Rulings Column 4
Candace Nyles Mayeron, 1981
Las Vegas Backgammon Magazine, June 1981
Candace Nyles Mayeron
Candace Nyles Mayeron is a practicing Los Angeles attorney. She is an experienced tournament player, and was Tournament Director for the 1979 World Amateur Championships in Las Vegas. "While I am solely responsible for this column," says Mayeron, "not one single answer appears unless it has been agreed to by not less than three other rules and procedures experts."
Q   "One evening I met a man, and he and I decided to play heads-up for a couple of hours. About the fifth game we both rolled the same number for the opening roll. He insisted on turning the cube to 2, saying the double was 'automatic.' Was I in error to refuse the automatic increase of the stakes?"

No. The "automatic double" rule is a misnomer. It is not a rule, it is a deviation of the rules. As such, its use must be agreed upon by the players prior to their session, or when the issue first arises. If either player objects it shall not be used.

You did not say whether or not you were playing at a backgammon club. Some clubs may have an in-house rule of automatic doubles unless the players agree otherwise. We think this is a very bad procedure, but you should check with the club before playing.

There are other deviations (or variations) which are also optional with the players. The "beaver" is an example. Another example is the practice of doubling the stakes and rerolling opening dice. You do not have to be hornswoggled into playing any of these variations if you have not so agreed.

The "Jacoby Rule," however, is no longer a deviation; it is the standard rule of non-tournament play. Although it was not part of the original rules promulgated in 1931 by the Card and Backgammon Committee of the Racquet and Tennis Club of New York, it has since become so universally accepted that its nonuse must now be specified between players. (The Jacoby rule states that for all non-tournament play, there can be no gammon or backgammon in any game where the cube is still in the center.) Thus, if you are playing a stranger and he gammons you, but the cube has not been turned, you do not have to pay double the cube value. Automatic doubles, if used, do not count as a turned cube for the sake of the Jacoby Rule.

Q   "While playing in a tournament, my opponent wanted to play in one direction, and I wanted the other. We rolled for it, and I won. At the conclusion of that game he insisted on rolling for direction for the next game. I let him, and we rolled prior to every game. Was I snookered?"

You certainly were disadvantaged. Whether or not you were snookered depends on whether or not your opponent knew the rules. Why didn't you ask for a ruling?

Every tournament director can expect this argument, as well as the dice change argument, to occur at least one time in every tournament. The rule is: When there is a disupte to any aspect of color, direction, or choice of seat (unless the tournament has assigned chairs), the players shall roll one time per match for the decision. The winning player determines all possible issues, for all subsequent games. Let's break it down:

  1. You have not forfeited your right to raise the issue if you forget to raise it prior to the start of the match. The issue may be raised at any time during play, so long as it has not already been raised and decided. Thus, if the dispute occurs in the middle of the third game, that game shall be played to conclusion as set, and the players shall then roll for the decision prior to the start of the fourth game.

  2. Even though the challenging player disputes only direction of play, the player winning the roll has the right, although not the duty, to specify direction, color and choice of seat, so long as the tournament has not assigned chairs (the Vegas Amateurs assigns). You cannot roll for color, then for direction. If the winning player does not make a particular specification, the match shall continue as set.

    (You might be interested to know that tradition had the home boards nearest the source of the light. Modern lighting has made this obsolete, however.)

  3. The dispute can occur only one time per match. The players shall not change or roll for change of direction (or color or chair) once they have already rolled that "master" deciding roll. Thus, and in conformity with (b) above, if the initial dispute is only over direction of play, and X wins the deciding roll but specifies only direction and is silent as to color, Y cannot later request a roll to determine color. The players shall play with the same color they were using when X won the "master roll."

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