Forum Archive : Variations

Greek backgammon

From:   Marc Jacobs
Date:   28 February 1994
Subject:   Greek rules backgammon...

I lived in England last year and had one good friend from Crete who loved
to play backgammon. In fact, he told me that backgammon was immensely
popular across parts of the Mediterranean, particularly Greece and Crete.
Anyway, when he played, he woul alternate games between two variants of
backgammon, the one we accept as standard and another which I don't know
the name of.

This variant of backgammon starts off with all your pieces placed on the
point where the two pieces are placed in standard setup (in your opponent's
home quadrant.) The object of the game is still to make your way around the
board and bear off all your pieces. The major difference, though, is that
when you land on one of your opponents piece on a point by itself, their
piece does not come off and go to the bar; instead, the piece becomes
trapped, unable to move until you move your piece trapping it. This
seemingly slight variant of standard rules has an amazing impact of general
strategy. Furthermore, I found it very stimulating and interesting to play
each style back to back (as they do in casual tournaments in Crete,
supposedly.) It forced you to switch between different strategems and it
would also sometimes be a great confidence builder, whereas you might be
getting slaughtered on the one variant, only to be consistently ahead on
the other.

My question, of course, is: Does anyone know the name of this variant and
whether or not official rules exist for it? Has anyone written about the
different strategies and techniques for this variant?

Thanks ahead of time.

Marc Jacobs

Giorgos Kouseras  writes:

As a matter of fact, there are three variants which, in reality, are so
different that are considered as different games.

1) The first variant is the one you refer to as 'standard'. It is what is
meant by Europeans when they say 'backgammon'. In Greece the game is
called "DOORS" (PORTES in greek, accent in O).
This is because the player is constantly trying to build 'doors'. A piece
on top of another piece is called a 'door'. The importance of the door is
obvious: A door cannot be hit by the opponent, so it is the most basic
element in the game.

2) The second variant you describe below is called "PLAKOTO" (accent in
last O). I can't find a single english word to translate this. When an
opponent's piece founds itself under one of your pieces (so it is trapped
and cannot move until released) it is said that it is 'plakoto'.

3) The third variant (which you and your greek friend seem to ignore
completely) is called "RUN" (FEVGA in greek, accent in E). For most of us
it is the most challenging and fascinating variant, although it may sound
too simplistic at first glance. Here is the main difference:
You can put your piece only on top of other OWN pieces or on empty slots.
There is no 'hitting' or 'trapping' or any other way to damage your
opponent.  You can only force him to make movements he doesn't want to, by
good positioning of your own pieces. The perfect (almost!) achievement is
to have six consecutive pieces, so that all of your opponents' pieces are
stuck and cannot proceed to the end. Of course at the same time, your
opponent is trying exactly the same thing and that makes things
complicated and the game exciting!

George Kouseras
Athens, GREECE

George Vetoulis  writes:

In Greece we play routinely 3 variants of backgammon.
The simpler one is called 'feuga' (arbitrary transliteration ) meaning
'run' and that defines its strategy more or less. You don't get
opponents' stones out of the board or trap them. You can only block them
by closing a six-consecutive-doors area with your stones.

The other one is called 'plakwto' meaning 'trapped' or 'buried'.
This is what your friend was talking about.

The third variant is called 'portes' meaning 'doors', and this is the
version which is known internationally, played by FIBS etc.

At least all the people I know of, play all three variants back to back
in tournaments of 3 or 5 or 7 points.

There is an ongoing argument about which game is less based on luck and
more 'startegic', 'portes' or 'plakwto'?  Of course those best in one
of the variants claim that this particular variant is the true mental
challenge.  It makes for lots of funny conservation.

Giorgos Vetoulis

Gregory Nicholas Christakos  writes:

Everything about Greek backgammon seems to have been covered here except
for two things.  The Greek word for standard backgammon is Tavli, and the
game is played at a dizzyingly fast pace.

Greg C
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