This guide is intended to help players who are new to the backgammon tournament scene, and who may therefore be unfamiliar with convention and terminology. For a more comprehensive guide to general backgammon terminology, see the Backgammon Galore Glossary.
If it’s tournament etiquette which you want to learn more about, see the next guide in this series: ‘Tournament Etiquette for the Uninitiated’.
It is important to know in advance whether a tournament is ‘UKBGF-rated’. If it is (and this should be mentioned in the pre-tournament publicity), the results of all completed matches will be entered into the UKBGF ratings system. All players who enter a UKBGF-rated tournament are deemed to accept that their matches will be rated and they cannot opt out on an individual basis.
On arrival at a tournament venue, find the Tournament Director (‘TD’). The TD, or a member of the TD team at a large event, will be able to answer any questions you may have, and you will also be able to pay the appropriate tournament fees to ensure that you will be included in the draw.
For the purposes of cross-referencing, any term in bold within the following explanations is defined under a separate heading.
The arrangement of matches used to eliminate players and produce a winner or winners. There are many different possible tournament formats and descriptions, the most common of which are listed below:
- Knockout (or Simple Knockout): A backgammon competition in which players are paired at the start by random draw and everyone is in a single bracket or draw sheet. Winners progress to the next round, and so on all the way to the final, but losing a single match will result in elimination from the tournament. Winners play winners until just the undefeated champion remains;
- Knockout with Consolation: The first knockout stage of a tournament is often referred to as the Main bracket; the Consolation is then a separate knockout bracket for first round losers in the Main;
- Knockout with Progressive Consolation: In this case players will automatically drop into the Consolation bracket even when they lose in the second or a subsequent round of the Main bracket;
- Knockout, Consolation and Last Chance: Losers in the Consolation (which may or may not be progressive) may drop into a third and final knockout bracket, known as the ‘Last Chance’;
- Round Robin: A tournament, usually with a small number of players, in which every player plays a match against every other player. The number of wins for each player determines the finishing order;
- Swiss: All entrants play a fixed number of matches against a selection of opponents and the player with the most match wins is the tournament winner. All players remain in the same bracket for the duration of the tournament (or for the entire Swiss phase of a two-phase tournament). Players who have lost a certain number of matches (typically three) can no longer win the tournament but may still be required to play further matches which are then described as ‘dead rubbers’. Ties are broken by special rules or by means of a playoff between the tied players;
- Swiss plus Knockout: A tournament in two phases, typically held over two days. The first phase (on day 1) is a Swiss, guaranteeing all players a certain number of matches, win or lose. The best performing players then enter a Main knockout in the second phase (on day 2) which determines the overall winner. Those players in the Swiss phase who do not qualify for the Main knockout enter a Consolation knockout in the second phase;
- Group plus Knockout: Another type of tournament divided into two phases, this time along the lines of the football World Cup. Players are initially divided into groups, each containing a small number of players, for example four. The results of matches played within each group determine which player or players from within that group advance to the knockout phase. Non-qualifying players usually enter a separate Consolation knockout.
- Double Elimination: As the name implies, every player is still ‘alive’ until they have lost two matches. Players who have yet to suffer a defeat remain in the Undefeated bracket. A player losing one match drops into the Fighters bracket but can still win the tournament. Players who lose a match in the Fighters bracket are eliminated from the tournament. When all but one of the players have lost twice the remaining player is the winner;
- Triple Elimination: Like double elimination, except that every player now has three lives and can still win the tournament until they have notched up three losses.
At any backgammon event, players may either be competing against everyone else in a single competition, or they may be divided into separate tournaments or ‘flights’, according to ability or experience, with different entry fees and registration fees. The highest rated players will enter a flight called the ‘Masters’, ‘Championship’ or ‘Open’; while lower rated players will compete in the ‘Intermediate’ Flight, which is usually restricted to players below a certain rating.
