The Backgammon News Facebook page in early August published a comment: “Why Do We Have Women's Tournaments in Backgammon.” It generated 133 comments within a few days. Nearly all were from men, and the large majority were supportive of the effort. But several argued that such events should be open to men as well. And, of course, the sexist comments also showed up. You can read some of the comments below.
Why do we have women’s tournaments in backgammon?
We have been instrumental in encouraging the growth of women-only events at major backgammon tournaments in the U.S. and worldwide. Our primary motivation was to find more seats for women at the backgammon tables. There is a severe underrepresentation of women in competitive backgammon. Women's tournaments/events provide opportunities for women to compete in a safe, women-friendly environment; gain visibility for top women players; and giving those wanting to try their hand at competition a comfortable, but challenging, place to compete. It fits with our mission to grow the competitive backgammon community by bringing women's participation, place, and preeminence on a par with men.
We found that in 2021 women represented 14 percent of entrants in the American Backgammon Tour (ABT), and only 5 percent of women in the Championship division. Women are underrepresented in the ranks of the best players – only two out of 236 BMAB grandmasters/masters are women (with two more who have qualified on PR rating but are awaiting sufficient experience points); only one woman is on the Giants of Backgammon top 32 list, and three women are on the Giants-64 list. Only four women have been backgammon world champions in over 50 years.
A Backgammon. Winning. Women/Backgammon Galaxy survey of online players in 2022 found that the major reason women do not participate in competitive tournaments as they would like is that they are intimidated. They also report lower skill level attainment and a desire to improve their game, particularly through coaching.
Actions to Help Bring Women to a Par with Men Backgammon Players
In response to the survey findings and feedback from the backgammon community, BWW has increased the number of Backgammon Expertise Learning Sessions we offer on Zoom (open to all, men and women); hosting an annual BWW Mixed Doubles event; provided added money for women's events and funding for recording/transcribing women's matches at four major ABT tournaments annually.
Since we founded Backgammon. Winning. Women. two years ago, progress has been slow but encouraging. Seven ABT tournaments have women-only events, up from two in 2019. There are now several tournaments recognizing women champions: the Women's World Backgammon Championship in Monaco in July 2023 (upgraded from the former 10 annual Ladies Events); the World Backgammon Internet Federation Online World Women's Championship in 2022 and 2023 (with BWW providing 500 Euros of added prize money); the 2022 USBGF National Women's Championship at the Sunny Florida tournament; and the 2022 and 2023 Online National Women's Championship. WBIF will host an Online Women's Team World Championship in September 2023. The US and UK backgammon women's teams played against each other in the Genud Cup in 2020 and 2022.
Although we are in our infancy, we have examples of progress in several areas. Seven out of 26 entrants at the Atlanta BMAB event were women (thanks to active recruitment by Roberto Litzenberger). Women represent 30 percent of entrants at the Sunny Florida Boca Raton monthly tournaments, thanks to introduction of an Intermediate division and numerous women's only events in the Palm Beach area including the BWW Palm Beach Women's Classic. More women are moving up from the Intermediate to the Championship division in ABT tournaments; and women are increasingly capturing major prizes in ABT Intermediate division events, and on occasion ABT Championship division events.
Looking to the Future
We welcome the dialogue and exchange of views. We also welcome suggestions for activities the Backgammon.Winning.Women organization we co-founded can support to help address the imbalance in women's participation, place, and preeminence in competitive backgammon! We will continue to learn as we go and redirect resources into what would most help women gain the skills, confidence, and trust that they will be able to play the game we all love in a welcoming, women-friendly environment.
Stick Rice made a particularly cogent comment:
“Let’s start with what percentage of players that show up to a tournament are women? I honestly don’t know but we’ll say 5% for the sake of this example. Since only 1 out of 20 players are female, it is a cold day in hell when one wins the tournament. (I’m mainly talking about the Open division as the further down the divisions you go I feel that there is a larger representation of women). Given so few women players they rarely get the spotlight that everyone would like them to have to get the message out to other females that backgammon players can be enjoyed and played at the highest levels by females. It’s a cycle that self-perpetuates: women don’t see women playing/winning/enjoying record more women aren’t attracted to the game. Having an all-female event not only showcases all the women but assures a female champion in the spotlight.
