Running a tournament

It is very easy to run a backgammon tournament, provided that you take a little care. Once you know how many people are going to play, you must decide two questions. The first is how many points each match should be played up to. If the tournament is to take place in one session, probably an evening session, the general rule is to go for low-point matches. Players do tend to play more slowly in a tournament than in a normal game, and you must remember that the rounds will proceed at the pace of the slowest match. So tournaments often last longer than you think they will. If you have a tournament of 64 people (the maximum number you can have with six rounds) then 5-point matches for each of the first four rounds, 7-point matches for the semi-final, and a 9-point match for the final, is probably quite enough. Even at that, it is more than likely that the tournament will last five or six hours. That doesn't matter because winners are always prepared to sit on.

The second question to be decided is whether to seed the good players. It depends what you want to achieve. There is no doubt that it gives the good players an advantage to be seeded. Let no one tell you the opposite. Suppose you seed the best eight players in a field of 64. The result is that none of those eight themselves meet any of the other best players until the quarter-finals. On the other hand, every other player in the tournament will certainly meet one of the best eight before he reaches the quarter-finals unless the seed is beaten earlier. So, if fairness is the only consideration, you definitely should not seed anyone.

But it sometimes helps a tournament if it is known that a number of good players are going to play in it. Players enjoy the prospect of playing against a champion. There is always the pleasure of a gloat after a win. In that case, you may have to seed the draw just to get the good players to agree to play. They hate it if they are drawn against each other early on.

You should have one backgammon board for every two players in the tournament. This means that every player can play the first round at the same time. If you don't have enough boards for this, the tournament will probably last an extra hour or so. The normal way of laying things out is to have the boards at long tables about a foot apart. The opponents sit either side of the table, so there is a row of several games going on at any one long table.

The rules of play in the tournament are mostly the same as in normal games. But automatic doubles, i.e. putting the cube to 2 when both players start with the same number, are not played. The other common exception is the inclusion of the Crawford rule.

Quite often, in a major tournament, there is an auction before play starts. Each player is put up for auction and bought by the highest bidder. All the money paid goes into a pool. There may or may not be some small deductions made from the pool for expenses, or charity, and the rest is then divided among the buyers of the successful players. A typical division would be that the buyer of the winner gets 50%, the second 25%, and the losing semi-finalists 12.5% each.

One final word about auctions. It is often a rule that any player may buy back up to 25% of himself from bis purchaser for the appropriate proportion of his price. But I advise you always to allow a player to buy up to 50% of himself, if he wants it. It may benefit you financially in the end. He will be less likely to try to outbid you next time you want to purchase him. But if there are going to be byes, try to make him decide how much he wants of himself before it is known whether he has a bye. Roughly speaking, a player with a bye is worth twice as much as a player without one. That is also worth remembering when you are deciding whether to buy some of yourself from the person who bought you.