USBGF Tournament Rules

USBGF Board of Directors Approves Tournament Rules

Approved by U.S. Backgammon Federation Board of Directors September 22, 2016.

Standards of Ethical Practice

Statement from the U.S. Backgammon Federation Board of Directors

Certain members have recently asked the USBGF Board of Directors to develop and enforce a “Decorum Sanctions Code” to regulate instances of alleged poor sportsmanship. The Board has thoroughly considered the matter and shares the members’ desire to make backgammon a more enjoyable experience for all involved. The current system of leaving player conduct matters solely in the hands of tournament directors is admittedly far from ideal. And while the USBGF’s current “Standards of Ethical Practice” may provide some aspirational guidance for players and tournament directors to foster good sportsmanship and fair play, it remains of little practical value because the Standards fail to identify either the specific conduct and circumstances that are subject to sanctions, or the procedures and penalties to be used when investigating and adjudicating complaints.

Based on the above set of circumstances, the Board agrees as follows:

First, the USBGF currently has no set of rules and regulations in place to allow for the fair adjudication of alleged past misconduct. The Board therefore will not take any action against any player or tournament director for alleged past actions. Nonetheless, the Board strongly encourages tournament directors to remain vigilant and sanction any player who behaves in a threatening or harassing manner. The Board also reserves its right in the future to sanction any such player with respect to USBGF-affiliated events and membership activities.

Second, the significant time and additional USBGF member resources needed to develop and implement a comprehensive “decorum code,” with its accompanying procedures and penalties, in connection with the requisite hearings, investigations, adjudication and enforcement, limits the current practicality of this project. Other organizations that have such a code (such as the American Contract Bridge League) are much more extensively funded and structured than the USBGF. Moreover, it is unclear that any such code would be more equitable than the current system of leaving such decisions in the hands of tournament directors. For these reasons, the Board declines to devote USBGF resources toward developing a “decorum sanctions code” at this time.

Third, notwithstanding the above, the Board would be willing to revisit this issue in the future if presented by the interested members with a comprehensive draft code that includes detailed descriptions of the specific conduct to be prohibited along with proposed procedures for investigating, adjudicating, and sanctioning alleged misconduct. It is not the Board’s intention to encourage or discourage the interested members from proceeding in this manner. However, the Board must stress that any submission should address all aspects of the Board enacting and implementing such a code. Based on the Board’s own internal discussions, such aspects would include but not necessarily be limited to:

◾the proposed type and scope of prohibited conduct (for example, only backgammon-related conduct or other personal conduct as well? What specific types of “poor sportsmanship” or other conduct? Misconduct only at tournament venues or in non-tournament settings as well?);
◾procedures for enacting the code (for example, would USBGF member approval be required? If so, by simple majority or by super-majority?);
◾procedures for implementing the code; roles of Board, ethics committee members, and/or others in investigating and ruling upon complaints; confidentiality measures; rights of accused to be informed of accusations, confront witnesses, present evidence; and rights of appeal; and
◾proposed penalties for specific conduct, multiple violations, and repeat offenders.
Although the Board has decided to take no further action at this time, it wishes to thank the interested members for bringing this important matter to the Board’s attention.

Karen Davis
Chairman, Board of Directors
U.S. Backgammon Federation

USBGF Streaming Funding Policy

USBGF Streaming Funding Policy

Approved by USBGF BOD – 4/7/2015 

Streaming major matches at tournaments is increasingly popular with backgammon players around the world. It is a valuable service to the backgammon community and to USBGF members. Accordingly, the USBGF is willing to work with interested USBGF Prime Tournament Directors to help arrange and finance the expenses associated with streaming. To date funding has come from TD funds (viewed by some TDs as a marketing expense for their tournaments) or donations from the backgammon community either using a Tip Jar at tournaments or online donations (e.g. using the US Backgammon Foundation PayPal account). Expenses can include compensation of Streaming Staff (e.g. daily fee, travel, baggage fees, hotel), equipment, and hotel Internet hard wire connections.

