Rulings Column 5
Candace Nyles Mayeron, 1981
Las Vegas Backgammon Magazine, December 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   "Recently five of us played a chouette, and I was in the box. The captain insisted on doubling. His partner informed me that as far as he was concerned, his cube was still in the center. I took the double, and to keep the peace agreed that one player's cube was undoubled. Later my position worsened, and this player now doubled. I dropped. I then was gammoned. I paid four points to each of the other three players, and one point to the dissenting player whose cube I had dropped. Isn't there anything in the rules to cover this sort of impasse? The others said there is not.
      P.S. I find your Ruling Column most informative and look forward to reading it each issue."  —S.K., Los Angeles, CA

This is a good question, not because it is difficult or without precedence, but because this problem occurs so frequently. In your case I would rule that the money distribution remains as settled — not because what your group did was right, but because it is what you did.

There are certain areas of backgammon where the players are permitted to make settlements. Chouette play is one of them. Tournament play is not (a hedge is not a settlement). Since settlements are permitted in chouettes, and since you agreed to let the dissenting player hold a cube at a different value than his team members, and since there was no agreement to redistribute the money based on a later ruling, then the money stands as distributed.

But now let's talk about how the impasse would have been resolved, had a ruling been called for at the time of the problem. Before I begin, let me emphasize that you were playing in a chouette with no individual cubes. Some clubs have started experimenting with individual cube chouette play and if your chouette had been of this type, then the results your group reached would be compatible with the rules of "individual cube chouettes."

Purchasing the Dissenter's Game

Under the standard rules of chouette play (nonindividual cubes), when the captain doubles the box, all partners are with the double. If one partner dissents, the captain (or any other partner) may offer to buy the dissenting partner's game. If this is agreed upon, the dissenting partner immediately receives from the captain or purchasing partner the value of the undoubled cube, and the purchasing player's score is lessened by that undoubled value. The purchasing player is then playing two games at the doubled value (assuming the box takes the cube), but he or she has paid for that second game.

Here is an example. Suppose the captain holds the cube at 2, and wishes to redouble to 4. Partner strongly objects, but Captain is just as insistent that it is correct to double. Partner would rather get out of the game than redouble, and offers his game for sale. Captain is willing to buy partner's game. Partner's score is now +2 (the undoubled or unredoubled value), and Captain's score is −2 (the payment for Partner's game). Captain is now playing two games at the 4 level, assuming the box takes. If the Captain wins, but without gammon, the Captain will be scored +8, but his net for that game is +6 (two games at a 4 cube = 8 points, minus the 2 points the Captain paid for the Partner's game). If the box takes and the Captain loses, the Captain's net is −10. Notice that this transaction does not affect the box in any way. He is still playing against the same number of games, just one less player.

If the transaction is completed and the box then drops, the captain (in the above example) would have a net of +2 (two games × 2 cube dropped = +4, minus the 2 he paid for Partner's game).

Captain Does Not Have to Purchase

Notice I said the captain may offer to purchase the dissenting partner's game. It is not mandatory, however, that he do so. Usually, however, where a captain insists on doubling in the face of vehement opposition by a partner, the captain probably feels his position is so strong that he will want to own a second game.

It is important to know that the dissenting partner may also offer his game to the box player. He should only do this after all his team partners have declined the offer to buy him out.

If the box refuses and push comes to shove, and the captain still insists on doubling, the dissenting partner must go along with the cube. The captain has the final say, both as to checker play and cube handling; and, as previously stated, the captain does not have to purchase the dissenter's game. (This sort of impasse will probably be the end of the game and the friendship.)

Once a partner has been bought out, he may no longer consult. Where another partner has purchased the dissenting partner's game, that purchasing partner retains his position in the chouette lineup. He does not move up or down to the selling partner's place.

Preempting the Deal

The box has the right to preempt any such captain-partner or partner-partner deals. Suppose the cube is in the center and Captain wishes to double. Partner is unwilling and Captains says, "I'll buy your game." Partner agrees. (Or, Captain refuses to buy Partner out, yet insists on doubling. Another partner offers to buy Partner's game and Partner agrees.) The double is offered.

Say that the box wants to take the cube, but does not really like his position enough to want to risk all the games. He may, in this case, take the cube and simultaneously announce that he is taking over or preempting the purchasing partner's deal with the dissenting partner. The purchasing team player may not prevent the preemption. It is the box's right. The box will have then eliminated one opposing game at the undoubled value, because he bought the double himself.

Thus, where the box is playing against four opponents, and the box preempts the captain's purchase of a centered cube, the box's score is immediately debited 1 (the purchase price), and the purchasing player is credited 1 — which puts him at a wash, since he paid 1 to the dissenting player.


Thus, to recap, the rules of chouette play when the captain wants to double but a partner does not, are:

  1. The dissenting player may offer his game to, in order, the captain, any other teammate, or the box, for the value of the undoubled cube.

If the partner is bought out by a player other than the box:

  1. Where a partner is bought out, he may no longer consult.

  2. Regardless of which team member bought the dissenting player's game, the box has the right to preempt the deal for himself.

If the partner is not bought out:

  1. Where neither the captain, teammates, nor box is willing to buy out the dissenting partner, then the dissenting partner is with the double, like it or not.

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