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Archive-name: games/tiddlywinks
Version: 2.3
Last-modified: November 2006

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge

                          Compiled by Patrick Barrie

    The current version of this FAQ is available on the World Wide Web at: and various archiving sites throughout the world.
    Some other tiddlywinks pages on the WWW are listed at the end of this

Subject: 1. Table of contents This FAQ contains the following sections in an
attempt to provide brief answers to some of the more frequently asked questions
about tiddlywinks:

    1. Table of contents
        2. Is tiddlywinks a serious game?
        3. What are the rules?
        4. What is the history of the adult game?
        5. What do all these silly words mean?
        6. How can I find out more?

Subject: 2. Is tiddlywinks a serious game? The short answer is yes, but it's
great fun as well. The first thing to state is that it's not just about
flicking counters into a cup. It is in fact a complex game of strategy and
tactics, which involves a fascinating mixture of manual dexterity and
intellectual activity as well. It's a bit like chess in a way, but on an
infinitely squared board, and you have the added difficulty of actually playing
a piece to where you want it to go. Oh, it's also got an added dimension-
height. In tiddlywinks you can capture enemy counters (winks) by covering them
up with one of your own. Thus winks often get stacked on top of one another to
form 'piles' during a game. There's no sport quite like it in this respect (you
try stacking snooker/pool balls on top of each other!).

Anyway, tiddlywinks is taken seriously by all those who play the adult game.
There are regular tournaments in Britain and the USA and even a world title.
Enthusiasts have been known to practise endlessly before an important event.
Others just play in the tournaments and thoroughly enjoy themselves no matter
whether they win or lose.

Subject: 3. What are the rules? The rules are too long and tedious to put here.
Copies are available from for those who are interested in
reading them. Here, however, is a brief description.

Tiddlywinks is a game for four players who play in two pairs. In singles
matches each player operates two sets of coloured counters (winks) rather than
one. There are 6 winks (4 small and 2 large) of each colour (blue, green, red
and yellow). The game is played on a six foot by three felt mat with a pot
placed in the centre. The winks are played by using a 'squidger'; this is any
circular disc between 25 and 51 mm in diameter. Players use different squidgers
for different shots (like selecting a club in golf). A player normally only
plays a single shot in each turn, but is rewarded with an extra shot if they
happen to pot a wink of their own colour. Play is time limited. Pairs matches
last for 25 minutes and Singles matches last for 20 minutes, after which each
colour has a further five rounds, ending with the colour that started.

The aim of the game is to secure the highest number of table points
('tiddlies'). At the end of a normal game, three tiddlies are scored for each
wink in the pot and one for each wink which remains uncovered by other winks on
the mat. The player who scores most tiddlies gets four game points, the player
who comes second gets two game points, and the player who comes third gets one
game point. In pairs, partners add their points together. Thus there are always
seven points in every game. In matches and tournaments points are usually
added, so that the margin by which games are won, rather than just the number
of games won, is important.

If one player gets all their six winks into the pot they are deemed to have won
by "potting out". Any winks covered are then released and two more colours must
also get all their winks into the pot to distribute the seven points based on
who comes first, second and third in the potting race. The partnership which
potted out is rewarded by the transfer of one point from their opponents to
their own score.

Although potting out potentially provides the best score for the winners,
pot-outs are rarer than might be expected. The reason is that if any wink is
covered by another, the lower wink is said to be "squopped" and cannot be
played. It must be rescued by another wink of that partnership. A shot which
starts on the top wink of a pile may continue through underlying winks and thus
squopped winks may be rescued in this way. Why are pot-outs fairly rare? The
answer is simple. If a player attempting to pot out misses one shot at the pot,
his wink may be captured by the opponents. If several of his winks are already
in the pot, he and his partner have far fewer winks on the mat with which to
fight their opponents. The chances of rescuing the squopped wink are low, and
the probability that the opposition will be able to manoeuvre themselves into a
winning position is high.

Hence true winks is a game of strategy. A pair must capture and guard their
opponents' winks whilst preserving their own. The basic skills of the game can
be learnt in days, but the tactical knowledge of players takes years to acquire
and can always be improved. Complex tactical games can develop with lots of
small piles and the choice of where to attack; alternatively you may find
yourself in a game in which all winks end up in a huge pile, or one of your
opponents takes the calculated gamble of trying to pot out...

Subject: 4. What is the history of the adult game? The game of tiddlywinks can
be traced back to late Victorian times. The earliest patent application for the
game was filed by Joseph Fincher in 1888, and the subsequent trademark
application (for "tiddledy-winks") filed in 1889. However, the birth of the
modern game can be traced to a group of Cambridge (UK) undergraduates meeting
in Christ's College on January 16th 1955. Their aim was to devise a sport at
which they could represent the university. Within three years Oxford had taken
up the challenge, and the popularity spread from then on. During the sixties as
many as 37 Universities were playing the game in Britain. A British
Universities Championship was established by HRH Prince Philip in 1961 (the
Silver Wink) which is still competed for to this day.

