Forum Archive :
There has been much discussion about various irregularities and how the
laws might be modified. Regardless of how well the laws are written, things
will happen. Any regular tournament player should strive to develop good
workmanship habits which will minimize the chances of an irregularity. Even
if both players are completely honest, bad things can happen if a player is
careless. And if your opponent isn't 100% honest, there is more danger of
getting involved in a dispute if you are not careful.
Here are a set of guidelines which will decrease the chances of an
irregularity or dispute. They have served me well. I have been playing
tournament backgammon for several years, and I don't ever remember being
involved in a serious dispute during a match.
Before the match:
* Make sure you have decent equipment. Dice should be precision dice, of
course. The dice cups should not be the smooth cheap kind where the dice
can slide. They should have lips so as to prevent this. If the dice cups
are thin, use small dice so the dice can be shaken in the cup. The board
should have a flat surface so as to avoid ambiguity about whether or not
a die is cocked. If the board is not flat, agree in advance with your
opponent what constitutes a cocked die if the die doesn't land flat but
is not leaning against a checker or the side of the board.
* Find out for sure what the length of the match is. Then verbally agree
on the match length with your opponent. Write down the match length on
your scoresheet, see that your opponent does also, and make sure they
are the same. I have often seen problems occur when the players thought
they were playing different match lengths, or even when they both
thought they were playing a certain match length but in fact the length
of the match was different. A mixup on the match length can be one of
the most difficult irregularities to resolve fairly.
At the start of each game:
* After setting up your board, take a quick check to make sure that both
you and your opponent have properly set up the starting position.
Failure to do so can lead to some pretty strange rulings considering the
rules in this area.
* Make sure that the cube is in the center. This is very important.
Failure to do so can lead to a big dispute later in the game when
somebody is considering doubling and the cube has already been turned.
Keep in mind that the director will have to accept the evidence of where
the cube actually is, so be sure it is in the center.
At the end of each game:
* Write down the score of the match.
* Verify the score with your opponent before starting to set up the
checkers or moving the cube. It is very important to do this after every
game. It is vital to catch a score discrepancy before starting the next
game. Honest mistakes can happen, and not so honest mistakes can also
happen in this area. In particular, if the cube was at 2 or higher make
sure that the score represents the proper cube value. Also, make sure
the score represents the proper result of the game. One common problem
area occurs if there is a race to get off the gammon. A player may think
that his final roll got him off, when in fact it got him in but not off.
Do not touch the checkers until the result of the game has been
* Once the score has been established, put the cube in the center before
you do anything else, so you won't forget.
* If you take a break after the game, put your scoresheet on the
backgammon board. Then before the next game starts, once again verify
the score. You can't be too careful in this area.
On the opening roll:
* If you win the opening roll, make your move before you pick up your die.
This will help avoid any disputes about what you actually rolled.
* If your opponent wins the opening roll, leave your die on the board
until he has completed his move and picked up his die. Once again, this
will help avoid any disputes.
* If you both roll the same number, be sure to pick up your die before
re-rolling. If you fail to do so, there may be a dispute as to which die
you had rolled on the re-roll. If you opponent doesn't do this you
should watch very carefully which die he rolls for the re-roll.
Before you roll:
* Make sure you don't tailgate -- roll the dice before your opponent has
picked up his dice. This leads to plenty of disputes. The best way to do
this is simply to not even start to shake your dice until you have seen
him pick up his dice. If you follow this procedure, you will never have
the problem of tailgating. Even if his move is forced or if you are in a
straight race when his move is obvious, this is still a good policy to
follow. Keep in mind that if you do roll before he has picked up his
dice it gives him the opportunity to take a double shot -- he sees what
you roll, and if he likes it he picks up his dice while if he doesn't
like it he leaves his dice on the table and your roll will be void.
Avoid any such situation by never tailgating.
* Think for a second about the cube. Even if you obviously don't have a
double, this is a good habit to get into. By training yourself not to
roll the dice immediately, you will not make the mistake of
inadvertantly missing a good double. It will also help avoiding
fastrolling or rushing yourself.
* If you are seriously considering doubling, do not reach for the cube
prematurely. If you do, this may be considered a cube. Simply sit there
and think about it. When you have made your decision, either turn the
cube or roll.
* When you do double, make it very clear. Pick up the cube, turn it so the
appropriate number is face up, and put it in the center of the board.
