Subject Advice



Contact subject Adviser  

Welcome to the Backgammon subject advice page.
My name is Jules Smith and I have been playing the game for over 40 years, and since around
2016 I have been running three Backgammon clubs in Scotland, one of which is for my own
local u3a in Ayr. I am passionate about playing Backgammon and also spreading the word
about this wonderful game whenever I can. I enjoy teaching Backgammon to newcomers to
the game and am gratified to see when my ‘students’ start to improve. We are lucky to have a
UK-wide Backgammon Federation (UKBGF) who oversee much of UK Backgammon and I have
been a paid member of UKBGF for the last 4 years.

Backgammon mini-guides    

Why Play Backgammon?
Often referred to as “the cruelest game”, Backgammon is a game of both skill and chance and
is one of the oldest games in the world. It is possibly the only game where it is possible for a
complete novice to beat a world grandmaster in a single game, though over the course of a
multi-game match it is likely the skilled player would triumph. So by deduction it is a simple
game to play and highly difficult to master.
Being a game where the throw of two dice dictates the possible moves for each player, the
game can be considered mathematical as probabilities (or the odds) of different dice throws
can be calculated helping the player(s) determine which moves might be more safe or risky.
Thus it’s a cerebral game and offers the brain a fair degree of mental stimulation; this in turn
could be crucial in helping stem the relentless onslaught of dementia in older age.

Face-to-face or Online Backgammon?
My preference is to play backgammon across the board in live face-to-face play as it makes for
a more social experience, but the pandemic has resulted in a huge growth of online
backgammon. For the first 18 months or so of the pandemic lockdowns my own u3a
backgammon group were forced to resort to an “online only” status and I organized
tournaments for all our players who wished to join in. We played our matches on one of the
quality Backgammon servers and at the same time we ran a Zoom session for some social
That said, there is definitely room for both online and face-to-face, and I know some club
organisers are successfully running hybrid events.

Getting a Backgammon group started
Having started 3x backgammon groups in recent years I have a lot of experience and
information to share with you if you are interested in starting your own u3a Backgammon
group. I can direct you to various resources, online backgammon platforms and make
suggestions with regard to the format of your future activity sessions., so please get in touch
and your backgammon group could soon be up and running!

Already started?
I’m aware there are at least 18 u3a backgammon groups across the UK and it would be good
to bring these all together from time to time with competitions/tournaments under the u3a
banner. Also, I’m sure those of you who run existing backgammon groups also have plenty of
good ideas to share so please also get in touch and between us we can help grow this
wonderful game and the u3a at the same time. I am considering a u3a Backgammon Network
along similar lines to the Chess Network and this will be a growing useful resource for all
groups new and old.



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