Backgammon Terminology

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With thousands of years of history behind it, Backgammon has evolved its own intricate language. Knowing basic terms like anchor, blot and prime is a critical part of playing the game, while other words and phrases reflect a player’s level of skill and mastery. Following are some of the more common terms in use today.

  • ABT – American Backgammon Tour.
  • Ace Point – Also known as the “Guff,” a player’s 1-point.
  • Ace Point Game – Refers to a game when the only chance of winning is if a shot is hit from the ace point as the opponent is bearing off.
  • Action – A cash game; playing for money.
  • Advanced Anchor – An anchor on the opponent’s 4- or 5-point.
  • Anchor – Two or more pieces on a point in the Opponent’s Home Board.
  • Attacking Game – Also referred to as Blitz or Wipeout, hitting and attempting to close out the opponent in the Player’s Home Board.
  • Automatics – An optional rule whereby the doubling cube is automatically turned to 2 if both players throw the same number at the opening of a game.
  • Backgame – A defensive position holding two or more points in the Opponent’s Home Board.
  • Backgammon – A final position whereby one player bears off the last piece while the opponent still has a piece within the winner’s Home Board or on the Bar, which triples the game stakes; also, the name of the game.
  • Back Runner – Any of a player’s pieces within the Opponent’s Home Board.
  • Bar – Also called the Rail or Roof, the partition that separates the Home Boards from the Outer Boards.
  • Barfly – A piece on the Bar with the potential to re-enter and hit a piece in the outfield.
  • Bar Point – The Player’s 7-point or 18-point, adjacent to the Bar in the outer boards.
  • Bear In – The process of moving pieces into the Home Board in preparation for bearing off.
  • Bear Off – To remove a piece from the Home Board according to the throw of the dice; also referred to as throw off, eat, take off or peel.
  • Beaver – Sometimes referred to as “Binache,” an optional rule whereby a doubled player may immediately redouble (“beaver”) while retaining possession of the cube.
  • Blind Hit – A shot from the Bar that hits the opponent’s blot in the outfield.
  • Block – To occupy points in front of the opponent to hinder progress.
  • Blockade – Another term for Prime.
  • Blocking Point – A point that hinders the opponent’s progress.
  • Blot – An exposed single piece on a point, vulnerable to being hit by the opponent.
  • Board – The playing surface for the game of Backgammon; also, any of the four quadrants of the board.
  • Booby Point – The opponent’s Bar Point.
  • Book – To secure a piece by bringing it together with another; also referred to as buttoning up.
  • Break a Point – Also referred to as “Clear a Point,” to give up a point already occupied.
  • Break a Prime – To open points in a prime.
  • Break Contact – Bypassing the opponent’s pieces for a pure racing game.
  • Builder – A piece in position to help occupy key points.
  • Bump – Another term for hit.
  • Carry – To move a piece.
  • Centered Cube – Said of the doubling cube when it has not been used to double and remains in the center; either player may take up a centered cube.
  • Checkers – Another name for the 15 individual pieces on each player’s side.
  • Clean, Clean Play – Any legal move.
  • Closed Board – A prime occupying all six points of the Home Board.
  • Closed Out – Said of a piece on the Bar that cannot re-enter a closed board.
  • Combination Shot – Another name for Indirect Shot.
  • Come In – To bring a piece back into play from the Bar; also called re-entering.
  • Comfort Station – A slang term for the 13-point.
  • Connectivity – The state of having pieces within six points of each other, making it easy to make points and protect pieces.
  • Consolidate – The act of better organizing a loose position by making points and securing blots.
  • Contact – To hit or be hit.
  • Control a Point – To have two or more pieces on a point; also referred to as holding a point.
  • Cover – To move a piece so that it protects an exposed blot.
  • Crawford Game, Crawford Rule – In match play, applied when a gets within one point of winning the match, the doubling cube cannot be used.
  • Crossover – Refers to a piece moving from one quadrant of the board to another, or when a piece is borne off.
  • Crunch – Said of a roll that forces a prime or other strong position to be broken up.
  • Cube Action – Decisions made regarding the doubling cube, whether to offer, take or drop a double.
  • Cube Ownership – Said of the player in possession of the cube.
  • Dance, Dancing on the Bar – A failure to re-enter a piece off the bar.
  • Dead Checker – A piece deep in one’s own Home Board, which is no longer able to help build a point.
  • Deep – The 1-point and 2-point positions of one’s own Home Board.
  • Deuce Point – Another name for the 2-point.
