Forum Archive : Rulings

Playing to wrong match length

From:   Marty Storer
Date:   24 March 2005
Subject:   Rules question
Forum:   GammOnLine

If two players are scheduled for a match of a certain length, but play a
match of the wrong length, complete it, post the result, etc., the
result stands, correct?

I looked at the Chicago Point site
[], Rules section, but the
situation wasn't covered. There must be some statement of rules where it
is covered? Can anybody locate one, or cite precedent?


Gregg Cattanach  writes:

The only two relevent rules in the US rules are:

    4.9 COMPLETION. Games must be rolled to completion, unless ended by
    a pass of a double or redouble, or conceded in no-contact positions
    as single game, gammon or backgammon losses. No game may be canceled
    and replayed, or settled. Matches must be played to the appointed

    4.10 REPORTING RESULTS. Final score shall be reported to Tournament
    Official by match winner. Official shall verify and post a correct
    result on draw sheet. Once posted, an erroneous result may still be
    corrected in a timely manner, but not after either player has begun
    a succeeding match.

The way I've generally seen this handled is (1) If the players play to a
match length that is too short, then the TD can have them resume the
match from the last score of the played match. (2) If the players play
to a match length that is too long, then the first player that actually
reached the correct match length is the winner. Any 'errors' regarding
the Crawford game or 'automatic' redoubles in either instance are

If the next match in the bracket is started, then the match becomes
official and the posted result stands (4.10).

Gregg C.

Casper van der Tak  writes:

I'd let the outcome stand if the match was completed and both players
accepted the result, and only then found out that the match was supposed
to be of different length.

If players realize their error during the match before reaching the
required number of points - play on with the required match length. If
they are both past the required number of points, declare the first to
get past the finish line the winner.

Marty Storer  writes:

That solution feels right to me. But I wouldn't cry foul if I had "won"
a too-short match and the director made me continue a proper-length
match from the score at which I'd won.

It's reasonable to read the rules as justifying continuation of the
"completed" too-short match. "Matches must be played to completion";
"erroneous results can be corrected before the start of a following

I think the main intent of these rules is to guard against two things:
private arrangements to lengthen or shorten matches, and reporting the
wrong winner. One problem with accepting a too-short match result is
that it gives players a way to arrange to play a shorter match than they
have to. They just say "We both thought we had to play a 9-pointer
instead of an 11-pointer," and their result stands. On the other hand,
it's possible to concede a match before the end; players can sneak in a
shorter match by having the "loser" concede. I don't see how to prevent
that, other than by catching the players in the act.

So there's no perfect solution. Making players continue a "completed"
too-short match won't really solve the problem of private arrangements
for shorter matches, but it helps.

As director, I would be strongly tempted to let a too-short result
stand, under these conditions: (1) The too-short match was no more than
2 points shorter than the official length; (2) I thought the players
were honest in thinking they had to play a too-short match.

How about the rules? I don't think they support my tempting solutions.
If you define a too-short result as "erroneous" (which seems most
reasonable), then the result has to be "corrected" if there's time. The
director has to decide whether or not there's time. If there is time for
more playing, there are two possibilities: start the match over, or
continue from the score of the "completed" too-short match. I think
continuing is better than starting over.

Michael Strato  writes:

1) I think that if it was an honest error by both players, the result is
posted on the wall and the match of the next round begins, it's should
be too late, the result stands.

2) All tournaments provide score sheets to the players. To prevent this
type of error, perhaps it would be a good idea for the players to not
only report to the tournament staff who won, but to also hand in the
score sheet, or at least show it, so that the staff confirms each match
was played to its proper length.


Chuck Bower  writes:

The US Rules don't indicate how to adjudicate such a situation. That
part is simple. The decision is left entirely up to the director.

