Forum Archive : History

Changes in backgammon over the years

From:   Joe Russell
Address:   ez2bblue@aol.com
Date:   8 July 2009
Subject:   Changes in backgammon over the years
Forum:   BGonline.org Forums

After a long hiatus from tournament backgammon, I returned about 16 months
ago. I found several things had changed: The people are nicer; information
is more freely dispersed; and clocks are becoming the standard.

As has been stated on this forum by Chuck, tournament players are nicer
than they were years ago. When I started playing backgammon, far too many
years ago, it was not uncommon to see macho, arrogant, abusive, and
insulting behavior at tournaments. I am not sure why that was or why for
the most part it does not exist today. It could be that prior to the bots,
no one really knew how they truly stacked up against other players and the
insecurity that came with that influenced their behavior. The bots now tell
you how good you are and there is no room for false bravado and false
arrogance. That is a big improvement. Unfortunately, the bots also told a
number of bad players who thought they were 'the unluckiest player ever'
that they were really just bad. I think this drove some of the weaker
players away and had a negative effect on tournament attendance.

Information is much more freely dispersed today than it was in the past
when there was a smaller group of strong players and the information was
more tightly held and traded amongst them creating an even further divide
between them and the next tier. Today you have young stars like Stick
tirelessly organizing rollout groups, studying the game, and sharing his
information with everyone. There are too many people to mention to give
credit to everyone but it is a much more open and friendly environment.
Sites like this one and GammonVillage keep people involved, informed, and
entertained and promote the game. I think it helps get more people 'hooked'
and leads to increased attendance at tournaments. It is also good to see
people thinking about how to promote the game and get more players
involved. Phil Simborg is one person that deserves credit for seeing the
big picture.

The last major change is the use of clocks. I for one prefer not to use a
clock, but I am starting to come around. The major thing I like about them
is that it prevents: arguments over rolls; fast rolling; and three hour 11
point matches. What I don't like is the current time controls. I am sure I
am in the minority on this site, but I think I may be part of the silent
majority. The majority of people I spoke with in Michigan said that they
would prefer to not play with clocks but that if they are used the time
needs to be increased. Too many matches are ending up with someone having
to play one or more games with little reserve. I have seen at least a dozen
examples of this in the last three tournaments. It happened in finals in
two of the last three tournaments. As Rich has pointed out, it is dangerous
to alienate any segment of our playing population, whether they be a
majority or a significant minority. The better players will adjust, if they
have to, but what about the weaker ones or the ones with physical
handicaps? I know of a few players that will not play in clocked events. I
talked to several, at least 4, of the seeded players in Michigan that
agreed the time settings were too little. The purpose of the clocks is to
stop slow play. More relaxed settings would achieve this and not alienate
as many players. I think 2 1/2 minutes per point and a 12 second delay or 2
minutes per point and a 15 second delay would be a compromise that everyone
could live with. Another proposal is two minutes per point plus an
additional two minutes with a 12 second delay. I know they have used 2
minutes per point and a 12 second delay successfully in Denmark but does
that mean it is the 'best' of all possible settings?
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Backgammon in China  (Mark Driver, Jan 2001) 
Backgammon variants  (Raccoon, Aug 2003) 
Books on the history of backgammon  (Albert Steg, Aug 1998) 
Changes in backgammon over the years  (Joe Russell, July 2009) 
Doubling in the 17th Century?  (David Levy+, Dec 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Murray's "History of Boardgames Other than Chess"  (Dean Jameson, Apr 2002) 
Origin of backgammon  (Greycat Sharpclaw, Oct 1997) 
Recent changes  (Joe Russell+, July 2009) 
The effect of bots on the game  (Daniel Murphy+, May 2005)  [GammOnLine forum]
The name "backgammon"  (Jive Dadson+, Dec 2002) 
The name "backgammon"  (Marina Smith, Jan 1998) 
The name "backgammon"  (Albert Steg, Mar 1995) 

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