  1. Participation of a TD is voluntary. If a TD wishes to make their own arrangements, of course, that is acceptable.
  2. If the TD would like USBGF assistance, the USBGF President/Executive Director of USBGF would decide which tournaments would qualify for USBGF support. Criteria include:
    1. Prime Tournament status
    2. Availability of qualified Streaming Staff and equipment
    3. TD making a contribution such as one or more of the following:
      1. Hotel hard-wire Internet connection (in some cases Board members or Streaming staff may have a hotel rewards program offering this); in other cases TDs may negotiate this as part of their hotel contract
      2. TD daily payment to streaming staff
      3. TD donation to USBGF per entrant
      4. Running the USBGF National Championship event
      5. TD offer of other perks – e.g. free hotel room, discount on entry fees for Streaming Staff
  3. The USBGF in turn would:
    1. USBGF guarantee a minimum payment to Streamer per tournament (e.g. $50 per day of streaming)
    2. USBGF cover baggage fees for checking streaming equipment (estimated $50 total per tournament)
  4. Funds for the payments to Streaming Staff would come from USBGF fund-raising through:
    1. Donations to our PayPal account. The USBGF would send a bulk e-mail to members prior to each tournament requesting donations to cover streaming costs for the tournament. We would also make a specific post-tournament pitch by e-mail to those players whose matches were streamed for a donation. Names of those providing donations through our PayPal account for each tournament would be available through a link on our website – and their support acknowledged on our Facebook and website.
    2. A Tip Jar that the TD would keep at the registration desk.
    3. If funds raised exceed USBGF expenses, the excess would be added to the US Backgammon Foundation Streaming Fund and carried over to future tournament streaming support.

USBGF Master Point System

USBGF Master Points System
Richard Munitz and Joe Russell
Effective May 2015

Quick Reference
Master Points are awarded in two types:
• Match Win Master Points
• Placement Master Points
Match Win Master Points = Event Weight * Division Weight * Match Win Points
Placement Master Points = Event Weight * Division Weight * Rank Points
Event Weight = Normalized to 1.0 for ABT Main Event (See Appendix A: Event Weight Table)
Division Weight

Div. RankDiv. WeightTypical Div. Names
11.0Open, Championship, Masters
20.7Advanced, Intermediate, Limited
30.5Novice, Beginner

Match Win Points = SQRT( Match Length ) / 3
Rank Points = Event Size Factor * Player’s Rank Factor
Event Size Factor = Log2( Number of Players )
Player’s Rank Factor

Rank points for designated top finishers, ranked based
on distance from first place.N equidistant players split
the points for the next N consecutive ranks)Rank (R)
Rank Factor
3 or more1 / (R – 1)

What are Master Points?
Master Points are awarded to players based upon their achievements in designated events in which they play. Once Master Points are earned, they are never lost. Master Points enable players to achieve personal goals and to be recognized for their accumulated achievements over various timeframes. A goal of this Master Points system is to encourage regular participation and create additional excitement by giving players goals to achieve and extending the spirit of competition beyond the current event.

The USBGF Master Points System is based upon a framework intended to be flexible and extensible. This document contains only those aspects of the framework that have been proposed for implementation as of this document’s publication date. The goal is to start simple and add more features over time, based upon capabilities, results and feedback from the backgammon community.

Recognition based on Master Points should be of two types: Competitive and Personal.
Competitive recognition implies some form of ranking amongst the players, such that players seek to outperform others in order to move to the top of the list. These rankings can be limited to a specific timeframe (like the annual ABT points race), or can be open-ended (similar to Elo).
Personal recognition implies that there are recognition levels that people can achieve on their own, through active participation and results, but they are not competing with others for a single award. A Life Master level that someone can work towards by reaching published lifetime point thresholds is an example.

Only players who are USBGF Basic members (or higher) at the time an event is played shall be awarded USBGF Master Points from that event; all unawarded Master Points are forfeited.

Master Point Awards
Events that award Master Points must be documented so that it is clear to everyone whether an event will award points and if so how the number of points will be computed. The classes of events that award Master Points: “Master Points Eligible Events”, shall be defined by the Event Weight Table (see below). If an event class is not listed in the Event Weight Table, that class of event is not
Master Points Eligible.

Players receive Master Points for the eligible events in which they participate.

Master Points are awarded in two types:
• Match Win Master Points
• Placement Master Points

Match Win Master Points are awarded to players each time they win a match in an eligible event. Placement Master Points are awarded to the small subset of participants in an eligible event that advance sufficiently far to claim one of the designated placement ranks. For example: the event winner.

The following values combine to determine the number of points a player is awarded.

Match Win Master Points = Event Weight * Division Weight * Match Win Points
Placement Master Points = Event Weight * Division Weight * Rank Points

Event Weight = A measure of the relative value of this event as compared with other events.

Division Weight = If the entrants are segregated into separate skill divisions, a skill level factor is applied so that more points are awarded for events having stronger fields of players.

Match Win Points = Points awarded to players each time they win a tournament match.

