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Introducing The Backgammon Tournament Primer

Did we mention that we are publishing a book? THE BACKGAMMON PRIMER. 


The book will be available on Amazon by mid-April. It encompasses the genesis of both the results of our survey, as well as interviews with women around the roadblocks they face when entering tournament play. It was inspired by Melanie Hughes' outreach two years ago when she suggested that we create a resource about tournament play, covering topics such as how to enter, what to enter, etiquette, dos and don'ts, and more.


Keep an eye out for "The Backgammon Primer." Our hope is that after reading it, women will feel more confident as they enter the tournament room and embark on their journey to success. We welcome your thoughts on what should be included, and we will provide more information in the coming weeks.


Now, let's share some insights from Christine's interview with Richard Munitz. Richard is not only a renowned player but has also dedicated a significant portion of the past few years to working on the definitive rules of backgammon. These rules are now used in all US Backgammon Federation tournaments and helped shape those used in tournaments worldwide. The primer will contain the new 2024 USBGF Tournament Rules document. 


During the interview, the topic of rules and their consistent enforcement (or lack thereof) came up for discussion. The power of tournament directors to enforce rules as they see fit, often with little guidance, has been a subject of conversation for years. The phrase "at the discretion of the Tournament Director" can sometimes be grating.


Richard confronted this issue directly. He explained, "There has to be discretion by the tournament director because much of the challenge in executing the rules arises from a 'he said, she said' situation. However, from my perspective, sometimes the confusion lies in the fact that many players, and even some tournament directors, are not knowledgeable about the rules, or do not know them as well as they should."


He highlighted the importance of rules and how they are sometimes undervalued. Richard believes that the integrity and future of the game depend on the clarity of the rules and the knowledge of every player and director.


He emphasizes the importance of truly knowing the rules, inside and out, just like a teen tennis player aspiring to greatness knows the rules of tennis or a fighter jet pilot knows how her plane operates. Richard posed a question to Christine, asking, "When was the last time you read the rules?" 

Christine's response? "Oh wait, never."


The discussion took an even more interesting turn when Richard and Christine discussed women's tendency to avoid controversy and often prefer to "let it go." Studies confirm that women will walk away from confrontation, even if they think they are right. Richard comes from the point of view that both men and women must rise above their desire to avoid challenging others in the room. This applies not just to women but also to men who may find themselves playing against opponents of higher stature. He believes that this is vital for maintaining the integrity of the game and its value as a sport. "If we, as players, do not challenge mistakes or request adherence to the rules by everyone, the integrity of the game and the value of the sport are diminished. Each player has an obligation to stand up for the rules in the most composed and clear manner possible. It's the only way the game can maintain its stature."


To gather more insights, we consulted a negotiator who provided us with some talking points on this topic, which will be further explored in the book:


1) Do not challenge intent. Instead, express your desire for clarification on the issue because you understand the rules to state a specific interpretation. 

2) Ensure that you do not touch the board or the other person, and refrain from raising your voice. Request clarification and then ask the director to

 come to the table. 

3) If you are not satisfied that the tournament director ruling is consistent with the Rules, players have the right to appeal tournament director decisions on rules to a Rules Committee. On all other tournament matters and where the Rules give directors discretion, the director has the final say. Their decision is binding. End the discussion there and decide later if you wish to pursue the matter further. 

4) Take note of any witnesses present who may need to be consulted 

by the director. 

5) Be a good sport. If you realize you were mistaken, or the TD or Rules Committee rules against you, apologize firmly once and then move on. 

6) Tournaments increasingly record and stream select matches. Typically, the tournament website will note that the tournament reserves the right to stream and/or record any match. By registering, you consent to appear in promotional materials or video. If the tournament director (or representative) asks you to play in a given place to be streamed, do so graciously. 


Here's an interesting tidbit about the rules to pique your curiosity: both players should keep a written score separately – even if a scoreboard visible to all is used. If only one player keeps a written score and there is a discrepancy at the end, the player who kept score is given greater weight. 


That's the end of that story.


Sit up straight and read the rules. Remember that the game of backgammon has been around for centuries and deserves the best effort we can offer. Knowing the rules and demanding their observance is the least we can do to preserve the game's integrity.


--Karen and Christine, co-founders, Women's World of Backgammon 


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