Forum Archive : Rulings

Touching the doubling cube

From:   Ken Bame
Date:   5 November 2006
Subject:   cube handling rule
Forum:   GammOnLine

If player A is thinking about redoubling and picks up the cube thinks
about it and then sets it back down on his side of the board still on
two, can player B insist that player A must double?

> 5.4 CUBE HANDLING. Player may double when it is his turn only before
> rolling the dice, but not after rolling cocked dice. To double or
> redouble, player moves the cube toward his opponent at the higher
> value while saying "double" or words to that effect. To take, one
> draws the cube toward himself while saying "take" or words to that
> effect. To reject the double, one says "pass" or words to that effect,
> enters the score and resets the board. The cube should not be handled
> capriciously; either verbal or physical acts may be interpreted as
> cube actions.

Chuck Bower  writes:

Unfortunately this is another example of where our US rules could be
more specific. What does "may be interpreted" mean? Who gets to decide?

Recently (Indiana Open side event), my opponent picked up the cube,
moved his hand (containing the cube) over almost to the edge of the
board right in front of me, and then started to think, holding the cube
about 12 inches from me. I grabbed it but he held on tight, saying he
hadn't turned it. I told him that he had and said we could call a
director if he liked. He gave in and let me keep the cube. I pointed out
why this isn't allowed (or is it? "may be interpreted ...") and he said
that made sense but he wasn't trying to pull a fast one. I believe him,
but even when you're not trying to squeeze info out of your opponent,
that doesn't mean you won't get a tell, and it doesn't mean you won't
subconciously act upon it.

If I'm the director, if you touch a cube that you legally have a right
to send over then it's sent, FedEx overnight.

Raccoon  writes:

The wording of the rule appears to allow some leeway to Tournament
Director, but the majority view and tournament practice seems to be that
merely touching the doubling cube constitutes a double.

Here are some comments gathered from discussions:

> The only tournament I have played in was a regular weekly tournament I
> played in for about a year, but in that game it was a clear rule that
> you touch the cube, you've offered the cube. For just the reason
> expressed by other posters.
  -- Hank Youngerman

> In some tournament rules, it is stated that any such gestures toward
> the cube are to be considered as doubling. The logic is that you don't
> want sharpies reaching for the cube in order to see their opponent's
> reaction -- then doubling if the reaction is the one they are hoping
> for, but not doubling if it appears the opponent will do what the
> sharpie doesn't want.
  -- Kit Woolsey

> In the Las Vegas tournament in 1996 I did touch the doubling cube
> while considering a double and quickly withdrew my hand. My opponent
> called the director (John Brussel) who ruled that a double had been
> offered. The explanation for his ruling was that such an action, if
> withdrawable, can be used by one to judge one's opponent's reaction to
> the double without risk.
  -- Vasilios Papakonstantinou

> Once you touch or offer your doubling cube, you have to follow through
> with the double.
  -- Art Grater

> The usual rules about "capricious handling of the cube" still apply,
> so if you touch the cube, you're obliged to double at that point.
  -- Gregg Cattanach

There is a minority viewpoint, expressed by Bob Hoey, that handling the
cube without doubling, perhaps to gauge opponent's reaction, is
permissible gamesmanship:

> In the tournaments that I run here in Rochester, NY, the rule states
> that the cube must be placed on the playing surface and the one
> offering the double has to say "I double" or words to that effect.
> Merely touching the cube at a time when a double is a legal option
> does not constitute the offering of the cube. ... As for the matter of
> gaining "unfair" advantage by pretending to double, I don't approve of
> such action, but I oppose any rules that would try to "equalize" the
> skill of players."

I do not think many directors or players would agree with Bob Hoey. In
response to him, Chuck Bower wrote:

> As far as Bob's comparison to poker, this "gamesmanship" may be
> permissible in some money games (one-on-one and chouette) but my
> feeling is that it has no place in open tournaments.

The rules of backgammon have been kept brief for good reason. The game
isn't meant to be about rulings; it's complicated and challenging
enough. All players are responsible for knowing the rules, including
local or "house" rules. But a key point is to keep your actions and
intentions "above board." Don't try to fool anyone. The rules of
backgammon are written in such a way as to be clear to experienced
players, but not overly wordy or detailed.

"Touch-double" is a clear and simple interpretation of a vague rule, and
I believe it reflects the understanding of most experienced open level
tournament players.

Ken Bame  writes:

This came up in the Las Vegas tournament. Player A was very upset and
insistent that he had not doubled. Jeb was the TD on the spot and was
very professional and handled it in a very businesslike way and ruled
that he had doubled. Player A loudly disagreed and I decided that it was
more enjoyable to play in a backgammon tournament then to work one.
Player A did calm down and things ran very smoothly from my perspective.

Gregg Cattanach  writes:

The actual situation was more complicated because of the score. The
player that redoubled actually was holding a dead 2-cube at the score
9-4/11. Should this kind of double be enforced? Do we need a rule
(similar to the Crawford rule) that if a cube is dead because of the
match score that any cube action is void?

The double was allowed to stand, it was sent back at 8 and the trailer
won the game and match.

Chuck Bower  writes:

Oh, that's a color of a different horse. The reason for the rule is to
prevent generating a "tell". How can you get a tell that someone might
drop a cube which puts him/her out of the match?

I think this should be the exception to the standard "a touched cube is
a turned cube" common ruling.

Rules shouldn't necessarily protect someone from a brain-dead 0% equity
gain action, but enforcing a rule on a technicality like this shouldn't
necessarily be automatic, either.

Does anyone know why this happened? I can imagine that the person forgot
what score they were playing to, or misjudged how many points s/he had
already, or thought the cube was on a different value than it actually
was. It also could be a rank beginner (at matchplay) who didn't
understand the (simple) matchscore implications. Finally it could have
been someone so tired that s/he leaped before looking.

If such a ruling (as you describe it) went against me I would probably
appeal for a committee ruling.

TarHeelFan (Jeb)  writes:

When I made the ruling, I did not know the score of the match. Neither
player mentioned it, even after my ruling. It was not until later that I
realized the cube was dead. I honestly think Player A, who has health
issues and was undoubtedly exhausted after a long day of BG, momentarily
forgot that he was only 2 points from winning. He realized it at the
last second and pulled the cube back.

Here's what actually happened, as far as I could piece it together:

- Player A picked up the cube and moved it towards Player B (all agree,
- The cube may or may not have touched the playing surface.
- After the cube did or did not touch the playing surface, Player A's
  hand may or may not have lost contact with the cube.
- Player A returned the cube to his side, said "No, I don't want to
  double" and rolled.
- Player B called for a ruling.

Had I realized the score, I might have ruled differently. Obviously,
Player A was not trying to get a reaction from Player B, which is why
the rule exists. However, I am quite sure that Howard would have
overturned any ruling other than the one I made.
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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Touching the doubling cube  (Chuck Bower+, Apr 1998) 
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