Rank Points = The number of points awarded based upon a person’s rank of finish in the tournament. Only a small percentage of participants finish in ranked positions as determined by the event organizers. Other participants do not receive Rank Points regardless of how far they progressed.

Event Weight

Every USBGF Event and other designated Master Points Eligible non-USBGF Events shall be assigned an Event Level. The Event Weight is determined from the Event Level. Level 0 events are not awarded Master Points, but may be included in certain stats such as Elo Ratings.

Event LevelEvent Weight
Level 61.2
Level 51.0
Level 40.8
Level 30.6
Level 20.4
Level 10.2
Level 00.0

See Appendix A (Event Weights) for more details on how Event Levels are assigned to various Event Types, and for the list of non-USBGF Events that are Master Points Eligible.
Various factors will influence how much weight a particular tournament should have in the awarding of master points. Event Weight may be a multiple or fraction of 1 and are subject to change. Some of the factors that will be considered when assigning Event Weight are:
Importance: Events like the National Championships might warrant a higher master points multiple. National events are more important than regional, sectional or local events. National Events that require people to earn spots (qualify) may warrant a higher weight because there are fewer players, but they have already achieved something by being there.
Type of Event: Main events may warrant a higher (or lower) multiple than various side events. Any kind of event in which the USBGF believes participation does more to further its mission might warrant a premium.
Restrictions: Events whose entry criteria restrict or otherwise impose general barriers to participation for reasons other than skill level, or USBGF membership status.

Division Weight

When a tournament’s criteria for entry categorizes the player population based on skill level, providing independent event brackets for each skill division, a Division Weight factor will be applied.
The top skill division shall have a Division Weight of 1.0. The second skill division shall have a Division Weight of 0.7, and the third shall have a Division Weight of 0.5. If there are more than 3 skill divisions, the division with rank R shall have a Division Weight of 1/(R-1). Only the rank of skill division matters, not the descriptive name given to it, so an “Intermediate” division could be the second ranked skill division in one event, while being the third ranked skill division in another event.
If an event organizer defines multiple skill divisions, but decides at the time of the event to combine two or more skill divisions into a single event bracket, the Division Weight of that combined event shall be the Division Weight that would have been assigned to the highest of the combined skill divisions.
Division Weight is based on the number of skill levels defined, not the number of skill divisions actually run. So if an event was run that defined top level players to be ineligible, but no separate division was run for those top level players, this event would still have a Division Factor of 0.7.
Some common examples of tournaments having multiple skill levels are: Main events having Open, intermediate and Beginner skill divisions; and Major jackpots having Masters and Limited skill divisions.

Div. RankDiv. WeightTypical Div. Names
11.0Open, Championship, Masters
20.7Advanced, Intermediate, Limited
30.5Novice, Beginner
4 or more1 / (R – 1)

Match Win Points

A player receives Match Win Points for each match that he wins in the tournament as follows:
Match Win Points = SQRT( Match Length ) / 3
Thus, a 9 point match win earns 1 point.

Skill in backgammon dominates as the square root of the match length increases. This relationship forms the basis of the Elo rating formula commonly used for backgammon. Longer matches also require more time and energy. Thus, longer matches are awarded more points than shorter matches.

Since Match Win Points vary with match length, main flight matches will typically be worth more than Consolation matches, which are typically worth more than Last Chance matches.

Some events may have two players face off in a best W of S series of L-point matches. Match Win points are awarded for each individual match won in the series. Thus both players can receive points in such a contest. However, if the records of the contest only note the winner, but do not clearly indicate how many matches were won by each player in the series, then only the winner of the series will receive Match Win points by equating the series to a single match of length: (L+1)*W

For team events, players will receive match win points entirely based upon their match wins against other players, without regard to whether or not their team advanced in the tournament.

Mathematical analysis:
Because the number of matches in an elimination tournament of size N is (N-1), the total number of Match Win Points awarded in an event is proportional to the number of players. Furthermore, the expected number of match win points per player will typically be proportional to the number of times a player must lose in order to be eliminated from the event.