Prince Philip himself had became involved in winks at the time of the Royal
Charity Match of 1958. This match played an important part in establishing
recognition for the game in its early days. The match resulted in a challenge
to the Duke from the Cambridge club after a press article posed the question
"Does Prince Philip Cheat at Tiddlywinks?". The Duke nominated the Goons as
Royal Champions and massive publicity surrounded the ensuing match. The match
was easily won by the university, but not without more than a little

While the basic elements of the adult game were devised by Cambridge University
Tiddlywinks Club in its early years, the rules have continued to be modified
under the auspices of the various national tiddlywinks associations. The
English Tiddlywinks Association (ETwA) was formed in 1958. ETwA coordinated the
game throughout the boom period of the sixties when winks flourished. A decline
in interest in 1969-70 led to the establishment of the three national
competitions which have been contested to date, namely the National Singles,
National Pairs and the Teams of Four. There are also annual Open Competitions,
notably in Oxford, Cambridge and London. There have also been tournaments in
Scotland from time to time.

The game spread across the Atlantic in 1962 when Oxford undertook a tiddlywinks
tour of the United States under the sponsorship of Guinness. The North American
Tiddlywinks Association (NATwA) was formed in 1966 with founders from both USA
and Canada. The game took particularly strong root at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, and the early development of most American players can
still be traced to MIT today.

The first serious trans-Atlantic contact was established in 1972, when a team
from MIT toured the UK. The success of the Americans shocked complacent
Britons. Competition started at the highest level, the World Singles, in 1973.
A challenge system was agreed between ETwA and the corresponding North American
equivalent (NATwA). The supreme ruling body in world contests is the
International Federation of Tiddlywinks Associations (IFTwA). To challenge at
world level, a player must win one of the national titles, or finish as the
highest placed home player behind a foreign winner. There have been 60 World
Singles contests to date. The Americans dominated all the early matches, and it
was not until the 22nd contest when a Briton won for the first time. Since then
the top Britons and Americans have been closely matched. After the
establishment of the World Singles, a World Pairs event followed, and there
have now been 31 World Pairs contests. International matches have been played
occasionally since 1972. Most recently, England defeated America comfortably in
January 2005.

During its brief history, winks has enjoyed variable levels of interest. Today
the strongholds in Britain are at Cambridge, Oxford and London, though there is
also activity in other parts of the UK (with new clubs forming in York and
Shrewsbury). In America, there has been a tradition of tiddlywinks in
Washington DC, Boston, and Ithaca, and the club at MIT is about to be formed
again. National competitions are well attended, with a group of enthusiastic
young players joining the stock of experienced players who have proved
themselves at the highest level in world competition. As for the rest of the
world, I don't know what they're waiting for...

Subject: 5. What do all these silly words mean? Winks has a very colourful
vocabulary. Here is a glossary of some of the most common terms that are in

BLITZ: an attempt to pot all six of your own colour early in the game
(generally before many squops have been taken).
BOMB: to send a wink at a pile, usually from distance, in the hope of
significantly disturbing it.
BOONDOCK: to play a squopped wink a long way away, usually while keeping your
own wink(s) in the battle area.
BRING-IN: An approach shot.
BRISTOL: a shot which attempts to jump a pile onto another wink; the shot is
played by holding the squidger at right angles to its normal plane.
CARNOVSKY: a successful pot from the baseline (i.e. from 3 feet away).
CRUD: a physically hard shot whose purpose is to destroy a pile completely.
CUTwC: Cambridge University Tiddlywinks Club (UK).
DOUBLETON: a pile in which two winks are covered up by a single enemy wink.
ETwA: The English Tiddlywinks Association.
FREE TURNS (and FAILURE TO FREE): far too complicated to go into here.
GOOD SHOT: named after John Good. The shot consists of playing a flat wink
through a nearby pile in the hope of destroying it.
GROMP: an attempt to jump a pile onto another wink (usually with the squidger
held in a conventional rather than Bristol fashion).
JOHN LENNON MEMORIAL SHOT: a simultaneous boondock and squop.
KNOCK-OFF: to knock the squopping wink off a pile.
LUNCH: to pot a squopped wink (usually belonging to an opponent).
NATwA: North American Tiddlywinks Association.
NEWSWINK: The NATwA magazine. Now published roughly once a decade.
OUTS: Oxford University Tiddlywinks Society.
PILE: a group of winks connected directly or indirectly by squops.
POT: (noun) the cup that is placed in the centre of the mat; (verb) to play a
wink into the pot.
ScotTwA: Scottish Tiddlywinks Association.
SCRUNGE: to bounce out of the pot.
SQUIDGER: the circular disk used to propel winks.
SQUOP: to play a wink so that it comes to rest above another wink.
SQUOP-UP: the situation that occurs when all winks of a partnership have been
squopped. Free turns result (q.v.).
StATS: St Andrews Tiddlywinks Society.
SUB: to play a wink so that it ends up under another wink.
WINKS: the circular counters used in the game.
WINKING WORLD: the official journal of ETwA. Published twice a year.
WP: abbreviation for World Pairs.
WS: abbreviation for World Singles.

Subject: 6. How can I find out more? Further information and contact addresses
may be found on the following web sites:

      * The English Tiddlywinks Association (ETwA) site,
      * The North American Tiddlywinks Association (NATwA) site,
      * The new Cambridge University Tiddlywinks Club (CUTwC) site,
      * The old Cambridge University Tiddlywinks Club site,

Other sites that contain some useful information are:

      * Charles Relle's page on getting started in tiddlywinks,
      * Julian Wiseman's tournament format and scoresheet page,
      * Open Directory project entries for tiddlywinks,

Sadly the Scottish Tiddlywinks Association (ScotTwA) site seems to have
recently died.

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