Forum Archive : Equipment

Buying a tournament board

From:   Chuck Bower
Date:   5 June 2011
Subject:   Buying Backgammon Set
Forum: Forums

There are several things to look for in a good (tournament quality)
backgammon set:

1) Checker size: in the US the standard is 1 3/4 inch diameter, but that's
a nominal dimension. Crisloid checkers of this nominal size are typically a
bit smaller -- in the 1.71 - 1.73 inch diameter range. In Europe I believe
the equivalent standard is 4.5 cm diameter (~1.77 in). Some people (Stick
and Neil, for example) have sets with nominal 2 inch (5+ cm) diameter
checkers. Those are certainly playable but you need to reach a bit farther
(in general) to move the checkers and traveling with the larger boards
these checkers require, I'm guessing, is a bit more of a hassle. You do
sometimes see smaller boards in use in the US, with 1 5/8 or even 1 1/2
inch diameter checkers. But if someone is serious about getting a
tournament board, why not go with the standard? (BTW, it used to be on Ebay
that sellers seldom listed the size of the checkers. They might tell you
the outside dims of the board. If you wanted to know you had to write, and
a high percentage of the time the answer you got wasn't very precise -- as
in rounded to the nearest 1/8 inch and they didn't tell you if it was up or

2) Playing surface: particularly for clocked backgammon, hard/slick
surfaces tend to lead to spinners which can take a lot of time (like 30
seconds and longer) for a roll to complete. They can also lead to the
opposite -- throws that just clunk down without rolling at all. Raised pips
are awkward because it's often difficult to impossible to slide the
checkers -- you have to lift them. "Suede" usually isn't true leather when
describing BG sets. Best surfaces are soft enough to get good rotation
simultaneously with good damping AND also allow the checkers to slide
easily with intention (but not so easily that they move when the board is

Bottom line (as with many purchases), if you haven't test driven either the
board you are considering buying or a similar (as in one owned by an
acquaintance) model or at least one recommended by a trusted, seasoned BG
veteran you are setting yourself up for a potential disappointment.
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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



Bakelite checkers  (Albert Steg, Nov 1998)  [Recommended reading]
Board design  (Chuck Bower, Feb 2004)  [GammOnLine forum]
Board design  (Adam Stocks, July 2002) 
Board design  (Gregg Cattanach, Dec 2000) 
Board design  (Michael Poche+, Dec 1998) 
Board design  (Albert Steg, Jan 1998) 
Boards  (Bert Van Kerckhove+, Aug 2002) 
Boards--Custom-made  (N Merrigan, Mar 2003) 
Boards--Dal Negro  (Erin+, Jan 2004) 
Boards--Features to look for  (Matthew Mueller+, Dec 2000) 
Boards--Hardwood Creations  (Ben Fairbank, May 1998) 
Boards--Tak Morioka  (Gregg Cattanach, Feb 2002) 
Boards--Tak Morioka  (Ed Zell, Jan 1999) 
Boards--Zavoral  (Robert Zavoral, Oct 1999) 
Buying a tournament board  (Chuck Bower, June 2011) 
Care of backgammon boards  (Ken Bame+, Mar 2009) 
Checkers  (Mike O.+, Feb 2003) 
Checkers  (Chuck Bower, Nov 1997) 
Dice  (Gregg Cattanach, July 2004) 
Dice cups  (David Montgomery, Nov 1999) 
Dice cups  (Leo Bueno, Feb 1998) 
How much to spend on a board?  (Ian Shaw, Apr 2004)  [GammOnLine forum]
Leather boards  (HGM+, Dec 1999) 
Luxury boards  (Paul Vianna+, Feb 2010) 
Meyer Dice Tube issues  (Stick+, July 2010) 
Meyer Dice Tube usage  (Justin Nunez+, Feb 2011) 
Meyer Dice Tube--Why I hate it  (Bob Glass+, Dec 2010) 
Moderately priced boards  (William Womack+, Feb 2010) 
Precision dice  (Patti Beadles+, Jan 2001) 
Precision dice  (Larry Strommen, Feb 1998) 
Precision dice  (Chuck Bower+, Feb 1998) 
Replacing cork on backgammon boards  (JP White, Apr 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Suppliers--BG Shop  (Michael Nelson, Jan 2002) 
Suppliers--Backgammon boards  (CKT, July 2004) 
Suppliers--Backgammon boards  (Ian Shaw+, June 2002) 
Suppliers--Where to buy dice  (Andrew B.+, Jan 2008) 
Suppliers--Yenigun  (yenigun, Sept 2005) 
What finish to use on a cork board?  (JP White+, Apr 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
What is "standard size"?  (Daniel Murphy, Mar 2001) 
What is "tournament size"?  (Rodrigo Andrade+, July 1999) 
Woodworking--Finishing a board  (M Moore+, Jan 2008) 

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