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Tavli – Greek Backgammon

Tavli is a Greek backgammon variant. The meaning of the word Tavli in Greek is ‘board’ and it is used to describe different board games for 2 players; the most common are the Portes, Plakoto and Fagva, which are usually played one after the other, in series of 3, 5 or 7, according to the players’ initial decision.

There is a distinction to each backgammon variant the, yet they are all characterized with high speed and common basic backgammon rules, which are similar to the western backgammon rules. The main difference between Tavli and the western and online backgammon lies in the backgammon set, which includes one pair of dice with no doubling cube, and in the method used to determine, which player starts the game. Both players roll one die each; the player with the higher numeric value opens the game, by rolling the dice again. Later on, in the series, the winner of the previous game gets to start.

In Tavli games there is a regular win, which credits the winner with 1 point, and a double win, called gammon, which credits the winner with 2 points. Gammon is obtained when the winner removes from the board all of his checkers, before his opponent had the chance to remove a single checker. Backgammon score, which credits the winner with 3 points in western and online backgammon, does not exist in Tavli.

How to play each backgammon variant?

The first backgammon variant, to be played in the Tavli threesome, is identical to the online backgammon, except for the details mentioned above.

The second backgammon variant to be played in the Tavli threesome; in Bulgaria it is known by the name Tapa. The initial backgammon board set up, places all 15 checkers of each player on the opponent’s 1-point. During the game the checkers must be transferred counterclockwise to the home board and be removed according to the regular backgammon rules

Plakoto has no ‘hitting’ option. Instead there is a concept of obstructing the opponent. A checker that reaches a point with only one of the opponent’s checkers on it traps the checker and does not allow it to move, until the blocking checker moves on and releases the blockade. The blocking checker sits above the opponent’s checker, and the point is treated in the same manner classic backgammon rules treat a point blocked by two or more checkers from the same color.

The last checker to leave the starting point is called the ‘mother’ checker. In the event that a ‘mother’ checker is blocked on the starting point before moving a single step, the game ends immediately and the opponent scores a gammon, except for the case, in which the opponent ‘mother’ checker is still in its starting point and is exposed to blockade. In this scenario, the game continues until the opponent’s ‘mother’ leaves its starting point. If the trapped player succeeds to block the opponent’s ‘mother’, the backgammon game ends in a tie.

The third backgammon variant to be played in the Tavli threesome; in turkey it is known as Moultezim and in Russia as Narde. The backgammon board set up is different from both Portes and Plakoto. The checkers of each player are located at the right far most point of the board, in two diagonally corners. The checkers are moved counterclockwise to the home boards, which are located in the lower-right area and in the upper- left area of the board.

In this backgammon variant, no other checker can be moved until the first checker has passed the opponent’s starting point. For example, if a player rolls 6-6, and the opponent’s starting point is occupied, than he can play only one 6 out of the four, as the starting checker cannot continue and no other checker is allowed to be moved, before the first passes the opponent’s starting point.

As in Plakoto, and unlike classic and online backgammon rules, there is no ‘hitting’ in Fevga, but there is no obstructing either. In Fevga a single checker blocks a point and a checker cannot land on a point that has an opponent’s checker on it. In order to prevent too many blocked points there is a restriction, exclusive to this backgammon variant, which does not allow blocking all points in the starting point area. If one of the players creates a prime (blocking 6 points in a row) anywhere across the board and his opponent gathers all of his checkers in the point before the prime, then the player must open at least one point, to give his rival a chance to get through.

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