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Tavla & Tavli


A Tavla from Lebanon

In last years I had many discussions about, Tavla or Tavli or even Backgammon if you like, in Greece. People in Greece are also very into Tavli as in Turkey. In this article, I am unrevealing the immortal discussion about where the Tavla comes from and what the frack we are talking about when we say TAVLA or TAVLI…

The lingo of the game
Tavli is a set of games played in Greece. There are many different types to play in one set of game. A game can finish when a player reach 3-5-7-9 points. You decide before you start for the necessary points and the type of games you will play. Most common types of games are Portes, Plakato and Fevga. The first one, Portes, is the original version of Backgammon which British totally massed it up with new rules (if you want to know what is Backgammon, go somewhere else).

Tavla is a well-known game and continues challenge between “men” in Turkey. Women also plays very good but we even call the game “Men Tavla / Erkek Tavlasi” so you might imagine how important it is for Turkish men. BUT, Tavla means only Portes in Turkey. The exact same one with the Greek Portes and not much people know Plakato or Fevga.

I met Greek Tavli when I met my Greek wife many years ago. After playing Portes one round, she asked me which one I want to continue with ! I was surprised, I asked what she meant and we unrevealed the fact that most of the Turks, including me, are not aware of those two other games. After I learnt Plakato and Fevga, I remembered that my father was playing Plakato (we call it Hapis/ Jail) with his friends but never cared to play with me. The reason was “it is an elderly game, not for kids (amateurs) like you” he said.

Where does it come from?
Well, you will be surprised but series of websites that I look into gives me the impression of “blame the eastern one” trick. What does it mean? It means, (some) Greek believe it comes from Turkey, Turks believe (mostly) it comes from Persia and Persians believe it comes from India. Indians has no idea about the game ! 🙂

But in over all, which made the game famous all around the world was Ottoman Empire; which includes current day Persia, Turkey and Greece. In the famous movie “Topkapi (1964)Melina Mercouri which was the ex-culture minister of Greece, says “It is a Turkish game, you know”…

There are also other approaches to the origin.

For example, have a look at the Greek Vaze picture in the logo of this blog; the brown and black one from ancient Greece on the left. There you will see two men playing a “game” on a board. Most of the Greeks I met, who believe Tavli is a original Greek game, points out these kind of ancient figure to prove that the game is Greek.

Persians do not even discuss where it comes from. As a nation with lot of clever games (for example Chess) they without discussion say that, the game is Persian.

Turks, including me, are more relax on the topic. We do not simply care what the origin is, we just try to play the game as good as we can. And, I do not want to be snob, but I can at least go head to head with my Greek, Iranian and Turkish friends in the game what ever the type we are playing.

At WikiPedia English edition, there is a fantastic article about the origins and names that used for the game. For more info read that page !


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