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Tournament Rules and Guidelines

Posted By: Henrik Bukkjaer
Date: Saturday, 1 December 2012, at 10:49 a.m.

In Response To: Tournament Rules and Guidelines (Phil Simborg)

No Phil, no no no.

I don't think you understand me. I'm sorry if my last post was too accusing you of a personal agenda - I wanted to raise to point to you, that from where I was looking, someone could get the idea that your selected process to go about this, was a bit curious. I might have taken it to far. But let me try to explain it better another way.

First of all. I really think your stated objectives are admirable. And I agree with you, that such a set of uniform world wide tournament rules would be beneficial to backgammon. You and Chuck must know this, since I've told you on several occasions, like I told you that I was currently trying to persuade the DBgF to launch (or participate in) such a project.

Secondly, as I wrote to earlier, we're currently in the process of reviewing the DBgF rules, and we WILL carefully read and consider the entire contents of your proposed work. I'm not at all dismissive of ideas and input - if you think so, you wouldn't know me.

Now, to get back to your work, here's what I think:

If you want to accomplish getting the world wide backgammon community, with all of it's different persons and federations, to agree to one set of unified rules, then I think the PROCESS of how to go about it is just as important as the contents. I think you acknowledge that, when you say that you've ran your head against the wall for the last 10 years trying. That is why - to begin with - I focused on the process and current history (backing) of your work.

The way you presented it, it was a bit difficult to understand if this was the USBgF work, if it was Jeb, Chuck and Phil's work, or if it was just Phil's work. I know you wrote Jeb's and Chuck's names as contributors, but how would outsiders know, if that's because they started out being part of the USBgF rules committee that initially produced this work, and then at some point in time you broke with that committee and completed the work yourself, or if they were in it to the end, having an equal stake in the final work as you do. One reason more for me having my doubts here, are that this is NOT currently listed as the work of USBgF, but Jeb and Chuck are listed as members of the USBgF rulings committee.

Having signed the document might have helped me understand precisely who was in on the final product. Having not signed it, made me doubt. Now you have told that you didn't sign it, because you didn't want to make it about the names - fine :-)

The same goes for your input - again, as readers of this document, we have no chance as to know who's input you have considered, nor how that input has been gathered, nor how you have used this input. Eg. did you simply read BGO posts for proposed rules changes? Did you actively ask these people for their input? Did you somehow get these people together at a meeting (of conference call) for the purpose of getting their input to a new rule set? Have they read your work and commented back on it? If so, have you changed anything as a result of it?

I hope you can see that stating something to the extend of "we've got input from several top players" to an outside reader like me, doesn't guarantee me anything. But on the other hand, if could have indicated that great care and consideration has been put into the effort, to make these proposed rules the consensus of a lot of people - not just the authors. Once more, that's why I've been bugging you to explain more about the process.


Now, you didn't answer my question: Have you sent your proposal and recommendation to the DBgF?

If not, then you must understand why I was getting a bit puzzled by your process? You have worked on the subject for 20 years you say, constantly running into problems, issues, walls, dismissive reactions and the like. But not once in those 20 years have you tried asking or approaching the DBgF? Not even when you produced the initial version of the proposed rules without the support of any federation, you send that proposal to us? What are we to believe then?


As for your actual work, and the goal, I'd really like to be helpful, open and assist as much as I can.

So here's my reflections:

I think, that it is important to agree on the form, scope and context of the rules. I think focus should be on that, before you start finalizing the document (which means discussing the individual rules in details).

I know you feel strongly for the ethics part. I agree that it is a very useful aspect, certainly in the world wide approach, where the rule set will bind different cultures together.

I also know that you feel strongly for for sort of a "guide" to the rules, with elaborate examples and "how to" for both players conducting themselves, but also for directors on how to apply the rules (and maybe even for federations on how to control directors and tournaments?). Again, I agree that this is something that could carry great value.

However, I don't think it is a good idea to bring it all together into one document. I think the rules should be the rules, nothing more.

Then you could have the other things, guides, ethics (or etiquette), rulings and/or examples, as accompanying documents, somehow. I know this is what you did with the ethics part in your proposed document, and I think that's the way to go by it.

Why do I think the rules need to be the clear and concise rules? Because then they will be most useful. You have written here, that you don't expect all tournament players to read the rules - I disagree. If the rules are more condensed, they should be read by any serious tournament player. Also for TDs and federations to use the rulebook to lookup things or quote things from them, it's preferred to have this concentrated. Finally, it's easier to add/change to any guide, decision book or interpretation of the rules, if they are kept separately - that way you don't have to publish new versions of the rules too often (which must be a priority goal, if you are to have the rules used world wide).

In short: I applaud you for including guides and ethics (I even think it could be elaborated upon), but I disagree with you on trying to bring it all together in one document. So much for form and scope.

