by Jake Jacobs
11 February 2015
Backgammon has been around for five thousand years. If it were like other sports its Hall Of Fame would feature busts of players older than the pyramids. Instead, we are just getting around to establishing a Hall now. Maybe the introduction of chess clocks has something to do with it.
The US Backgammon Federation took the initiative in establishing the Backgammon Hall of Fame, and has inducted its first members. The USBGF invited a select group of knowledgeable players and directors to propose candidates. The only guideline was that the members must be American, as this is the US Hall Of Fame. From the nominees a committee narrowed the list and submitted the shortlist to a vote. The goal was to take the top ten to fifteen vote getters after the final ballot and the distribution of votes lead to thirteen members being selected for this first class.
Having waited this long, there are no plaques for Nack, Son of Thrack, the winner of Ur's ur-Trophy three years running. There's nothing to commemorate King Senkionidas of Sparta's 48-hour box run against the Persians that saved Greece, despite, in the end, his losing his last 300 drachmae. Of course there remains not a single copy of Paulus Magrillus' classic Iactator. While the title might be translated as "The Dice Thrower," Suetonius hints that the more common meanings – "Charlatan" or "Blowhard" – were apparent to Roman readers, and were directed at Nero after he won the Vietorian Cup by cheating and bragging about it. It is rumored that the bonfire destroying all copies of the satire led to Rome's burning while Nero fiddled with his doubling cube.
For similar reasons the absence of Grosvenor Nicholas and C. Wheaton Vaughan signals that anyone not still around in the 1970s is unlikely to make it into the Hall. If not the ancients, who was selected?
We can (or at least I will) divide the inductees into three categories. First are the Hyphenates, those who made their mark on backgammon in more than one way, as players, but also as directors or writers or some other significant contribution. Next we have the Champions, who were not only top players, but ranked among the best for many years. Finally we have the Contributors, those who are best known not for their play, but for what they did to advance the game.
I will further subdivide the Hyphenates in this first class into Classic and Modern. Why? Why not!
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