A charge payable by every player entering a tournament. Unless otherwise stated, no portion of the registration fee goes into the prize pool. Instead, the total of these fees goes towards expenses such as venue hire, staff expenses, player refreshments; with any surplus normally being retained by the organiser or club. Some tournaments are completely free to enter, i.e. they have a registration fee of zero.
An amount paid in addition to the registration fee, all of which normally goes into the prize pool which is eventually divided up according to a published schedule and paid out to the prize winners. Depending on the tournament format, prize winners may include (for example) the defeated finalist and/or the winner of the consolation bracket.
The total amount of money collected from all the player entry fees (which might include side pools) to be paid out to the prize winners (minus the rake, if any).
An optional additional stake for players who enter a tournament. There may be several optional side pools in addition to the entry fee, and the money collected within each pool can only be won by players who have entered that pool. Typically, the proceeds of a pool (after any rake) are allocated 70%/30% to the players in that pool who have advanced the furthest/second furthest respectively in the tournament. Side pools can get quite complicated – click here for a separate article explaining them in more detail.
A small knockout competition, typically for eight players, each of whom pays an entry fee with the winner taking the entire proceeds (minus any rake). A selection of jackpots with different entry fees may be offered as side events during a larger tournament for players who otherwise have no ‘action’ – meaning they have been eliminated from other events.
A knockout tournament like a jackpot but on a larger scale: usually with more players, longer matches, and a higher entry fee. Aimed at ‘hi-rollers’ and/or high-ranked players, the Super Jackpot is usually a side event at a large tournament.
A term which refers to a percentage deduction from monies which would normally be expected to be paid out as prizes. The rake is just a supplement to the registration fee, where the latter is insufficient to cover all the tournament costs. For example, a 5% rake on side pools means that 5% of all pool money collected is deducted by the organisers before the pool prize money is paid out.
A separate standalone tournament typically on the Friday evening at the start of a weekend tournament. As its name suggests, it is to get you into the ‘backgammon groove’ before play begins in earnest on the Saturday. The format of most warm-up tournaments is knockout.
A tournament (usually a knockout) which is completely free to enter, but which normally has money or goods (for example a backgammon board) as the prize. Typically, a ‘freeroll’ takes place before, or concurrently with, a larger tournament and might have entry restrictions, for example: limited by numbers; limited to UKBGF members; limited to those staying at the venue hotel; or other qualifying criteria.
Another precursor to the main event, a satellite (also known as a ‘qualifier’) is a small – typically 8-player – knockout tournament which grants the winner entry into the main event for a fraction of the normal cost. The tournament entry fee is covered by the total amount paid by all eight satellite entrants.
Another side event offered at many large tournaments, Speedgammon is another knockout competition played with game clocks, but with shorter time settings than normal: usually 10 seconds per move and a 2 minute time bank for a five-point match.
CONSULTING (OR CONSULTATION) DOUBLES
A tournament in which every entry comprises a team of two players who may consult each other over all play and cube decisions during their matches. Such events are usually simple knockouts and they are never rated.
Used as a verb in tournament parlance, ‘to cash’ means to reach a sufficiently advanced stage in the tournament to guarantee a monetary prize.
A schedule of matches on a paper (or electronic) draw sheet which shows which players are paired up to contest matches and how players have progressed through the tournament according to matches won or lost.
The schedule of matches between those players in a double-elimination tournament who have not yet lost a single match;
The schedule of matches between those players in a double-elimination tournament who have already lost one match;
CLOCK (OR GAME CLOCK)
To ensure smooth running of a tournament, and for other reasons also, the use of game clocks is becoming more common in tournaments. Clock settings can vary from one tournament to another, but the ‘standard’ UK clock setting for each player is 12 seconds per move plus 2 minutes per point of match length. In the ‘Masters’ flight clocks are often compulsory (this is known as ‘Clock Obligation’), but in Intermediate flights the clock rule is usually ‘Clock Option’, meaning that both players must agree to use a clock. The Tournament Director (TD) may nevertheless impose a clock on any match which might otherwise hold up the tournament.
See also the separate article about Clocks here.