Forum Archive : Tournaments

First backgammon tournament

From:   Ed Collins
Date:   4 December 2006
Subject:   Comments regarding my 1st ever backgammon tourney!

Although I've been a backgammon fan for about 30 years, prior to Saturday
I had never attended an actual over-the-board backgammon tourney.  About
a week ago I noticed, online, the California State Championship was being
held at the Los Angeles Sheraton Hotel, here in Southern California.
Since I work weekends, and wouldn't have been able to get the time off to
enter even if I wanted to, I promised myself I would take the time to drive
out to the hotel and see what a real live backgammon tourney was all about.

I did so and spent the better part of two hours there.  Below are a few of
my comments.

Note:  I HAVE entered and competed in more than 40 different CHESS
tournaments over the past ten years or so, so I do know a little something
about those types of tourneys.

First, I was a little disappointed in the low number of entrants!  Although
I had no idea what to expect, some of the chess tournaments I've entered
attract more than 1,000 players.  (The National Open, the World Open, etc.)
By my estimation, there were less than 100 entrants for this CA State
Championship.  For backgammon fans, that's got to be a little disappointing
and unfortunate.  :(

And why so few females?  I think I saw at most, a total of just six or
seven female players.  I would have guessed the number of female players
would have been much higher than that.

I REALLY was impressed with the number of quality backgammon boards!  Wow!
It seemed as if just about everyone had a nice, large, professional board.
I had a great time just walking around and looking at the different styles
and color combinations.  They sure made the few backgammon boards I own
look very cheap and small by comparison.  Now that I've seen "how the other
half lives" I've GOT to purchase a large, nice set for myself.

I didn't see anyone playing with a chess clock and apparently taking too
long to move is not a problem at a backgammon tourney.  To us chess
players, playing without a clock is unthinkable!  Also, I didn't see anyone
recording their games, another unthinkable act coming from a tournament
chess player. I guess this isn't surprising since I can see how recording a
backgammon game would noticeably slow the game down.  I did see a couple of
digital cameras on tripods overlooking the board.  Obviously one of those
players (or the tourney director) wanted the moves of that game/match

No touch-move rule in tournament backgammon?  More than once, usually when
a player rolled doubles, I saw the player pick up their pieces, shuffle
them around the board, and then return them only to then make other moves
with other pieces, before picking up their dice signaling the end their
move.  On one occasion it looked as if the player didn't return their
pieces to their original points!  (Note: that was probably just the way it
looked to me from my vantage point.)

I didn't understand the tourney format, but only because I could
immediately see it wasn't the typical Swiss format I'm used to.  (It was
some type of double elimination format, I think.)  Obviously, before I
enter a backgammon tourney myself (and some day I'd like to) I'm going to
have to figure that out.

I expected to see a bunch of laptops, with Snowie or Jellyfish on GNU
loaded on them, with players analyzing their matches.  I didn't see anyone
doing this.  (But then again, in order analyze your match with Snowie, you
have record it in the first place!)

I introduced myself to the tourney director and politely asked him if I
could take a few photos.  I'm somewhat of an amateur photographer and
wanted to capture some of these nice boards, some of the players, etc.
Alas, he would not allow me to.  (You know, I really don't understand the
problem the world seemingly has sometimes, with photos and cameras.)  He
did grant me permission to take a couple of photos of the room, from way in
the back by the door.

Question:  With each game I observed, the players were rolling dice that I
don't believe were a part of that particular backgammon set... they didn't
match the set, they were usually brightly colored, almost neon.  Also,
rather than each player rolling two matching die, each player rolled two
different colored dies.  What was up with that?  Did the tourney director
pass out these dice to all players before I arrived, to prevent players
from using their own loaded dice or something?

The entire atmosphere was more friendly to me, than a typical chess
tourney. It was also nice that the player's didn't seem to mind other
players talking throughout the tournament hall.  (Even whispering is often
frowned upon at chess tourneys!)

I had a good time and was very glad I went.  I certainly hope that some day
in the near future I can enter such a tourney myself.

One comment I overheard from one of the players after his match, as he was
talking to a friend, made me smile.  He said something like, "I probably
should have doubled him earlier."  It may have been a backgammon tourney
instead of a chess tourney, but the post-game horror stories are obviously

Ed Collins

Thomas Koch  writes:

There are tournaments played with a clock even in backgammon (e.g.
Riviera Cup/World Series of Backgammon). Clocks are a big issue in
backgammon. Some argue that they make the tourneys less attractive for
beginners others are annoyed at beeing kept waiting by the slow

Recording the match manually is unacceptable considering the extra time
needed. You will miss the flow of the game. Cameras are a solution
but not every tournament director and especially not every player will
allow them.

> No touch-move rule in tournament backgammon?

Sometimes vision helps (especially beginners). You can make your move,
make another move and then decide. I am not aware of any backgammon
regulation using the chess-like touch-move rule.

> I didn't understand the tourney format,

Double elimiation is similar to the knock out format only that every
player has got 'two lives'. For double elimination format have a look at:
Tourney sheets are available at:

> With each game I observed, the players were rolling dice that I
> don't believe were a part of that particular backgammon set.

Using precision dice and splitting them to avoid loaded dice (or simply
superstition) is the standard in backgammon I think.
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     



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