is a board game for two players in which the playing
pieces are moved according to the roll of dice.
A player wins by removing all of his checkers
from the board. There are many variants of backgammon,
most of which share common traits. Backgammon
is a member of the tables family, one of the oldest
classes of board games in the world.
luck plays an important role, there is a large
scope for strategy. With each roll of the dice
a player must choose from numerous options for
moving his checkers and anticipate possible counter-moves
by the opponent. Players may raise the stakes
during the game. There is an established repertory
of common tactics and occurrences.
chess, backgammon has been studied with great
interest by computer scientists. Owing to this
research, backgammon software has been developed
capable of beating world-class human players.
game senet resembled backgammon, with moves controlled
by the roll of dice. However, the Royal Game of
Ur, played in ancient Mesopotamia, is a more likely
ancestor of modern day tables games. Excavations
at the "Burnt City" in Iran have shown
that a similar game existed there around 3000
BC. The artifacts include two dice and 60 checkers,
and the set is believed to be 100 to 200 years
older than the sets found in Ur.
ancient Romans played a number of games remarkably
similar to backgammon. Ludus duodecim scriptorum
("Game of twelve lines") used a board
with three rows of 12 points each, and the checkers
were moved across all three rows according to
the roll of dice. Little specific text about the
gameplay has survived. Tabula, meaning "table"
or "board", was a game mentioned in
an epigram of Byzantine Emperor Zeno (AD 476–481).
It was similar to modern backgammon in that the
object of the game was to be the first to bear
off all of one's checkers. Players threw three
dice and moved their checkers in opposing directions
on a board of 24 points.
the 11th century Shahnameh, the Persian poet Ferdowsi
credits Burzoe with the invention of the tables
game nard in the 6th century. He describes an
encounter between Burzoe and a Raja visiting from
India. The Raja introduces the game of chess,
and Burzoe demonstrates nard, played with dice
made from ivory and teak. (Today, Nard is the
name for the Persian version of backgammon, which
has different initial positions and objectives.)
jeux de tables (Game of Tables), predecessors
of modern backgammon, first appeared in France
during the 11th century and became a favorite
pastime of gamblers. In 1254, Louis IX issued
a decree prohibiting his court officials and subjects
from playing.Tables games were played in Germany
in the 12th century, and had reached Iceland by
the 13th century. The Alfonso X manuscript Libro
de los juegos, completed in 1283, describes rules
for a number of dice and tables games in addition
to its extensive discussion of chess.By the 17th
century, tables games had spread to Sweden. A
wooden board and checkers were recovered from
the wreck of the Vasa among the belongings of
the ship's officers. Backgammon appears widely
in paintings of this period, mainly those of Dutch
and German painters (Van Ostade, Jan Steen, Bosch
and others). One surviving artwork is "Cardsharps"
by Caravaggio (The backgammon board is in the
lower left.) Others are the Hell of Bosch and
interior of an Inn by Jan Steen.
the 16th century, Elizabethan laws and church
regulations prohibited playing tables, but by
the 18th century backgammon was popular among
the English clergy. Edmund Hoyle published
A Short Treatise on the Game of Back-Gammon in
1743; this described rules and strategy for the
game and was bound together with a similar text
English, the word "backgammon" is most
likely derived from "back" and Middle
English "gamen", meaning "game"
or "play". The earliest use documented
by the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1650.
most recent major development in backgammon was
the addition of the doubling cube. It was first
introduced in the 1920s in New York City among
members of gaming clubs in the Lower East Side.
The cube required players not only to select the
best move in a given position, but also to estimate
the probability of winning from that position,
transforming backgammon into the expected value-driven
game played in the 20th and 21st centuries.
objective is to move all of one's own checkers
past those of one's opponent and then remove them
from the board. The checkers are scattered at
first and may be blocked or hit by the opponent.
As the playing time for each individual game is
short, it is often played in matches, where victory
is awarded to the first player to reach a certain
number of points.
side of the board has a track of 12 long triangles,
called points. The points are considered to be
connected across one edge of the board, forming
a continuous track in the shape of a horseshoe,
and are numbered from 1 to 24. Each player begins
with two checkers on his 24-point, three checkers
on his 8-point, and five checkers each on his
13-point and his 6-point. The two players move
their checkers in opposing directions, each from
his own 24-point towards his 1-point.
