Alexandra Llewellyn & the oldest recorded board game in the world…
I confess, I’ve never even attempted to learn how to play backgammon. Noted as the oldest recorded board game in history, the game needs neither common language nor culture to play. If you have a board, you can play with anyone once you know the rules, it can be played in total silence. Just like chess I guess? I had to admit I was more of a Snap! girl.
I met London based Alexandra Llewellyn last week at Hally’s on New Kings Road to talk about her backgammon boards and gaming tables. I had to admit to knowing nothing about backgammon. See, it takes a pretty piece of kit to lure me into the subject, reminding me of when I bought my beautiful Smythson iPad case even before I’d bought the iPad itself. With boards as beautiful as Alexandra’s no wonder this game is still so fashionable after nearly 5000 years in existence. Alexandra mentions that backgammon has long been associated with the leaders and aristocracy of ancient civilisations including Persia, Rome, Greece & Egypt. A derivative of the game was even found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb. Plato describes a form of backgammon noting on its popularity, and the Romans used it to play a classical version of strip poker. Naughty.
New rules on the game were published in the US in the 1930’s but there continue to be many variations and many different names. Tavola Reale (Italy), Tables Reales (Spain), Tavli (Greece), Tavla/Shesh Besh (Turkey), Tric Trac (France), Puff (Germany), Vrhcaby (Czech), Swan-liu (China), Sunoroku (Japan), Ssang-ryouk (Korea), Len sake (Thailand)….
Mexico Backgammon Board
Alexandra has designed and launched a collection of backgammon boards, and undertakes commissions on a regular basis. Each board comes with aluminium playing pieces or you can order her semi-precious stone and brass pieces. Every detail is created in close conversation with the client, creating a truly original way to illustrate memories and life achievements. Alexandra works with a team of master craftsman specialising in different techniques and materials, making each unique commission an original to be enjoyed by generations to come.
Semi Precious Playing Pieces
Alexandra explained to me that she was first introduced to the game by her Egyptian step-grandfather. He would take her off wandering around the streets of Cairo, and soon, not only was Alexandra probably a pro, she eventually started making the boards herself. Her designs are distributed worldwide at Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Talisman in London, in LA, Altal and outposts in Russia & Germany. Alexandra also boasts a growing client list including Sir Richard Branson, Jacquetta Wheeler & January Jones.
This is one of my favourite boards, The Mexico. Designed specifically to order the board reflects the clients roots in Mexico. Made using American black walnut with marquetry inlay cactus, printed and hand painted surface, with engraved turquoise and black marble playing pieces. The board measures 59cm x 38 cm x 9 cm when closed.
The engraved playing pieces for the Mexico board, above.
I mentioned that Alexandra also designed and makes gaming tables, and this Louisa Table has to be one of my favourites. Made from ebonised ash and ripple sycamore, this folding backgammon, chess and games table has a printed leaf and fern design. The playing pieces are polished brass faced in malachite and mother of pearl. The board measures 76cm high x 80cm wide x 40 cm when closed.
Two final boards that caught my eye below…
Nudes Backgammon below…
All images courtesy of Alexandra Llewellyn.
#LWSY #Backgammon #AlexandraLlewellyn