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Backgammon Variants

1931 Rules

In the 1920s, the popularity of backgammon greatly increased in North America and Europe. It was during this time that the doubling cube was introduced to backgammon. The doubling cube livened up the game and no doubt contributed to the new interest in the game.

Among places where backgammon was most popular was New York's Racquet and Tennis Club. In 1931, Wheaton Vaughan, chairman of the club's Card and Backgammon Committee and coauthor of the book Winning Backgammon, decided to undertake the task of preparing laws for the game. He wrote to other interested clubs and asked them to send representatives to meetings. Many clubs in the New York area participated, and others around the country announced their willingness to abide by whatever laws were formulated.

The rules prepared by this committee became widely accepted across the United States. These were the first set of rules that incorporated the use of the doubling cube, and they form the basis for the rules of backgammon as it is played around the world today.


LAWS OF BACKGAMMON
1931

PREPARED BY THE BACKGAMMON and
CARDS COMMITTEE of the
RACQUET AND TENNIS CLUB
NEW YORK CITY

APPROVED BY THE FOLLOWING CLUBS:

The Brook
Calumet
Cavendish
Hope (Prov.)
Knickerbocker
Knickerbocker Whist
The Leash
The Links
Pacific Union (San Fran.)
Philadelphia (Phila.)
Piping Rock
Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh)
Racquet (Chicago)
Racquet (Phila.)
Racquet (St. Louis)
Racquet and Tennis
Rittenhouse (Phila.)
St. Nicholas
Tennis and Racquet (Boston)
Tuxedo
Union
University
Whist


    The Game

  1. The game of Backgammon is played by two persons.

  2. Thirty men—fifteen of one color and fifteen of another—are used, and are set up as shown below, on a standard board, of four quarters or tables having six points each.

  3. For entering and throwing off, the points in both inner tables are considered as numbered from 1 to 6, beginning with the point nearest the light.

  4. Direction of play is from adversary’s inner table to adversary’s outer table, to player’s outer table, and then to player’s inner (home) table.

  5. Play of the men is governed by two dice, thrown (cast) from a cup in which the dice are shaken before casting.

  6. Choice of seats, men, set-up, dice, etc., shall be made by the player winning the opening throw.

    The Throws

  7. For the opening throw each player throws a single die. Every tie requires another opening throw. Whoever throws the higher number wins, and for his first move plays the numbers upon both dice. After that each player in turn throws two dice.

  8. The dice must be rolled together and come to rest flat (not "cocked") upon the tables at the player’s right, otherwise they must be thrown again.

  9. If a throw is made before an adversary’s play is completed, or if either player touches a die before it has come to rest, the adversary of the offender may require a rethrow.

  10. The player must leave his dice upon the board until his play is completed. Should he pick them up or turn them over before the completion of his play, the adversary may declare the play void and require the offender to replace the man or men moved and to throw again.

    The Play

  11. The play of the men consists:

    1. In moving a man the exact number of points indicated by the number on a die thrown.
    2. Entering a man, in the adversary’s inner table, on a point corresponding to the number on a die thrown.
    3. Throwing off (bearing) a man in player’s inner table—when no man is left outside that table or on the bar—from a point corresponding to the number on a die thrown, or as provided in Law 15. Doublets require four plays—if possible—of the die number thrown.

  12. No play may be made which lands on a point held by two or more of the adversary’s men.

  13. When a play lands on a single man (blot) of the adversary’s, such man is hit, and must be lifted and placed on the bar for entry in the player’s inner table.

  14. A player having a man on the bar may not play until that man has been entered.

  15. Plays must be made for both dice if possible. Either number may be played first. If only one number can be played, and there is a choice, the higher must be played.

    In throwing off, a man may at all times be correctly thrown off from the highest occupied point which is lower than the number indicated by a die. If a number is thrown for an unoccupied point, no man below can be thrown off, for such number, while any man remains on a higher point.

  16. Whenever a man has been moved correctly and quitted (the player’s hand removed), that play cannot be changed.

    Errors

  17. If an error has been made in the set-up, either player may correct it prior to the completion of his first play.

  18. If an error in play has been made, either player may require its correction before a subsequent throw, but not thereafter. The man played in error must be correctly played if possible.

    Scoring

  19. A game is won by the player who first throws off (bears) all of his men.

    A Gammon (double game) is won if the adversary has not thrown off a single man. This doubles the count for a single game.

    A Backgammon (triple game) is won if the adversary has not thrown off a single man, and has one or more men in the winner’s inner table or upon the bar. This triples the count for a single game.

  20. DOUBLING GAME. The count is raised:

    Automatically—By agreement, each tie of the opening throw may either:

    1. Double the previous count.
    2. Add one to the previous count.

    Unless an understanding has been reached as to the method and limitation of automatic raises they are not played.

    Voluntarily—Either player may offer the first optional double of the previous count. After that the right to double the previous count alternates, being always with the player who has accepted the last double.

    In every case, a double may be offered only when it is the player’s turn to play and before he has thrown the dice. A double may be accepted or declined. The refusal of a double terminates the game, and the player refusing loses whatever his count may amount to at that time. Gammons and Backgammons double or triple the last count.

  21. BY AGREEMENT other methods of scoring may be used, such as:

    The Point Game. In this 1 point is scored, by the winner of a game, for each man left in the adversary’s inner table; 2 points are scored for each man left in the adversary’s outer table; 3 points for each man left in the winner’s outer table, and 4 points for each man left in the winner’s inner table or upon the bar.

Rule Changes Since 1931
     
  • Rule 3: Direction of play is no longer determined by light.
  • Rule 6: Choice of seats, checkers, dice, and direction of play are now determined randomly.
  • Rule 10: Rethrow is not required if a player picks up his dice prematurely.
  • Rule 18: An error in play may be corrected only at the request of the opponent.
  • Rule 21: Methods of scoring based on the number of checkers remaining are no longer used.

References

The following books have an earlier (1930) version of these rules:

Backgammon Variants
Ace-Deo
Ace-Mid Switch
Acey-Deucey
American Acey-Deucey
Backgammon to Lose
Backgammon 1931 Rules
Backgammon 1969 Rules
Backgammon 1970 Rules
Blast Off
Blocking Backgammon
Chasing the Girls
Chouette
Crazy Narde
Domino Backgammon
Doublets
Duplicate Backgammon
Dutch Backgammon
Eureika
European Acey-Deucey
Fayles
Fevga
French Backgammon
Gioul
Grande Trictrac
Grasshopper
Greek Acey-Deucey
Greek Backgammon
Gul Bara
Handicap Matches
Hyper-backgammon
Irish
Jacquet
LongGammon
  Ludus Lumbardorum
Mexican Backgammon
Misere Backgammon
Moultezim
Nackgammon
Narde
Never-Finishing Game
Old English Backgammon
Pin Game
Plakoto
Plakoto Express
Poof
Portes
Propositions
Roman Backgammon
Roll-Over
Rosespring Backgammon
Russian Backgammon
Shesh Besh
Snake
Swedish Tables
Tables
Tabula
Takhteh
Tapa
Tavla
Tavli
Tawula
Tourne-case
Trictrac
Turkish Backgammon
Two Rolls versus Choice

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