Dr. Jakob Garal Invents Gadget to Record Live Backgammon Games
By Michael Strato - 27 May 2006
Dr. Jakob Garal

Dr. Jakob Garal of the Ukraine, now living in Germany, has come up with a prototype of backgammon board with optic sensors that can be used in live play to produce a match file for analysis. It can also broadcast the match to an Internet site.

The invention consists of electronic panels that are inserted onto the surface of a backgammon board. They are connected by wires to two electronic consoles (one positioned next to each player) that the players use to punch in their dice rolls and cube actions. These consoles are connected to a laptop computer which plays the moves in a backgammon program on the computer.

The computer can display the game being played on a big screen, or with an Internet connection, can show it through a backgammon interface on a website.

Dr. Garal revealed the board to the public for the first time at the 18th European Backgammon Championships in Velden, Austria on May 20, 2006. GammonLife Editor Michael Strato tested the board in a game with Dr. Garal and all functions appeared to be working properly. However, when further testing was done the next day between Dr. Garal and John Slattery of Scotland, a few “minor” issues were acknowledged but these, according to Dr. Garal, would be easy to fix.

The board components actually consist of two panels that were custom built to fit the playing surfaces of a real board and a third part that fits onto the bar. For the prototype a Rizzello and Romagnoli tournament-size board was used.

Here are some different views of the board:

Konstantin Illiopolis of Germany checks out the neat match recording board.

Dr. Jakob Garal demonstrates how the board works.

There are five optic sensors that run vertically on each triangle of the board and more across the bar. Players set up the checkers in the usual opening position and the sensors detect how many checkers are on each triangle showing them on the computer screen. The player who wins the opening roll punches the numbers to play into the keypad on the console:

The player then makes his move and presses the “OK” button to confirm his move. If a player makes a wrong move an error sound will be heard, otherwise, the console sends the signal to the computer and the move is shown on the screen. The console also has other functions including the ability to double and beaver.

At the end of the game, a match file is produced and quickly analyzed in GNU or another bot.

With limited funding, Dr. Garal will probably sell each board for about $1,000 each until the business gets rolling. He would love to see these boards used for every match in every major tournament as it would be a very effective way to compile an international ranking list, as well as to show live matches on the Internet. However, at $1,000 a board in a 128-player event, that’s an initial investment of $64,000 and way too much for tournament organizers.

There are probably quite a few professional players that would want to buy one of these for their personal use since match recording at live events costs about $50 an hour; the board would pay for itself after about five tournaments or so.

It is also likely that some tournament organizers will buy two or three of these to record semi-finals and the final of a main event or even to broadcast such matches on the Internet.

Dr. Garal has several other backgammon projects happening, including a 73-page proposal for a new set of backgammon rules and formats for live tournament play called “Fair Backgammon Tournament Rules”. One of the changes he is proposing is the elimination of the Crawford Rule.

We will have more news from Dr. Garal soon, he definitely has some very interesting and unique ideas for the future of backgammon.



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