  • Dice – The six-sided cubes with spots (pips or dots) numbered from 1 to 6, used to determine the number of spaces per move.
  • Dice Cup – An open-ended box or cylinder used to hold, shake and cast the dice.
  • Die – The singular form of dice.
  • Direct Shot – A position in which a blot may be hit by a number on a single die (1~6).
  • Disengage – To break contact with the opponent’s pieces.
  • Double – The act of turning the doubling cube to increase the stakes two-fold or force an opponent to surrender and forfeit the game.
  • Double Hit – Also referred to as “Two on the Roof,” this refers to hitting two opposing blots on the same roll.
  • Doubles, Doublets – Said when the dice both show the same number, allowing pieces to be moved twice the amount of the pips showing.
  • Doubling Cube – Also referred to simply as “The Cube,” the faces of this die-shaped object display a geometric progression of six numbers ranging from 2 to 64; it is used for keeping score and wagering.
  • Doubling on the Come – The act of doubling in expectation of a good roll as opposed to having a good position.
  • Doubling Window – An opportune time to double.
  • Drop – To refuse a double when offered, thus forfeiting the game; also, see Slot for an alternative meaning.
  • Drop Point – Refers to the point at which taking a double is no longer an equitable choice.
  • Early Game – The initial stages of play.
  • Edge of a Prime – The open point directly in front of a prime.
  • Endgame – Refers to positions where one or both players have begun to bear off pieces.
  • Enter or Re-enter – To bring a piece from the Bar into the Opponent’s Home Board.
  • Fan – To miss a roll by failing to re-enter a piece after being hit.
  • Fast Board – Said of a bearing off position in which all of the pieces are on the deeper points, so large numbers are not necessary to bear off, or where there are no gaps to waste numbers.
  • Field Goal – Said of a piece landing between two exposed blots.
  • Forced Move – Said of a position that allows only one legal way to play a roll.
  • Full Prime – A prime made up of six points in a row, the most powerful position in Backgammon.
  • Gammon – Refers to a player bearing off all 15 pieces before the opponent has been able to bear off any; a gammon increases the score by double the number of points indicated on the doubling cube.
  • Gap – An open point between established points.
  • Golden Point – Another name for the opponent’s 5-point.
  • Go Out – Gaining enough points in match play to win the match.
  • Going Forward – Attacking by building forward points, constructing a prime and putting the opponent’s piece(s) on the Bar.
  • Half-Roll Ahead – Said of bearing off, when the player about to throw has who has removed one more piece than the opponent.
  • Heavy Point – Any point occupied by more than three pieces.
  • Hit – To move a piece onto a point occupied by the opponent’s blot, thereby sending it to the Bar; also referred to as bump, knock off or send back.
  • Hit and Cover – The act of hitting a blot and making the point in the same roll.
  • Hit and Pass – The act of hitting a blot and moving the attacking piece to safety; also referred to as Bump and Run, Bump and Pass, or Pick and Pass.
  • Hit and Split – The act of splitting back runners while simultaneously hitting a blot elsewhere on the board.
  • Hit Loose – The act of hitting an opponent’s blot in the Home Board without making the point, thus leaving the attacking piece vulnerable to a return shot.
  • Home, Home Board – The quadrant of the board in front of the player where his/her pieces can be borne off; also know as the Inner Board.
  • Indirect Shot – Said of a blot that can be hit only by using numbers on both dice.
  • Inner Board – Another name for the Home Board.
  • Inside – A reference to the Inner Boards.
  • Jacoby Rule – A rule whereby players agree before the game begins that gammons and backgammons count only as one point if the doubling cube is not used during the course of the game.
  • Key Point – An important point that yields an advantage when made.
  • Leader – Said of the player currently winning, the one closer to completing the bear off or the one with a lower pip count remaining.
  • Leave a Shot – The act of allowing a blot to remain exposed within range of an opposing piece.
  • Loose Play – Leaving several blots exposed.
  • Lovers Leap – An opening roll of 6-5, resulting in a single back runner moving up to the 12-point.
  • Making a Point – The act of occupying a point with two or more pieces, closing it to the opponent’s pieces.
  • Match, Match Play – A series of Backgammon games played to a predetermined number of points.
  • Match Point – One point less than whatever number of points is needed to win a match.
  • Middle Game – The stage of the game following the opening moves and before either player begins to bear off.
  • Midpoint – Another name for the 13-point; also, the opponent’s 12-point.
  • Mixed Roll – Any roll of the dice other than doubles.
  • Money Game – Any game played for cash as opposed to games played for points or status.
