over (eg, 6-6 is deemed to be a ‘four-die-value’ of ‘6-6-6-6’, and so can be used by one/ two/ three/ four men, moving in multiples-of-6). In the case of doubles, when all four die-values cannot be played, the player must play as many of them as he can.
8. No Mixed Spikes Whichever spike a man has legitimately ended up on is where he has ‘settled’, for the time being. But there can never be any ‘mixed spikes’ – i.e., opposing men cannot settle on and occupy the same spike, at the same time.
9. Play continued As a general rule, as the result of a turn, a man may settle on any empty spike, or any spike occupied by one or more ‘team-mate’. It may also take over a spike occupied by exactly one opposing man, or “blot”. In this case, the blot has been “hit”, and is knocked-back to the side of the table in a ‘zero’ starting position (“on the roof”). A man may never settle on a spike occupied by two or more opposing men (“covered”). However, it is legal to combine the dice numbers into a single, ‘larger’ move. Take, for example, a 4-5. Here, a player may move one man 4, then another man 5. Alternatively, he could make a one-man move of 4+5/ 5+4. When such a ‘9’ move is played, then this is where the man settles. This means it can run past any covered-spikes 4 and/ or 5 points ahead. By the same token, the man cannot hit a blot 4/ 5 points ahead, and then keep moving on to 9 (it would have to be one or the other). ‘Skinny Sevens Don’t Jump‘: A ‘central bar’ marks the division between the inner and outer boards. Uniquely, a throw of a 5 and a 2 (known as a ‘Skinny Seven’) cannot be used to move any of the player’s own men past/over the central bar. Where, as a result of this restriction, no move can be made on such a turn/half-turn; then that turn/half-turn is forfeited.
10. Full Spikes A spike with six men on it is a full spike. There can be no more than six men settled on any one spike, at any one time. Furthermore, a player is not permitted to arrange his own men into two full spikes, at the completion of a turn. Moves/ half-moves to be forfeited, accordingly.
11. Full Spreads An exemption to the usual ‘blot’/ hit rule. Where a player has a blot on every spike in any one quarter-board, he has created a ‘full spread’, and none of those blots can be hit, for as long as the full spread remains in place. This further limits the number of spikes the opponent can settle on. Additionally, a player who has formed a full spread can then (if he so wishes) throw out just one die (instead of two), on any of his turns; but only for as long as the full spread remains in place.
- Timed Out a) There should be an overall play-time limit (with stop-clocks), such that each player has a play-time of Seventy Minutes. A player who runs out of time loses the whole match automatically & straightaway; irrespective of what the games-score was up until that point. See Rule 23 for how this affects payment of prizes. b) ‘Ten For Two’: Whenever a new game is due to start, and both players have clocks showing under ten minutes left (00:01-09:59 inclusive), then that game starts with the doubling-die showing ‘2.’ This means it is then open to either player to increase it to ‘4’, and so on.
13. Acey-Deuceys A player always has the option (time allowing) of throwing both dice again – for some other number-move instead – whenever he throws a 1 on one die with a 2 on the other.
14. Three On The Roof Blots that have been hit and are sent to the ‘zero’ position are said to be ‘on the roof’. If a player has three or more of his own men on the roof at any one time, then he loses the whole game, automatically. If the value of that game has already been increased, then it stands at that value.
- Crossing The Stream Men continue to move in their ‘usual’ fashion (one spike as a one-value move), except when they are Crossing The Stream. In order to move away from the far-outer board (ie, the one 2nd-furthest from ‘home’), the spikes on that board are deemed numbered from 1 (by the central ‘bar’) to 6 (at the edge). The man has to move out with a die (or combination of the dice) equal to the spike-number it is sitting on – whereupon, it ‘crosses the stream’ in a straight-line movement to the same-numbered-spike opposite. The ‘normal’ mode of moving within the quarter-board is unaffected. As examples, for an (opening) roll of 6-4, a man can be sent across-the-stream from the 6-spike, then move another 4 forward, so that he joins the spike with the three men on it … A roll of ‘1-1’ (1-1-1-1) may get a man across from a 1, 2, 3, or 4 spike. .. A roll of ‘2-2’ (2-2-2-2) may get a man across from a 2, 4 or 6-spike (in the latter case, 2+2+2 making 6 exactly, with another 2 to go).
- Men on the roof must re-enter the game through the opponent’s final ‘home’ board before any other man (team-mate) can be moved. With two blots to bring back in, this rule extends to both of them.
