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

Rise of Backgammon from Cyprus

Cyprus became a stage for a number of big backgammon tournaments last week. Two players from OBSS, Sabri Büyüksoy and Çağlar Erdoğan reached to the top of EBGT 2012 Grand Finale in which a select number of tournament and point race winners performed. In European Pro Championship, #2 backgammon giant Mochy (Masayuki Mochizuki) won the dramatic clock-determined final against a powerful Turkish player Cüneyt Argun Genç who was favorite to win like 95% in DMP. And in European Doubles Championship young Turkish players Erhan Yenişen and Hisar Uyar got the trophy by coming from 0-6 behind, balancing the score with 5-6 and then winning 11-6 against Mochy with a doubled backgammon.

Hosting İSTAVDER and WBA tournaments with ever increasing attendance and significance during last four years, Cyprus continues to prove that backgammon as a 5000-years old game can rise again. The results and the quality of the tournaments pointed out once more that Turkey has become a powerhouse of backgammon. It also showed what can be achieved if natural backgammon playing countries like Turkey, Iran and Greece cooperates with the countries working towards the goal of spreading the popularity of backgammon like Denmark, Japan and the USA. In addition, I am personally happy to see that backgammon is giving respect to my efforts and players are considering backgammon more as a game of skill and expertise.

Now I would like to express my gratitude. First of all, I would like to thank to my family for their support. My wife must have guessed this happening because she immediately grabbed the trophy 🙂 I would like to thank to all players, without them there is no joy in tournaments (this is not a joke, there are some tournaments with a few players). Especially I want to congratulate all my Turkish backgammon playing friends for their effort to improve both their games and sportsmanship. I would like to thank OBSS for supporting my backgammon career. And I would also like to thank İSTAVDER and WBA for organizing and running great tournaments. Here are some links in which you can find some social and technical aspects of the tournaments:

  • You can check detailed tournament results in Chicagopoint.
  • After winning EBGT Grand Finale, I gave an interview to Chiva Tafazzoli, head of WBA.
  • My match with Martin Birkhahn at round 11: Martin-Sabri-EBGT2012-round11
  • I don’t have much photos but I will share them as soon as possible.

HavuzdaTavla2 (Small)Backgammon by the pool.

ZaferÇağlarSabri (Small)With backgammon phenomenon Zafer Taş and EBGT finalist Çağlar Erdoğan.

KamilSabri (Small)With a player from Antalya, my home town: Kamil Karaali.

EBGT-HalefVeSelefHalef and selef of EBGT 🙂

PresentAndFutureOfBackgammonPresent and future of backgammon 🙂

Nice moments from Cyprus April 2013: [portfolio id=”0″]