Forum Archive : Rules

Touch-move rule in backgammon?

From:   Ken Bame
Date:   7 November 2006
Subject:   Touch move rule?
Forum:   GammOnLine

What about a touch move rule in backgammon? Some people fling checkers
around and soon both sides have a different idea of what the starting
position was. Playing doubles are doubly bad.

You do not see chess players trying each different move out to see how
it looks, although you can say "adjust" and center a misplaced piece.

Look at the board and envision the position. If you touch a checker, you
have moved it, if legally possible.

Neil Kazaross  writes:

I like this rule very much as it is how I learned to play many years
ago. However, so many players are used to shuffling pieces around, that
this most likely is too drastic a change.

Rew  writes:

Some people including me have a lack of visual ability which means you
dont see the resutlting position clearly when considering a complex
move. So we need to shuffle the checkers to get an accurate view of the
resulting position. If this rule was enforced my and other peoples game
would deterioarate a little bit.

Doug Doub  writes:

I think that at the very least a player should announce that he is "only
looking", and he should only be allowed to do so a limited number of

Ian Shaw  writes:

I could certainly cope with "touch move", but I wonder if it might slow
the game down. If one moves the pieces, one can often see whether one
wants to make the play. If one has to imagine all the possible moves and
compare them mentally, it might take a fair bit longer, particularly if
one wnats to count shots.

As a kid, I played chess with touch move, and that was fine. However,
it's just one piece you're moving. In backgammon, it's two or four
pieces. It's so much harder to visualise that I think chequer shuffling
is justified. Of course, there is the counter argument that it makes
keeping track of the original position difficult, too, so the practice
should be disallowed.

Martin Fischer  writes:

As a chessplayer I think I'm able to handle the touch/move rule.
However, I'm quite sure the rule will slow down the game considerably,
as most players will think longer (especially when they have to count
shots after each candidate play).

In addition, the rule will create a bunch of new problems. For example,
what happens if you touch a checker which can't move legally, what
happens if you touch a checker unintentionally? In chess, all these
questions are solved. However, the risk they do occur is smaller, as you
have to just move around fourty times during a game, in Backgammon there
might be 300 moves and more in a serious and longer tournament match.

I think it is better if a player announces that he will have a look at
the position. In this case his/her opponent may concentrate on what is
going on.

Kit Woolsey  writes:

While the touch move idea might look good in theory, in practice it
would be a disaster. Consider all the disputes involved from when a
player makes his move, starts to pick up his dice, and changes his mind
at the last second. Picking up his dice signals the completion of the
move. Did he pick them up or didn't he? It is the word of one player
against the other, and even when both players are honest disputes can

With touch move it would be a lot worse. Did he touch the checker or
didn't he? I can imagine all sorts of disuptes coming from this. Keep in
mind that backgammon isn't like chess. In chess, the pace is slow, and
the question of whether a player has touched a piece or not is fairly
clear. In backgammon, which is fairly fast-paced, there would be a lot
of ambiguity.

My personal preference is to use a chess clock for backgammon. Not so
much to speed up the slow players, although that is a nice feature, but
to help avoid disputes. When the clock is in use, there can never be a
dispute about when a move is completed. When the player punches the
clock, that is the completion of the move. All a director needs to do is
to see whose clock is running to determine whether the move has been
officially completed.
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When is a move over?  (JP White, May 2000) 
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