The Crawford Rule

Below is an explanation of the Crawford Rule and some post-Crawford strategy along with an amusing anecdote by way of illustration.

This comes to us courtesy of “Backgammon to Win” by Chris Bray available for purchase at Flint Backgammon Boutique. The other book referenced is “The Backgammon Book” by Oswald Jacoby & John Crawford which is available from us, just email if you would like to purchase a copy.

braybg book

In the first game after one player reaches match point, for example leading 6-2 in a match to 7, the doubling cube may not be used.  This is known as the Crawford Rule and is named after the famous American master John Crawford who did so much to popularize backgammon in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  His book, “The Backgammon Book” co-authored with Oswald Jacoby, provides a fascinating insight into the history of backgammon.  The game with the Crawford Rule in effect is called the Crawford Game.

The reason for the Crawford Rule is that after one player reaches match point his opponent has no reason not to double on his first roll of each subsequent game – as he will lose the match anyway if he loses the game, but will win 2 points per game (or 4 if he wins a gammon) if he wins.  Because this tactic considerably favors the trailing player, Crawford introduced the rule to try to redress the balance somewhat in favor of the leader.  The rule quickly gained universal acceptance and I have never played a tournament in which it was not in use.

The oft-told anecdote is that of Walter Cooke, sadly now deceased, playing a kindly old Greek gentleman in a 13 point match at London’s Clermont Club.  Walter established a 12-1 lead.  His opponent ground out the next three games to bring the score to 12-4.  At this point Walter pointed out to his opponent that he should double on the first roll of each game as he had nothing to lose.  The Greek thanked him and took the advice, winning two doubled gammons in a row to bring the score to 12-12.

At the start of the next game he proudly announced, “I don’t think I need to double this one” and promptly went on to win the match.  Bemused, Walter strolled over to the draw sheet to see who had benefited from his misplaced generosity, only to discover that the beneficiary was Aristotle Onassis!


So remember, once the Crawford Game is over, the trailer should double the leader at his first opportunity.

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