An Introduction to Backgammon Notation
Backgammon notation is a way of describing dice rolls and moves on a backgammon board. Prior to 1976, notation wasn’t standardized; backgammon writers would invent their own notation systems, and readers would have to learn a new notation system when they picked up a new book. In 1976, Paul Magriel published his classic book Backgammon, using a notation system that was simple and appealing. Almost overnight, this system became a de facto standard, and almost every book published since then has used it. Let’s see how it works.
We’ll start by setting up a backgammon board with Black on move, and numbering the points from 1 to 24.
Black – Pips 167
Black to Play 4-3
1) 43: 24/21 13/9
The notation shows that on his first move, Black’s roll was 4-3, and he played a checker from the 24-point to the 21-point, and another checker from the 13-point to the 9-point. The resulting position would look like this:
Black – Pips 160
Black has played 4-3
Now let’s look at a few of the finer points of the notation system. When we hit a checker, we use an ‘*’ to represent a hit. And if a checker has been hit and is now entering from the bar, we say ‘Bar/’ and then the number of the point where the checker entered.
Black – Pips 167
Black to Play 4-2
2) 42: 8/4* 6/4
If you begin your turn with a checker on the bar and roll an entering number, use ‘Bar’ as the starting point.
Black – Pips 165
Black to Play 4-1
2) 41: Bar/21/20*
There are just a couple of more rules to learn. When you bear off a checker, write ‘off’ as the destination point. If you roll a double and want to move multiple checkers to the same point, use parentheses to show how many checkers are moving.
Congratulations! You’ve now mastered standard backgammon notation.
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