Laurence May writes…
At the start of 2015 I won an auction at my daughter’s school to play a 17pt backgammon match against Dicky Biddle and then to have my game analysed. Playing on the large board, learning the arcane etiquette and watching someone take the game seriously was exciting, and then, as Dicky tore my game to pieces, I knew I was hooked.
My obsessions don’t tend to last long; chess, piano, karate, guitar, poker have all come and gone but if anything, backgammon is slowly building. I used to play a lot of other board games but they all pale in comparison – backgammon distils strategy and luck into a fast paced game with simple rules and the chance to win right up to the final roll. Why play anything else?
Throughout 2015 and 2016 I played at Bucksgammon (in Chesham) twice a month, joined the London League and played in a number of major tournaments. I loved it, I loved sitting down opposite people who were far better than me and trying to soak up their advice – I have met so many friendly people who are happy to share their knowledge about the game. There is also a thrill in playing backgammon against a big name and it can happen if you enter a tournament or go along to the right club night.
I was determined to organise some backgammon in Amersham and do my bit to grow the game but I wanted to offer something different to the other clubs in the area. My aim was to create an environment which would focus on open learning where new and experienced players could discuss the game without the distraction of “stakes”. After a false start at the end of 2016 (nobody turned up) I gave it another go in January 2017 and over the past 18 months we have built up a very nice group of men and women. Depending on the month we have an attendance of between 10 and 20 players and since we started we have managed to attract 26 people who have never played at a club before!
We run no organised tournaments, results are not recorded and there are is no money involved. People are free to play whoever is waiting for a game. It is very relaxed, people turn up and leave when they like and we sometimes have 2 v 1 matches to ensure that nobody is left out. Players do not seem to mind that there is no overall “winner”, it just allows us to have more fun and it really brings out the social side of the game.
So, clearly this is a plug for Amersham Backgammon but I also really wanted to encourage some of the big name backgammon players out there to pay us a visit once or twice a year. Remember when YOU started? How exciting was it when you played against someone you’d read about or heard a story about? Well, that’s now you! Since I started I have been pulverised by Powell, massacred by McAlpine and crushed by Cross – I want players at Amersham to have the same experience. Basically, if you are a good player who wants to have an evening off from cut-throat chouettes or chasing ratings then please consider making the short trip up the Metropolitan line to play backgammon with a group of people who would really appreciate it. We meet on the fourth Wednesday of every month at the Metro Lounge from 6pm.
Actually, it’s not just Amersham is it, there are new clubs being formed all around the country. These clubs are going to be full of people who are just starting to get bitten by the backgammon bug. I promise you that a visit from one of the UK team, a player who has just done well in a major tournament, a member of the UKBGF board, anyone who loves to teach the game or someone who is near the top of the official ratings will definitely have an impact on these players and will help to grow backgammon in the UK.
See you soon!
You can find Amersham Backgammon on Facebook here – do join for the latest updates. They also have a very professional email list for session reports and other interesting items – see here for a recent example. From starting up to reaching the last 8 of the Clubs Championship in eighteen months – that is a fantastic achievement, I’m sure readers will agree!