By Jeff Spencer
Our club is more than just a place to play a game. Twin Cities Backgammon is a vibrant community. We’re actually more of a family. In the new world of COVID-19 and social distancing, our members have felt a real hole in their lives. We missed each other terribly. So, our team of local directors, Yury Millman, Jeff Spencer, and April and Michael Mesich (Yeah, they got married if you hadn’t heard) stepped up to meet the needs of the members of the Twin Cities Backgammon Club. We weren’t going to just hunker down and lose track of each other, sheltering in place without having a backgammon outlet! We’ve had a weekly tournament for 50 years and we’ve had two weekly tournaments for three years. We weren’t going to let that solid growth wither in the face of a microscopic virus. So, they got a team together and overcame every obstacle they faced. Our weekly tournaments were disrupted for only one week before our first live online tournament was held on 3/23/2020.
Meeting Together Online
We wanted to keep the experience of meeting together and socializing. And we wanted the tournament to begin and end in one night. Chat rooms are fine for text, but voice is so much better. Discord is an app that really fit the bill. It allows for chat rooms, voice over IP group calls (up to 50), and so much more. It’s used by online gamers all the time, so it’s an incredibly stable platform. And best of all, it’s free. (Our club sprang for the $100/year upgrade to boost audio quality etc.)
Making online payments is pretty much a no brainer. There are a lot of choices there. We settled on one to keep the accounting as clean and transparent as possible. When you have multiple payment methods it gets really confusing really fast.
The next problem was setting up tournament brackets and communicating them in real-time. challonge.com handles that nicely. We were able to embed to create the brackets in a matter of minutes and embed them into our website so that participants can see who they were playing and who their next opponent will be. Nice.
This is another no brainer. The players in each match could choose any platform they want between Backgammon Galaxy, Grid Gammon, Backgammon Studio, Safe Harbor Games or any other platform they wanted. In the Discord App, the players can do a private voice call so they can still talk to each other during the match if they want to.
After players get knocked out, they can create a pick-up chouette from right within Discord. We even have a shareable Google Spreadsheet that manages multiple cubes.
The Take Away
Backgammon goes on. And we love our club. Check out our online tournaments page for more information about how it works. We’re keeping our local online tournaments small and local. We’re planning on having larger weekend events, but more will be revealed. We’ll post information on our website as soon as it is available. Maybe you could start an online tournament for your local club. Spread the fun, not the virus.