Backgammon is one of the most ancient board games that are still enjoyed today. It is played by two people, who move either red or black playing pieces, known as checkers or draughts, around a special board according to the roll of two dice. Each player competes to be the first one to “bear off” (remove) all his playing pieces from the board. A single game of backgammon is relatively short, so often several games are played in succession as a match. The winner of a match is the first person to score a specified number of points. Backgammon may be just for fun or include wagering on the outcome of a game or match. A special die shaped object known as a doubling cube is frequently used by one player to challenge the other to up the ante by doubling the stakes.
Origins of Backgammon
Early “ancestors” of backgammon, wooden game boards dating back thousands of years, have been found by archaeologists in present day Iran (Persia) and Iraq. A backgammon board was also discovered in the famous excavation of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt. The Egyptians of old apparently were quite fond of backgammon and even developed a mechanical dice shaker. The ancient Greeks and later the Romans also enjoyed games that resembled backgammon. Backgammon is rumored to have been introduced to India 15 centuries ago in the form of the game nard, which was demonstrated to an Indian rajah while he was visiting Persia. The game was popular in East Asia for a period of time centuries ago. Its first European appearance was in France about a thousand years prior to the modern era. The name “backgammon,” meaning “back game,” was first used in 1650 in England, and the rules of the game were described by game standardizer Edmund Hoyle a hundred years later.
Backgammon in America
Backgammon was brought to America by pioneers from Europe. It became very popular in the homes of the early settlers until Victorian times. The doubling cube was the major American contribution to the game, developed in 1920s New York. In 1931 the US rules were updated to the version that is still accepted in America to this day. This led to the popularization of backgammon tournaments and strategies. Russian Prince Alexis Obolensky, known as the “father of modern backgammon,” did a great deal to promote the game internationally in the 1960s, and established the esteemed Official Backgammon World Championships in the Bahamas.
Backgammon’s popularity, at a peak in the 1970s, declined once again in the 1980s as young people became interested in the then brand new video games. But the same technology that backed video games also led to computerized backgammon. This new development caused a revolution in the way the game was played. Players could compete against a virtual opponent any time they chose and also had access to a wealth of information on positions and play that deepened their understanding of the game. Nowadays, free backgammon games are readily available on the Internet. Backgammon played by gamblers for real money stakes is also popular online.
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Denise Marie really enjoys writing about games. Denise’s article is for educational purposes only. Backgammon has a history that spans centuries and continents. In the modern era, Backgammon was revolutionized by Alexis Obolensky’s efforts to establish the game and by the introduction of computerized gaming. Play online for fun, and learn how to play Backgammon.