Backgammon Tournament Play
Backgammon tournament play is slightly different from both standard match play and money play. Because of the addition of match scoring and the more complex setup of a tournament, it can at times be slightly more confusing than traditional backgammon.
- Similar to most major sporting tournaments, backgammon tournaments use a single match elimination method of play. Every round, players are seeded and paired against each other for a match or series of games. The winner moves on to the next round where they pair up against the next opponent and so on until they reach the championship match. The losers of the first round are often give the chance to play in a second bracket or consolation tournament. Occasionally, as in the case of the World Championships, there is a second prize for the second tournament or even a chance for the winner of that tournament to enter back into the main tournament.
The number of points varies, but each match is played to a set number in the tournament. The consolation tournament will often play to a smaller number of points than the main bracket. For each match, the first player to win the requisite number of points is considered the winner. Points are decided by the traditional means – one point for a win, two for a gammon, and three for a backgammon.
With the addition of the doubling cube, the value of the game is multiplied by the value on the doubling cube. If a player one a game with a gammon for example and the doubling cube was on 2, the game is worth 4 points for that player. If the match is for 5 points, at least one more game would need to be played. However, if the match was for only 4 points, it would be over after just the one game. The exact amount of points a player acquires is immaterial to the game though. It only matters who reaches the necessary number of points first to win the match.
The Crawford Rule comes into effect if a player is within one point of winning the match. This rule states that when a player has reached match-point, neither player may use the doubling cube in the next game. If, after the Crawford game, neither player wins the match, the doubling cube is permitted back into play and the losing player should immediately use it.
- The length of a match plays to the strengths of the better player. For instance, if a player is particular strong and suffers a 4 point setback in the first game, their ability to fight back and still win the match depends largely on how many points are still necessary to win the match. A 7 point match will be much harder to win than a 15 point match if a player is automatically down by 4 points. A good example of standard tournament match lengths is the Monte Carlo World Championships. The early matches are for 13 points and increase each round until reaching 25 points in the finals.
Another form of match play that has recently lost some of its appeal is that of the series style playoffs. Each round consists of a best of 5 series of 9-point matches. Used for a long time in the World Cup, the format has a strong following though has lost much of its popularity in major tournaments.
- In recent years, clocks have started appearing in tournaments to keep players on schedule and to ensure matches are finished in good time. There is a set time given to each match now that dictates the maximum amount of time allowed for each player during the match. The usual amount is 15 seconds for each move before the time is deducted from his allotted time.
The total time given to the match is important as a player who uses all of it up without completing the match forfeits. Occasionally, this leads to opponents making the game more complicated at the end if their opposition is short on time.
- In backgammon, as in numerous other games of skill, the tournament is the ultimate defining moment of skill and ability. However, because of the time constraints, varying match points and the format of tournaments, certain players who are normally exceptional at the game do not do very well in tournaments. The differences are numerous, but the stress level between each match is probably the most significant.
These basics are only the most rudimentary details regarding how a tournament operates. Tournament play is among the most complex styles of backgammon around and even the world’s best players have been known to lose in the early going. However, there is nothing more encouraging than tournament success and recognition.