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Backgammon Spotlight on Akiko Yazawa

Winner of the World Backgammon Championships - in 2014 and 2018, Akiko cuts a pathway forward for all women.

Yazawa first started playing backgammon as part of a promise she made to herself. She promised herself that that she would try ten new things every year. Backgammon was one of the “new things” she tried, and it changed her life. Little did she know that this new game she learned in college would bring her international attention.

Akiko Yazawa, winner of the 2014 and 2018 Backgammon World Championships, is only the third female player who has ever won the Backgammon World Championship in Monte Carlo. Yazawa is a multi-talented woman who has fought many challenges on the Backgammon board and off. She has also battled cancer and won, wrote a book called “The Habit of Accelerating Luck”, and even played backgammon underwater.

In an interview, Yazawa commented on the fact that Backgammon is predominantly a male game and hopes that her influence on the game will change that, “Backgammon is overwhelmingly male, and when I was just starting out, I didn't think I was a player. I also hope that the future direction of female players will change as women win the world's best and twice.” Yazawa was also the first woman to make the World Backgammon Associations' “Backgammon Giants List.” Backgammon is not a large game in Japan, with players only making .06% of the competitive backgammon players, she has helped bring Japan to the main stage.

Yazawa is a survivor of stage endometrial cancer. The doctors gave her a 50% survival rate. Like with her backgammon, she is not used to losing. She beat cancer and most recently competed in the WBIF Online Team Championship 2020. She placed in the top ten once again making a name for herself on the global stage.

“The backgammon tournament is not just a one-shot game. It takes about 10 minutes to get one point, but the one who gets the set points first wins, so we play the game many times in one game. The final of the 2014 World Championships took about eight hours.”

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