Last weekend at the Midwest Champs, Bill David (director) announced at
the Calcutta auction that players should play to the correct score, and
that not doing so could lead to awkward consequences. He didn't say what
the consequences were. However, he also talked about a player putting
his own checker on the bar (as, for example, when bearing off). "If a
player places his own checker on the bar, it is on the bar." From these
two statements you can see that in one case he specifically states the
outcome of an impropriety and in the other he doesn't. This adds to my
above contention that (in Bill's tournament), if a match is played to an
incorrect matchscore, the director will look at the individual occurence
and deside appropriate action.

I don't particularly like Gregg's solution, but then I don't have a
perfect solution, either. It is my impression that these situations are
handled in different ways by different directors (and probably even
different ways by the *same* director). As far as a precedence, I think
that is a weak argument in backgammon. From what I know there is no
systematic recording of rulings, and if there is, it is a rare practice.

My solution is the following:

Director asks player 1: "Were you aware that you were supposed to play
to N points?" (Gets answer.) Then director asks player 2 the same
question. If both claim ignorance but instead agree that they were
playing to M points (M not equal N), then accept the result and stress
to them that they should check the bracket sheet BEFORE beginning a
match to make sure they are playing to the correct matchlength.

A problem can occur if a LONGER than required match is played which
affects the movement of the tournament due to taking too much time. If
the director finds this out before the match is completed and it looks
like a time limit is going to be breached, s/he has a decision to make
as to what to do. If the match is already completed (as seen in the eyes
of the two players while they were playing the match), then I think the
score should stand, whether the matchlength was too short or too long,
assuming neither playing was willingly playing to the wrong matchlength.
Neither was at an advantage and it didn't harm the remainder of the
field. If one player (but not the other) was aware that the matchlength
was incorrect, the ruling should go against that person. I.e. the
matchscore the other player was using is the one in effect, and a strong
warning is issued (with threat of future consequences as below.) If both
were aware that they were playing to the wrong matchlength, a stern
warning should be delivered with the threat that a repeat of such will
lead to strong penalties (possibly even forfeiture), but the actual
play-to score they agreed upon is the official score for that match.

Kit Woolsey  writes:

You are ahead 7-1 in an 11 point match, and you own a 2-cube. Naturally
you are very cautious about redoubling. However, you get into a race and
have such a huge lead that it is almost impossible for you to lose. So
you redouble to 4, fully expecting that your competent opponent will
pass. Much to your surprise, your opponent sits up in his chair and
grabs the 4-cube. After you roll, he sends it back to 8. You wonder what
is going on, so you now check your scoresheet and realize that you
aren't playing an 11 point match -- you are playing a 9 point match! Of
course the dice Gods are out to punish you for your indiscretion, and
your opponent rolls back to back boxes to win the game and the match. Do
you have any recourse?

You are behind 7-5 in a 9 point match, and your opponent owns a 2-cubs.
You get closed out, and miss the last ditch shot he leaves you from the
bar. Naturally you concede and reach across to shake his hand, as there
is zero chance to win the race. Your opponent accepts your handshake,
the checkers are put away, and your opponent trots off to report the
score. A kibitzer asks you why you conceded, since it seemed to him that
you had a decent chance to get off the gammon. You check the scoresheet,
and realize that you weren't playing a 9 point match -- you were playing
an 11 point match. Do you have any recourse?

In both cases, it is clear that you have no recourse -- the match is
lost. You took foolish actions (redoubling in the first case, conceding
in the second case) because you were unaware of the match length, but
you have nobody to blame but yourself. You have to live with these
actions. It is the player's responsibility to know the match length and
the score, and if he makes a mistake along these lines the mistake

This is exactly what has happened when two players play a match shorter
than the scheduled length. In essence the loser conceded the match
prematurely, the winner accepted, and that is that. The result stands.

Of course, tournament directors have a lot of latitude, as they should.
If the tournament director believes that the other player knew what the
proper match length was, knew his opponent was playing to the wrong
length (e.g. the opponent had written 9 on his scorecard), then the
director may make some other ruling. This is especially true if the
alleged winner of the match is known to have taken shady actions in the
past. However, if it was all an honest mistake then there is no possible
ruling other than the result stands and the match is completed.

Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     



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