* If your opponent does take, make sure that when he puts the cube on his
side of the board the proper number is showing on top. If you fail to do
this, there may be a later dispute about the level of the cube.
* If your opponent passes the double, make sure that he has actually
passed -- either by his writing down the score or by his setting up the
board. Do not touch your checkers -- let him do that first. This way you
avoid a dispute when your opponent claims that he hasn't decided and you
have messed up your position.
When you roll:
* Always roll on the right side of the board. Do not ask permission to
roll on the left side even when the right side is cluttered with
checkers. The rules specifically say that you must roll on the right-
hand side. Deviating from this is just asking for trouble in the future
when your opponent may say that your good roll doesn't count.
* Shake the dice well of course. When you roll the dice, lift your fingers
away from the lip of the cup so the dice will be free to drop out. What
you want to avoid is having one die get stuck.
* Should a die stick, you have a problem. If you feel it is about to come
out, it is best to just let it come out even if the dice don't come out
exactly simultaneously -- as long as the first die hasn't landed there
should be no problems. If it feels like it will stick, it is best to
move the cup away from the board so it is clear that the second die
won't land. If possible you might even grab the first die before it
lands, although this is difficult to do. But simply not letting the
second die land on the board will void the roll, which is the best thing
to do when one die sticks.
* Even if it appears that the roll won't be legal, such as one of the die
landing on a checker, don't touch either die until both have landed.
Then if the roll is clearly not going to count, you can pick up your
dice. If there might be some question about whether a die is cocked,
definitely don't touch the dice until you and your opponent come to an
agreement about whether or not the die is cocked.
When you move:
* After the dice land, always pause for a second before moving even if
your move is obvious. There are two reasons for this. One is that you
might have misread the dice, and by pausing for a second you give
yourself a chance to see the dice properly. The second reason is that
sometimes that obvious move might not be so obvious on a closer look.
* Try to decide on your play before touching the checkers. There are
several reasons for this. When you start shuffling checkers around you
may fail to set the position up properly when you move them back. Or
there may be a dispute about what the original position was. Also, from
a backgammon point of view you are better off not shuffling the
checkers. Once you have played part of your roll, in your mind that will
be a forced play and you will fail to consider alternatives which might
not involve that partial play. In addition, once you have played the
full roll you will be looking only at the resulting position from that
roll, and you may overlook a better candidate.
* If you feel it necessary to see how a play looks before making your
final decision, be sure you have the original position locked in your
mind before you touch the checkers. Make the play carefully. Let your
opponent know that you are just taking a look, so he will not think you
are finished with the play and fast-roll you. After you see how a play
looks, when you go back to setting up the original position do so slowly
and carefully, one checker at a time. Be sure to replace any checkers
you have sent to the bar with your tentative move when re-setting the
original position. If you are careful, you should be able to avoid
disputes about what the original position was.
* Once you have decided on your move and made it, don't scoop up the dice
instantly. Pause for a second. This will give both you and your opponent
a chance to notice if you have played illegally, either because you
misread the dice or because you accidentally made an illegal move, thus
cutting down the likelihood of a dispute about an illegal move or what
the dice roll was. In addition, maybe you will see something you hadn't
seen before and find a better move. When you are ready to make it
official, do not drag the dice. Pick them up directly. This will avoid
disputes about whether or not you have picked up your dice. The idea is
to have your second thoughts before reaching for your dice, not as you
are picking them up.
* Make your move definitively. Put a checker you are moving squarely on
its destination point, not carelessly in between two points. If you hit
an enemy checker, make sure you put the checker on the bar. If you bear
a checker off, make sure you actually take the checker off the board --
don't carelessly place it somewhere else on the board. If your play
involves moving one checker in an unusual order, the small die first or
avoiding a hit, make it clear what you are doing. For example, if you
roll 6-1 and have one checker on the six point to bear off, you can
legally play 6/5, 5/off. If you are dong so, make the move in that order
so it is clear what you have done.
* If your opponent rolls before you have picked up your dice, leave your
dice on the table. I suggest grabbing his dice before they land. This
will make it clear that you aren't trying to take a double shot. If you
are unable to do this in time, just leave your dice alone. His roll is
invalid. The one thing you must avoid doing is rush to pick up your dice
as your opponent is rolling. Not only will this encourage him to
continue to fastroll you, but if you haven't fully decided on your move
you don't want to be forced into your decision prematurely. Even if you
are reaching for you dice, if he rolls pull your hand away and leave
your dice where they are. This will discourage him from fastrolling.
