In 2012 I got in touch with backgammon expert, tutor and author, Phil Simborg after I heard he was forming a set of rules that he hoped would be used internationally in most tournaments. I told him I was interested in his venture and that I would look carefully at his efforts and adapt/adopt his new rules for Biba tournaments. Phil and colleagues, Jeb Horton and Chuck Bower finally produced their new rules and I have decided to use selected sections for Biba.
Phil’s complete set can be downloaded from www.bgonline.org/TournamentRules.docx NB it is in docx format.
If anyone would like a copy of the Biba Rules click here to download a pdf.
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Biba Backgammon Rules & Procedures
These rules are designed to protect players from those that seek to use them to gain an advantage. The Tournament Rules & Procedures cannot, and should not, regulate all possible situations that may arise during a game. No set of rules should deprive the Director of his freedom of judgement and prevent him from finding the solution dictated by fairness and compatible with the circumstances of a particular case. When there is a doubt or question as to the application of a rule, a general approach is to tend to rule against the player who has, either intentionally or unintentionally, initiated an action that created the question or conflict in the first place.
Except where otherwise specified, the commonly accepted rules of backgammon apply.
The Director shall be Michael Crane or others appointed by him.
All entries are subject to the Director’s approval.
Once a match is in progress, neither player may use mechanical or written aids except to keep score, or record matches. Headphones can only be worn if opponent agrees.
The official tournament language is English. Speech in any other language will not be permitted at any time between players and/or spectators whilst a match is in progress.
Spectators should remain silent while observing a match. They have no right to draw attention to any misplays or comment on plays, the only exception to this is if a spectator sees that a clock is running when it should not or is not running when it should, and then they may say something to the players. Spectators who observe improprieties or irregularities during a match should discuss them in private with the Director (Rule 6.2). With proof of improprieties, irregularities or signalling between a player and spectator(s), all parties will be disqualified from the tournament, and banned from all the playing areas losing any claims to prizes etc. Players may request the Director to bar any spectator without reason.
1.8 Match Recording
Players may record their own matches either with pen and paper or video camera as long as the method used is unobtrusive and does not interfere with the playing of the game. Players may take photos of positions only if their opponent does not object and during their own time if clocks are being used. Matches, positions, and plays that are recorded at tournaments are considered “public domain” and may be used or copied freely by players, spectators, and tournament officials. Biba reserves the right to record matches of its choice.
1.9 Code of Behaviour
The organiser will not tolerate bad behaviour. Any player deemed guilty of such may be barred from the tournament losing all and any claims to prizes etc. (6.3 Appeals). At the request of their opponent players must refrain from excessive shaking of the dice or talking during play. (see Standards)
All matches to be played in areas agreed by the Director. Any player missing from the main playing room when called out in the draw shall incur the first penalty point after an absence of 5 minutes from the start of the match unless they are absent with the Director's permission.
Matches shall start promptly at the appointed time. Two 10-minute recesses only are allowed per 11-point match. Players must use their breaks at the same time and the time the break started is to be written down, (If clocks are in use, the remaining time on each player’s clock must be recorded and agreed to prior to the players leaving the table) signed by both players and left with the Director. Any player absent for longer than 10 minutes is liable to be penalised at the request of the opponent or at the Director's discretion.
2.3 Penalty Points
Penalty points will be awarded against latecomers and absentees at the rate of one per five minutes late, the first point being awarded 5 minutes after the appointed starting time. When the total of penalty points amount to more than 50% of the total points to win the match the absent player shall forfeit the match.
2.4 Slow Play
Players are expected to play at a reasonable pace. If, in the Director's opinion a match is not progressing at a reasonable pace a warning may be given. If slow play continues the Director can either award penalty points or issue clocks in accordance with BIBA Clock Rules. The Director's decision is final.
The Director may appoint a monitor to observe a match on his own initiative or at the request of any player. The Monitor shall have full powers to protect each player from an opponent's irregularities.
Either player may demand that both use when available and approved by the Director, precision dice (over any others), and/or lipped cups or baffle boxes, 28" (max) wide boards (if playing space is restricted, boards greater than 28" wide may be barred from the main playing room). The Director may determine that one player’s equipment is clearly inferior in terms of playability and he may make the decision rather than leaving it up to a roll of the dice. After the start of a match, equipment can only be changed by the Director.
If necessary, the direction of play, equipment, choice of checker colour and seat location shall be decided by the roll of the highest die prior to the commencement of play. The Director may overrule the roll of dice to decide if they deem a player will suffer a disadvantage should they lose the roll.
Either player may demand a mixing of the four dice prior to the start of any game. The demanding player shakes and rolls all four dice then each selects a die in turn. When a clock is used, two dice are selected and the others set aside if needed. If either player calls for a dice change, all four dice will be used to select the two in play.
