Can You Move Backwards in Backgammon?

Backgammon is a classic board game that has been enjoyed by people for centuries. It’s a strategic game of skill and luck, played with two players and a set of dice. While many rules govern the movement of pieces on the backgammon board, one question often arises: Can you move backwards in backgammon? Let’s explore this topic in detail.

The Basics of Backgammon

Before diving into the question at hand, let’s quickly review the basics of backgammon. The game is played on a board divided into 24 triangles or points. Each player has 15 checkers that they aim to move around the board and ultimately bear them off.

Movement in backgammon is determined by rolling a pair of dice. Players take turns rolling the dice and moving their checkers accordingly. The direction of movement depends on which side each player occupies: clockwise for one player and counterclockwise for the other.

The Directional Rule

In traditional backgammon rules, there is what’s known as the “directional rule.” This rule states that players must always move their checkers forward along their side of the board, following an established direction based on which side they occupy (clockwise or counterclockwise).

Advancing Checkers Forward

If you are playing as White (clockwise), your checkers will advance from point 1 to point 24 along your right-hand side, while Black (counterclockwise) moves from point 24 to point 1 down their left-hand side.

No Moving Backwards?

So now we come to our main question: can you move backwards in backgammon? According to the traditional rules, the answer is no. The directional rule strictly dictates that checkers can only move forward within their designated direction along the board.

Exceptions: Hitting and Reentering

While moving backward isn’t generally permitted in backgammon, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule: hitting and reentering.


If your opponent has one or more checkers on a point, and you roll a dice value that matches that point exactly, you can hit or “attack” their checker. This means you remove your opponent’s checker from the board temporarily and place it on the bar (the raised area at the center of the board). In this case, technically speaking, it might be considered as moving backward since you’re going against your initial direction.


If any of your own checkers have been hit by your opponent during a game, those hit checkers must reenter into play before any other moves are made. To do so, they need to land on an open point within your side of the board that corresponds to a number rolled on one die. Since these reentered checkers start from behind some opposing pieces already advanced further downfield than them (closer to home), they effectively move backward for a short distance before continuing their progress forward again.

The Modern Variations

While traditional backgammon rules rigidly adhere to not allowing regular backwards movement beyond these exceptions mentioned above— hitting and reentering—the emergence of modern variations has introduced new rulesets where limited backward movements may be allowed under certain circumstances:

Gul Bara Variation

In Gul Bara variation from the Middle East, players can move their checkers backward as long as they land on a point occupied by no more than two of the opponent’s checkers. This variation adds an extra layer of strategic possibilities and alters the dynamics of gameplay.

Hypergammon Variation

In Hypergammon variation, each player starts with only three checkers on their 1-point and 2-point (the points closest to home). In this fast-paced variant, players can opt to move one checker backwards during their turn before advancing others forward. However, it’s important to note that once you’ve moved all your remaining checkers off your 2-point, backward movement is no longer allowed.

The Final Verdict

To sum up, in traditional backgammon rules, regular backward movement is not permitted beyond hitting or reentering situations. However, modern variations like Gul Bara and Hypergammon introduce limited scenarios where moving backwards may be allowed under specific conditions. Ultimately, it depends on which version of backgammon you are playing and whether additional rules have been implemented.

Remember that practicing good sportsmanship and adhering to agreed-upon game rules create an enjoyable backgammon experience for both players involved. So grab your dice and get ready for some exciting moves!