It will be hard to improve our checker play without being able to accurately describe specific positions or moves. So, before learning anything “fun,” we will learn some notation. Below is a photo of the starting position for a backgammon board:

The triangles that mark where the checkers can sit are actually called **points**, and each one is assigned a number. The numbers start at 24, where your two **backcheckers** sit, and count down to 1. This number corresponds to the number of steps (or **pips**) that a checker on it needs to travel before it can be **borne off**. For example, backcheckers are at the start of their journey on the **24-pt**, and so each needs to travel 24 pips to get to their destination. On the opposite end of the board, you have a stack of 5 checkers on the **6-pt**. These checkers only need to travel 6 pips each.

This forms the basis of backgammon notation (the backgammon version of chess’s algebraic notation). We’ll show how the point numbers can be used to describe a backgammon match by way of example below.

To begin a game, each player rolls one die, and whoever rolls the larger number gets to start. Suppose you, in blue and playing clockwise, roll a 2 and your opponent Gary rolls 1. You go first! You don’t know what to do with your roll, so you just move your furthest back checker up 3 pips. Your resulting board would look like this:

The notation to describe this move is **21: 24/21**. You rolled a 2 and a 1, and moved a checker from the 24-pt to the 21-pt.

Following your move, Gary rolls a 42. Bummer, that’s a great roll for him! He uses it to **make his 4-pt** (your 21-pt), putting your checker on the bar. This is the resulting position:

The notation for this move is **42: 8/4*, 6/4**, where the asterisk represents hitting a checker. From *your* perspective, the checkers moved 17/21*, 19/21, but the convention is to always describe the move from the perspective of the player making it.

Now from the bar, you are hoping for a good roll, and you get it! You roll a double 3 (33). As you should know, you get to move 4 checkers 3 pips each. First you come off the bar and put the first checker on the 22-pt, and then play 3 checkers down from the 13-pt to the 10-pt, resulting in the following position:

This move contains the last bit of notation we need to learn. The “point” that makes up the bar doesn’t have a number, it’s simply called the bar. So the notation for this move is **33: bar/22, 13/10(3)**. The 3 in parentheses represents that 3 checkers have made the same move.

That’s it for backgammon notation. In the next section we’ll discuss different scoring outcomes in a backgammon game.

##### Further reading:

- A series of videos by GM Marc Olsen of Backgammon Galaxy, talking about the character of each point on a backgammon board.

Next lesson: Gammons and Backgammons

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