The Backgammon World Championship

It is an interesting fact when the backgammon world championships first began way back in 1967, they were held in and around the United States and for the first 14 years all the world champions came from the US. Indeed the legendary American Tim Holland won the first three world backgammon championships, although not consecutively, as competitions were not held either in 1969 and 1970, a sure sign that backgammon had not reached anything like the popularity it holds today.

Tim Holland, still playing today, is widely regarded as being one of the leading experts on the world backgammon stage, and winner of the most number of major titles in the history of backgammon. Tim’s place as a backgammon legend is guaranteed, not just because of his achievements, but also for being one of the few players to have an actual backgammon rule named after him. Like so many otherbackgammon veterans, Tim Holland has written a series of coaching manuals on the game, which have become required reading for the backgammon player.

After Tim’s winning run, a series of players from the United States also took the World Backgammon Championships. Among the other famous winners in this era of American dominance, who have gone on to become legends, were Oswald Jacoby and Paul Magriel.

Only in 1982 did Jacques Michel from Switzerland break the run of US winners
and for the next ten years or so, the honors were shared evenly between the United States and the rest of the World, particularly Europe. This period also saw the rise of two new legends of the game of Backgammon, Bill Robertie and Mike Svobodny who both won the World Backgammon Championships twice during this period of shifting fortunes.

In 1979, the World Backgammon Championships moved to Europe and has been held there ever since. The setting for this contest to decide the world’s backgammon greats is no less than the exotic Monte Carlo. Since the move to Europe, gradually the World Backgammon Championships has been dominated less and less by North American players. For the last ten to fifteen years the ratio of European World Backgammon champions has reached four to one.

The 2006 World Backgammon Championship final was indeed evidence of that fact, with two European players featuring in the final. The players involved were the veteran backgammon player, Luigi Villa from Italy and Philip Vischjager from the Netherlands, a first timer at the Championships.

Philip Vischjager dominated the match throughout and finally won the world backgammon championship title by a wide margin over Luigi Villa, taking
home the first prize of 75,000 Euro out of a total prize pool of 240,000 Euro.

While the prize money is important, Phillip’s name will be indelibly etched on the list of world backgammon champions. A major achievement for a first time challenger from a field of 335 top backgammon players.

The list of competitors was made up from 12 players invited to compete in the championships as previous of winners of live backgammon championship events. The other 100 plus contenders were winners of a major online backgammon tournament, making them eligible to take part. The 2006 World Backgammon Championship series were recorded live for television, with commentary, explanations and analysis of the game play coming from veteran backgammon experts.

The style and splendor of the 2006 World Backgammon Championships has demonstrated how the popularity of online backgammon (as well as online poker and other online casino games) has reshaped the game and placed it firmly on the world stage for years to come.