Tips for Live Tournament Play


By Phil Simborg


If you are new, or relatively new to playing in live backgammon tournaments, here are a few things that might make it a little easier for you.


Before the tournament:

  1. Talk to the tournament director ahead of time, and find out exactly what division and events you should be playing in.  Generally, you want to play in the lowest division for which you are eligible…but if you are a reasonably good player, do not play in Novice (beginner) as it will not be challenging for you.
  2. Bring a board.  Even if you have to borrow one.  And be sure you have “precision” dice and cups.  (Rounded dice.)
  3. Practice playing over a board.  Learn how to play going in BOTH directions. 
  4. Read the rules of play before you start.  That will tell you about legal moves, ending your turn, protocol for doubling, rules for shaking the dice and rolling, etc. etc.
  5. Learn how to count pips.  There are many on-line guides to help you find the shortcuts.  Knowing the pip count over the board is important to good play.
  6. Learn the basic concepts of match equity and cube strategy.  In tournaments, equity is critical.
  7. Get a copy of the tournament entry form and information and read it carefully.  Be sure you are on time, know where to go, and know when the breaks area.  If there are lectures and other side events, be sure to participate…it will make the whole experience more enriching.


During the tournament:


  1. Remember, the tournament staff is there to help you.  Ask questions any time you have one.  Don’t be shy.
  2. Be sure you know, off the draw sheet, how many points each match is to be played to.  Many people just assume, and they assume wrong.  Match length can change every round in some tournaments.
  3. Always write down the score, and say the score out loud to make sure your opponent has the same score you do.
  4. Win or lose, make sure the result is reported immediately after the match.
  5. Relax, have fun, and don’t worry if you make mistakes.  Everyone makes some illegal moves, or forgets to double, or forgets to pick up a checker when they hit it.  Don’t beat yourself up if you make some errors.  It’s just a game!
  6. Between matches, sit down and quietly watch some of the better players—you can learn much from them. 
  7. Use a camera or your phone to take pictures of positions that give you problems.  Between matches, find a more experienced player to go over your questions with you.


Most importantly, HAVE FUN AND MAKE FRIENDS!