Tavla - Turkish version of backgammon

Tavla, the Turkish version of backgammon resembles in many respects the backgammon that is played in the rest of the world in clubs, cafes and now increasingly on the Internet. In the last few years tavla has also made its appearance on the Internet, but its better-known sister game, backgammon, remains far more popular on Internet gaming sites.

The Turkish name Tavla suggests a link with the ancient Roman version of the game, known as tabula, and it also indicates a common root shared with the English word, table (i.e. the board the game is played on). Tavla is also played in Iran where it is known as Takhteh. Tavla’s popularity and high profile in Turkey exceeds that of backgammon in the United States and Western Europe in terms of the percentage of the population who play the game and you chance of seeing a game in progress while you are wandering around the country.

Should a person with a reasonable knowledge of backgammon visit Istanbul and observe
a game of tavla, there would be a great deal that they would appear to be familiar. First of all, the board with its twenty-four narrow triangular divisions, and the fifteen checkers allocated to each player and there is also no difference in the starting positions assigned to these checkers. Secondly, the throws of the dice that determine the moves, and thirdly the way the checkers are moved along the board are identical to standard backgammon. The object of tavla is also exactly the same as the better known international game – each player strives to be the first one to bring all their counter into the home area of their board and then bear them off the board.

For all that tavla, the Turkish version of backgammon, shares with backgammon, there are a number of significant differences in the way it is played. Tavla is played purely for entertainment, unlike backgammon where gambling has long been a feature of many games. The doubling cube is absent from Tavla and the dice cup is also not used. Tavla players cast the dice using their fingers against the wooden side of the gaming board. The appearance of the dice also varies from the one most English-speaking players use, since the number one dot is larger than the other dots on the dice and usually colored in red.
Another interesting difference between tavla and backgammon is the rather than playing at tables, the tavla board is normally placed on the knees of one of the players.

The rules of play also differ in several important respects. The idea of an illegal dice throw is absent from tavla as long as the dice land on the board. The strategy of making blots is also not applicable to tavla since these blots will be quickly hit and sent to the bar. The speed of the game is also significantly faster than standard backgammon, and this takes some getting used to for players used to the slower backgammon game played outside of Turkey.

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