Backgammon is the most widespread member of the large family of tables games, a type of board game played with counters and dice on tables boards. This family of games dates back nearly 5,000 years to Mesopotamia and Persia, whilst the earliest record of backgammon itself dates to the 17th century England, being descended from the 16th-century game of Irish.
Backgammon is a two-player game in which each player has fifteen pieces, known traditionally as 'men' (short for 'tablemen') but often known as 'checkers' in the US. These pieces move along twenty-four 'points' according to the roll of two dice. The objective of the game is to move the fifteen pieces around the board and be first to bear off, i.e. remove them from the board.
Backgammon involves a combination of strategy and luck (from rolling dice). While the dice may determine the outcome of a single game, the better player will accumulate the better record over a series of many games. With each roll of the dice, players must choose from numerous options for moving their pieces and anticipate possible counter-moves by the opponent. The optional use of a doubling cube allows players to raise the stakes during the game.
It is considered the national game in many countries of the Eastern Mediterranean: Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Greece. Like chess, backgammon has been studied with great interest by computer scientists. Owing to this research, backgammon software such as TD-Gammon has been developed that is capable of beating world-class human players.