The game of Backgammon is popular today and one of the most ancient games at the same time. Its history is proof behind this belief. From the moment it appeared, it has suffered several changes and new variations. No doubt about it!
Looking back at Backgammon's history, this game had been played by the aristocracy and leaders of the ancient civilization of Persia, Rome, Greece and the Far East.
Origins of this game come from Mesopotamia, the Persian Empire: Now known as Iraq, Iran and Syria. At that time it was played on different surfaces, such as wood. Stones were used for checkers and the dice was made of wood, stones, bones and sometimes pottery.
Some gaming boards have been found in Egypt which had squares of 3x10, 3x12 and 3x6. These were called "The Game of Thirty Squares" or "Senat." Researchers have discovered more than 40 boards of this type and found them to be very difficult to reconstruct. There was no written evidence related to the rules of these games. These discoveries show that these board games appeared between 3000-1788BC. There is no literature about specific moves or strategies. The importance of using dice also remain unrevealed.
Around 2600BC some boards made of wood with dice were discovered in Ur al Chaldees. This game was known as "The Royal Games of Ur." Researchers came up with a set of rules at that time.
Later on, some discoveries proved that the Romans had a board game called "Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum," meaning "The Game of 12 Lines." This board was made of leather and consisted of three lines having twelve squares each. There were thirty checkers, fifteen of these were made of ebony and the other half ivory. This Roman board game, dating back to around 600AD, is considered a variation of Egyptian Senat.
Later on, instead of 3x12 lines, a board with 2x12 lines was introduced, and it started to get closer to today's Backgammon version. The Romans introduced this game in Great Britain during the 1st Century. It was known as "Tabula." This word came from the game's board.
Backgammon's popularity grew and it was entertainment for many people, including Emperor Claudius.
With the passing of time, around 50AD, it was Claudius who wrote about this game's history, but no writings have survived. Under the republicanism, the game of backgammon was banned and declared illegal because it was considered gambling.
In the 6th Century, backgammon was known as "Alea" which means "the art of gambling with dice," which seems to have formed the rules of today's backgammon. There has been many changes relating to positions of checkers and their movements.
Now let's take a look at this game's history in Asia. Before 800AD, a board game appeared that was known as "Nard." This word came from a particular wood type in Persian language. Nard was played with the same rules as the game of Alea with the players using a pair of dice. Instead of Nard the Persians used other names such as "Nardshir," "Nardeeshir," "Nard-i-shir," or "Takhteh Nard" meaning "battle on wood."
An early writing shows that this game of Nard has specific symbols:
- Each side of the board consists of 12 points - which show the number of months throughout one year.
- Both sides of the board, containing 24 points representing the hours in one day.
- The 30 checkers are for the number of days in one month.
- The 7 days of a week are represented by the sum of opposing sides of a die (1 and 6 points).
- The meaning of the two different colors of those 30 checkers is day and night.
The Chinese name for the game of Nard was "T'shu-p'u." It first appeared in Western India and then introduced in China around 220-265AD during the Wei dynasty. In the same time, the Japanese called this game "Sugoroku."
Nard had been introduced into Europe by Spain or Italy. The Nard is more similar to the Egyptian Senat, as there are some minor differences between this and Tabula. The main distinction between these two is that the game of Nard was played with two dice, while Tabula with three. Later on, the game of Tabula used two dice instead of three and this gained popularity.
As time passed, the more popular Backgammon became. In the middle ages, the exciting game of Nard or Tables was played more frequently in specific English taverns. The very first writing in English about this game was around 1025 and was called "The Codex Exoniensis." Until the reign of Elisabeth I, this game had been banned because of the so-called "gambling-mania" people had and its popularity slowly grew. It had different names in each country, such as: in Italy it was known as "Tavola Reale," in Spain "Tables Reales," in Greece "Tavli," in Turkey they called it "Tavla," in France "Tric Trac," in Britain "Backgammon" or "Tables," in Germany "Puff," in Czech "Vrhcaby" and in China "Swan-liu."
The particular word of Backgammon is thought to come from either the Saxon "baec" (which means back) or "gamen" (game), or from the Welsh "bac" (little) "cammaun" (battle).
In 1743, a man named Edmond Hoyle wrote the very first official Treatise on the game of Backgammon and he codified the rules.
It is said that Backgammon was introduced in the US, in New York in the 1920s. Thanks to an unknown gambler, who combined this game's rule with the skill required for playing. There were some restrictions regarding the game as only the upper class was permitted to play in private clubs. In the US, the standard rules of Backgammon suffered some changes around 1931 which are applied in today's game. Later on, in 1940 and during World War II, this game somewhat lost its popularity. This happened only till 1960, when Prince Alexis Obelensky (Oby) started organizing tournaments. He was the first to introduce a World Championship of Backgammon in the Bahamas; this way he has also gained a great reputation. He also published a book having the title of "Backgammon: The Action Game."
Backgammon publicity had a great success because of a wide range of newspaper articles, magazines and books. As time went on, not just the upper class but the middle class were playing as well. It became a choice of entertainment for the youth, also. Every player was interested in specific strategies and moves of backgammon checkers.
In the 1990s, the appearace of computer Backgammon was a great evolution for this game. Gerald Tesauro of IBM made software that could enlighten players about several aspects and taught different moves of checkers. Andreas Schneider created the First Internet Backgammon Server (FIBS) in 1933. This platform was hosted for free in Sweden by an academic computer. Then, Frederic Dahl of Norway created the first commercial neural net backgammon software with Jellyfish.
Later on, Olivier Egger introduced other Backgammon software that is known as Snowie. The up-to-date achievement in what Backgammon software is consisting of is the GNU Backgammon.
From ancient Persian Empire, the game of Backgammon has survived and kept its popularity. Not to mention the fact that it is still today one of the most frequently played games.
Now we also have the chance to play Online Backgammon provided by a wide selection of websites, maintaining its popularity in the same time. Most of these websites supply players with different advice about its rules and articles relating to specific playing strategies. One can easily benefit from these informational tips.
It is time to throw the dice! This pleasant and relaxing game is fun to play, anytime, anywhere!
"The only things I'm competitive in are backgammon and poker." - Kate Hudson
"The only athletic sport I ever mastered was backgammon." - Douglas William Jerrold
Words to Ponder
Easier Bonus Terms
Backgammon @ Wikipedia