4.1 Random Rolls
A legal roll consists of both dice being placed into the cup and shaken vigorously, side to side and up and down, before rolling simultaneously onto the board to the right of the bar. They are to be thrown from a discernible height (3" or more) and be seen to bounce and roll freely across the board.
For the first roll of each game each player throws a single die in the board to their right to begin the game and the player with the larger die plays both dice as his first move. If one player’s die is cocked, only his roll is rolled again. The player with the lower die must not touch the dice until the other player has completed his turn and picked up his dice or hit the clock. The play is not over until the player with the higher die picks up the dice or hits the clock thus completing the first roll. Subsequently, both dice must come to rest flat at the same time (not cocked) on the playing surface to the right of the bar otherwise they must be rolled again. If any dice are projected off the board (including during the First Roll) and subsequently land back on the board or come into contact with anything other than the board itself then the entire roll (or die on First Roll) shall be deemed invalid and both dice (or the one die) must be rolled again.
Players should move clearly, using only one hand to play the checkers. Players shall re-enter any checker on the bar before moving any other checker. Should it be necessary to reposition the dice to faciltate a play the player must announce their intention to do so and to clearly state the dice roll before carrying out the action. No player shall move any checkers during an opponent's turn. Deviations from proper moving procedure may result in an adverse ruling in cases of dispute.
4.4 Checker Handling
Checkers that have been hit must be kept on the bar pending re-entry. Checkers that have been borne off must be kept off the entire playing surface for the rest of the game. Failure to observe these procedures may result in an adverse ruling in any case of dispute or redress to an opponent harmed thereby.
4.5 Lifting Dice
Players conclude their turn by lifting either or both dice; or when a clock is in use a player’s turn ends only when he presses the clock plunger. After the player has lifted both of the dice or pressed the clock plunger the move can only be changed to replay an illegal move. [see Clock Rules]
4.6 Premature Action
An opponent may not roll until the other player on roll has completed his turn. All completed premature actions shall stand or be re-rolled at the player's discretion. A player who has yet to complete his turn or act upon the cube, may then do so with the foreknowledge of the premature roller's dice throw or cube action. If an opponent premature rolls, the player has the option of allowing the roll to stand, but may still revise or complete his move, knowing what the opponent’s roll is, or, he may require the roller to roll over once he has completed his move (whether he decides to change the move he has made or not). NB: If you allow your opponent to premature roll during the match and not make any comment or warning about it, you have given up your right to impose the premature roll rule on your opponent later in the match. The premature action rule applies even if the initial roller’s play is forced, or even if he is on the bar and cannot move. [see Clock Rules]
4.7 Error In Set-Up
If a game has begun and the checkers did not start out in their proper, initial position, a correction shall be made if the error was discovered before completion of the move corresponding to the second roll of the game. If the error is discovered after that, the game shall continue without adjustment. Players starting with less than fifteen checkers can still be gammoned or backgammoned.
4.8 Illegal Moves
All moves in the game shall be Legal Moves only. After the conclusion of a turn and before the dice are next tossed, if either player notices that the just completed move is inconsistent with the dice (an “illegal move”), the dice shall be replaced on the surface with the actual roll showing, the checkers replaced to their position before the illegal move and the player must replay his turn. If the illegal move isn’t noticed until after the subsequent dice roll, the play stands as made. Illegal moves include leaving or placing checkers on the bar or off the board that should not have been left or moved there, not picking up a checker that had to have been hit in order to move legally, or moving checkers to the wrong points. Note that only the players or a tournament official may point out any illegal moves - spectators are required to remain silent unless asked by both players to assist. [see Clock Rules]
4.9 Game Completion
Games must be rolled to completion unless ended by a pass of a double or redouble, or conceded as single game, gammon or backgammon losses where it is mathematically impossible for an opponent to win or save a gammon or backgammon. Any player may seek to, or offer to, concede only after completing their turn. To accept a concession, opponent says "accept" and resets the board for a new game. To reject a concession, opponent says "reject" and summons the Director to adjudicate. Non-adherence may lead to disqualification of one or both players, and result in the loss of all and any claims to prize money etc. [see Clock Rules]
4.10 Match Completion
A match ends as soon as one player’s score meets or exceeds the agreed upon match-length as written on the draw sheet/score sheet. Neither player may concede the match prior to this occurrence. Note that regardless of score, a match may not end on a dropped cube. If a cube is mistakenly offered by the leader and is dropped the match does not end. Instead, the player is alerted of his error, the double is accepted, and the game is completed with the cube at its current value. If the match was played to the wrong score, with both players assuming that the match had ended, the result stands regardless of whether the match was played to a longer or shorter score. Players may not intentionally agree to play to a score different from what is posted or announced, and if that is determined, either or both players may be penalised.
5.1 Keeping Score
Each player shall keep a running match score and compare it with the opponent's at the start of each game. It must clearly show the number of points played to, each point won and be openly displayed for the opponent to check and verify and must follow the format as shown in the example below. In the event of a scoring dispute the player not keeping score in accordance with this rule will be at a disadvantage.