As for the contents.

You keep stating that your rules are more precise than any current ruleset, and that the target is to have rules that don't allow to much room for uncertainty and personal interpretation. I know your original idea on rules were that the rules should always be so precise and handle/explain all possible factors. I don't necessarily agree that this is such a good idea, and I have seen you an at least one occasion here at bgo conclude something similar. At least, your proposed document seems to reflect, that you have moderated that idea just a bit. Again, if this is indeed the consensus of 3 persons, that might also explain why :-) Nevertheless, I think that a lot of the rules could actually be improved, by more thorough explanations - in that light I think your proposed document is interesting, and will be reading it carefully, more than once, and use as input to the current DBgF rules review.

On some of the rules, however, I don't feel (at all) that you accomplish your mission. At least, not to the extend you claim. Now, I don't know which rules you have in mind, when you compare to current rules - but when I compare to our rules, I think your proposed document leaves much more ends open.

Let me give you some examples:

In some places, you list two different rules (or suggest alternative rules). Legal moves/not legal moves, flat rolls/on checkers, etc. Though you probably do this in order not to start out stepping too many people on their toes, risking that too many people would dismiss your proposal, I feel it ends up counterproductive to your original goal. I'd have expected that you would have weighted in enough opinions to decide for yourselves, what would be THE rule you'd propose - and then be able to argue for that, or through a longer process agree on it together with different federations representatives. Your proposal could have listed the two alternatives and then asked that during the process, one was chosen (not that it is up to the director to decide).

Furthermore you have places where you are not so precise after all. Penalty points for not showing up on time is one. Clock rules are another point where you really miss a lot (in fact, they are not really there at all), and that's maybe the area that needs most attention currently - both in regards to getting specific and precise rules, but also in regards to ethics. Now, not you, not Chuck, nor Jeb, has commented on the clock rule questions I've asked in another thread here this week. I'd be interested to know your positions on those. If you don't have an answer, please consider if that is an indication that your proposed rules are not completely complete yet! :-)

On the subject of "rolling the dice", however, you set a good example of how precise the rules can get. Specifying minimum number of shakes, distances in inches, etc. Does it improve anything in reality? I doubt it. Maybe it even opens up the door to more controversy and more angle-shooting players trying to use the rules to their advantage? I do agree however, that it is a good idea to clearly state to a player who is in doubt, what is considered a vigorous shake of the dice, etc. Maybe (and this is just my personal thinking, may not be correct) the best way to go about this, is to have rules stating the usual "random roll" stuff, and then move your elaborate description to a guide for the player? I mean, getting a random roll may very well require a different effort, depending on your choice of dice, cups, board and checker size and material, bafflebox and so on... But your thorough description might be an improvement - I will not dismiss it.

You state that rules (or at least parts of the complete rule package, could be other documents) should also outline director's and spectator's responsibilities. I agree 100%. This is very important.

For the same reason, that's why we have had that included in the DBgF rules for the last 12 years! We even state, that tournament directors must explain to the DBgF after the tournament, any important rulings or committee decisions they might have imposed.

I believe in particular that your views on spectators are very interesting, and I feel that the current DBgF rules could be improved in this area. I'll make sure that the DBgF ruling committee will consider what you propose here - at least, you certainly has raised a valid point, and that alone will get us thinking about it!

One thing that possibly should be considered in the rules, is a role that's not currently described. A person recording a match. Sometimes that person is placed by the tournament director, and will for that matter be considered a TD or a proctor or whatever you call it, but sometimes (most often I think) this will be a person agreed upon by the players. Thus in the current rules, this would be a "spectator" I suppose. However, it might be practical to mention this person/role specifically in the rules, since when playing legal moves, most players agree, that if the person recording sees an illegal move, he should alert the players. According to your proposed rules, he may not do so, unless asked by both players. Either way, if the preferred rule is to have a recorder (under legal moves play) stay silent or alert, then it's good if the rules clearly reflect this, so all players will adopt the same procedure.


OK, this is turning into a very long post, and I got to go on to attend my non backgammon life now :-)

Phil (and Jeb and Chuck) I REALLY HOPE, that you will read the above, and try to understand my position, instead of just resenting me and my views. I'm NOT out for you personally, not at all, I just felt that there were some odd looking things in what you had done so far, and I wanted to raise my concern.

The reason for that, as I've tried to explained above, is that I feel the process is indeed very important, in getting consensus for what you are trying to accomplish, at a world wide level.

I'm looking forward to work constructively with you towards your goal, I'll be openminded and I will use your work as input for the DBgF rules review process. Be sure of that.

Thank you for your efforts, I hope that you are able to take in constructive feedback and criticism. At least, that's what I'm trying to offer.

Best regards, Henrik Bukkjaer

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