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An argument for touch move? (long)

Posted By: mamabear
Date: Tuesday, 18 June 2013, at 8:25 p.m.

In Response To: An argument for touch move? (Bob Koca)

When I watched where you said to, I saw two players I know to be honest, each make an honest mistake 45 minutes into a long match. I also watched about 20 minutes that happened earlier, and saw no cause for alarm. No matter what the rules are, everyone is going to make an error from time to time.

If the rule is touch move, someone is going to make a horrific blunder because they, for example, reached for a blot on their 9 point, intending to safety it, and instead lifted a checker from their stripped eight point, forcing them to leave two blots. That's not a "concept error", nor even a careless error in the normal sense of not seeing a long-distance hit, or missing a closeout with an indirect. Do we want to add perfect hand-eye co-ordination to the mix of skills that backgammon requires?

This post is not meant to be an argument against touch move, so much as a recommendation that we think hard about the unintended consequences before we implement such a rule.

If touch move were implemented, I'd adapt to it in time; after all, I came to backgammon from chess, where all serious competition is played "touch move". But not everyone who plays backgammon came here by this route, and many of them might feel this change was the last straw, and they'd return to just playing at the corner bar or coffee shop, not tournaments. (Though it is not a rule I want to see, it wouldn't be anything close to a deal-breaker in my own case.)

I have a compromise to suggest: There are a small number of players, and I can name a few names, whose prestidigitation is legendary, and frequently leads to a stolen pip or a fifth number played with a double. If someone is shown to be an egregious offender in this regard, I'd like to see directors empowered to monitor that player's matches, even if there has been no complaint--yet--at their event, and if they observe a problem, impose "touch move" on that player for the rest of that match, that event, or maybe the entire weekend. Every effort would be made to help that person comply with normal custom, including using larger dice if they are easier for him to read; boards and checkers sufficiently large, and with high enough contrast, that he doesn't continue to have issues. The idea isn't to penalize someone who is innocent of bad intent, but to bring them up to speed with friendly and harmonious competition.

Directors would also be encouraged to share this information with other directors, who could then take action if the "friendly warnings" handed down at, say, two or three other events appear not to have solved the problem. Eventually, the person could be barred for, say, three months, then a half-year, then a year, then permanently, if they are incapable of changing their ways. This would be done with no allegation of cheating, since unless bad intent can be somehow demonstrated, I am more than willing to assume that none is present.

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