The Big Board

Over at Common Grounds, we backgammon junkies play on a couple of small, wooden boards purchased at the Imaginarium down the street. We used to think that these were fairly nice boards, and didn’t notice that they were cramped, inelegant, and unforgivably noisy. We realized this when we saw an assortment of proper boards at the Backgammon Club. “Proper” here means bigger than a tabletop, preferably with copious amounts of leather, and something like cork on the board surface itself. A proper board gives you enough room that you need to have to move your arms and not just your hands to manipulate the pieces. A proper board is equipped with cool-looking, and, if you’re really serious, precision dice, where the pips are flush with the sides.

Francesco, the splendid gentleman who propagated this viral meme among us, is what you’d call an early adopter. He purchased one of those proper boards, and a bunch of precision dice. Sadly, he did this right around the same time that he got a real job and stopped spending his afternoons at the Grounds, so time on the Big Board for the rest of us has been a rare privilege.

All the more delightful, then, to see him stride through the door unlooked-for, board in tow, late on an otherwise dreary afternoon. We Who Play feel our productivity slipping away, and leave our laptops behind to congregate around the Board. A spontaneous party erupts. The solid clack of proper pieces fills the air. We feel as one with backgammon players around the world, gathered around similar boards in similar coffee joints from Cairo to Ankara to Tehran.

Well, OK, I’m the only one experiencing paroxysms of world-consciousness, and that’s probably just the caffeine. Everybody else is just playing backgammon. Still, it’s a fine moment.