Rank Points

Players who win the event or advance far enough to finish in a position designated by the event organizer as a ranked finish position, whether ranked by number or by name (e.g. Consolation Semifinalist) receive bonus master points for their accomplishment.
For events where the event organizer has not specified which finish positions are ranked, the top 1/8 of the players who advanced the furthest in the event shall be considered as ranked finishers. In standard elimination brackets, these positions shall comprise all players advancing to whatever round that leaves the number of players remaining closest to 1/8 of the total number of players in the event. For example, a 110 player single elimination online event may produce a winner without specifically designating any other players as top finishers; in such an event, 110/8 = 13.75, so the 16 players who advanced to the round of 16 and beyond will receive rank points (13.75 being closer to 16 than to 8).
Ranks are numbered from 1..R, where R is the number of players that finish in ranked positions as designated by the director for the event. If players are exclusively assigned a final rank, they will receive the points for that rank. If players finish tied for rank with one or more other players, then those players will equally split the total points for the set of ranks that they have tied. For event formats having multiple flights such that elimination from a flight places a player into the next flight down, distance from first place is used to determine equivalence between finishers in different flights of the same event. Finishing within the same flight one round behind the flight winner has a distance of 1. Winning the next flight down also has a distance of 1 from the winner of the flight above. For example, a 3-flight event that awards ranks to the top 4 in the main flight, 2 in the Consolation flight and 1 in the Last Chance flight will rank the finishers as follows:
(1) Main winner
(2,3 split) Main finalist; Consolation winner
(4,5,6,7 split) Main semifinalists(2); Consolation finalist; Last Chance Winner
The number of Rank Points awarded is calculated as follows:

Rank Points = Event Size Factor * Player’s Rank Factor

The formula has the property that the same number of Rank Points are awarded to the first place finisher (or any other specific rank) in any two events of the same size.
For team events in which the entire team advances as a unit, no rank points will be awarded. For group events that are run as normal individual events, but with a separate score kept for the entire group, individuals will receive rank points based upon their own performance; the group result will not factor into the awarding of points.
Event Size Factor
The Event Size Factor is the number of Rank Points awarded to the winner of the highest skill division. It is based upon the number of unique players that entered the event.
Event Size Factor = Log2( Number of Players )

# Players (P)Event Size Factor (Log2(P))

Mathematical analysis:
The expected number of rounds through which a player must advance to prevail over a field of size P in a standard elimination event is Log2(P). Thus, a tournament winner is awarded a bonus in proportion to the distance travelled. Since the Match Win Points earned by the winner grow at the same rate with number of players, this formula for Event Size Factor ensures that neither Master Point type dominates over the other in any hybrid statistic that may be developed.

Rank Factor
All players that finish in a ranked position receive bonus master points according to the rank of their finish , splitting the points for tied ranks as described above. The Player’s Rank Factor for the 1st place finisher = 1. All other ranks are awarded points as a fraction of the points awarded to first place.

RankRank Factor
3 or more1 / (R – 1)



RankRank Factor
1 1.000
2 0.700
3 0.500
4 0.333
6 0.200
7 0.167
8 0.143
9 4 0.125
10 0.111

Effective Dates for Master Points

For USBGF Online Circuit events: Match Points take effect immediately upon the recording of each match result; Rank points take effect upon the completion of the event (when the last match result is recorded). Any special recognition program that is based upon a calendar period may include partial results from some events; those matches that finished before the end of that calendar period will be included for that recognition program and those matches that finished after the end of that calendar period will be reflected in the next period’s recognition program.
For live tournament events: Each event has a date of record. All Master Points from a given event will take effect as of the date of record for that event regardless of when the results were entered into the system.

Separation and Aggregation of Master Points

Separate Master Points statistics shall be maintained for Live and USBGF Online events.
Separate Master Points statistics shall be maintained for Match Points and Rank Points. When it is necessary to aggregate these two types of points, the aggregate shall be calculated as:
Match Points + Rank Points

Appendix A

Event Weights

USBGF National Live Events

Event types reflect Level assignments as of this writing. Levels assignments may be changed and new event types will be assigned a Level as they are created from time to time.

Event LevelEvent WeightExample Event Types
Level 6 1.2 USBGF National Championship
Level 3 0.6 USBGF Blitz

Non-USBGF National Live Events – Master Points Eligible
The following are the only non-USBGF National Live Events that are Master Points Eligible Events. Level assignments are subject to change. Additional Event Types may be designated as Master Points Eligible from time to time with advance notice. This document contains the definitive list at any point in time.

Event LevelEvent WeightExample Event Types
Level 6 1.2 ABT Major Jackpot (e.g. Masters, Limited)
Level 5 1.0 ABT Main Event

USBGF Online Events
Event types reflect Level assignments as of this writing. Levels assignments may be changed and new event types will be assigned a Level as they are created from time to time.