Where a man needs to come back on the board from the roof but cannot find any spike to settle on (for example, on a 3-2 throw, the 3, 2 and 5 spikes are all unavailable), then that player is ‘dancing’ – often ‘missing a turn’, in effect.
There is deemed only one ‘dance’ for one throw. This means that any ‘ended-turn’ resulting in one or more of that player’s own men still being on the roof is a dance (including ‘one-in’, but with no opportunity to get a second blot in).
Note: The first dance of each/ any game automatically takes the doubling-die up to the next higher value (going to ‘2’ if previously untouched). It does not matter who held the right to use it next, at that point in time. However, this ‘higher value’ rule cannot apply where the doubling-die had already reached 64.
- Triangles & Rectangles a) Where a player has arranged ten of his own men on four adjacent spikes – such that those men form a triangle (4-3-2-1) – then he continues to roll & move again. His opponent only returns into play when the triangle is broken.
Note: The doubling-die cannot go up in any way, for as long as a triangle remains in place.
b) Where a player has arranged all fifteen of his own men on five adjacent spikes – such that those men form a rectangle (3-3-3-3-3) – then he wins the whole match, automatically (irrespective of what the games-score was up until that point). See Rule 23 for how this affects payment of prizes.
Note: Triangles can run in either ‘direction’. Triangles and rectangles only take effect at the completion of a turn; and only when they are contained within one quarter-board.
- Checking-Out Only when all of a player’s (remaining) men are in that player’s final ‘home’ quarter-board, may that player start (or re-start) removing them (“checking out”). In this inner board, the spike on the edge is deemed ‘1’, through to the ‘6’ spike, up against the central bar. A die or combined-dice value of 6 may be used to check-out a man from the 6-spike, 5 from the 5-spike, and so on. A player who rolls too big a number for these purposes ‘busts’. It also remains an option for men in this end-zone to simply keep moving within it. ‘Six Must’: In all events, if a player’s throw includes a ‘6’ die, and he is able to check-out any of his men on that turn; then he must check-out at least one man, on that turn.
During each game, the player who is the first to start checking-out is awarded with a ‘one-off’ additional bonus-throw straight afterwards (i.e., before his opponent plays again). Moreover, if he throws a double on this bonus turn, then the player gets yet another turn – a ‘bonus extra’ – straight after that (and this process carries on if he throws a further double on his bonus-extra, and so on).
During each game, on the first occasion at which one player (but not the other) is left with a potential ‘one-throw win’ on his next turn (eg, 2-3, to take off two remaining men on the 2 and 3 spikes), then the other player can offer to concede the game (at some smaller ‘loss’ to himself than would otherwise be the case). This offer is then either accepted or rejected – and it can only be proposed on that first occasion. Reminder: because of the ‘twice-over’ effect of doubles-throws, then, if there were four men ready to be checked-out on, say, the 3-spike; then a roll of 3-3 could remove all four of them.
Note: Whenever a particular offer-to-concede would, if accepted, lift the other player up to a games-score of 24 exactly, and provided that this is immediately accompanied by a special payment of £5.00 (‘friendly rate’) from the player making the offer, then it becomes mandatory, and must be accepted, there and then.
19. Boxes Out An exemption to the usual ‘checking-out’ rule. During each game, where a player has exactly four men left to check-out – all sitting in the final home-board – then a roll of Double-6 checks all those men out in that one turn, for game (ie, irrespective of their spike-positions). Note: This can also trigger the ‘occasion’ for the other player to make an ‘offer to concede’.
- Rovers Where there is only one man in a quarter-board (where it does not have the ‘company’ of any team-mate or opposing man); then this man becomes a ‘rover’, and it is entitled to move backwards as well as forwards. This is not a ‘permanent’ entitlement. It is deemed to have been created (or re-created) at the completion of a turn. Alternatively, one’s opponent may have brought this about, simply by evacuating his men from that place. Either way, provided it is still ‘alone’ at the start of the (relevant) player’s next turn, then the rover is ‘activated’ (and there may be others activated already, from other quarter-boards). For an activated-rover, each ‘one-die’ (or combined-dice) value, in itself, can be used to go either forward or back. Note: There is one major exception: A player is not permitted to make any backwards-moves on a doubles-throw (1:1, 2:2, etc.) Apart from that, any ‘variety’ of forward or back is legitimate. A rover can also cross-over into another quarter-board (including going back across the stream), and may retain its entitlement next time (if it also finds itself alone in that other quarter-board). A backward move uses-up that move (or ‘half-move’), even if it could have been done forward. However, all backwards moves are optional, and can be waived (including the use of one die-value, and the waiving of another). Note: If a partly-backward move leaves moving the rover forwards again as the only available option, then that cannot be waived (and where the man ends up is where he settles).
