Backgammon : A Turkish National Pastime
You would have to be blind and deaf or at least very unobservant not to notice the amount of Backgammon that is being played in all sorts of public places in Turkey.
Backgammon could be considered Turkey's national game or at least the nation's favorite pastime. In Turkey, they call the game TAVLA and they all know how to play ( seemingly since birth) and they all play it well, or at least they think they do.
Tavla is a game requiring both skill and luck. Tavla boards are found absolutely everywhere from local tea gardens to cafes to bars and shops and every Turkey Sailing Gulet will have at least one set onboard. Everyone’s home will have the game also. Basically, you’re not a complete Turkish Family unit if you don’t have backgammon at home. It is also the perfect game to play onboard a boat when you have all the time in the world during your Avasail Turkey Sailing week.
Playing backgammon with a Turk offers you a truly authentic peak into Turkish Culture and if you are travelling to Turkey you should try to make sure you know at least the basics before you get here. Your captain and crew will admire and respect you if you turn up to the gulet and know how to play during your Turkey sailing week. You can while away many hours learning the subtleties and playing the game as you get better and better. It is a little bit addictive to say the least.
Backgammon or Tavla is actually the world's oldest board game with a history dating back thousands of years in the region of Mesopotamia. The game is akin to a metaphor for life in Turkey in the way that it is played. You never know what the dice are going to roll. Don’t be surprised if your opponent starts spouting off the combination of numbers rolled by the dice in Farsi. For many Turks, the numbers 1 – 6 are the only Persian words they know. Tavla is a very talkative game and each player will usually vocally deliberate the consequences of each impending move. It is widely acceptable for two strangers to sit down to a game together and there is usually a lot of heckling between players and also from any spectators that have started to watch.
There are no time limits placed on Tavla but in Turkey, the game is played at lightning speed. Speed is a very serious issue and being fast to make a move and roll is a major part of the game. According to Turkish Backgammon players the faster you are, the more skilled you are considered to be. Turks will always count in their head where their next roll will take them and as I learned while I was playing in Turkey, counting out loud using the pieces is a big NO-NO and you will be considered a bit of a dummy. There is some level of tolerance and patience for beginners and foreigners but it won't last long so study up on your backgammon tips before you get to Turkey if you think you might be keen to play.
If I am making this sound a little bit intimidating, don’t be fooled, it can be, but rest assured it is all in good fun and the game is always played to socialize and entertain. It will never get really heated and losses are taken lightheartedly. Normally, if you win you will be challenged to a game by a new opponent, and if you lose you will need to close up your tavla board and take it away whilst you are kindly advised ‘to go learn how to play and come back’ to roars of laughter.
There is a wide variety of Tavla sets available for sale in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, many of them inlaid with mother of pearl but it is the standard classic and simple wooden backgammon set that is the most coveted and what you will find on your Avasail Turkish Sailing Gulet. If after a week sailing the Turquoise Coast on your luxurious gulet you decide you want to take one home with you, your Avasail sailing rep can show you where to buy the best quality and best-priced backgammon boards from the markets in Fethiye. You can then enjoy the game of Tavla or Backgammon back home in your own country and show off the skills you learned on your Avasail Turkey Sailing Tour.