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How to Play Backgammon

Backgammon Objective

The objective of backgammon is to bring all your checkers, white or black, into your own home board so that you can begin to remove them from the board (the bear-off game phase). The winner of the game is the first player to bear off all of his checkers.

The target of backgammon game

Backgammon Set-up and Rules

To start playing backgammon, each player throws a single die and the player who rolls the highest number plays first. If equal numbers come up, then both players keep rolling their die until they roll distinct numbers.

Commonly, the first player uses the joint numbers on the already-thrown dice to start, although this rule is not harshly followed today. After the initial turn, the players alternate turns and roll two dice each time.

Backgammon board set-up

In some matches, the winner of the last game plays first in the next backgammon game, although this backgammon rule is not always put into effect.Click here to view the full list of backgammon rules.

Backgammon Moves

The roll of the dice indicates how many points, or pips (the unit of distance on a backgammon board) the player is to move his checkers. Backgammon checkers can by no means move backwards, they only move forward towards their own home boards, meaning the white and black pieces are always moving in opposite directions around the backgammon board, one player moving his checkers clockwise while the other counter-clockwise.

More rules concerning the movement of checkers:

  • A checker can be moved to any point that is vacant, to one that is occupied by your own checkers or to a point that has no more then one of your opponent’s checkers on it. In other words, two or more checkers that are occupied by your opponent are considered a block for you.
  • The numbers on the two dice represent separate moves. For instance, if a player rolls 5 and 3, he may move one checker five spaces to an open point and another checker three spaces to an open point, or he may move a single checker a total of eight spaces to an open point.

    backgammon moves options
  • If you roll the dice and a double (same number on both dice) comes up, you can move the pieces twice. For example, with a role of 2-2, you may move 2 points 4 times in any given combination (one piece 8 points, two pieces 4 points each, one piece 6 points and the other 2, two pieces 2 points and a third piece of 4 points, four pieces 2 points each, etc). Usually, the more doubles a player rolls, the greater his chances of winning the game.

Hitting a blot

A single checker on a point is called a blot and it may be attacked (hit) by the opponent. Checkers of different colors may not inhabit the same point. Thus, when one player’s checker lands on point occupied by the opponent’s blot, the latter is taken off the board and moved to the bar, and stays out of play until the checker is entered by the opponent into his inner board.

You can re-enter your checker from the bar only if one of the numbers appear on the rolled dice match a point which is not occupied by two or more of your opponent’s checkers. If none of the points is open, the player loses his roll. If a player is capable of entering several but not all of his checkers, he is obliged to enter as many as he can and then give up the rest of his turn.

backgammon hit, bar, re-enter

Doubling cube

The doubling cube is a dice with the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64, used for raising the stakes at backgammon tournaments and matches.

Backgammon doubling cube

The use of the doubling cube can be done at any stage of the game:

A player who feels he has an advantage over his opponent may suggest doubling the stakes. He may do this when it is his turn and he has not yet rolled the dice. To double, the player simply places the doubling cube with the numbers 2 facing up. The opponent may refuse the offer by resigning (and thus losing the game) or may accept it.

The opponent who accepts the offer is now the owner of the doubling cube, meaning he is the only one who may double the stakes again (this time by placing the doubling cube with the number 4 facing up).

Bearing off

Bearing off – removing your pieces from the home board – is the final stage of the backgammon game. To start this, all of your 15 checkers should be in the home board. The same as with normal moves, you bear off according to the roll of the dice, always from the highest occupied point in your home board. When there is no checker on the point indicated by the roll, the player must make a legal move by using a checker on a higher point. If there are not any checkers on higher points, the player is allowed to remove a checker from his highest occupied point. However, you have no obligation of bearing off if you have another legal move to make.

backgammon bear-off stage

Winning a Backgammon Game

The winner of the game is the first player to bear off all of his checkers. If your rival has not been able to bear off neither of his checkers, you score a gammon, a double victory, which counts twice a normal win. Triple victory or a backgammon, counts three times a6 normal win and is scored when your opponent has not succeeded in bearing off any of his checkers and still has checkers on the bar or in the winner’s home board.

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