The National Sport of Cyprus - An In-Depth Guide

August 25, 2023

Cyprus, the beautiful Mediterranean island, is known for its rich history, picturesque landscapes, and vibrant culture. When it comes to sports, football (soccer) is immensely popular, but there is one sport that holds a special place in the hearts of Cypriots - Tavli.

What is Tavli?

Tavli, which is the Cypriot version of backgammon, is a board game that combines strategy, skill, and a dash of luck. The game has been played on the island for centuries and has become an integral part of Cypriot culture.

Tavli is typically played on a board with 24 triangular sections called points, which are split evenly on each side. Each player has 15 checkers or discs of a distinct color, and the objective is to move all of your checkers around the board and ultimately bear them off.

The game is played with two dice, and players take turns rolling the dice and moving their checkers accordingly. The movement is determined by the numbers rolled on the dice, allowing for tactical decisions and strategy.

The History and Origins of Tavli

While the exact origins of Tavli are unclear, the game can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Many believe that Tavli was derived from Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum, a Roman game played similarly to backgammon.

In Cyprus, Tavli has been played for generations and has become deeply rooted in the island's customs and traditions. It is commonly played in coffee shops, parks, and homes, serving as a social activity that brings friends and family together.

Tavli as a Cultural Symbol

For Cypriots, Tavli is more than just a game - it symbolizes their national identity and reflects the island's warm and welcoming nature. The game is often played during festivals, religious occasions, and family gatherings, creating a sense of camaraderie and community spirit.

Moreover, Tavli is seen as an embodiment of Cypriot hospitality. Visitors to the island are often invited to join locals in a friendly game, offering a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture and forge lasting connections.

Tavli Competitions and Championships

While Tavli is deeply ingrained in the fabric of Cypriot society, it is also a competitive sport that attracts skilled players from around the world. Cyprus hosts various tournaments and championships where players showcase their expertise and strive for victory.

The most prestigious Tavli event in Cyprus is the Cyprus Backgammon Championship, held annually and drawing both local and international participants. The competition is fierce, and the atmosphere is electric as players vie for the esteemed title.

The Impact of Tavli on Cyprus

Tavli goes beyond being just a game; it has a significant impact on the social, cultural, and even economic aspects of Cyprus.

From a social perspective, Tavli has been instrumental in fostering community cohesion. It brings people together, facilitates conversations, and strengthens bonds among players of all ages and backgrounds. It acts as a catalyst for friendships and shared experiences.

Culturally, Tavli perpetuates the traditions and heritage of Cyprus. It is a sport that passes down through generations, firmly connecting the present with the island's past. Playing Tavli is a way for Cypriots to honor their history and keep their unique cultural identity alive.

Economically, Tavli tourism has become a growing industry in Cyprus. Many passionate players from abroad visit the island to participate in tournaments and indulge in the vibrant Tavli scene. This boosts the local economy by attracting tourists and generating revenue for hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.


Tavli is not just a game in Cyprus; it is a cultural phenomenon that encapsulates the spirit of the island. It has played an integral role in Cypriot society, both as a recreational activity and a symbol of their heritage.

Whether you are a Cypriot or a visitor to the island, Tavli offers a gateway to immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Cypriot culture. So, next time you find yourself in Cyprus, don't miss the chance to join a game of Tavli and experience the joy and camaraderie it brings.

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