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How to Play Backgammon

Author: Dolly Gambler

Game Objective
The objective of Backgammon is to bring all your checkers, white or black, into your own home board so that you can begin to remove them from the board. The winner of the game is the first player to bear off all of his checkers.

Setting up the Backgammon Board
The arrangement of the checkers on the Backgammon board is made before the start of each game. The checkers are placed on each player's 24, 13, 8 and 6 points in the following order: two on each player's 24 point, five on each player's 13 point, three on each player's 8 point and five on each player's 6 point.

Beginning the Game
To begin the game, each player throws a single die, the player who rolls the highest number plays first. If equal numbers come up, then both players keep rolling their die until they roll distinct numbers.

Commonly, the first player uses the joint numbers on the already-thrown dice to start, although this rule is not harshly followed today. After the initial turn, the players alternate turns and roll two dice each time. In some matches, the winner of the last game plays first in the next backgammon game, although this backgammon rule is not always put into effect.

Moving the Checkers
The roll of the dice indicates how many points, (the unit of distance on a backgammon board) the player is to move his checkers. Backgammon checkers cannot move backwards, they only move forward towards their own home boards, meaning the white and black pieces are always moving in opposite directions around the backgammon board, one player moving his checkers clockwise while the other counter-clockwise.

A checker can be moved to any point that is vacant, to one that is occupied by your own checkers or to a point that has no more than one of your opponent's checkers on it.

The numbers on the two dice represent separate moves. For instance, if a player rolls 4 and 2, he may move one checker four spaces to an open point and another checker two spaces to an open point, or he may move a single checker a total of six spaces to an open point.

If you roll the dice and the same numbers come up on both dice, you can move the pieces twice. For example, with a roll of 2-2, you may move 2 points 4 times in any given combination. Usually, the more doubles a player rolls, the greater the odds of winning the game.

Hitting a Blot
A single checker on a point is called a blot and it may be attacked by the opponent. Checkers of different colors may not inhabit the same point. Thus, when one player's checker lands on point occupied by the opponent's blot, the latter is taken off the board and moved to the bar, and stays out of play until the checker is entered by the opponent into his inner board. You can re-enter your checker from the bar only if one of the numbers appear on the rolled dice match a point which is not occupied by two or more of your opponent's checkers. If none of the points is open, the player loses his roll.

Doubling Cube
The doubling cube is a dice with the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 and 64, used for raising the stakes at backgammon matches and tournaments. The use of the doubling cube can be done at any stage of the game. A player who feels he has an advantage over his opponent may suggest doubling the stakes. He may do this when it is his turn and he has not yet rolled the dice. To double, the player simply places the doubling cube with the numbers 2 facing up. The opponent may refuse the offer by resigning (and thus losing the game) or may accept it. The opponent who accepts the offer is now the owner of the doubling cube, meaning he is the only one who may double the stakes again (this time by placing the doubling cube with the number 4 facing up).

Bearing Off
Bearing off means removing your pieces from the home board, it is the final stage of the Backgammon game. To start this, all of your 15 checkers should be in the home board. The same as with normal moves, you bear off according to the roll of the dice, always from the highest occupied point in your home board. When there is no checker on the point indicated by the roll, the player must make a legal move by using a checker on a higher point. If there are not any checkers on higher points, the player is allowed to remove a checker from his highest occupied point. However, you have no obligation of bearing off if you have another legal move to make.

Winning the Game
The winner of the game is the first player to bear off all of his checkers. If your rival has not been able to bear off neither of his checkers, you score a gammon, a double victory, which counts twice a normal win. Triple victory or a backgammon, counts three times a normal win and is scored when your opponent has not succeeded in bearing off any of his checkers and still has checkers on the bar or in the winner's home board.