A Turkish backgammon app aims to enter the Guinness World Records, and feed street animals in the process.

Backgammon, with its history dating back at least 5,000 years, is set to become competitive e-sport with Atolye Grup’s Istanbul Backgammon Tournament. Billed as a “great internet event”, the online tournament aims to break the Guinness World Record – of being the biggest online backgammon tournament.

Atolye Grup’s founder Mehmet Ulusoy tells TRT World that while the tournament officially begins on July 18, 2020, there are already more than 10,000 players who have downloaded the app to their phones, tablets or computers.

“We expect record participation,” Ulusoy says, and once we reach 20,001 people, we will declare a world record.” The Guinness World Records would then take about a week evaluating the results and declaring Atolye Group as a record breaker, he adds.

Participation in the Istanbul Backgammon Tournament is free of charge, but Ulusoy says they will also raise funds to feed street animals by allowing users to play against celebrities such as Alex de Souza who spent eight years playing for Istanbul’s famed Fenerbahce football team, Fernando Muslera, who has been the goalkeeper for Istanbul’s legendary Galatasaray football team since 2011, and Burcu Esmersoy, who is a Turkish anchorwoman, journalist, and model.

Participation in the Istanbul Backgammon Tournament is free of charge, but Ulusoy says they will also raise funds to feed street animals by allowing users to play against celebrities such as Fernando Muslera, who has been the goalkeeper for Istanbul’s legendary Galatasaray football team since 2011.
Participation in the Istanbul Backgammon Tournament is free of charge, but Ulusoy says they will also raise funds to feed street animals by allowing users to play against celebrities such as Fernando Muslera, who has been the goalkeeper for Istanbul’s legendary Galatasaray football team since 2011. (Atolye Grup)

Ulusoy says that while Muslera and Esmersoy are already in Turkey, de Souza has also been invited to Istanbul to be there when Guinness World Records presents the award.

“We have developed AI models of Alex, Muslera and Burcu Esmersoy,” Ulusoy says, so that backgammon players, by donating a symbolic fee to benefit street animals, can play against these celebrities online. “We have already fed thousands of street animals during the lockdown,” Ulusoy says.

Burcu Esmersoy has invited her fans to follow @tavlastars on Instagram and to download the app for free so that “we can break the world record with Istanbul Backgammon Tournament.” She adds: “When you play with me you will have donated to street animals and you’ll be guaranteed to win because I’m not so great at backgammon.”

Ulusoy says they looked at the Istanbul Marathon as an example. “Runners can join the marathon for free,” he points out, “but then raise money for causes close to their heart.”

“As a father of two girls,” Ulusoy muses, “I wanted to focus on an online game that is non-violent and focused on chance and strategy.” He says the game is still competitive and has been around for thousands of years, a testament to its longevity.

Ulusoy says their app is one of the top three backgammon apps in Turkey, and all other backgammon apps are made in either the US or in Israel.

“If I were to sum up what we aim to do,” Ulusoy tells TRT World, “I would say it is to create a fully local game that has no violent components and to make Istanbul a world e-sports centre.”

In addition to a monetary prize, the winner will get to stay at Melek Hotels Bozburun on Turkey's Aegean coast for a week.
In addition to a monetary prize, the winner will get to stay at Melek Hotels Bozburun on Turkey's Aegean coast for a week. (Atolye Grup)

Ulusoy is no stranger to events that make a splash. He and his team were behind the publicity stunt that saw golf great Tiger Woods take a shot in the middle of Bosphorus Bridge in 2013 from Europe to Asia, which won a European Best Event Award – Best Public Event award in 2014.

Monetary awards and a hotel stay await the winners of the online backgammon tournament. The winner will get 10,000 TL ($1456.29), the second player will get 5,000 TL ($728.15), the third will get 3,000 TL ($436.89) and the fourth will get 2,000 TL ($291.26). Moreover the winner will get a holiday at Melek Hotels Bozburun, near Marmaris on the Aegean coast of Turkey, for a week.

Source: TRT World