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tom@bkgm.com

Backgammon Variants

Duplicate Backgammon

Duplicate Backgammon was inspired by duplicate bridge. It is not really a different game, but rather a different way of competing at regular backgammon. Duplicate Backgammon was first tried in the late 1920s at the same time as duplicate bridge became popular. When backgammon was rediscovered in the 1970s, the duplicate game was tried again.

Duplicate Backgammon is played with partners or sides, four players and two boards (or any multiple of this unit). The partners play opposite positions on different boards, one playing Black on one board and his partner playing White on the other.

Dice throws are made at only one board and communicated to the others where the same throw is played by an opponent. There may be as many units of two boards each as desired, half of the players on each side playing Black and the other half playing White and the same throws being used at every board.

All players playing the same color checkers at each table receive the same dice rolls. Each player is competing not so much against his opponent at the same table as he is against each of the other players playing the same dice rolls at the other tables. The idea is that if you are receiving the same rolls as other players but you are able to get better results, the difference must be due to skill rather than luck.

Unfortunately, the duplicate style of competition doesn't work as well in backgammon as it does it bridge. Even with expert players, it is remarkable how quickly two games diverge. Barklay Cooke and Rene Orlean, in their book, Championship Backgammon, describe a duplicate tournament held in 1973. They write in their reflections of the event (page 327):

Could such a format reduce the importance of luck? The not so suprising result is that practically always the games diverge early, so that the comparison of play between both tables becomes quickly irrelevant. When the positions are totally different, what does it matter if both tables have to play the same number? A double 6's at Table 1 may be one the greatest of rolls, while it may spell disaster at Table 2 if the player there happens to be on the bar.

Duplicate backgammon remains more of a novelty rather than a serious form of competition. It seems the extra work of running a tournament using this format just isn't worth the effort.

## References

Duplicate Backgammon in 1930

Duplicate Backgammon in the 1970s

Duplicate Dice in Computer Rollouts

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