What is the Backgammon Doubling Cube?

Beginners and average backgammon players often have not used a backgammon-doubling cube before. The introduction of the doubling cube has increased the excitement in game play and the popularity of this game. Understanding what the doubling cube can do and how and when to use it would greatly increase a player's skill level.

The doubling cube is a cubical block, looks like a regular six-sided die but is slightly larger. Marked on its faces are the numbers 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, and 64. The doubling cube is used to keep track of increases in stakes of a particular game. It also shows which player has the next right to double those stakes. The doubling cube is initially placed in the middle of the bar with the number 64 facing up. This represents a value of 1. When a player offers a double, he would turn the doubling cube to its next higher value and then would pass it to his opponent. If the player's opponent accepts the double, he then places the cube on his side of the backgammon board and then 'owns the cube.' The player who has the cube on his side has the right to redouble the stakes.

It has been common knowledge that the doubling cube was either invented or introduced into the game in the 1920's. But it seems that something like the doubling cube was used in a game that resembled backgammon. There is a handwritten manuscript written in 1660 in England that mentions this cube that is played on a game similar to backgammon. But the question remains whether the doubling cube descended from this or it died out and reemerged two centuries later.

So how do we use the doubling cube? First, let us understand that backgammon can also be played as a series of games. In this mode of play each player will not be competing just to win but to reach a certain number of points. Players may also play a certain number of games and the player who ends up with the most points after all games were played wins the game.

Each game in this series has an initial value of one point. The doubling cube rests in the middle of the bar with the number 64 face up. It is not in control of either player. During the course of a game, if a player feels he has the advantage, he may offer a double. He does this before he rolls the dice during his turn. The opponent then has a choice to either accept or decline.

If the opponent declines he therefore concedes or in other words surrenders and loses the game. If, rather, the opponent accepts the double - the value of the game doubles. If the initial value of the game was 1 then it is doubled to 2, or from 2 to four and so forth. The player who offered the double would turn the doubling cube to its next higher value (2 or 4 and so forth depending on how many times the stakes or value of the game has increased) and then would pass it to his opponent. The opponent then accepts the cube, keeps it on his side of the board and reserves the right to redouble.

Understanding when to double using the doubling cube makes the game a lot more interesting. When a player grasps the value of the doubling cube he may use it to expand his strategy.

Backgammon Project