When your opponent is on roll:
* If your opponent makes a move toward doubling without actually taking
the cube and putting it on the board, do nothing. Just sit there. Do not
give any hit of whether you are going to take or pass. If you act
prematurely, he may claim that he wasn't actually doubling and you get
into a dispute. Don't act until he has actually turned the cube.
* If your opponent does turn the cube, don't make any physical indications
of whether you are going to take or pass until you have made your
decision. If you decide to take, take the cube and put it on your side
of the board with the apporpriate number fact up. If you decide to pass,
I suggest writing down the score and starting to set up your checkers
without touching the cube. If you pick up the cube even to put it in the
center, your opponent may construe this as a take and a dispute could
* If your opponent asks permission to roll on the left side of the board,
do not give it to him. Doing so is only asking for trouble later on
about what is or is not a legal roll. The rules say the dice must land
on the right side of the board for the roll to be legal, and you should
stick rigorously with that. If your opponent does roll on the wrong side
of the board I suggest you grab his dice before they land to make it
clear that you aren't taking a double shot, but in any event the roll is
not a legal roll and under no circumstances should you permit it to
* If there is some chance that one of the dice is cocked, stop your
opponent from moving or touching the dice. Make sure things are left
untouched until you and your opponent resolve whether or not the die is
When your opponent moves:
* Pay attention! Note what the dice roll is carefully. Have the position
mentally locked in your mind. If you can, decide what move you would
make if you were on the other side of the board or at least what
candidates you would consider. This will be very helpful in the case
that your opponent makes an illegal move, or if he shuffles his checkers
and then sets up the board improperly. It is also better for your
backgammon game, since you will see the position from his point of view
and possibly have a deeper understanding of the position. Even if you
don't see the illegal move immediately, you may notice that the
resulting position is different from anything you had expected and you
can then reconstruct what happened and discover the illegal move.
* If your opponent is shuffling checkers, watch very carefully. Honest
players can make a mistake re-setting the position, and we all know what
dishonest players might do. If he is in the middle of a move and has
played part of it, you might clarify what is left. For example, if he
rolls 3-3 and plays two of the threes and then stops and thinks, you
could clarify that he has two more threes to play. Always make sure he
gets back to the proper original position if there is any doubt.
* If you see that your opponent is in the middle of making an illegal
move, stop him immediately. Don't wait for him to pick up his dice. The
sooner an illegal move is corrected, the less chance there is for a
Of course you cannot expect your opponent to follow these guidelines. But
if you follow them carefully, you will avoid disputes which might otherwise
Gregg Cattanach writes:
> If your opponent rolls before you have picked up your dice, leave your
> dice on the table. I suggest grabbing his dice before they land.
I disagree, as there is nothing in the rules that indicates I ought to be
interfering with my opponent's rolls, premature or not. Just let them fall,
then deal with his premature roll according to the rules.
Kit's article here is excellent.
Chuck Bower writes:
Very nice report on proper table etiquette and the reasons behind it.
I think something that needs to emphasized: Don't let your opponent
intimidate you. Most of the time this isn't really intentional, but
sometimes it is. Regardless, hold your ground, politely but firmly.
The most common form of intimidation is an attempt to rush you. Besides
fast rolling, some opponents shake the dice impatiently while you're
trying to play. Others "help" you make your plays by moving checkers in
from the bar (when it's your turn) and picking up their own checkers
when they think you are going to hit them. None of this is proper and
when it succeeds it can throw you off or your concentration. You can
still be polite in telling opp you don't need their help. If that doesn't
work, say you'd like to get a director's opinion.
This is another issue. At BG (unlike bridge, for example) it is customary
to attempt to settle improprieties at the table just among the two
combatants. But at the first sign of resistance, politely indicate your
intent to get a director involved and then do it. Usually the two players
agree (e.g. illegal move) and everything procedes smoothly. But my
experience is that once there is disagreement, the process slows to a
crawl (standstill) without a third party (not kibitzer, BTW) expert
opinion. Don't be intimidated here, either. If opp considers it an insult
to have a director called (very seldom the case in my experience), too
bad -- that's his/her problem, not yours.
