Tavli – A guide to whats happening on the backgammon boards in the Cafes of Kefalonia

Tavli means “board” in Greece. 

There are three games of Tavli commonly played:

  • Portes. This is similar to Western backgammon.
  • Plakoto. A game where one checker can trap another checker on the same point.
  • Fevga. A game of Turkish origin where one checker by itself can block a point.

These games are played one after another, in matches of three, five, or seven points.

The games of Tavli have the following rules in common:

  • Only one pair of dice is used, and they are shared between the players.
  • In the first game, each player rolls one die and the higher number goes first. That player then rolls the dice again to begin his first turn.
  • After the first game, the winner of the previous game goes first.
  • The first player to bear off all his checkers gets one point, or, if the winner bears off all his checkers before the loser has borne off any, he gets two points. There is no triple game.
  • No doubling cube is used.

Pace of play: Tavli is played very quickly. You do not need to wait for your opponent to pick up the dice—you pick them up yourself while he is making his move.

Rolling too early: However, you must not roll the dice while the opponent is still making his move. As long as he has a checker in his hand, or even still has his finger on it, you must wait. If you throw too early, the roll does not count and you have to roll again.

 

Portes 

Setup: The game is set up the same is in backgammon. Each player has 2 checkers on the opponent’s one-point, 5 checkers on the opponent’s twelve-point, 3 checkers on his own eight-point, and 5 checkers on his six-point.

Object: The object of the game is to move all of your checkers around the board to your own home table and then bear them off. The first player to bear off all of his checkers wins the game.

To start: Each player rolls one die and the higher number goes first. That player then rolls the dice again to begin his first turn. After the first game, the winner of the previous game goes first.

Movement: The roll of the dice indicates how many points, or pips, the player is to move his checkers. The following rules apply:

  • A checker may be moved only to an open point, one that is not occupied by two or more opposing checkers.
  • The numbers on the two dice constitute separate moves. For example, if a player rolls 5 and 3, he may move one checker five spaces to an open point and another checker three spaces to an open point, or he may move the one checker a total of eight spaces to an open point, but only if the intermediate point (either three or five spaces from the starting point) is also open.
  • Doubles are played twice. For example, a roll of 6-6 means the player has four sixes to use.
  • You must use both numbers of a roll if possible, or all four numbers in the case of doubles.

Hitting: A checker sitting alone on a point is called a blot. If an opposing checker lands on a blot, the blot is hit and placed on the bar.

Entering from the bar: Any time you have one or more checkers on the bar, your first obligation is to enter those checker(s) into the opposing home board. You enter a checker by moving it to an open point corresponding to one of the numbers on the rolled dice. If you are able to enter some but not all of your checkers, you must enter as many as you can then give up the remainder of your turn.

Bearing Off: Once you have moved all fifteen of your checkers into your home board, you may begin bearing off. You bear off rolling a number that corresponds to the point on which the checker resides, and then removing that checker from the board.

If there is no checker on the point indicated by the roll, then you must make a legal move using a checker on a higher-numbered point. If there are no checkers on higher-numbered points, you must remove a checker from the highest point that has a checker.

Scoring: The first player to bear off all fifteen checkers wins the game. If the losing player has borne off at least one checker, he loses only one point; otherwise he loses two points.

There is no doubling in this game.

Plakoto 

Setup: Each player starts with fifteen checkers on the opponent’s one-point. The checkers move around the board in opposite directions as shown in the diagram below.

Object: The object of the game is to bring all your checkers around to your own home board and then bear them off. The first player to bear off all of his checkers wins the game.

To start: Each player rolls one die and the higher number goes first. That player then rolls the dice again to begin his first turn. After the first game, the winner of the previous game goes first.

