Recording Backgammon Games
Hideo Kato, 1981
Las Vegas Backgammon Magazine, September 1981
Go and Shogi are the most popular games in Japan. They have the same method to take record of games similar to chess's method which only require to note when one piece was moved and where it was moved to. Comparing backgammon with those games, it has a disadvantage when we want to record games. For one roll, we should note numbers of dice, from where, and to where two men (four men with doublet) were moved. But the fatal difference is that backgammon is played much faster than the other three games.

Usual notations of recording a game would be like the following:

White 4-3: B12W9, B12W10
Black 3-1: B8B5, B6B5
White 5-1: W10W5, W6W5

. . .  and so on

This is good to show the moves but not good and practically too difficult to record games. You would possibly need to ask players to hold their roll until you finish your notation if you use this method, thus slowing down the game.

I have invented a system of recording games of backgammon which can be used to record games played at normal speed. Of course you would not need to do any recording with pencil and paper if games are played on some device with microprocessor and memory chips which can record games itself. But I believe my system is very helpful to take record of such games as the final of a tournament or expert-vs.-expert match which are played on usual backgammon board and in usual expert's speed.

What You Need

  1. "Game Recording Note," as shown in the picture and Fig. 1. You can make by photocopying Fig. 1 or of course by paying money to a printer. One page of my note paper has eight compressed backgammon boards without bar. I suppose you could improve it by making the points triangle-shaped and dark and light-shaded, but this plain board is sufficient for me. You will find those small dots help to locate necessary point quickly. FIG. 1

    fig 1

  2. A pencil, ball-point pen, or felt pen which is not thirsty.

  3. A place where you can conveniently look at the board.

  4. Your concentration. Even if you find a beautiful girl (or nice guy) beyond the board, look only at the board!

How to Note

  1. Before the opening roll, you should note player's names. Write each name or initial where his (or her) backmen are. Fig. 2 means Mr. White is sitting on your side and Mr. Black is sitting on the opposite side, and Home is on Mr. White's right side.

  2. Now they rolled and Mr. White got 6-4 to open the game. You write down the number with which he moved in the square where a man touched down. Thus Fig. 3 means he moved one man from B1 to B7 and the same man from B7 to B11. (This is an example of the case where only one man is moved using both dice.)

  3. Next Mr. Black rolled 3-1. Remember you always write down the number with which he moved in the square where a man touched down. Thus Fig. 4 means he moved from B8 to B5 and from B6 to B5 making B5. (This is an example of a case where two men are moved and touched down on same point.)

  4. Mr. White rolled 2-2 and made W11 with two men from B12 and made W4 with two men from W6. Noting is as Fig. 5. (This is an case of doublet.)

  5. Mr. Black rolled 2-2. He hit the blot on B11 from W12, made B4 with two men from B6 and split a back man, Fig. 6. We do not need to note the hitting because it is evident when you replay this game. (This is an example of hitting.)

    FIG. 8
  6. Mr. White rolled 3-2 and entered on B3 with 3 and moved one from B12 to W11, Fig 7. I know making B3 is better with this roll. If it was his move, 3 and 2 are written down in same third square in upper row. (This is a case of entering.)

  7. Mr. Black next rolled 5-5 and punished Mr. White for not making B3 with his last roll and hereafter Mr. Black managed his blitzing technique successfully, and the position became as Fig. 8 after several rolls.

  8. Mr. Black's next roll is 6-5, and Fig. 9 means he bore off two men with 6 and 5. You will see which men he bore off if you replay the game. (This is an example of bearing off.)

  9. Mr. Black's inner board is closed and so the next roll is again Mr. Black's. He rolled 5-1. Fig 10 means he bore off one man with 5 and moved one man from B5 to B4 to save blot.

  10. Now Mr. White rolled 6-3 and cannot enter either man. In the case one cannot play die or dice, you write the number(s) in the center of the board and overwrite "X" as shown in Fig. 11. (This is an example of the case of can't play one die.)

    fig 2

  11. Mr. Black rolled 6-6 and bore off four men leaving a blot on B4 (Fig. 12).

  12. Mr. White rolled 6-3 and entered with one man on B6 but cannot enter with another, so you write "3" in the center and overwrite "X" (Fig 13).

  13. Mr. Black rolled 5-4 and bore off two men from B4 and B3 leaving a blot on B3 (Fig. 14).

  14. Mr. White rolled the best comeback shot, which is 3-3. Now I think you are accustomed with this notation system and can see how Mr. White played this roll (Fig. 15).

  15. Even though he is on the bar, Mr. Black doubled at this point. Only an arrow is meaningful in any case of doubling action (Fig. 16). You will see if it is a double, redouble to 4, or redouble to 8 if you replay the game. (This is an example of a case of doubling.)

  16. Finally I must add the case of illegal moves. Fig. 17 means Mr. White made lover's leap with 6-4. (How cheap cheating!) When one makes an illegal move, use an arrow to indicate how he moved. (This is an example of illegal move.)

I think I have included most of the cases which are sufficient to explain my system of the recording backgammon games. However, you might experience some difficulty with this notation system at first try, but I believe you will find it won't be long before you are an expert.

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