Jules Smith writes about how one of Scotland’s growing number of clubs got started…
Between the years of 1980 and 1985, Jules Smith was working at the Rolls-Royce factory in Patchway, Bristol. One of his colleagues, Ian Tarr, who went on to form the highly respected club “Bristol Backgammon”, was the first person who introduced Jules to the game. During lunch breaks and at the end of the working day, the IT department (in those days called DPS) reverberated to the rattling of backgammon dice and cries of “you lucky sod” or other less polite exclamations. Ian not only taught a large section of the department to play backgammon but quickly introduced lunch-time competitions, which played an influential part in the social lives of a high proportion of the department’s personnel. Little did Ian realise what he had started and for so many!
In 1985 Jules left Bristol and moved further South West. Following the birth of his two children, his backgammon playing quickly fell by the wayside, and apart from the odd game at home Jules didn’t really play again until 2013, a gap of 28 years or so.
Following a move to Scotland in 2013, Jules decided he’d like to spend some of his spare time getting back into backgammon and looked around for a local club. At that time the nearest club seemed to be Edinburgh. Jules did make contact with the leader of that club but given the distance decided that it would be worth trying to start a local club in Ayr rather than travelling to Edinburgh to play.
Although a couple of people came along to a few sessions there didnt seem to be any real interest at the time and sadly nothing regular happened. By chance a couple of years later Jules joined the “Maybole Over 50s” and quickly offered his time to run a Backgammon group. With a ‘captive’ body of members, Jules was astonished to immediately find 5 people who wanted to learn and play backgammon. Quickly, the group got together, Jules taught them the basics, and as of November 2019 that group is still going with about 5 or 6 regular weekly attendees.
About a year later a similar organisation, Ayr U3A, came into being. Jules quickly spotted another opportunity to reach another group of ‘captives’ and quickly offered his services. Again 4 or 5 people came forward immediately, a couple of whom had played the game before! 2 years on that group is also still going and slowly but surely increasing its numbers.
In August 2019, Jules was persuaded by his Bristol pal Ian Tarr to enter a team in the annual Clubs’ Championship organised by the UKBGF. 2 members from each group (Maybole and Ayr) joined Jules in the “Backgammon South Ayrshire” team that competed as one of three teams from Scotland (alongside the Glasgow and Aberdeen clubs) at York University. With absolutely no tournament experience for all players (apart from Jules), the team did remarkably well with a victory against a very strong team from St. Albans. Sadly two defeats halted the teams’ progress in the competition. As it happens, our local (and friendly) rivals from the Glasgow club emerged as winners of the tournament. A fabulous achievement for our nearest club and for Scottish backgammon.
The success of the team at that York tournament has revitalised Jules’s interest in improving his own backgammon play and also his desire to spread the word about this great (though some say it’s the cruellest!) game.
Hence BackgammonAyr was born.
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