Alexander Auer’s Obituary for Paul Magriel

Paul Magriel, one of the ‘Greats’ of the game we love, passed away on March 5th 2018. To mark the anniversary of his death, Alexander Auer has kindly given us permission to publish the obituary he wrote for Paul, and to include some images of the backgammon board he has designed with Gammoner Backgammon Boards as a fitting memorial.

The following are Alexander’s words;

Plato is, by any reckoning, one of the most dazzling writers in the Western literary tradition and one of the most penetrating, wide-ranging and influential authors in the history of philosophy. The questions he raises are so profound and the strategies he uses for tackling them so richly suggestive, so non trivial and provocative that educated readers of nearly every period have in some way been influenced by him, and in practically every age there have been philosophers who count themselves Platonists in some important respects. 

Plato’s most groundbreaking view is that every object, every action, every emotion has a perfect counterpart in an Idea. Everything that we humans experience with our senses is merely an image of this perfect, unique thing, which however does not exist in space and time itself. 

For me Paul Magriel is therefore the Plato of Backgammon. He is the great thinker, the analytical virtuoso, who has realized that the perfect game is possible with every single game of Backgammon, no matter what the dice dictate. 

Just as Michelangelo, a follower of Plato’s teachings, was convinced that the perfect statue was already in the marble block, that it only had to be found and worked out, Paul Magriel saw it as his task to always find this one perfect play, hidden in the apparent chaos. 

Just as Plato brought about a completely new approach to philosophy, Paul Magriel illuminated and revolutionized the game like no other, and he continues to influence interested and attentive players to this day. He has not only managed to open up new dimensions, but also to communicate and pass on his enthusiasm for his findings in a really thrilling way.

Paul Magriel is the one who brought the four Platonic Virtues into Backgammon: wisdom, fairness, level-headedness and braveness.

I took the passing away of Paul Magriel as an occasion to have a Backgammon board built to commemorate him. Only the best materials should be used and processed to the highest quality. That’s why none other than Gammoner came into consideration. The design embodies simplicity and purity. The colouring should be classic and restrained, reflecting on the one hand the grief of the loss, but also the light that Paul Magriel brought into the game. It may always admonish me to look for the one best move, to „put my checkers where they belong“ (Magriel‘s Maxime).

Paul Magriel was a player, literally a “homo ludens” in his entire personality. I would like to say goodbye to Paul Magriel with a quote from Johan Huizinga (author of „Homo Ludens“, A Study of the Play-Element in Culture):

“The eternal gulf between being and idea can only be bridged by the rainbow of imagination.”

Alexander Auer, May 2018


More information about the Backgammon set: 

The series of the Paul Magriel Memorial Boards consists of 22 sets, following the nickname of Paul Magriel. A king size board made by hand from birch wood that does not warp even after years. The genuine leather has been specially tanned for this series and is of the highest quality. The playing field was cut with a laser, all pips are handmade and individually inserted. It is Merino wool felt of the best quality. The dice cups are made of 5 mm grain leather and are sewn by hand. The 50 mm checkers have been cast especially for this series and are only available with the Paul Magriel Memorial Board. The extraordinary cube is milled from solid aluminium and has an edge length of 45mm. It weighs 155 grams and was engraved by hand. Instead of the 64 the cube shows the nickname of Paul Magriel, X-22.

A silver plaque was laser engraved with the serial number and an inscription:
„In memoriam of Paul Magriel, 1946-2018“

Another plaque is hidden under a magnetically closing lid. Magriel’s maxim was engraved here:
„Put your checkers where they belong!“

With every set sold, Gammoner and I financially support Louis Magriel, Paul’s son. Louis is a young man who is in the middle of his studies and needs every support.

Thank you Alexander for those kind and moving words. If I were to have a nickname in the style of Paul Magriel it might be X-0.0022. But I am working my way through his book and one day hope to play at a higher level thanks to his teachings.

One thought on “Alexander Auer’s Obituary for Paul Magriel

  1. Thank you, Peter, for publishing this obituary again and giving the readers the opportunity to briefly pause for a moment and commemorate the greatest backgammon player of all time.

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