The Story of Backgammon

. . . as told by Rakni, an Iranian I recently met who was appalled that I was playing the game without a proper sense of its history.

As everyone knows, chess was invented in India. The King of India brought a chessboard to the King of Iran and taught him to play. “It is a great game,” said the King of India, “Because, as in life, wisdom and logic shape one’s course.” Years later, on a visit to India, the King of Iran brought a game he had invented: backgammon. “My game is a better model of life, I think,” he said to the King of India. “For in backgammon, logic and _fortune_ determine what becomes of us.”

I also learned from Rakni that a 6-5 roll is known as a “shishobesh.” Shish = Farsi for six, besh = turkish for five. He pronounced it “sheeshobeesh,” and explained the ancient rationale behind the term: just as 6-5 is a lucky roll, it’s a lucky thing to see a Turk and a Persian standing happily together.