At the end of the game, where there is only one man sitting in the home board, waiting to check-out for a win, then this man is also a rover (‘Last Man Roving’) – Thus, if sitting on, say, the 2-spike; then in addition to ‘2’ or ‘Double 1’ rolls, he can also check-out with a 1-3 (ie, 1 back then 3 forward), a 3-5 or a 4-6.
21. Nominates Throughout the course of the whole match, each player has the right to “nominate” the throw – on one occasion, each. The player indicates this by placing an agreed object (such as a ‘joker’ playing card) on the table and deciding & announcing the value of the next throw (whether that upcoming throw be by him or his opponent). He may say, for example, ‘Nominate – for myself – 5-4’. The dice are then ‘set’ to these values (ie, no ‘shake’), and the available moves made, accordingly. There is one major restriction: A player is not allowed to nominate a match-winning throw for himself. Account may need to be taken here of the ‘multiplier’ effect of the doubling-die, and/or gammons & backgammons.
22. Wash A ‘wash’ can be brought about in one of two ways: (i) ‘by sticks’, or (ii) ‘by snakes’ (both explained below). In either event, such a game is ended there and then. A wash is always scored as plus-one game to each player (the doubling-die value is disregarded) –
(i) ‘By sticks’ – A spike with six men on it is called a ‘Full Spike’ (see Rule 10). Where, as the result of a turn, both players have formed one full spike each, simultaneously (with the other one still ‘sat’ there – on any part of the board) – then this is known as ‘Candlesticks’, and the game is declared a wash; or
(ii) ‘By snakes’ – Where a player rolls a 1-1 at the start of his turn, and this has immediately followed the throw-just-gone from his opponent – for which the opponent had also rolled a 1-1 – then, at that very moment, this is declared a wash game. (Note it is possible that either – or even both – of these rolls were Nominated).
Rule 23 – HOW TO CALCULATE PRIZES (UK ‘Friendly Rates’)
- The standard calculations = Basic wager (£10 for the match) Plus 25p per game, for the ‘games-score difference’, at the end. To take a typical example, suppose A wins the match 28 to 12. Then, the games-score difference is 16. B must pay £14.00 to A. (£10.00, plus £4.00 for 25p x 16).
Note that there are two outcomes where the ‘standard calculations’ do not apply:-
a) Where the match has been won by a Rectangle (Rule 17b) – In which case, there is a set payment of £7.50 to the player who formed it; or –
b) Where the match has been lost by being Timed Out (Rule 12a) – In which case, there is a set payment of £20 to the player with time still remaining.
2. The additional calculations:
“A match to Nil puts a pony on the bill” = If the match-loser did not manage to win any of the games in that match, then he pays a further £25 to the match winner, in recognition of this.
BG Scoop-Pot = Each player is deemed to have put £1.00-per-game into the ‘BG Scoop-Pot’. The pot is ‘collected’ whenever a player achieves a backgammon. Effectively, for two players, keep a tally of how many games have been played – this will tell you the payment due to the pot-winner. The tally is then re-started, from scratch, after that (i.e., the pots operate independently of the matches).
Tournament Jack-Pot = With three or more players in the room, matches can be structured as a ‘tournament’ (i.e., resulting in a ‘grand final’ match). In this case, each player puts in £10 at the start, as an ‘entry fee’. The outright-tournament winner then claims the whole of this pot, at the end.
24. POINTS OF ETIQUETTE
(i) The ‘guest’ player gets all the ‘privileges’ – Where to sit, which men, dice and cup to play with, and whether to be the ‘shaker’ or the ‘guesser’ for who goes first, in the first game.
(ii) A turn commences when, with time still showing, your clock ticks down (again). You are then obliged/ entitled to take that turn – unless it is cut short in some way (e.g., being timed out). You should begin by making a good, proper shake.
(iii) A turn ends when ~ a) You have used up all your moves (discounting any that are impossible); and b) You have indicated you are happy with that decision, by lifting your dice off the table — Provided there are no disputes, the turn has now taken effect, and you can stop your side of the clock (presuming you have no follow-up turn).
(iv) If you wish to Nominate a throw for your opponent, then this needs to be announced before the end of your turn (before you have lifted your dice off the table). If you wish to Nominate a throw for yourself, then this needs to be announced after the start of your turn, and whilst your dice are still in the cup. Where there is any doubt about any of this, then the ‘benefit’ of that doubt goes to your opponent. It should also be easy to see who still has use of their Nominate card.
