Backgammon: A few notes on notation

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
ONE OF the reasons that the development and understanding of backgammon has progressed by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years is that the recording of games and matches began over this period. The pre-eminence of chess and bridge can be partially ascribed to the fact that recorded games go so far back into history, particularly in the case of chess.

Because of the speed of play of backgammon the participants cannot keep a record of the game without severely disrupting play; a third party is required to do the recording. In 1977 Kit Woolsey, one of America's leading players, decided to try recording one of the key tournament matches between Kent Goulding, another prominent American, and Joe Dwek, the leading English player of the period. Thus backgammon took a giant leap forward: players were able to study the top games and so improve their own standard of play.

Nowadays the third party is often a video camera to record the games. Moves are then transcribed from the video recording for publication. Tournament finals often have live commentary on the tapes and much can be learnt from this expert commentary.

In the early days of recording no standard notation was available and each author had his own pet notation. Nowadays there is a standard notation in common use and it is this which I will now briefly describe and use in future articles.

The doubling cube is indicated by a large block on the right-hand side of the board. If Black owns the cube it is shown at the lower right; if White owns it, it is shown at the upper right. The value of the cube is always shown (64 equates to 1 as there is no 1 on a traditional cube).

Dice rolls are given as two numbers followed by a colon. The numbering of points is based on the point of view of the player whose turn it is to move. Each point therefore has two numbers, depending on who is on roll. White's 5-point is Black's 20-point. Diagrams are normally numbered from the viewpoint of the player whose home board is at the bottom of the diagram; in the diagram here that is Black. Each checker movement is shown by giving the start and end point of the checker separated by a '/'. If a player is on the bar and fails to enter, a 0 is used to represent his roll. If a player is on the bar against a closed board, his move is left blank.

Hits are indicated by an asterisk (*). A move made from the bar has 'Bar' as its starting point. A move bearing off a checker has 'off' as its ending point. Where more than one checker is moved identically, as is often the case with doubles, this fact is indicated by showing the number of checkers moved in brackets after the move. All moves are numbered.

In a previous article I said that the shortest backgammon game was only two moves. Here it is (try playing it out on a board):

----------------------------------------------------------------- BLACK WHITE ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1 6-2: 24/18, 13/11 5-5: 8/3(2), 6/1*(2) 2 6-3: 0 Double 3 Pass -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Graphic omitted)