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Backgammon History: Back to Where it All Began

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Backgammon is a game that traces its origins to ancient times. The history of this game is as rich and colorful as that of chess and other popular board games. The ancient Egyptian game called Senet, whose existence probably dates back to 33rd Century BC, resembled backgammon. Also included in the long ancestral list of backgammon is the Mesopotamian board game called The Royal Game of Ur.

Ludus duodecim scriptorum, a game that is noticeably similar to backgammon, was played by ancient Romans. This particular game employed a board with three rows, each of which contains 12 points. Like the pieces used in backgammon, the pieces in this game were moved in conjunction with the roll of the dice across the three rows. Other details of this game remain sketchy however, as there are only a handful of documents about how the game was played and what the rules were.

During the Middle Ages, a similar game named Game of Tables was being played. The board consists of 24 points and this particular game had many variations. These games differed from one country to the next, and their differences were partly attributed to their geographical location and the people who played them. Some games that were documented during this era (12th to 13th century) include Golaka-Krida, Todas Tablas and Shuanglu. These games were played in India, Spain and China respectively.

During the early 15th century – roughly the same era as that of the Renaissance – similar games were also being played and also, interestingly enough, in different countries. Like these games predecessors, their names varied, though there was little difference with the way they were played. In France it was called Toutes Tables, in England it was called Irish, and in Italy Totae Tabulae. Of the trio, Irish was the oldest (1509), next was Totae Tabulae (1526) and the last being Toutes Tables (1532).

The term backgammon first came up in England during 1635 in an article called Familiar Letters. The only difference between Irish and Backgammon was that doubles were played two times in the latter. The backgammon mentioned here is now known as early backgammon, with modern backgammon only appearing during the 1920’s. In the year 1743 (a part of the Enlightenment era), the first backgammon rules were codified by Edmond Hoyle. His article is called A Short Treatise on the Game of Back-Gammon.

As the reader may now surmise, backgammon did not materialize in just one day. The history of this game we now enjoy is the result of a long process of refinement and improvement.