Secondly, let’s be honest, can you imagine being a female and having to put up with the 95% of men at backgammon tournaments day in and day out?! Exhausting. The women’s event would allow them to play in peace without the accompanying nuisances that come with playing a mixed division all the time.
Lastly, for now anyway, it assures the select few females who are in the game get to meet the other women in the game. They can make friends, share experience, learn about what 95% of the Bg population to avoid, etc”
Some Other Opinions/points Made
Tanja Lewis “I've played men (more than a few) that feel that losing to a woman is worse than losing to a man. And who behave badly because of it. So if you're a newbie or don't have the stomach for it, a women's bracket might feel 'safer'. Other than that it's just for the fun of it - nobody's really missing out, since all the women that wants to play anybody - do play in the open brackets.
There's a (small) market so why not meet the demand. The TD makes a small profit, and the women get to play each other which apparently they like. Win-win.
I think both men and women play for the intellectual stimulation, but I think women much more appreciate the social aspects of the game and as social beings they enjoy
Christine Merser replied
Joseph Russell i’m not sure I agree Joe. While, I enjoy some of the social interactions from the “people“ (not gender based) I’ve met playing competitive Backgammon, I’m really there to win if I can. I’m there to compete.
Same issue in chess. Generally, and I will speak only on chess (but it probably applies to backgammon as well), tournaments are populated by older dudes who have poor social skills. This leads to intimidation, abuse, minimization and a general unwelcoming environment.
I don't know but I do wish we could attract more women to play there are so few compared with how many men play I think this is a real shame
As a cofounder of Women in Backgammon I can give you some interesting statistics. When we started a year and a half ago women were only competing at 14% of the overall tournament pool. When￼ we asked why, there were a variety of reasons. The one that stands out most to me is that it was intimidating. For my own personal experience, I can say that when you start competing, you want to see a mirror of yourself and a window into that which you aspire to be. Women in Backgammon has set up programs they give women the support and information they need to compete if they choose to. And, perhaps more importantly, tools to improve their game. In one and a half years, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of women competing. We have also received lots of anecdotes about how nice it is to see more women on the circuit.
There are tournaments just for women. It’s a way to practice. It’s a way to compete. It’s a way to elevate each other.
It is my personal experience that there are a number of men who play at the top levels will behave in a way that is less than comfortable for me, in terms of how they talk about women And even the pictures they put up around women who are playing. Some of the commentators in some of the tournaments I watch make me very uncomfortable with some of the things they say. I reached out to them personally and told them.
Our goal is to level the playing field. It was not our impression that it was a level playing field, sometimes it’s hard to see what is level or not if you’re sitting on the side of the majority.
So maybe that’s why we have women tournaments. I’m happy we do.
That said, I would applaud the day when we didn’t need to. Hope this gives some insight that doesn’t offend. Always our intention.
It is great to have women tournaments and also to see women in general tournaments. For many years backgammon has mainly been played by men. Especially in the Middle East where the culture was such that women did not go to cafes and participate in games that men play.
Women now have shown they can play as good as men. It’s actually so nice to see so many more women are coming to the international tournaments around the world. Backgammon tournaments would not be the same anymore without women. We should do all we can to promote more women to start playing around the world.
You gona find the answer in this picture.....
I think women tend to not be as competitive as men and are more intimidated by competitions. Not the case for all women, but I think generally speaking women are more cautious about competition.
I have seen the same thing in sports and other games. If you look at any competitive game or sport there are many fewer women than men. Yes, some of it goes back to women not being allowed to play decades ago but largely that not the case anymore. In spite of efforts to get more women involved most of the time the numbers never come close to the number of men playing. So it would seem that perhaps these types of activities are not as interesting to as many women as men or the competitive side is more interesting to one than the other.
Sure, there are occasionally rude players but they're typically rude to everyone. However, if women enjoy playing the game more against other women, then why not?
However, from a pure ability/competition point of view I don't get it. Women are just as capable of being a great player so there shouldn't be gender divisions if
Looking to the Future
We welcome the dialogue and exchange of views. We also welcome suggestions for activities the Backgammon.Winning.Women organization we co-founded can support to help address the imbalance in women’s participation, place, and preeminence in competitive backgammon! We will continue to learn as we go and redirect resources into what would most help women gain the skills, confidence, and trust that they will be be able to play the game we all love in a welcoming, women-friendly environment.