Backgammon has a long and colourful history. It originated in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq, around five thousand years ago. Variations of the game were known to be played by the Egyptians, Sumerians, Romans, and Greeks. The game was typically played on boards crafted from wood, using stones as checkers, and dice made from bone or wood.
It is a two-player game where each player has fifteen checkers which move between twenty-four points according to the roll of two dice. The objective of the game is to be first to bear off, i.e. move all fifteen checkers off the board.
Strategy and luck
Backgammon involves a combination of strategy and luck (from rolling dice). Luck plays a large part in the game, but generally, the better player will win the majority of games over time. With each roll of the dice, players must choose from a number of positions for moving their checkers and consider possible counter-moves by the opponent. The use of the doubling cube allows players to change the stakes during the game.
Backgammon in Europe
It first appeared in Western Europe in the 11th century and became a popular pastime for gamblers. Such was its popularity that more than once it has been banned by Royal decree or religious regulations. The word backgammon first appeared in writing in the 17th century, although no one knows how the name originated. In English, the word “backgammon” is most likely a derivative of “back” and Middle English “gamen”, meaning “game” or “play”.
Although the game remained popular throughout Victorian times it was starting to lose its appeal and may indeed have died out were it not for the concept of doubling. In the 1920s an unknown player in New York introduced the doubling cube and reinvigorated the game. The doubling cube introduced the concept of raising the stakes during a game and added an entirely new strategic element to backgammon.
In recent times, with the invention of the internet, backgammon is again rising in popularity with the advent of online and mobile play.