Backgammon. Backgammon is the modern name of a game of considerable antiquity in England, where it was formerly known by the appellation of "the tables." The words back-gammon have been ascribed to the Welsh tongue, in which they are said to signify little battle; but Strutt, with greater plausibility, traces the term to the Saxon " bac and gamen - that is, back-game - so denominated because the performance consists in the two players bringing their men back from their antagonist's tables into their own; or because the pieces are sometimes taken up and obliged to go back - that is, reenter at the table they came from." Whatever he the etymology of the term, the game has been long established in the country; and, as a fireside am use-ment of a decorous and exciting nature, is a favourite among clergymen, squires, farmers, and retired professional persons.
The Backgammon Table. Backgammon is played with an apparatus consisting of a board or tables, men or pieces, dice, and dice-boxes. The introduction of dice into the game, and their constant use in determining moves, makes backgammon essentially a game of chance, and therefore brings two players of unequal talents nearer a level than other diversions in which skill is the sole or predominant element.
The backgammon board consists of two parts or tables, generally united by a hinge in the middle, by which they can be shut up as a box. Each table possesses twelve points, six at each end. These points are coloured white and black alternately; but this variation of colour has no reference to the game, and is only done to make the points more easily counted.
The game is played by two parties, and with thirty pieces or men; each party has fifteen men, one set of fifteen being black, and the other white. In beginning the game, the men are placed on certain points on the tables, as shewn in the foregoing figure.
The game is played with two dice and two dice-boxes. The dice are common to both ; but each party uses his own dice-box, and the throws are alternate.
Each dice is a perfect cube, marked on its sides with dots from one to six. The one is called ace ; the two, deuce ; the three, tre, or trois; the four, quatre; the five, cinque; and the six, size. At every throw the two dice are employed ; consequently, a person may throw from two up to twelve - that is two aces up to two sizes.
If a player throw doublets, or both dice of one number, double the number of dots is reckoned ; thus, by a throw of two aces, the player does not count two, but four.
These numbers thrown, or accidentally turned up by the dice, bear a reference to the points on the tables. In order to understand this connection between the dice and the men, the learner must observe how the men are placed on the points, and the rules by which their shifting from one to another is governed.
The tables are here spread out as if two partners were seated, and about to begin to play. The party owning the white men is seated at W, and the party owning the black men at B. We shall call one party White and another Black. White counts round from the ace-point of Black, and Black counts round from the ace-point of White. These ace-points are respectively seen to have two men upon them in opposite corners of the same table.
The grand object of the game is for each party to get all his men played round into the table containing the aces, removing them from point to point agreeable to the throws of the dice.
In throwing, the number upon each die turned up may be reckoned by itself, or collectively, with the number on the other die. Thus, if quatre be thrown by one die, and size by the other, a man can be advanced four points, and another six points; or one man can be advanced ten points, always providing that a point is open to suit this movement to it. No point can be moved to if covered by two men belonging to the adversary. If covered by only one man, which is called a blot, then that man can be hit, and be removed from the point, and placed on the bar between the tables, his place being taken by the man who has won it.
The removal of a man to the bars throws a player considerably behind in the game, because the man must remain out of the play till the dice turn up a certain number corresponding to one open point on the adversary's table. Being fortunate to get an open point by this means, the man must be entered and wrought round from thence, as in the case of others in the set to which he belongs. The frequent occurrence of this hitting of a blot gives an adversary a great advantage, and allows him to win the gammon.
There are two kinds of victory - winning the hit, and winning the gammon. The party who has played all his men round into his own table, and by fortunate throws of the dice has borne or played the men off the point first, wins the hit.
The gammon may be explained as follows : When you have got all your men round to your own table, covering every point, and your adversary has a man out, then you are enabled to bear or lift your men away. If you can bear all away, so as to clear your table before the adversary gets his man placed by a throw on your table, you win the gammon. If the adversary has been able to bear one before you have borne all your men, it reduces the victory to a hit.
Two hits are reckoned equal to one gammon in playing matches. To win two games out of three is called winning the rub, as at whist.
Hoyle's Directions for Bearing Men:. - If a player has taken up two of the adversary's men, and happens to have two, three, or more points made in his own tables, he should spread his men, that he either may take a new point in his tables, or be ready to hit the man which the adversary may happen to enter. If he finds, upon the adversary's entering, that the game is upon a par, or that the advantage is on his own side, he should take the adversary's man up whenever he can, it being twenty-five to eleven that he is not hit; except when he is playing for a tingle hit only; then, if playing the throw otherwise gives him a better chance for it, he ought to do it.
It being five to one against his being hit with double dice, he should never be deterred from taking up any one man of the adversary's.
If he has taken up one of the adversary's men, and should happen to have five points in his own tables, and forced to leave a blot out of his tables, he should endeavour to leave it upon doublets preferable to any other chance, because in that case the odds are thirty-five to one that he is not hit; whereas it is only seventeen to one that he is hit upon any other chance.
When the adversary is very forward, a player should never move a man from his quatre, trois, or deuce points, thinking to bear that man from the point where he put it, as nothing but high doublets can give him any chance for the hit. Instead of playing an ace or a deuce from any of those points, he should play them from his own size or highest points; so that throwing two fives or two fours, his size and cinque points being eased, would be a considerable advantage to him ; whereas, had they been loaded, he must have been obliged to play otherwise.
It is the interest of the adversary to take up the pla\er as soon as he enters. The blot should be left upon the adversary's lowest point - that is to say, upon his deuce-point rather than upon his trois-point; or upon his trois-point rather than upon his quatre-point; or upon his quatre point pre-ferable to his cinque-point - for a reason before mentioned : all the men the adversary plays upon his trois or his deuce-points are deemed lost, being greatly out of play ; so that those men, not having it in their power to make his cinque-point, and his game being crowded in one place, and open in another, the adversary must be greatly annoyed by the player.
If the player has two of the adversary's men in his tables, he has a better chance for a hit than if he had more, provided his game is forwarder than that of his antagonist; for if he had three or more of the adversary's men in his tables, he would stand a worse chance to be hit.
When a player is running to save the gammon, if he should have two men upon his ace-point, and several men abroad, although he should lose one point or two in putting his men into his tablet, it is his interest to leave a man upon the adversary's ace-point, because it will prevent his adversery from bearing his men to the greatest advantage, and, ;at the same time, the player will have a chance of the adversary's making a blot, which he may chance to hit. However, if a player finds, upon a throw, that he has a probability of saving his gammon, he should never wait for a blot, as the odds are greatly against his hitting it, but should embrace that opportunity.