I first came across the game of backgammon mentioned in various novels – with no clue of what the board even looked like or how to play it. Once I had actually seen a board for the first time I was none the wiser: there was nothing intuitive about it.

The game of Backgammon is said to be one of the oldest board games still in existence, having originated – according to various sites consulted – about 5 000 years ago in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). The word backgammon first appeared in print in 1645 and its etymology is thought to have roots in Middle English baec (back) and gamen (game). The Dutch painter, Jan Steen, depicted the game of backgammon in his painting titled Backgammon Fight.

Compare this backgammon board from the 13th century:

With the board my eight-year-old grandson introduced me to:

I had to admit defeat before I had even begun, assuring him that I had never played the game before and didn’t even know how to begin. “I’m a good teacher, Granny” he told me confidently. During the first round he gently corrected my errors and even helped me to biff some of his pieces off the board. I found it difficult to get my head around the fact that his pieces were travelling around the board in one direction and mine in the other.

He is a good teacher: after a few rounds lasting only minutes (during which I was thoroughly walloped) I began to get a glimmer of technique – thanks to his patient explanations. Our final game together lasted over twenty minutes: we laughed so much and did our best to outdo each other. This was no pushover on either side: we concentrated hard, shouted with excitement … and I am hooked!



24 thoughts on “BACKGAMMON

    • Dit het so vir my ook gelyk, maar toe my kleinseun so mooi vir my begin verduidelik het ek agtergekom dat dit eintlik lekker is om te speel.


  1. I played it a few times with my husband years ago but we decided we preferred Scrabble! Your grandson sounds lovely.


  2. I once tried to learn how to play backgammon but never succeeded. I think it was the teacher’s fault. I was my own teacher. Failed as both teacher and student in that effort.


    • I had an excellent teacher, although without access to either a board or a fellow player, I will probably have forgotten how to play when next I see our grandson 🙂


  3. I enjoy board games. We had a backgammon set as kids that was an easier version where the players went in the same direction around a square. Not sure if I’d know how to play the real version!


  4. It sounds intriguing. My only reference to backgammon is from the British Masterpiece TV series Grantchester, where the vicar and his policeman crime-solving partner often retire to the pub to play a game, drink a pint and mull over a case. I’ve often wondered what it involved but no one here plays it and I’ve never seen a board.


  5. I learned to play backgammon in Turkey. It seemed the men played the game and drank tea most of the day, while the women picked fruit and kept house. I remember that I liked the game and I didn’t have any problem learning it. But I never played again, in all the decades since, and it’s certain I would be a slow learner at this point. Still, if a grandchild wanted to teach me, I would not refuse the opportunity!


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