Event LevelEvent WeightExample Event Types
Level 6 1.2 National Championship; Federation Cup
Level 5 1.0 Nations Cup
Level 4 0.8 Team Tournaments; Tournament of Champions
Level 3 0.6 Director’s Cup; Divisional
Level 2 0.4 Circuit Monthly
Level 1 0.2 Collegiate; Membership Jackpot
Level 0 0.0  


ABT Tournament Rules and Procedures

The USBGF recommends that tournament directors follow the rules and procedures issued by the American Backgammon Tour in January 2009 — click on ABT Rules January 2009.

Standards of Ethical Practice

Last Update 3/8/2011

The USBGF has formed a Rules and Ethics Committee dedicated to helping the backgammon community achieve the highest possible levels of fair play, good sportsmanship, and appropriate behavior.

We have two goals in seeking to maintain these higher ideals:

1) to assure that participation in organized backgammon play at all levels will be a fair and enjoyable experience;

2) to promote the game of backgammon in the most positive manner.

Members of the USBGF and tournaments, clubs, playing sites, and all events which are sanctioned or supported by the USBGF are expected to adhere to these Standards. Note that these Standards are intended to help tournament directors and players establish guidelines for play and conduct. Application and interpretation of the rules of play and conduct at individual tournaments is solely the responsibility of the tournament director and his appointed representatives.

Section 1. FAIR PLAY

The overriding principle that applies to any backgammon competition is that to the best of the organizer’s ability, everyone participating shall have a fair and equal chance to win any prizes, rating points, or recognition that may be offered. While organizers are free to use their judgment in many areas not specifically covered by the USBGF Rules or Standards, they are expected to demonstrate to all that providing a level playing field and ensuring fair play are the most important considerations in all decisions. Application of the rules and decisions relative to the draw, seeding, format, assignment to divisions, and awarding of prizes must all be done in the most transparent fashion possible to ensure that all may see and know the process by which these decisions are made. Special accommodations for handicapped or disabled people be should be provided if possible; participants are expected to be supportive of such accommodations.

Sanctioned or supported clubs, tournaments and events shall apply the USBGF Rules of Play. Any departure or deviation from the said Rules shall be clearly stated in advance prior to entry.


The USBGF requires all members and supported programs to maintain high standards of ethics and good sportsmanship. Backgammon is a skill game open to the entire public and to people of all kinds. Inappropriate language, attire, or offensive behavior will not be tolerated.

Illegal activities are, of course, specifically banned including but not limited to such things as cheating, fraud, violence or the threat of violence, slander and libel, and general disruptive behavior.

Good sportsmanship and friendly competition are required to be maintained by all USBGF members and supported programs and events. Because backgammon is generally played without an official or referee, the players, themselves, are required to be fair and demonstrate good sportsmanship at all times. This includes calling attention to and correcting any irregularities (other than as specifically permitted by the rules), even if doing so is not in the player’s self-interest.

False or misleading statements and actions specifically designed to cause rule infractions by opponents, or to mislead directors or opponents with regard to facts (including identity masking or withholding information about previous experience), are in violation of these Standards.

Tournament Directors and event organizers have a responsibility to encourage, monitor, and enforce principles of fair play and good sportsmanship and are empowered and expected to take action as necessary to maintain these principles.


USBGF members and the organizers of supported programs and events are expected to act in a manner that promotes a positive image and atmosphere for the game of backgammon, both in the actual events and outside of the events. Players who have grievances or complaints are free to express their views in a polite, appropriate manner, bringing any questions or complaints directly and privately to the attention of the event organizer or the USBGF Rules and Ethics Committee. Public berating or harassment of tournament directors, players, or officials is not conducive to promoting a positive image for the game of backgammon or the USBGF, nor is it the best approach to influence positive change, and therefore is not in keeping with these Standards.


Any USBGF member who believes their rights to fair play and appropriate behavior as defined above have been violated is encouraged to first discuss said issues with the tournament or event organizer to see if appropriate action or satisfaction can be achieved in that manner. USBGF members and tournament directors are also free to contact the Rules and Ethics Committee via email as shown on the USBGF Web Site and request an investigation into alleged violations of these Standards.

The Rules and Ethics Committee will use its best judgment to determine how to handle complaints.

Note that in the event of a dispute, the primary goal of the Rules and Ethics Committee is NOT to punish, ban, or embarrass any individual, but to help the people involved resolve differences of opinion and misunderstandings, to help ensure that any violations of these Standards are not repeated, and to maintain the good name and image of the game of backgammon and the USBGF.

Any questions relative to these Standards may be addressed to the Rules and Ethics Committee through the USBGF web site.