Picture of medieval players from Wikipedia
As with many of my favourite things, backgammon is deceptively simple. Like chess and draughts, it carries an ancient aura. When playing backgammon, you feel locked in a timeless battle, that somehow more is at stake than just who counts off all their checkers first. However, in backgammon, unlike the other two, lady luck is a significant player at the table. For me, this is the secret of its appeal.
Backgammon presents its players with a series of decisions. What levels of risk are you willing to take in search of glory? Should you run to the finish, or hang around trying to frustrate your opponent? There's plenty of scope for strategy, especially if you play multi-game tournaments, and use the doubling cube. Yet with a big dollop of luck, a beginner can beat a pro.
I was taught the rules of backgammon by an older girl I met on holiday. She enchanted me with her maturity, I was baffled but thrilled by her willingness to hang out with me. She proved worthy of hero-worship when she revealed the secrets of backgammon to me, patiently explaining the best opening moves and some of the lingo. It felt like an initiation of sorts, I was handed a set of skills that became mine to sharpen over time.
I am particular about my backgammon sets. They need to be covetable, which means they must be substantial and leather-bound. I have owned more than one over time. At university, Tom, Gemma and I went trough a period of backgammon obsession, using the game to determine weighty matters, such as which of us would make tea, or take the trip to the shop. Curiously, when we packed up to go home at the end of our second year, my backgammon set was found in Tom's room, minus all the red checkers. None of us can fathom what became of them.
- Backgammon is the oldest recorded game in history. It is believed to have originated in Persian Mesopotamia - Iran, Iraq, and Syria today. (Source Gammoned.com)
- Famous historical backgammon players include Lewis Carroll and Thomas Jefferson. Among today's celebrities Tobey Maguire, Joaquin Phoenix and Kylie Minogue are reported to be fans. (Source: Backgammon Galore! forums)