Movement: The roll of the dice indicates how many points, or pips, the player is to move his checkers. The following rules apply:

  • A checker may be moved only to an open point, one that is not occupied by two or more opposing checkers.
  • The numbers on the two dice constitute separate moves. For example, if a player rolls 5 and 3, he may move one checker five spaces to an open point and another checker three spaces to an open point, or he may move the one checker a total of eight spaces to an open point, but only if the intermediate point (either three or five spaces from the starting point) is also open.
  • Doubles are played twice. For example, a roll of 6-6 means the player has four sixes to use.
  • You must use both numbers of a roll if possible, or all four numbers in the case of doubles.

Pinning the opponent: There is no hitting in this game. Instead, if you land on a point occupied by a single opposing checker, the opponent’s checker is trapped until you remove your checker. Two of your checkers on a point, or one of your checkers pinning the opponent’s checker creates a block which the opponent cannot land or touch down on.

    White’s checker has come around the board and now pins Red’s checker on the seven-point.

Pinning the mother checker: The last checker on your starting point is called the mother. If this checker gets pinned by the opponent before it has left the start, the game is over and you lose two points. The only exception is if the opponent still has checkers on his starting point, since in this case his own mother is still threatened. A game in which both mothers are pinned is a tie.

Bearing Off: Once you have moved all fifteen of your checkers into your home board, you may begin bearing off. You bear off rolling a number that corresponds to the point on which the checker resides, and then removing that checker from the board.

If there is no checker on the point indicated by the roll, then you must make a legal move using a checker on a higher-numbered point. If there are no checkers on higher-numbered points, you must remove a checker from the highest point that has a checker.

Scoring: The first player to bear off all fifteen checkers wins the game. If the losing player has borne off at least one checker, he loses only one point; otherwise he loses two points.

There is no doubling in this game.

Fevga 

Setup: Each player starts with fifteen checkers on the rightmost point of the far side of the board, at diagonally opposite corners from each other. They both move in the same direction, counterclockwise, around the board.

Object: The object of the game is to move all your checkers around the board and bear them off. White bears off at the lower-right; Red bears off at the upper-left.

To start: Both players roll one die and the higher number goes first. That player rolls the dice again to begin his turn. After the first game, the winner of the previous game goes first.

Movement: The roll of the dice indicates how many points, or pips, the player is to move his checkers. The following rules apply:

  • A checker may be moved only to an open point, one that is not occupied by any opposing checkers.
  • The numbers on the two dice constitute separate moves. For example, if you roll 5 and 3, you may move one checker five spaces to an open point and another checker three spaces to an open point, or you may move the one checker a total of eight spaces to an open point, but only if the intermediate point (either three or five spaces from the starting point) is also open.
  • Doubles are played twice. For example, a roll of 6-6 means you have four sixes to use.
  • You must use both numbers of a roll if possible, or all four numbers in the case of doubles. If you can play one number but not both, you must play the higher one.

First checker away: Your first checker must pass the opponent’s starting point before you may move any of your other checkers.

    For example, after White’s initial roll of 6-6, he moves his first checker forward six spaces, but then he is stuck. He cannot move the same checker any further because it is blocked, and he cannot move any other checker until the first checker is past the opponent’s starting point.

No hitting: A major difference between Fevga and other forms of backgammon is that there is no hitting in this game. One checker by itself controls a point, and an opposing checker may not land or touch down there.

Limitation on primes: You are not allowed to block all six points in your starting table.

If you have built a prime (six consecutive blocked points), and your opponent has collected all his checkers onto the one point behind your prime, then you must unblock a point in your prime to allow him a chance to move.

Bearing off: Once you have moved all fifteen of your checkers into their finishing table, you may begin bearing off. You bear off a checker by rolling a number that corresponds to the point on which it resides, then removing the checker from the board.

If there is no checker on the point indicated by the roll, you must make a legal move using a checker on a higher-numbered point. If there are no checkers on higher-numbered points, you must remove a checker from the highest point that has a checker.

Scoring: The first player to bear off all his checkers wins the game and scores one point. If the winner bears off all his checkers before the loser has borne off any, he gets two points.

Source – bkgm.com

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