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HOLMES AND I were making our way home along Baker Street one fine spring afternoon when we noticed that the facade of number 22 had been painted a garish yellow and bore the legend "The Double Ducks Club".

My friend, intrigued by the name and scenting a mystery, pushed opened the portals and strode in. A magnificent sight greeted our eyes as we beheld a room equipped solely for the purpose of playing backgammon. Plush boards, precision dice, excellent lighting and comfortable chairs all combined to give the club a most agreeable atmosphere. Despite the early hour, several chouettes were already in play.

The proprietor, a sanguine man of some 50 summers, spotted our arrival and came over to talk to us. Introducing himself as Mr Japp, he said: "Greetings, Mr Holmes, and welcome to our club. I didn't think it would be long before you found us."

"I have a nose for these things, as Watson well knows. In fact, we were discussing the merits of club play only the other day, were we not Watson?" declared the great detective.

"Indeed we were, Holmes. As I recall you said that, by playing in a club against new people, you will learn more in a week than you would in a year just playing the same opponents. You also said that one of the best ways to learn was to watch and listen as strong players played their chouettes. The discussion of the finer points of backgammon theory that always takes place in a high-quality chouette is probably the best free lesson you will ever get. Finally you remarked that club play is where most people first learn the differences between money and tournament play and that the weekly club tournament has bred many a world championship contender."

"Well summarised, Watson. For now, Mr Japp, we must take our leave, but rest assured that we shall return for the evening's play." And with that parting remark he headed for the street.

As we surfaced into the clear light of day I remarked: "It's an excellent club, Holmes. There's just one thing that jars - the garish yellow exterior, which does not match the tenor of the club at all. Could you hazard a guess as to its origins?"

"Why, it's a lemon entry my dear Watson."

Details of UK backgammon clubs can be obtained from Biba, 2 Redbourne Drive, Lincoln LN2 2HG