5.1a Visual Score Displays (see above)
Such aids are approved by Biba but they should not replace a written score kept by both players as shown above.
It is the responsibility of both players to ensure that the cube is in the middle of the board and that the "64" face is showing at the start of every game. In the event of a dispute, current position and level of the cube will strongly affect the Director's ruling. If a spectator sees that the cube has not been centered they should inform the Tournament Director. The cube should be removed completely from the playing area during the Crawford game only (5.5 Crawford Rule).
5.3 Cube Rules
Gammons and backgammons shall count at all times. It is not necessary to double an opponent first to win a gammon or backgammon. Beavering is not allowed. Automatic doubles are not allowed.
5.4 Cube Handling
Players may only double when it is their turn to roll and must do so before rolling, (cocked dice are deemed "rolling" dice). To offer a double or redouble move the cube towards the opponent at the higher level saying clearly, "double" or similar. To take, draw the cube towards oneself and say, "take" or similar, placing the cube on your side of the board. Both players should ensure that the correct level is displayed. To reject the cube one says, "pass" or "drop" and the game is concluded. If there is any ambiguity in the manner in which a player offers the cube or takes the cube, any ruling or dispute shall tend to go against the player who was ambiguous or misleading. If a player verbally says he doubles, or says he is going to double, he must double when it is his turn. If a player clearly reaches for the cube, or picks it up, or gives any indication that he is doubling, he must follow through and double. If the player says he will drop or take if doubled, he cannot change his mind. If a player wishes to move or reposition the cube without the intention of doubling, he must state that he is “repositioning” prior to handling the cube. [see Clock Rules]
The Crawford Rule will apply to all matches. When a player reaches match point, the cube cannot be used by either player for that one game and should be removed from the board for this one game only. Use of the cube will not be recognised if any player doubles during the Crawford game. If a player forgets the Crawford rule and doubles, and the other player accepts, and the error is discovered before the next match begins, the score shall be corrected as if the cube had not been turned. The Tournament Director will determine if the match will be replayed from the beginning of the game or, if possible, from the position where the double occurred. If the match ends, and the turned cube was directly responsible for the trailer winning the match, and then the error is discovered, the correction shall be made and the match continued. If, however, the error is discovered after the next round of play has begun, the match will not be continued and the result will stand. Spectators must report any such use to the Director. In any subsequent games the cube should be replaced on the board and can be used prior to any legal throw, except the opening roll. (5.2 Cube SetUp).
5.6 Score Result
The final score should be reported to the Director, or someone appointed by him, by both players immediately upon completion of the match. It is the winner's responsibility to check that the correct result is recorded and posted. In the eventuality of an incorrect result being posted, this may only be corrected if neither player has started playing the next round.
When a dispute arises, both players must leave dice, checkers, cube and score-sheet unchanged while the Director is summoned. Violations in this area by either player are most serious and create a presumption in favour of the opponent.
Any player may argue issues of fact or rule. Spectators, except to report cheating (in private), testify only at the Director's request. Spectators are required to report any suspected cheating, collusion or faulty equipment directly to a tournament official and not to the players involved.
A player may appeal against the Director's ruling but must do so promptly, while timely redress may be obtained. To resolve an appeal, the Director shall convene a committee of three knowledgeable and disinterested players who shall hear the testimony from any witnesses, and all relevant arguments from both parties as reported by the Director (but excluding the Director's initial ruling); and may overturn the Director's ruling by a unanimous vote. In order to ensure a fair decision the two players involved will be kept secret from the committee to prevent a biased opinion. The committee's decision is final and thus exhausts the right to appeal.
Standards of Ethical Practice
The following Standards are expected of all participants and spectators at backgammon competitions.
1. The Golden Rule is clearly a proper concept. Treat your opponents as you would expect them to treat you: with courtesy and fairness.
2. Since there is no official or referee, you are obligated to strictly enforce the rules and penalties against yourself. You should not ask for, expect, or even accept leniency. If you break a rule, whether intentionally or by accident, you should insist that the appropriate penalty be applied.
3. In keeping with the above two concepts, when your opponent breaks a rule you should also insist that he accepts the appropriate penalty.
4. The concepts of fair play and good sportsmanship shall take precedence, and players should not take advantage of their opponent due to a “technicality” or accidental occurrence. (e.g. there is an external disturbance and a player neglects to take his turn, hit his clock, or move a checker off the bar).
5. Foul language, threatening language, insulting remarks, “deceptive” statements or actions, are subject to punitive response by the tournament director. Said response may include a warning, to a point deduction or penalty in the current or future matches, or expulsion from the competition.
6. Spectators have an obligation to help maintain good sportsmanship and fair play and may not cheer for a player during a match nor may they offer any comments or advice relative to the match until the match is completed.