There Ought to Be a Law
Bob Ciaffone, 1980
Las Vegas Backgammon Magazine, October 1980
White rolled a 4-3 in the position below and entered from the bar, continuing on with the checker to make his opponent's bar point.
White (on the bar)
rolls 4-3.
However, instead of picking up the enemy blot on the opponent's four-point, he mistakenly picked up his own man on the three-point (22) and put it on the bar.
White played bar/21*/18, but put his own 22-blot on the bar instead of the black blot he hit.
Black rolled doubled sixes and, thinking he had a man on the bar (we hope), picked his dice up. White rolled double fives and started to point on the man on his own three-point, whereupon Black "woke up" to point out that it was a white checker that was on the bar.

A ruling was asked for. The players were (properly) told, "illegal plays stand once the next player rolls the dice." White was forced to remain on the bar, and Black went on to win the game.

Was justice done in this case? Well, the penalty here was quite harsh, but the rules are the same for all, aren't they? Well, yes and no. The fellow who had the white pieces in this case was one of our weaker players; elderly, nervous, and somewhat absentminded, but a likeable person and quite courteous toward other people. Who is it in your club that would be a likely candidate for the kind of mental error mentioned here? Quite probably, the last time you saw this type of mistake occur, the person who made it fit the description I have just given you. Shouldn't this type of person be given more protection by the laws of backgammon than he presently receives?

The situations that are most frequently dealt with under the "illegal moves" rule are:

  1. Moving a man an incorrect number of pips.

  2. Playing an incorrect number of moves when rolling doubles.

  3. Failing to put the opponent's man on the bar even though the point it occupied was or could have been used as a landing place for part of the move.

The present rule seems to work fairly enough in these situations. The areas where we need an improvement are when:

  1. A player moves the wrong-colored men.

  2. A player hits his own blot and puts it on the bar.

These situations are so disruptive to the normal course of the game and so obvious for the opponent to notice, that it should be the responsibility of both players to prevent their occurrence. I am not exactly sure how the amended rule should read.

Perhaps the position should always be returned to that prior to the infraction, no matter how much later the error is discovered. Perhaps this type of play should only become official after the offender rolls the dice again, to give more time to rectify the mistake than is presently allowed. I do know there ought to be a law governing this situation that is fairer to the weaker players than the all-purpose law now in common use. Which law appeals to your sense of fairness?

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