United States Backgammon Tournament
Rules & Procedures Supplement

Fundamentals of Tournament Backgammon
Version 1.0C April 22 2001

 Equipment  •  A backgammon board.  •  Checkers: 30 (15 of each color).  •  Two pair of dice (1 pair for each player).  •  A doubling cube.  •  Two dice cups.

 Board Set-Up A game in tournament play starts as shown below. The board is composed of 24 triangular-shaped divisions known as points. The board is also divided down the center by a partition known as the bar. The two halves are called the outer and home boards. For the purpose of convenience the board diagram has been numbered.

Starting Position

 Object of the Game The first player to remove all his checkers wins a game.

 The Mechanics of the Game Players must the dice cups for rolling and must roll on the right side of the bar at all times. To start a game, each player rolls one die and the player with the higher number moves first using the both numbers. If the players roll the same number, both re-roll. The players then alternate rolling and moving using their own dice. Players move their checkers around the board in opposite directions. A player moves his checkers according to the numbers shown on the dice. When rolling the dice, both dice must land completely flat within the player's right half of the board and on the playing surface. If not, the dice are cocked and the player must re-roll both dice. The numbers shown on the dice are considered individually and not as a total. A point is blocked when the opponent has two or more of his checkers on that point. A player may move over blocked points but may not land on them. Bear in mind that, when moving a single checker for the total shown by the two dice, a player is actually making two moves with the one checker, each move according to the number shown on each dice.

 Compulsory Move A player must use both numbers rolled whenever possible. If he can play either number but not both, he must move using the larger number. If a player cannot make any moves, play passes to his opponent. A player may not voluntarily pass his turn.

 Hints on Moving the Checkers The points on the board have alternating colors. When moving an even number, a checker will land on the same color as moved from. Odd numbers will move to the other color. A move from the 9-point to the 5-point is a move of 4 since the bar does not count as a point.

 Rolling Doubles When a player rolls the same number on both dice, known as doubles, the player moves that number 4 times. The player may move one checker all four times or any combination of checkers the player chooses with the rules above applying.

 Blots A single checker on a point is a blot. Since checkers of opposite colors cannot occupy the same point, when a player lands on an opponent's blot he removes that checker and replaces it with his own. The opponent's checker must be placed on the bar.

 The Bar The bar is the middle strip that separates the two halves of the board. Once a checker has been hit and placed on the bar, the player must re-enter it into play before moving any other checker. A hit checker returns to play by moving the checker from the bar to a point in the opponent's home board indicated by the numbers on the next roll. For example, if a player rolls 5 and 2, he may enter a checker either on the five or two point, so long as two or more of the opponent's checkers does not occupy the prospective points. If your opponent has a closed board (all points in his home board with two or more checkers on each point) and you have a checker on the bar, you automatically lose your turn to move but not to use the cube (explained later).

 Bearing Off Bearing off means removing checkers by the rolls of the dice. A player may not start bearing off until all 15 of his checkers are in his home board. If there is no checker on the point indicated by the die, the player must make a legal move using a checker on a higher-numbered point. If there are no checkers on the higher-numbered points, the player may remove a checker from the highest point on which his checkers resides. If a checker is hit after bearoff, that checker goes to the bar and must re-enter as described earlier. The player may not bear off another checker until that hit checker has returned to his home board.

 Match Play In tournaments, players compete by playing a match. The Director specifies the match length. Score cards are provided and should be used by both players by keeping a running score. Point(s) won are added to the player's total. The first player to reach the designated match length is the winner. There is no advantage to winning a match by more points than the match length. The winner advances but otherwise the match score bears no importance in the tournament's outcome.

 Scoring The player who bears off all his checkers first wins a game. A double game (gammon) is won if your opponent has not removed any of his checkers by the time you have removed all of your checkers. The winner gets two times the value of the cube for a gammon. A triple game (backgammon) is won if the opponent has not removed any checkers and still has one or more checkers in your home board or on the bar. The winner gets three times the value of the cube for a backgammon.

 Doubling Cube The doubling cube is used in tournament backgammon. The value of the cube at the end of each game and whether the game was a gammon or backgammon determines the points won each game. The six values on a cube are 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64. The cube starts at 1 although it sits with the 64 face up. The starting position of the cube is centered between the players and visible to both players. Either player can make the initial double. The player doubling thinks he is favored to win the game and wants to play the current game for 2 points instead of 1 point. The cube may only be offered before a player rolls his dice. A double is offered by a player placing the cube on the playing surface and saying I double to 2. The player being doubled may either accept or decline the cube. If the cube is declined, the game is over and the player offering the cube wins (in this case) 1 point. If the cube is accepted, the player accepting puts the cube on his side of the board in view of both players with the 2 facing up. Once the cube has been offered and accepted, only the player with the cube can re-double. If sometime later, the player with the cube thinks he will win he may re-double to 4 and his opponent has the same options as before. At the end of a game, the cube should be replaced to the centered position.

 Crawford Rule The Crawford Rule will apply to all matches. When a player reaches match point (e.g., 8 points in a 9 point match), the doubling cube will be out of play for one game (know as the Crawford Game). In subsequent games following the Crawford Game, the cube is active.

 General Strategy It may seem that the sole object of the game is to race the checkers around the board as quickly as possible. If that were the case, the outcome of the game would be determined completely by Lady Luck. Victory would go to the player fortunate enough to cast the higher numbers and interest in the game would soon evaporate. Backgammon is also a strategy game. The sure way to succeed is to construct an obstacle that your opponent cannot hurdle. Thus, if he should leave a blot and you hit it, he will find it difficult to bring his checkers around the board into his home board. Remember, a checker that has been hit goes to the bar and must re-enter in the opponent's home board. The checker must complete the full course of the board before it is in a position to be removed. In addition, the player has lost ground - the number of points he has advanced the checker to the position where it was hit have all gone to waste. There are two key points in each board: the 5-point and the 7-point (also called the bar-point). Early moves should be designed to gain control of these important points. Your opponent's checkers on your 1-point have to travel the longest distance and your early efforts should be designed to impede their progress. Thereafter, you must attempt to construct a prime (points in a row with 2 or more checkers on each point): the more the better.

 Cube Strategy Strategy on the use of the doubling cube is often complex and experience is the primary teacher. However, it should be noted that a player offering a double should have something to gain by doing so. Thus he should normally at least be leading the game. Secondly, even though a player may be currently losing the game, he may stand to gain by accepting a double, with the hope of turning the game in his favor.

 More Help and Information When playing in a tournament and any questions arise, consult the Director or staff person. For your enjoyment of the game, it is better to know the rules for sure.