(v) Disputes (and breaks) should be dealt with/ arranged amicably, by pausing the clock altogether.
(vi) At each ended-turn where a player has caused something significant to happen (a triangle, a full-spread, a dance etc.) then these should be pointed out with a tap on the table.
(vii) Where either player can use the doubling-die, then it should be placed in a ‘central’ position. If it has been increased by one player, then the other player takes it (and has the ‘shout’ with it), at his end.
(viii) Share the ‘score-sheet’ duties between yourselves. In particular, both of you should be aware of when a game is (or has become) a match-game.
(A) ‘Template Tournament Regulations’ are supplementary, and subordinate to, the main body of rules. Nonetheless they are a statement of generally sound principles, for the enjoyment of backgammon by all participants. Importantly, the Regulations are not intended to cover every possible situation that might arise in the course of a Tournament and accordingly are no substitute for judgement and discretion, in determining the fairest resolution to any novel set of circumstances. Both officials and players are expected to behave in the spirit of the game, which is to show generous sportsmanship and considerate behaviour. Backgammon is a social game. Everything should be done with a sense of humour and perspective, and without undue fuss or delay.
(B) It is good manners for a player to smile, shake hands and wish his opponent “good match” when he is ready to begin play. Thereafter, whilst there is no rule of absolute silence during a game, chat should be kept to one or two simple observations, every now and then. The Tournament Director may on his own initiative, or at the request of a player, appoint a monitor for any match. The monitor has the authority to draw attention to illegal actions and protect the players from questionable or unfair behaviour. The Tournament Director has the right to charge a small fee from all the players, to cover the costs of having monitors. Spectators should generally observe backgammon as quietly and unobtrusively as reasonably possible. While a match is in progress, spectators are not permitted to signal or help the players in any way. However, a spectator may discreetly alert the Tournament Director to any matters of concern, which may include but are not limited to: cheating (or other deliberate distractions); when a player’s time has run out; mistakes as to clock activation ; and serious mistakes as to invalid doubles/ nominates/ triangles and so on.
(C) Every match is to be played using: a good-size table with two upright but comfortable chairs, a playing board, a rules booklet, 2×15 ‘men’ of two distinctive colours, a match clock, 2 dice cups, 2×2 dice of two distinctive colours, a doubling die, a score flip chart, two nominate cards, and something to indicate breaks/ referrals to officials. The playing-area, measured diagonally from Far-Outer to Home, should be around 20 to 30 inches. A board may only be replaced by agreement, between games. Any spare equipment not in use should be removed from the playing area. Players can bring their own equipment with them, to use in play. In all events, however, the Tournament Director must be satisfied that all equipment is in good working order.
(D) All matches must be played within the tournament area designated by the Tournament Director. A player may insist that a match is played in a non-smoking area. All matches must begin within 10 minutes of the scheduled time.
A player is then entitled to a number of 10-minute breaks, in-between games, as follows: –
– On the first occasion of both players having less than 35 minutes left on their clocks;
– Whenever either player achieves a backgammon;
– On the first occasion when one player reaches a games score of exactly 6, then exactly 12, then exactly 18, then exactly 24;
– Whenever the very last throw of the game-just-finished was a 2:3 (‘time for tea’).
Any situation where a player steps away from the table is considered to be a break, unless doing so is a necessary part of the game. In certain circumstances the Tournament Director may grant a short interruption/ extension if particular concerns to one or both players warrant this. Otherwise, any breach of the rules for times and breaks may result in penalty game points. If a player is not present and not ready to start the match more than 10 minutes after the starting time or after the end of the permitted break, +1 penalty game may be awarded. Subsequently a further +1 penalty game may be awarded for each additional minute’s delay. A non-offending player can in theory be awarded penalty games corresponding to a match-win.
(E) The Tournament Director may, in his sole discretion and in any combination, require any match to be streamed online, to be recorded by way of written notation or to be recorded by way of filming. If necessary, relatively minor details such as seating, direction of play, choice of board, men, dice etc. shall be done according to the personal preferences of the ‘guest’ player. The Tournament Director should specify in advance who qualifies as a guest for these purposes. This could be defined as a newcomer to the venue, or else the youngest player in the room, or else the player who has travelled the furthest to be there, and so on.
While a match is in progress, players are permitted to have: pens/pencils, scorecards, and something to drink. No other electronic, mechanical, written, or other aids may be used. Apart from during a break, a player is not permitted to use a mobile phone unless the opponent accepts this in each instance. The Tournament Director may revoke such acceptance at any time. When a match is in progress, players are not permitted to receive signals or help in any other way from spectators.