Backgammon History

The roots of backgammon run deep. The most ancient ancestry is claimed by a game called "Senet" which came out of ancient Egypt. This game was played on a board with 3 X 10 squares. No one is quite certain now of the rules, but it has been conjectured that it was gambling game of movement and displacement of opponent pieces (usually made of stone) moving in opposite directions. The movement was thought to be controlled by the roll of dice made of bones or ceramic. In archeological discoveries dice have frequently been found with the distinctive playing boards.

The Roman game, Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum, most likely derived from Senat. The tortuous Latin means "Game of Twelve Lines on a Board". It had three rows of twelve "points" and was played with three six-sided dice. In the 500's AD one of the rows were dropped. The game, later in the first mellinium, came to be called "tabula", the Latin word for "table". The Emperor Claudius was very fond of the game. He had a game board attached to his chariot. His passion for the game led him to write a history of it. Unfortunately, the history did not survive the dark ages when many manuscripts were lost to decay and disinterest.

The game was brought to England by invasion during the first century AD. The game came to be called "Tables" and the rules became more recognizable to moderns. It survived the middle ages as a gambling game of the upper classes. It was banned for a time in England because of the gambling nature of the game. It was a game frequently played in taverns. It was first referred to as "Backgammon" in 1645. It is thought that the name derived from the Middle English word "gam" meaning "game" and "back". Together it probably meant, "the game where you can go back" refering to a blot that has been sent back to the bar.

In 1743 Edmund Hoyle came out with the first official rules of backgammon. In 1920 the doubling cube was introduced in New York. The idea was likely to accelerate the stakes of the gambling game much more quickly. Yet it also had the effect of favoring more skilled players who were more capable of judging the chances of certain positions.

Backgammon has not changed since then. However, its study by assiduous players and its popularity has waxed and waned. Many books have been produced regarding tactics and strategy. Computers have changed the face of backgammon somewhat. They have provided online venues, automated opponents and increased the analytical aspects of the game for professionals.

Today there are backgammon tournaments in the United States and Europe. The first world championships were held in Bermuda in the 1960s. Bermuda remains a popular center of Backgammon culture. Backgammon is now one of the most popular of the classic games.

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Interesting Fact:

Each player has 15 pieces in backgammon.


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