Forum Archive : Rulings

Crawford game double

From:   Claes Thornberg
Date:   6 April 1998
Subject:   Question on rulings when Doubling in the Crawford-game.

While revising a set of backgammon tournament rules I was asked how I
would rule if the leader was doubled in the Crawford-game, leading
12-9, taking and then losing a gammon and thereby the match. If before
reporting the result, the leader notices it was the crawford game,
should the result stand or should the trailer be awarded just 2pts. My
first reaction was, award the trailer 2pts. But after looking at
other Crawford-doubling situations I changed my mind and said that the
easiest way out is to let the result stand.  Now I'd like to here your
opinion on this.

 Claes Thornberg

In all situations below, it's the Crawford game. Matches to 13pt.

1. Leading 12-9, the leader is doubled. He takes and loses a
gammon. Before shaking hands with his opponent, acknowledging his
defeat, he remembers that the game was the Crawford-game. He
therefor insists on playing on from the score 12-11. His opponent
refuses and says that the cube action stands, and therefor he has
won the match.  How do you rule?

2. Leading 12-9, the leader is doubled. He takes but after a few
rolls he remembers that it's the Crawford-game. He calls for a
ruling. Does the game continue with the cube on 2, or is the cube
action not valid and the game played to conclusion without the cube in

3. Leading 12-9, the leader is doubled. He drops, but while
playing the next game he remembers that the last game was the
Crawford-game. He therefor calls for a ruling. How do you rule? Does
the match continue as if the leader lost 1 pt in the Crawford-game,
i.e. the double/drop cube action stands, or do they start all over
from the score 12-9 (Crawford)

4. Leading 12-9, the leader is doubled. He drops, but before any of
the player has reset the checkers, the leader remembers that it's the
Crawford-game. He wants to continue the game, his opponent refuses and
insists on having won the game. A ruling is called for. How do you

5. Leading 12-1, the leader is doubled, he takes and loses a
gammon. The match continues and when the score reaches 12-12, he
stares at the scorecard, and sees that he lost 4pts in what should
have been the Crawford-game. He calls for a ruling? How do you rule?

Julian Hayward  writes:

Well, I haven't come across any rulings on this particular scenario,
but I guess I would follow the same principle as applies to illegal
moves - the opponent has the right to either request that the move be
taken back or be left to stand, until such time as he condones the
illegal move by rolling the dice (or doubling). In which case, I think
the illegal double should be taken back in (4), but allowed to stand
in the other cases. Personally, at the start of Crawford games I like
to remove the cube from the board altogether, just so this doesn't

Claes Thornberg  writes:

Interesting opinion Julian, I would however, as you might have guessed
from my introduction, ruled that since the leader dropped he has
accepted the use of the the cube and therefor his action stands,
i.e. the opponent wins the game.  Reading through our rules (Swedish
Bg Federation), I can see this as the only possible ruling. I would,
however, appeal to the players sportmanship to agree to continue the

While discussing the Crawford-game with some friends, the following
suggestion came up: Add to the description of the Crawford rule (and
Crawford-game) that

In the Crawford-game, a single win scores 1 pt, a gammon 2 pts, and a
backgammon 3 pts, no matter what the cube shows or its position.

This however, does not cover the scenario above, where the leader
dropped the double.

Tapio Palmroth  writes:

As the cube is not in use in crawford game, but was used, both players
made a mistake, but which of the players made the worse mistake? I
think the one who made the first mistake, as it did lead to another

So can the player who made worse mistake benefit of it? I guess not.
So maybe the solution should be that the game starts from the previous


ps. It happened in one big turny two years ago, that a well-known
player (X) was behind 2-8 to 9 agains weaker player (O), crawford
game. Then O doubled to 2, X took and said to the crowd: As O use the
cube, then it is useable for me too, and recubed to 4. X could have
won gammon and the match, but failed and lost. Nobody asked for

Tom Keith  writes:

Hi Claes.

After looking at your various scenarios, I think you're right.
The score (including the illegal double) should stand.  Here's
a possible wording for a rule concerning Crawford game doubles:

    During the Crawford game, if either player notices that
    the doubling cube has been turned, he has the obligation
    of pointing out the mistake and returning the cube to 1.
    However, once the game is finished, any uncorrected cube
    turns stand and the full value of the cube is used in
    calculating the number of points awarded.

    (A game is finished when: a player has borne off all his
    checkers, a player resigns, or one player offers a double
    and the other player drops.)

This allows an opporunity to correct an illegal double if it
is noticed during the game, while not perpetuating a possible
change in the score to future games of the match.


David Montgomery  writes:

Danny Kleinmain has advocated that penalties for illegal actions
should be as great or greater than the possible benefits of making
the illegal play.  I agree with Kleinman, and hope that eventually
backgammon has rules of this sort.

The problem with Tom's proposal, and other rulings I have seen,
is that the trailer gets a free shot.  That the trailer has an
obligation to point out the incorrect double here is not meaningful.
The trailer had an obligation not to double in the first place.

From a strategic point of view, with these sorts of rulings, you
should always double as the trailer in the Crawford game.  You should
wait to pick the optimum moment of confusion when your opponent
might forget that you can't double, and then whip the cube.  If
your ruse succeeds, you may double your chances of winning the
match.  If not, no problem -- you are as well off as you would
have been if you hadn't doubled.

Clearly this is undesirable, and although the vast majority of
players never try to take advantage of this, I believe that rather
than rely on players' good intentions, the rules should deter
those who try to cheat.  The basic idea is to have harsh penalties
for illegal actions, so that it is in a player's best interest
to play legally.
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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