Historians have found references of Backgammon dating as far back as AD 476–491. It has been around longer than Chess. Keep reading the history of Backgammon.

History of Backgammon

Archaeological digs have traced back thousands of years that Backgammon was played by Egyptians, Romans, and Persians on wood surfaces, with stones as markers and dice carved out of bones or wood.

When Backgammon found its way to the Persians, it was known as "Takhteh Nard" which translates to English as "Battle on Wood". The Persians reduced the number of dice used to play from 3 to 2.

Backgammon became part of the Anglo Saxon culture early in the 7th century, and it became a popular game for the soldiers and traders during the Medieval Crusades, known as "Tables" or "Tabula".

Attempts to outlaw Backgammon

Churches attempted to outlaw the game several times, however these attempts were not accomplished because players began to play the game by drawing the design of the board in dirt and sand, using small stones as the pieces, and quickly carving the dice out of things that could be easily discarded.

Declaring the game to be "the devil's folly" in the earlier part of the 16th century, Cardinal Woolsey ordered for all Backgammon boards to be burned. The idea of folding the board in half to look like a book was a creative disguise thought of by English craftsmen, which continues to be the standard design of the board today.

Backgammon comes to America

Finding its way into the English language in the 1600s, the name "Backgammon" originated from the Welsh, which translates into English as "wee battle". In the mid 1700s, Edmund Hoyle published works on the rules of Backgammon.

The new settlers of America brought the game along with them, making it a popular game to play in American homes. During the Victorian age, the game lost its popularity, however in the earlier part of the 20th century, it regained popularity once again when the doubling cube was introduced into the game.

It is believed that an unknown gambler introduced the doubling cube in New York during the 1920s. The doubling cube enhanced the element of skill, which further increased the game's marketability.

Backgammon was mostly played in private clubs of upper class societies, and the modified rules in 1931 continue to govern the way it is played today.

The 1960s and Backgammon tournaments

During the 1960s, Prince Alexis Obelensky began to organize and promote Backgammon tournaments, and players began to study and practice game strategies. It was during this era that the first Official Backgammon World Championship in the Bahamas was held, and winning this tournament continues to be the game's highest honor today.

Described as Backgammon's heyday, the 1970s brought increasing popularity and publicity to the game with tournaments, books, magazines, and newspaper articles dedicated to it.

The game became popular with both the middle class and younger generation populations; remaining popular with the upper class population as well. As tournament prize pots soared into six digit numbers, its popularity became widespread throughout the United States and Europe.

The 1980s, the Internet, and computer enhanced Backgammon

In the 1980s the popularity of this game declined among the younger generation as a result of video game home consoles like Atari, Sega, and Nintendo being introduced to consumers. For players that remained interested in the game, they continued to learn the intricacies involved, and the invention of computer Backgammon further enhanced the player's understanding by providing a decent opponent to play against.

In 1992, Gerald Tesauro created TD-Gammon, which was software that could teach itself how to play Backgammon. This was accomplished by training temporal-difference learning to artificial neurons that mimic how the biological brain solves problems. This program explored unpursued strategies, which led to the advancement in theories of how to play the game better, and furthermore achieved a play level slightly under that of champion Backgammon players.

In 1993, Andreas Schneider created First Internet Backgammon Server (FIBS), which became hosted for free in Sweden on an academic computer. This offered players the opportunity to save and watch matches to compare weaknesses and strengths through a rating system. More than 100 players at any time were found to be playing on this server.

Advancements in technology is expected to provide the stimulus for more players than ever before to play the game, as the internet allows players throughout the world to play against one another with a simple click of the mouse.

Last update: 30-09-2019
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