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As in life, in the game of Backgammon there also exists a code of ethical behavior. This is probably the most thorough guide you will find anywhere about proper manners when playing over the board at a real live backgammon tournament. The second part of our backgammon courtesies guide will focus on online backgammon etiquette.
Live Tournament Etiquette
Let’s first talk about conventional practices and proper conduct in live play. After you register at a live tournament, a public draw will be held to determine who plays who in the first round of the competition. You will see the name of your first opponent accompanied by yours in a bracket on the ladder sheet, if you do not know your opponent the tournament staff will indicate who the player is.
Once you find your opponent greet him or her with a handshake and introduce yourself, and then find a free table to play on. Before starting your match, agree on your preferences for direction of play and colour of checkers. If you both have a same preference, roll a single die each and the player who rolls the higher number wins the right to choose according to his preference.
If at any time during the tournament you disagree with your opponent on a play or have any other issue with a player during the tournament, try to work it out with him or her in a polite and respectful manner, but if you feel your opponent is being unreasonable, remain calm and call one of the members of the tournament staff to resolve the matter. Never accuse your opponent of making a wrong move or other illegality on purpose - we’re all human, and anyone can make a mistake.
- Before the match starts, get rid of any distractions. Turn off your cell phone, don’t munch on noisy food while playing and avoid speaking to spectators. If you do speak to a friend or spectator, make sure you do in the official language of the particular tournament otherwise your opponent may not understand what is being said and could suspect that the person you are talking to is helping you to play.
- Mechanical or electronic aids may not be used except to keep score, so if you want to write down certain positions to study them later, you must ask permission from your opponent to do so, prior to the start of play.
- Make sure you both have a score sheet (provided by the tournament staff) and that you both are aware of the amount of points (match length) you are playing to. After each game, update your score sheet and agree on the current score with your opponent by saying, for example, “the score is now 5 to 3”. - When you begin to play, remember that you must roll the dice on what is your right side of the board; otherwise, a dice roll will be considered invalid. So always remember to roll on the right to avoid disputes.
- The dice must land flatly on the surface of the board. If you roll “cocked” dice, before picking them up to roll again, it is not a bad idea to point to the dice and make sure your opponent acknowledges the invalid roll.
- To see who gets to play first in a game, each player rolls one die and the player who rolls the higher number plays the opening roll using both numbers tossed.
- Dice cups are used to shake and toss the dice in live play. When it is your turn to roll, it is proper to shake the dice in the cup a few times and release them from a height that will allow them to bounce and roll on the surface of the board.
- Do not shake your dice while your opponent is playing his move as it may be annoying when he is concentrating on his move and he might also take it as a sign that you are pushing him to play faster.
- Always keep the dice cup visible at a level above the playing surface of the board – do not hold it under the table (i.e. in your lap) between turns as this is a ploy that has been used by dice mechanics (cheaters) to switch real dice for loaded dice under the table and thus may arouse suspicion of foul play.
- Do not make premature rolls. You must wait until your opponent picks up his dice before you can perform your roll. If you do roll beforehand, your opponent has the option to change any move he has made so far (after all, it is still his turn to play) and with foreknowledge of your next roll since he also has the option to say the dice you rolled stand, though, he can also tell you to now roll them again if you did have a really good roll. If you are playing a match using clocks, you do not have to worry about premature rolls since the same pair of dice is used by the players.
- Do not use both hands to move your checkers. Always pick them up (or slide them) with one hand and play them in movements that are clearly visible to your opponent.
- If you are not playing a clocked match, you can take the time you need to make what you think is the best play, however, don’t overdo it, especially if you have only two obvious choices. And if you consistently play slow, your opponent may ask the tournament director to assign a clock to the table.
- If you believe your opponent made a wrong play with the numbers of his roll, such as moved a checker five pips instead of four, do not roll your dice, otherwise you lose the right to have him change his move. Instead, politely mention that you believe he made an error and ask him to play the checker correctly. Never touch your opponent’s checker and if he refuses to change the move, don’t argue with him, just call one of the members of the tournament staff to resolve the situation.
- Never complain when your opponent gets lucky rolls, just take things in stride, backgammon is a game of skill and luck - your lucky breaks will come too, and when they do, don’t gloat about them, it’s rude.
- Some players are very serious and like to concentrate on every play during the games, therefore do not chat with your opponent unless you have seen an indication that he does not mind talking during the match –such an indication would be that he initiates a conversation with you.
- Do not comment on the plays of your opponent. Do not say something like, “wow, I think you made a big mistake on that play”, as the player may become insulted. Truth is any wrong moves you think your opponent made are to your advantage anyway.
- When resigning a game, make sure you offer the correct value of points to your opponent, and do not, for example, offer a single game if he or she still has chances of winning a gammon or backgammon.
- After the match, whether you win or lose, offer a handshake to your opponent, say thank you for the match and give him a compliment as a good player if you feel he deserves it.