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tom@bkgm.com

Backgammon Variants

Irish

The game of Irish is similar to backgammon, and is probably backgammon's direct ancestor. The game dates back to the sixteenth century when it was played in several European countries under different names.

Setup: The setup in Irish is the same as in backgammon. Each player has fifteen checkers: two on the opponent's one-point, five on the opponent's twelve-point, three on the player's eight-point, and five on the player's six point.

Object: The object of the game is to bring your checkers around the board to your home table, and then bear them off. The first player to bear off all his checkers wins the game.

To start: Each player rolls one die and the higher number goes first. That player then rolls both dice again to begin his first turn.

Movement: The roll of the dice indicates how many points, or pips, the player is to move his checkers. The following rules apply:

• A checker may be moved only to an open point, one that is not occupied by two or more opposing checkers.
• The numbers on the two dice constitute separate moves. For example, if you roll 5 and 3, you may move one checker five spaces to an open point and another checker three spaces to an open point, or you may move the one checker a total of eight spaces to an open point, but only if the intermediate point (either three or five spaces from the starting point) is also open.

Note that doubles are played as any other roll: each number once (not twice as in backgammon).

Hitting: A checker sitting alone on a point is called a blot. If an opposing checker lands on a blot, the blot is hit and placed on the bar.

Entering from the bar: Any time you have one or more checkers on the bar, your first obligation is to reenter those checker(s) into the opponent's home board. You reenter a checker by moving it to an open point corresponding to one of the numbers on the rolled dice. If you are able to enter some but not all of your checkers on the bar, you must enter as many as you can then give up the remainder of your turn.

Binding the tables: This rule is unique to Irish: You are not allowed to have a closed home board when the opponent has a checker on the bar. If you do, then the players each roll one die. The player rolling the larger number decides which point of your home board you must open. All but one checker from the nominated point is removed and placed on the bar. This checker or checkers must now be reentered as if they had been hit.

Bearing off: Once you have brought all your checkers into your own home board, you may begin bearing off. You bear off a checker by rolling a number greater than or equal to the number of the point on which that checker resides. You do not have to bear off exactly, and you always have the option of making a normal move with a different checker when such a move is available.

This is a little different than in backgammon. In Irish, you may bear off from a lower-numbered point even if a higher point still has checkers on it.

Scoring: The first player to bear off all of his checkers wins the game. There is no bonus for a gammon or a backgammon.

No doubling cube is used in this game.

Rule Differences from Backgammon
 The winner of the opening roll rerolls for his first turn. A roll of doubles is played like any other roll, each number just once. You are not allowed to close out your opponent when he has a checker on the bar. You may bear off inexactly from a lower point even if you have checkers on a higher point in your home board. There are no gammons or backgammons. There is no doubling cube.

## References

• Justin du Coeur: Irish and Early Backgammon.
• H. J. R. Murray: A History of Board-Games other than Chess; Oxford University Press, Oxford, England; 1951 (page 122).