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Is BackGammon Really As Confusing As It Looks?

Aug 17, 2007
A game for two players, Backgammon is played on a board of twenty-four long triangles (points), which are divided by a thick line that distinguishes the outer board from the home board. Each of the points are numbered 1 through 24, though Player 2s points are numbered exactly opposite of player 1s. For instance, Player 1's starting point in the home board is point 1 to her, but is point 24 to player 2. Both players begin the game with fifteen checkers (White for Player 1, Red for Player 2). The players respectively start with five checkers on their Thirteen Point, three on their eight point, and five on their six point.

Aside from the board and checkers, players also have two sets of regular dice and one doubling die (with 2-64 on its sides), as well a dice cup. Rolls of the regular dice signify how much movement the player is allotted. If the player rolls a six and two, for instance, they may either move one checkers eight points forward, or one checker six points forward, and another checker two points forward. Checkers must always be moved toward one's home board. The object of moving one's checkers is to have all of them into one's home board, and then to move them off of the board (Called bearing off, or sometimes shoving off.)

Even when one chooses to use both of his dice moves on a single checker, it is still considered two separate moves. Therefore, on a six and two roll, one may only move a single checker eight spaces if the intermediate point on the board does not have an enemy checker on it. If one rolls a double, they may move their checker(s) forward by the amount shown, twice. This is considered four moves instead of two, and the rule about intermediate points still applies.

A player must use all of his available dice movement, unless this is impossible. If one movement or another is possible, but not both, the player must use the largest movement. If neither dice roll can be used, that player is blocked and loses his turn.

An open point has no checkers on it. An occupied point has more than one of the opponent's checkers on it. When there is a point with one enemy checker on it, it is referred to as a blot. If an opponent
lands on a blot, the checker previously occupying that point is placed and is hit, and knocked out of play (generally placed on the thick bar which divides the backgammon board.)

When a player has checkers out of play, it is his obligation to put them back in: the dice roll corresponds to the opponents points incases of re-entering the backgammon board. For instance, if player one rolled a five and a two, she could put that checker onto either her opponent's five space, or her opponent's two space. If the dice roll presents her with only blocked spaces, she loses her turn.

Bearing off, the final process that a player must undergo in order to win, can only occur when all of his checkers are in his home board. While bearing off, the dice rolls correspond with numbers on the player's home board. For instance, if player 2, while all of his pieces are on his own home board points, rolls a one and a four, he may bear off a checker from the one and four position. If a player, while bearing off, has no checkers in the designated point, he must make a legal move with a checker on a higher number. If no legal moves remain, he must bear off one checker. The first player to shove off all of her checkers wins.

The doubling dice is used to set and keep track of the stakes for the game. A player, during his turn, may offer to double the stakes at any time. If the other player refuses, she loses a point and concedes the current game. Otherwise, she accepts the doubling of the stakes and continues playing. The player who accepts the double then has possession over the doubling dice, and he is the only one who can offer to double the stakes. The dice is passed back and forth in this manner.

If the game ends and the losing player has shoved off at least one checker, she only loses the point value shown on the doubling dice. If, however, she has not shoved any checkers off, she is Gammoned, and loses twice the point value shown on the doubling dice. A player becomes Backgammoned when they lose the game without any shoved off checkers while having a checker in stasis (out of play on the bar) or in the enemy's home board.
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