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About Backgammon with Yan Kit Chan – Interview by Onur Vurur


[Onur Vurur] We first encountered you at a backgammon tournament a few years ago in Istanbul. We were surprised to find out that a blind backgammon player can play at a very competitive tournament. We also found you very warm-hearted.

[Yan Kit Chan] Thank you. I would like to come back for sure. I am actually surprised that there’s no blind people who also play in Turkey.


[OV] Backgammon (tavla) is very common in Turkey. I think there are a lot of blind players even if they don’t attend tournaments. What else can you say about you?

[YKC] I am 33, I work in marketing for a company called Rakuten.


[OV] How did you learn backgammon? It should be difficult. When we also consider it is not a popular game outside of middle eastern world…

[YKC] So a friend in school taught me when I was about 18 I think. I play a lot of board games and at the time. Chess was my favorite. I played with friends every now and again, but it’s not until some 6 years ago that one day I decided to see what live tournaments are like. I went to the London open myself. No one had seen a blind person playing backgammon before so they didn’t quite know what to do with me. We decided that it should be okay, I’ll just play normally, and so I did 🙂 I think having played lots of board games before helps learning the game for me.


[OV] I had a chance to watch two of your matches. You played the masters final in a recent British Open tournament and lost a very close match. I congratulate you again for this. In that match your opponent player a checker illegally. You noticed that and warned him. That was very interesting.

[YKC] Thank you. I have been in the final twice in the British Open. Very lucky 🙂


[OV] Really! When was the other?

[YKC] In 2015, which I think was the first time I played in the masters division. And I actually won the intermediate in 2014.


[OV] Congratulations! It is a very big success for a player playing first time at a live masters event. If we go back to your last final match… How did you notice that your opponent made an illegal move?

[YKC] I don’t remember where all the checkers are. I only remember where the most important points are 🙂 When he made the mistake it was easy to spot because it was a very obvious one to me. I do forget where things are every now and again 🙂 It doesn’t happen very often now, only if I am tired.


[OV] How do you study backgammon for improving your game? Are you using an analysis program like eXtremeGammon (XG) or something else?

[YKC] I use XG, yes. Xavier, the person who developed the software, kindly made it possible for me to use. He made a command line interface for me. So I would type 24/18 13/11 to make moves for example. There isn’t any backgammon book for me to read. So playing against the computer is really the only way I learn. Of course I’d ask people to explain things to me too.


[OV] You are also using BG Buddy for its dice rolling, match performance statistics and clock features. This program both rolls and talks the dice. I checked it after watching you in British Open final. I especially liked the statistics feature. I started using it. Now I enter all my matches in it. I can see who I played with and when very easily on my phone.

[YKC] Yes that is immensely helpful for me. In the past I have to rely on others to tell me the rolls. I used to have to look for the dice, wait for people to tell me the rolls. Over the course of a match it’s actually a lot more tiring than just pressing a button, and just concentrate on the match. But you can imagine, some people don’t trust the phone rolling dice naturally. Which is understandable.


[OV] Unfortunately it is so. Especially over the internet they think the dice is controlled by the server. But if we give it serious consideration it is not trivial to control the dice according to how the game unfolds.

[YKC] To be honest if someone wants to cheat, it’s just as easy to make some dice that is heavier on one side. There’s always trust. And I have more trust because it’s much more difficult for me to spot illegal plays normally.


[OV] I hope we pair in a tournament and have a chance to play together. Thank you very much for this opportunity. I am happy to talk with you

[YKC] Pleasure! You can ask me anything any time! And I hope to see you in a tournament soon.


Edited by Sabri Büyüksoy


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