1 through 6 are called the home board or inner
board, and points 7 through 12 are called the
outer board. The 7-point is referred to as the
bar point, and the 13-point as the mid point.
and competitive play
and tournament play
have formed clubs for social play of backgammon.
Local clubs may hold informal gatherings, with
members meeting at cafés and bars in the
evening to play and converse. A few clubs offer
additional services, maintaining their own facilities
or offering computer analysis of troublesome plays.
Some club leaders have noticed a recent growth
of interest in backgammon, and attribute it to
the game's popularity on the internet.
backgammon chouette permits three or more players
to participate in a single game, often for money.
One player competes against a team of all the
other participants, and positions rotate after
each game. Chouette play often permits the use
of multiple doubling cubes.
clubs may also organize tournaments. Large club
tournaments sometimes draw competitors from other
regions, with final matches viewed by hundreds
of spectators. The top players at regional tournaments
often compete in major national and international
championships. Winners at major tournaments may
receive prizes of tens of thousands of dollars.
to 1979, there was no single world championship
competition in backgammon, although a number of
major tournaments were held in Las Vegas, Nevada
and the Bahamas. Since 1979, the World Backgammon
Championship in Monte Carlo has been widely acknowledged
as the top international tournament. The Monte
Carlo tournament draws thousands of players and
spectators, and is played over the course of a
the 21st century, the largest international tournaments
had established the basis of a tour for top professional
players. Major tournaments are held yearly in
St. Tropez, Rio de Janeiro, Dallas, and Venice.
PartyGaming sponsored a tournament in the Bahamas
in January 2007 with a prize pool of one million
dollars, the largest for any tournament to date.
backgammon is played for money, the most common
arrangement is to assign a monetary value to each
point, and to play to a certain score, or until
either player chooses to stop. The stakes are
raised by gammons, backgammons, and use of the
doubling cube. Backgammon is sometimes available
in casinos. As with most gambling games, successful
play requires a combination of luck and skill,
as a single dice roll can sometimes significantly
change the outcome of the game.
has been studied considerably by computer scientists.
Neural networks and other approaches have offered
significant advances to software for gameplay
first strong computer opponent was BKG 9.8. It
was written by Hans Berliner in the late 1970s
on a DEC PDP-10 as an experiment in evaluating
board game positions. Early versions of BKG played
badly even against poor players, but Berliner
noticed that its critical mistakes were always
at transitional phases in the game. He applied
principles of fuzzy logic to improve its play
between phases, and by July 1979, BKG 9.8 was
strong enough to play against the ruling world
champion Luigi Villa. It won the match, 7–1,
becoming the first computer program to defeat
a world champion in any board game. Berliner stated
that the victory was largely a matter of luck,
as the computer received more favorable dice rolls.
the late 1980s, backgammon programmers found more
success with an approach based on artificial neural
networks. TD-Gammon, developed by Gerald Tesauro
of IBM, was the first of these programs to play
near the expert level. Its neural network was
trained using temporal difference learning applied
to data generated from self-play. According to
assessments by Bill Robertie and Kit Woolsey,
TD-Gammon's play was at or above the level of
the top human players in the world. Woolsey said
of the program that "There is no question
in my mind that its positional judgment is far
better than mine."
network research has resulted in two modern commercial
programs, Jellyfish and Snowie as well as the
shareware BGBlitz and the free software GNU Backgammon.
These programs not only play the game, but offer
tools for analyzing games and offering detailed
comparisons of individual moves. The strength
of these programs lies in their neural networks'
weights tables, which are the result of months
of training. Without them, these programs play
no better than a human novice. For the bearoff
phase, backgammon software usually relies on a
database containing precomputed equities for all
possible bearoff positions.
software has been developed not only to play and
analyze games, but also to facilitate play between
humans over the internet. Dice rolls are provided
by random or pseudorandom number generators. Real-time
online play began with the First Internet Backgammon
Server in 1992. It is the longest running non-commercial
backgammon server and retains an international
community of backgammon players. Yahoo Games offers
a Java-based online backgammon room, and MSN Games
offers a game based on ActiveX. Online gambling
providers began to expand their offerings to include
backgammon in 2006. (Credit: Wikipedia).