  • Off the Board – Said of pieces already removed from the board by bearing off.
  • On the Bar – A piece awaiting re-entry after being hit as a blot.
  • On Roll – Said of the player whose turn it is.
  • Open Point – Any point that is not owned by either player.
  • Opening, Opening Roll – The very first roll of the game, when both players roll a single die, with the higher of the two going first.
  • Outer Board – The quadrant containing points 7 through 18, which are not part of either player’s Home Board.
  • Outfield – Another name for the Outer Boards.
  • Outside Prime – A prime made up of points primarily in the Outer Board.
  • Own a Point – Also known as “Hold a Point,” to occupy a point with two or more pieces.
  • Own the Cube – Another expression for Cube Ownership.
  • Pass – Said of moving the pieces, to forego the opportunity to hit a blot when moving forward; alternatively, to refuse to accept a double by the opponent.
  • Pip Count – The minimum number of pips necessary to bear off all of one’s pieces.
  • Pips – Used to refer to either the spots showing on the face of a die or the number of units of movement permitted.
  • Point On – The act of making a point on top of an opposing blot.
  • Points – Refers to the twenty-four triangular positions on the board, or the units used in scoring the game.
  • Position – The way pieces are located throughout the board.
  • Prime – A position in which consecutive points are occupied to block the opponent’s pieces; also refer to Full Prime.
  • Pseudo-Prime – Not quite a full prime; a prime consisting of only four or five points.
  • Quadrant – Any of the four divisions of the backgammon board, each of which contains six points.
  • Raccoon – The act of accepting a Beaver and offering another double at the same time while retaining possession of the cube.
  • Race – The act of moving pieces around the board to the Home Board for bearing off.
  • Recirculation – The act of keeping pieces in play by having them hit and re-entering them in the opponent’s Home Board.
  • Redouble – To accepting the doubling cube and immediately offer to double the stakes yet again.
  • Return Shot – A shot the opponent will have being hit if the attacking piece is left exposed.
  • Roll – The act of throwing the dice, or the numbers that show after the dice have been cast.
  • Rolling Prime – A method of advancing a prime around the board by using builders to fill slots and make the next point at the edge of the prime.
  • Runners – Initially, this refers to the two pieces that starting on the opponent’s 1-point; later in the game, it may mean any pieces in the Opponent’s Home Board.
  • Run – To move pieces home as quickly as possible.
  • Safe – Any position or play that leaves no pieces exposed to being hit.
  • Save Gammon – To avoid being gammoned.
  • Save Numbers – The act of leaving certain numbers available to play on the next roll so that they do not have to be used elsewhere on the board.
  • Set-up – Also referred to as the Opening Position, this is the arrangement of all 30 pieces on the board at the beginning of the game.
  • Shot – The opportunity to hit a blot.
  • Shutout – To prohibit the opponent’s piece(s) from re-entering from the Bar by occupying all of the points on the Home Board; also see Closed Board.
  • Slot – To position a blot on a point with the intention of making the point on the next roll; sometimes referred to as “Drop.”
  • Slot and Split – The act of slotting a piece in one’s Home Board while splitting the back runners.
  • Slow Board – Said of a bearing off position in which all of the pieces are on the higher points.
  • Spare, Spare Checker – A piece not needed to own a point.
  • Split – The act of separating two pieces occupying a point.
  • Stake – The amount wagered on the game.
  • Straggler – The last piece outside the Home Board alone and vulnerable to being hit.
  • Straight Race – Refers to a position in which both players have bypassed the opponent’s pieces to move home and bear off.
  • Switch Points – The act of giving up one point to make another.
  • Table – Another term for board.
  • Tailgate – Rolling prematurely.
  • Take – To accept a double, agreeing to play for two times the present stakes when the opponent offers to double them.
  • Take Up – Another phrase for hitting a blot.
  • Threats – Pieces positioned in strategic locations to gain a considerable advantage with the right rolls.
  • Trailer – The opposite of Leader; the player currently behind in the game.
  • Trap Play – An act intended to force an opponent off a point and leave a blot if a certain number is rolled.
  • Turn – The player’s opportunity to roll the dice or double.
  • Undoubled Gammon – Winning a gammon when the doubling cube has not been turned; such a game is worth two points in match play.
  • Wash – The act of switching points and hitting an opposing checker.
  • Wastage – The amount of pips wasted while bearing off because of pieces on deeper points.
  • Yankee Seven – A roll of 6-1.
  • Zone of Attack – Collectively, a player’s points 1 through 11; also, Attack Zone.
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