Backgammon History

The existence of board games has been in existence for thousands of years ago dating back to dates before Christ. Ancient cultures and civilizations in the Middle East, Asia and ancient Europe sought out ways of creating competitions and games for entertainment. Although the origins of the original backgammon game are unclear, there is evidence of similar games being played throughout time. It is believed that the first form of the backgammon game was introduced in Mesopotamia in the now Middle East. Others argue that it was in Asia that the game was firstly introduced. The various forms of backgammon games were played in different countries where it was given names such as ‘Tavli’ in Greek, ‘Tric Trac’ in French and ‘Tables Reales’ in Spanish. However it is suggested by many historians that the actual name of Backgammon derives from the Welsh words ‘bac’ and ‘gammon’ which translate to ‘little battle’.

Throughout backgammon history, it is revealed that this board game was played among upper class personalities such as aristocrats and leaders of the ancient civilizations. Squared boxes and their accompanying pieces were found among the numerous relics found around the world such as in Egypt, Persia, China, ancient Greece and Rome. According to some historians, it was only in Asia that the board game of ancient backgammon made use of dice. There is evidence of dice being found together with the game ‘Nard’ (meaning battle) which was similar to today’s backgammon. The only difference between this backgammon game and the game we know today is that 3 dice were used back then instead of the 2 which are still being used today. Although the various forms of Backgammon increased and grew in popularity over the centuries, it was banned over some time due to its gambling nature until Queen Elizabeth the first of England legalised it once more. The backgammon game and its backgammon rules changed over time but the objective remained the same. The aim was for each of the two opponents to move their checker to the other side of the board through movements according to the rolling dice. Over time the board changed. Having started out as checked wooden boxes, it was only from the beginning of the first century that the wooden board was divided by a base in the middle. This division was purposely placed to divide the ‘home’ positions of each opponent where their pieces would need to be moved into in order to win. The backgammon board game was included with yet another board game: chess. The same board was being used for chess play on one side while the inner and back side of the same board was used for backgammon. The backgammon side revealed a series of triangular points where the checker pieces were initially placed before the start of each round. This still remains the case with today’s backgammon game. Backgammon rules were made official in the 1700s when the printing press was introduced an official written document with detailed rules was created. In the 1900s a new concept and rule of playing backgammon was included; the ‘doubling cube’. It is believed that this new rule began in New York where a gambler wanted to enhance the skill element in the game. This rule entailed the fact that whenever the two dice were rolled and revealed a double number, the moves was instinctively doubled per dice. This means that if for example the dice rolled two sixes, then the player would move twenty four spaces (twice the six for each dice having a total of four moves).

Just like in the centuries before, backgammon remained a game being played by the upper class up until the 20th century. Backgammon was still being played in private clubs although there was a push for more publicity among other classes through publications. During World War 1 and World War 2 the popularity of Backgammon decreased immensely although the backgammon rules were modified earlier on in 1931 in the United States to enable easier play among its players. By the 1960s the popularity of backgammon was on the increase. It was during this time that royalty began to introduce world-wide tournaments and competitions. This is also the time when backgammon clubs began to form. Such championships still take place until this day. However it was not until the 1970s that backgammon saw the biggest increase in popularity. New books, magazines dedicated to backgammon were printed and the game moved from being an upper class game to a middle class game also. It began attracting the interest of many young players who were willing to enter tournaments in chances of winning large prizes.

With the advancement of technology and video games towards the end of the 20th century, backgammon was competing against some of the most versatile computer games. Therefore it was only a matter of time that backgammon was also turned into a popular video game. This form of backgammon did not only provide a new control over the checker pieces but it also laid out the setup automatically saving players times. As the years progressed, so did the software of the new computer generation. The introduction of the internet also introduced a new form of backgammon play where players were given the opportunity to play with an automated opponent as well as against other opponents from other countries in the world. Hundreds of players were able to play the TD-Gammon (as it was called – the first internet backgammon server), save their games and play for hours without interruptions; all they needed was an internet access. Group chat rooms and blogs were later developed for backgammon enthusiasts to communicate with one another about all things backgammon. Today, with the introduction of online gaming, players are able to participate in online tournaments without having to leave the comfort of their own homes as they are played over the internet. Players are able to either practice backgammon beforehand through Free Backgammon or challenge opponents from around the world for a fun game of Backgammon.