Sunday 29 November 2020

A curious medieval chess/backgammon board


A game of "strip"-backgammon in manuscript. Welscher Gast by Thomasin von Zerklaere. Around 1256, Bayern, Germany. Codex Pal germ 389. Folio 11v . University Library, Heidelberg, Germany.

Actually this post is not about the unusual variant of the medieval backgammon or tric-trac game where the players strip during play as shown by these two illuminations. So far no rules have been published on this variant, although more illustrations of this type of play exist (a Roman glass and other copies of  the 'Welscher Gast'. Presumably, one could lose a piece of garment if a game piece is taken by the opponent.


A game of "strip"-backgammon in manuscript. Welscher Gast by Thomasin von Zerklaere,
Cod. Memb. I 120, folio 12v. Around 1340. Forschungsbibliothek, Gotha, Germany

  The 15th century chess and backgammon board in the Museo de Leon, Leon, Spain.  

I encountered an image of a 15th century chess and backgammon board from the Museo de Leon in Leon, Spain in a book that was curiously constructed. The board looks to be made of wood, with an extra rim on the sides. One side contains the backgammon board with 12 inlaid triangles on each side. The rim is smooth. The other side contains a 8 by 8 squares chess board, but here two of the rims have twelve half-round holes. They are decorative and do not have a function on the chess board. Hoever the half-round holes are reminiscent of the Spanish backgammon boards in Le Juegos of Alphonso X 'the wise' of 1283. The twelve half-round holes correspond to the twelve triangles of the backgammon board, and the backgammon game pieces will snugly fit in the holes. I think it is likely that the person who made the game board made a mistake during its construction and put the rim for the backgammon board on the wrong side.

The game of seis, dos, y as from the Libro de los juegos of Alphonso X the Wise. 1283. Folio 75 verso.
Note the board with the half-round holes to hold the game pieces.