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Beginners Guide To Backgammon

Most are familiar with the books entitled - 'Dummies'

I say dummies because this particular phrase covers a whole library of reference and text books that adopts the premise of teaching you how to do this and how to do that. It takes the pretext that the person reading it is in fact a ‘dummy', or not too clever, therefore the book has been written to satisfy this particular person's ability in mind. A slightly condescending approach one could say but never the less the books have sold in their millions, which only goes to prove that there are a lot of dummies about.

With this thought in mind it is perhaps a good time to re-evaluate the game of backgammon in the same way, with the ‘dummy' approach to backgammon.

First of all the basics are easy and should not be considered difficult even for dummies:

The game is played by two players, across a board, be it on or offline. The board consists of twenty pour points or long triangles; shaped like spear points. These are separated by a divide right down the middle called a bar, which divides the home board from the outer board. The points are numbered from 1-24, for player one but for player two the numbers are opposite.

In this case player one home point is number 1 whilst player two is 24. They both have 15 pieces each, or stones or chequers or whatever you prefer to call them, but these are the pieces that are moved, your little soldiers. The players start with two pieces on their Twenty-four point, five pieces on the Thirteen Point, three on their eight point, and five on their six point.

There are two other pieces that you need - the dice and a doubling cube, though not all games are played with the doubling cube. Oh and you could also use a dice cup if you're playing offline. The dice is how you move the pieces; the number rolled being the number of spaces you move with your pieces. How you move them, that is the question! Take a six and a two; you could move eight spaces, or one two pints forward and the other six points. The direction is always towards the home board, which is anti-clockwise. All right so far? Why? Because as soon as all the pieces are on your home board; you start to get rid of them - or bear off.

There is always a chance of an intermediate roll, which means if the space is empty, or unoccupied by the opposition pieces, then they can position their pieces there. Should a double be thrown, then as the name suggests you double your movement; this means four moves instead of two, and the rule about intermediate points still applies.

Players must move unless it is impossible to do so. In other words whatever the throw you must try to move somewhere to accommodate the dice thrown. That could mean the best or largest movement on the board into a vacant position. However if you can't move anywhere, you forfeit the turn and the momentum goes to the other player.

This is best described as an open point and a closed point. A closed point has more than one of the opponent's pieces on it on it. But a point with only one opposition piece on it is up for grabs and is called a blot. Hit the blot and that piece goes to the bar until it is able to be returned to the game. Bar - the divide between the two halves.

Still with it? Good, now we come to the finale' - bear off. The idea is simple throw the right number and the pieces on the home board that you would now have accrued are taken off the board. If you can't move exactly the number thrown, then the nearest highest point occupied will be the piece moved. Once, all the pieces have been removed, the first one to do so is the winner.

Those are the basics, but there's a bit more involved, and that's to do with the scoring. Should the game end and the opposition has at least one piece off the board, they only lose the point value shown on the doubling dice. But if they have not been able to bear off a single piece, then that player is 'Gammoned', and loses twice the point value shown on the doubling cube. A 'Backgammon' is when the game is lost, first without any pieces being removed and second, still having pieces on the outer board. This will involve win points to the value of three times the doubling cube.

The doubling cube has been mentioned, and was introduced in the 1920's. It is really the thing that sets the odds in place for the game. It is the wager tool. Use it or refuse it. That is the essence of the doubling cube. As it doubles the stake of the players up to 64 times, getting increasingly more expensive as it passes back and forth between the players who either accept it or not, that being said, reject it and you lose.

So these define the real basics of the great game, and like everything it is really only a beginning. Mastering it takes dedication and practice and a lot of play, but where better to start than at where you can do just that for fun, or for the more adventurous, for real money. Check out there online school for more in-depth useful hints and tactics.

Happy Gammoning!

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