- Adjusting to face-to-face play (Paul Epstein+, Feb 2006)
- Adjusting to face-to-face play (Daniel Murphy, June 1999)
- Avoiding disputes (Kit Woolsey+, Oct 2007)
- Baffle box to roll dice (Ken Bame, Mar 2012)
- Calcutta auctions (David Moeser, Nov 2001)
- Calcutta auctions (Roland Scheicher+, Dec 1998)
- Calcutta auctions (Anthony R Wuersch, Oct 1994)
- Calcutta problems (Marty Storer, Dec 2002)
- Clock ethics (Patrick Gibson+, Mar 2009)
- Clock rules--Digital clocks (Chuck Bower+, Oct 2003)
- Clock rules--End of turn (Carlo Melzi+, July 2001)
- Clock rules--How do they work? (Gregg Cattanach, Oct 2002)
- Clock rules--Illegal move (Brendan Burgess+, Feb 2000)
- Clock rules--Why forfeit instead of penalty points? (neilkaz, Sept 2010)
- Clocks and older players (Stick+, July 2010)
- Clocks--Arguments against them (Timothy Chow, Jan 2011)
- Clocks--Common arguments against (Chuck Bower, Feb 2006)
- Clocks--Losing on time (Jason Lee+, Mar 2004)
- Clocks--Pros and cons (Michael Strato+, Jan 2004)
- Clocks--Should they be part of the game? (Kit Woolsey, June 1995)
- Clocks--Why use them (Stick, Jan 2011)
- Compensating for byes (Hank Youngerman+, Dec 1998)
- Factors that affect attendance (Stick, Oct 2009)
- "Fighter's bracket" (Chuck Bower+, Sept 2010)
- First backgammon tournament (Mislav Radica+, May 2007)
- First backgammon tournament (Ed Collins+, Dec 2006)
- Hedging (Jason Lee+, Apr 2009)
- Hedging (Marv Porten+, Feb 2009)
- Hedging (Tad Bright+, Jan 2003)
- Hitting clock instead of rolling (Bob Glass+, Mar 2010)
- Keeping score during a match (Gregg Cattanach, June 2007)
- Links to tournament rules (Daniel Murphy, Oct 2009)
- Major tournament attendance 1998-2008 (Daniel Murphy, July 2008)
- Making notes during play (Randy Pals+, Aug 2008)
- Manually recording a match (Kevin P+, Apr 2007)
- Manually recording a match (gammonus+, Feb 2006)
- Manually recording a match (Daniel Murphy, Aug 1999)
- New U.S. Rules (Gregg Cattanach+, Dec 2007)
- Newbie questions (Donald Kahn, Oct 1999)
- Playing at Monte Carlo (Achim, July 2007)
- Playing-off 3 remaining players (Gregg Cattanach+, Apr 2007)
- Recording matches (Robert Maier, May 2009)
- Recording matches (Chuck Bower+, Sept 2003)
- Recording matches (Sean Dakin+, Aug 1999)
- Round robins (Hank Youngerman, Nov 2001)
- Rules for doubles play (with a partner) (steve+, May 2012)
- Seeding (Roland Scheicher+, Dec 1998)
- Skill level (Kirk J. Rupnik+, Nov 1998)
- Skill levels (Leonardo Jerkovic, Aug 2012)
- "Stop pots" (Chuck Bower+, Sept 2010)
- Swiss format (Osman Guner+, May 2001)
- Swiss format (Osman Guner, Oct 1998)
- Swiss format (Hank Youngerman+, Mar 1998)
- Tournament formats (MikeMadMonk+, May 2003)
- Tournament rules (Daniel Murphy, Apr 2001)
- Tournament rules links (Daniel Murphy, Oct 2009)
- Types of events (Daniel Murphy, Nov 1997)
- Uniform rules and procedures? (Michael Crane+, Mar 2003)
- Variable side pools (Art Grater+, July 2011)
- Vegas trip report (fall 2004) (Gregg Cattanach, Nov 2004)
- Vegas trip report (spring 2005) (Gregg Cattanach, May 2005)
- Videotaping matches (André Nicoulin+, Nov 2000)
- What is a "Monrad format"? (Daniel Murphy, Sept 2000)
- What is a "side pool"? (Daniel Murphy, Nov 1997)