2021 Zagreb Backgammon Open Returns to Croatia’s Capital in December

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2021 Zagreb Backgammon Open
2021 Zagreb Backgammon Open

Think of a game or a sport and you’ll be able to find it in Zagreb. Really.

Golf? Zagreb has Croatia’s best course. Fencing? Surprisingly, at least two separate clubs/schools. Tabletop and board games? There are no less than two venues dedicated specifically for these pastimes, a further two cafes where they’re a prominent part of the offer and a sizeable monthly event.

Did you know that Zagreb is just about the only European capital with a winter snow ski slope within 30 minutes of the city centre?

Of all the sports, games and competition available in the Croatian capital, Backgammon is one of the least widely known. Certainly, its followers and participants are much fewer in number than most games. Small in number they may be, but they are a dedicated collective.

So, it is to their joy – and that of the wider, regional Backgammon scene – that the 2021 Zagreb Backgammon Open returns to the Croatian capital this December. The event did not take place in 2020, spoiling a previously uninterrupted 11-year annual occurrence. But, the international tournament – and premier annual event within the nationwide Croatian Backgammon Tour – is back and bigger than ever in 2021.

2021 Zagreb Backgammon Open

casino.jpg© Grand Casino Admiral

The 2021 Zagreb Backgammon Open will take place at the Grand Casino Admiral at the Admiral Hotel, Vrbani, Zagreb on 10th, 11th and 12th December. Spread across 3000 square metres and fashioned very much in the style of a Las Vegas casino, Grand Casino Admiral is the largest casino in Croatia.

casino_1.jpg© Grand Casino Admiral

Jackpot tournament games will begin on the first day of the event, with the main tournament opening on the second. Finals will be held on the third day with side events and games taking place on all days.

1512051822_b3b2e7996533a020e9dd24f13db6502b_2048.jpg© Grand Casino Admiral

You can register to attend by mailing [email protected] with more information available from organisers, the Croatian Backgammon Federation, here.

History of Backgammon in Croatia and the Balkans

smyrna32.jpgMen of the Ottoman Empire, playing Backgammon in modern-day Turkey c. 1900  © Public domain

Backgammon is one of the world’s oldest board games. The game’s origins can be traced back some 5000 years to the middle east. However, there are many very similar variants of the game found throughout the Levant and some are thought to be even older.

Although dictated by the roll of dice, Backgammon is a game of skill, experience and strategy as well as luck. It’s true to say that, no matter how good a player you are, it’s always possible that the right roll of the dice can enable an opponent to beat you in a single game. However, it is also true to say that more experienced players consistently win over opponents within a series of games.

The definition of Backgammon as a game of strategy and skill was put to the test in a 1982 American court case, In the case, the State argued that Backgammon is a game of chance and it was, therefore, subject to Oregon’s stringent gambling laws. They were unsuccessful. The judge concluded that Backgammon is a game of skill and tournaments of the game were permitted not under the restrictions assigned to gambling.

It is likely that Backgammon was brought to the Balkans by the Ottomans. Certainly, the game is more popular in Balkan regions conquered and occupied by the Ottomans. It is not uncommon to see the game being played outside some bars in major cities of Serbia and Bosnia.

10644346_1090492774304945_184116008402734351_o_1.jpgBackgammon Tavla Club Zagreb

In Croatia, the first Backgammon club formed was that of Backgammon Tavla klub Zagreb (here), who organised the first international Zagreb Backgammon Open in 2009. A further seven Croatian cities have Backgammon clubs – Rijeka, Split, Bol – Brac, Dubrovnik, Zadar, Šibenik and Pula. They are all members of the Croatian Backgammon Federation and annual tournaments take place in each of the participating cities.

Unlike other competitions, enthusiasts of Backgammon are famous for friendly cross-border support of neighbouring societies and events. Croatian Backgammon players participate in international annual tournaments held in Belgrade and Novi Pazar, Serbia and in Neum, Bosnia.

Finding a high-quality Backgammon set in Zagreb or Croatia is not easy. Certainly, it’s much more difficult than in Serbia or Bosnia. For many years, Croatian enthusiasts preferred to order handmade sets from one master Backgammon set maker in Bosnia. Sadly, that master – Mr. Hasan Lonić of Tavla klub Ajna, Bihać, passed away two years ago.

29342769_1571411499639649_3497544344766775296_n.jpgA Backgammon set made by Hasan Lonić of Tavla klub Ajna, Bihać


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