History of backgammon: origin and stages of development, legend, interesting facts

History of backgammon

In the article “History of backgammon” we will tell a brief history of the origin and stages of development of the intellectual game. You will also learn the legend of creation and interesting facts.

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History of backgammon is the story of one of the oldest board games in the world, which has deep roots and has attracted the attention of millions of people around the world. Similar to checkers, backgammon has evolved over the millennia from a simple pastime to a symbol of strategy and intellectual development.

Historians do not give the exact date of invention and author of this game, but an interesting legend about the appearance of backgammon has reached our days. According to this legend, in ancient times the Indians sought to prove to the Persians (present-day Iranians) their superiority in mathematics and logic. They came up with the idea to send them a gift of a riddle – a set of chess without any explanations about the rules of the game. A year later, a Persian sage replied to the Indians by providing explanations of the rules of chess and sending his own gift of a riddle – backgammon, also without instructions.

Unlike the Persians, it took the Hindus 12 years to figure out the rules of backgammon. For more details, see the video “History of backgammon: Legend”.

History of backgammon: Legend

Despite the legendary nature of this story, the real history of backgammon dates back at least 5,000 years. Archaeologists have found the oldest known backgammon board in Persia, believed to have been made 3,000 BC. Backgammon was also found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Backgammon board, 19th century
Backgammon board, 19th century

In the East, priests and sorcerers used backgammon to predict fortunes and make important decisions. In those days, the game was known as “backgammon-shogi” and it passed into the hands of merchants and rulers who played backgammon to have fun and pass the time.

Backgammon gained particular popularity in ancient Greece. Aristotle described backgammon as a game requiring high strategic thought and calculation. They were not only entertainment, but also a means of training military and political leadership.

Interesting fact! The dice in backgammon were called “zara” (presumably from the Russian word for “excitement”). People believe that negative words or thoughts can bring bad luck. This applies to the dice as well, as it was believed that saying bad words about zara turns good luck away from the player.

All the elements of backgammon had their own symbolic meanings. The board represented the sky, the chips represented the stars, and each of the 12 fields corresponded to each of the 12 months of the year. The number of planets known at that time coincided with the number of points that fell out on the dice, and the number of chips (30 pieces) corresponded to the number of moon and moonless nights in a month.

Backgammon board, Vatican City
Backgammon board, Vatican City

Backgammon was also known in ancient Rome. They were used to develop thinking, as well as for ruin and personal enrichment (playing for money). The most noble inhabitants of Rome had the right to play backgammon at any time, but ordinary Romans only on certain days. Emperors and military leaders played backgammon to show their skill and tactical thinking. The game was even recognized as worshiped and was included in religious and ritual ceremonies.

Backgammon became widely known in Europe after the Crusades, when the Crusaders brought it to their homeland. Noble men of blue blood became great fans of the game. Hence the second name of backgammon, “trick-truck”, which came from the sound of falling dice.

The original backgammon rules brought by the Crusaders seemed clumsy and confusing to Europeans. In 1743, British player and writer Edmond Hoyle developed new rules, so the game with classical (eastern) rules was called “long backgammon”, and the European version was called “short backgammon”.

Over time backgammon became a part of traditions and customs of different nations. For example, in Turkey backgammon, known as “tavla”, is an integral part of the culture and way of life. Turkish folk songs, poems and sayings are often associated with backgammon and marvel at its strategy and complexity.

In Iran, backgammon, known as “nardsher” or “taktel”, is one of the most popular games. They are played on traditional carpeted game boards, which are works of art with handmade details.

Interesting fact! In Scandinavian countries backgammon is part of the educational program in schools. The game is used not only as a means of entertainment, but also as a developmental tool to help children develop logical thinking, planning and analyzing skills. Scandinavian countries are known for their advanced approaches to education, and the inclusion of backgammon in the school program is one example of such innovation.

Doubling cube
Doubling cube

The next important stage in the development of the game was the introduced “Doubling Cube”, i.e. a special dice with numbers on it: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64.

Each game was evaluated either in points or prize money. If during the game, the player, saw for himself a favorable development and feels his superiority, he could increase the bet of the game in two times, turning over the facet of the doubling cube in the center of the game board. If the opponent refused to support the bet, he automatically lost the game.

This addition to the rules of the game was introduced in 1931 in the United States and became officially applied in international competitions. The author of the addition to the game rules is not known, but the originator was the Russian Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich Romanov, who was living in America at the time.

Monument "Backgammon Player", Yerevan
Monument “Backgammon Player”, Yerevan

In 1986, the World Backgammon Federation (WBGF) was founded and helped popularize the game. The WBGF regulates the rules of competitions around the world, evaluates and awards sports titles to players. It actively promotes and helps to recognize backgammon as an intellectual sport at the national level.

Backgammon came to Russia from the countries of Central Asia and Europe. Initially the attitude to backgammon was negative, as gambling was forbidden in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the game was popularized in the republics of the North and South Caucasus. The photo shows backgammon monuments in Vladikavkaz and Yerevan (Armenia).

Backgammon for most Russian citizens was perceived as an entertainment of market traders and as an attribute of the criminal world, at which prisoners spent a lot of time and very often played for money.

In 2003 backgammon received the status of an officially recognized sport in Russia. The Federation was created, which united amateurs and masters of the ancient game. The Russian Championship and Cup are held on an annual basis.

Monument "Nardists", Vladikavkaz
Monument “Nardists”, Vladikavkaz

Backgammon games continue to be popular nowadays. They have become available in various formats, from wooden board games to computer and mobile applications. Backgammon also frequently participates in international tournaments, attracting professional players from all over the world.

In particular, the famous Gizil Zar (translated as “Golden Zar”) tournament in Azerbaijan, which has a huge prize pool, presents the winner with dice made of pure gold.

The history of backgammon is the story of how one game has survived the ages and captured the hearts of people around the world. Its strategic nature and the need for analytical thinking make backgammon not only a fascinating entertainment, but also a tool for developing intellectual abilities.

Interesting facts about backgammon

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