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Finish this sentence... (long)

Posted By: Chuck Bower
Date: Saturday, 7 March 2015, at 6:15 p.m.

In Response To: Finish this sentence... (Ray Cifani)

Good story. Your and my history are similar (I'm 2 years younger and learned to play BG in summer 1975). I also was enthralled by the Fischer-Spassky cold-war battle which got huge, unprecedented (for a mind-game) coverage. I learned from my bridge partners, who were influenced by experts famous at BOTH games, like Jacoby, Crawford, and Eisenberg.

It certainly makes sense that Fischer-Spassky contributed to backgammon's soon to peak popularity. But likely it was a 'perfect storm' (or "superposition of peaks" to a physicist) that led to backgammon's all-too-short-lived popularity. Consider also:

1) Nearly all (US) adults at this time grew up playing physical games. Popular board games from preschool included CandyLand, Life, and checkers. Later we had Clue and Monopoly, chess (even Risk).

2) Most everyone had been brought up on (physical) card games, from the simple war and fish up through poker (5-card draw), Gin, Euchre, Spades, Hearts, Canasta, Pinochle, Oh-Hell! (great game!), and for many, eventually contract bridge.

3) Private clubs and fraternities were very popular with 40+ crowd -- those with the military connections (American Legion and VFW) and social (e.g. Elks Club and Moose Lodge). High end clubs for men (usually connected to a sport/athletic activity) were ripe with small stakes gambing. Informal weekly bridge clubs were popular among both women (exclusively) and couples.

4) Prince Alexis Obolensky had laid the groundwork for international backgammon tournaments.

5) Weekly and monthly hardcopy magazines were well subscribed, many publicizing society's trends INCLUDING leisure activities such as intellectual games.

6) Celebrity was a hot commodity. The commoners wanted to emulate the rich and famous.

Initially a small snowball formed and then started to roll downhill, gaining mass. Backgammon quickly evolved from the unknown pattern on the back of ultra-tacky cardboard checkerboards to the rage of many adults. Then, like other fads/crazes, it lost its luster. The peak occurred around or maybe a bit before 1980 . The dedicated remained but the numbers started to dwindle.

Those of us who lived through that and still remain captivated by BG's challenge and complexity reminisce and hold out hope for an equally exciting rebirth, like the mythical British yearning for the return of King Arthur.

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