Saturday, August 11, 2012

Friends: Backgammon Dates

In general, I don't like to have too much on my schedule, and I manage to keep my calendar pretty flexible. I am not one of those who needs lots of events on my agenda to feel useful or happy.

Diane and a curious observer
On the other hand, it's nice to have a little structure to the weeks and a few regular events to look forward to. One of the things I do every week is play backgammon with Diane. These sessions are regular, but never routine.

Typically we select one of several venues in Mérida centro, and meet on a weekday morning for a couple of hours to drink coffee, sometimes eat something, and play. We frequent several downtown cafes and restaurants, and have been known to venture up to Progreso to play at the beach. On occasion we meet for a session in the evening. That doesn't change the action much, except that at night we trade coffee for beer.

We have played the game together weekly for more than two years, except for when one of us is out of town.

And speaking of that, in June I had a problem. For a month, Diane was care taking a waterfront home in Bacalar, Quintana Roo, a good five hours by highway from Mérida. So, addicted as I am, I took the bus to Bacalar for five days of pure backgammon, punctuated by daily swims, good meals, and some exploration in the area. Not to mention lots of hot, strong coffee in the morning and a cold beer later on, as usual.

Bacalar back yard: a spectacular backdrop for a multi-day "BG" marathon

Since backgammon is not terribly well-known in the Yucatán, we occasionally find that curious waiters, children or passersby want to watch or know more about the game. Only once in all the time we've played together has an experienced player asked to sit in on a game, and that was a European who lives in Oaxaca. He played one game with Diane, and then reluctantly returned to his family, waiting for him at another table. He was a pretty good player. We exchanged email addresses; the next time I am in his part of the country I will look him up for a game or two.

Sometimes when I am intensely involved in a particularly close match I become so engaged that my surroundings recede into the distance, and all else is forgotten for a brief time. The world is reduced to myself, Diane and the game board. Recently when this happened I was surprised that the cafe had filled with customers around us while we played, and I hadn't even noticed. When I get into the flow of backgammon this way, I know I am having a good time and my brain is getting a good workout.

Diane and I went for a period of months recently during which I hardly ever lost. I began to feel badly about it, but must admit (a bit guiltily) that I did enjoy the winning. Back when we first began playing I was years out of practice and lost most of the time. So when the winning streak started I felt that I finally was getting my game back. Diane was a good sport, though, and didn't complain much.

Then just recently the tide turned and she started kicking my behind around the block. The game is always unpredictable and always interesting. And in my mostly appointments- and schedule-free life, it's something engaging "to hang my hat on." I like that.


  1. I loved playing backgammon. I taught my son when he was very young and as he got older he started beating ME. Now that wasn't fair.
    I'm glad I read your post, it makes me want to start playing again--it has a way of absorbing the mind, in a good way.

    1. I find backgammon to be very engaging. And the longer I play, the more levels of complexity I discover. I enjoy it more now than ever. As the years pass and my memory is not what it once was, playing backgammon is one of the things I do to keep my mind agile.

  2. Ah. Something new for me to learn in my old age.

    1. It's a good game...easier to get started on than chess, but not as simple as it looks. I have a great time playing.

  3. I haven't played backgammon in so long, I forget how. I should bring a game down with us next trip and re-acquaint myself with it.

  4. I love backgammon too, and we also like to play in different venues. We play backgammon. yatzee or cribbage and always attract a crowd.

  5. I would learn if I could play in that back yard! Jeanne

  6. I haven't played since the '70s and then maybe 3-4 times. You've made it sound like fun, though. I love playing games. Wish more folks did so more often. Nice post. Beautiful water.

  7. I've only known Backgammon as a game where in the end, I lost my shirt. When I first started in industry, we would play on night shift for money, penny a point to a dollar a point, it depended on how remote the last paycheck was but always by the end of the shift, one of the older guys would have my money. And porker was worst, at least with Backgammon you did not need a stone face.

  8. Hi Marc! It's definitely a lot of fun to play Backgammon once in a while. Backgammon players are less likely to have dementia or the loss of cognitive function due to trauma based on a survey conducted in the 1st half of 2006. Also, playing the game regularly has been proven to achieve substantial development in human cognitive and psychological skills.


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