Tiddlywinks is a game played on a flat felt mat with sets of small discs called “winks”, a pot, which is the target, and a collection of squidgers, which are also discs. Players use a “squidger” to shoot a wink into flight by flicking the squidger across the top of a wink and then over its edge, thereby propelling it into the air.
Some consider this a children’s game but in some places, the game of Tiddlywinks is a serious pastime used to demonstrate strategy. In particular, it’s popular in the United States, England, and Scotland, where it was often played in university settings.
The game began as a parlour game in Victorian England. The name of the game comes from the British rhyming slang for an unlicensed pub -tiddlywink or kiddlywink. It was trademarked in 1889 as “Tiddledy-Winks” and is a very basic game that through the years has had more than 80 approved patents.
Bank clerk, Joseph Assheton Fincher obtained the first patent in the UK, Patent #16,215. One year later E. I. Horsman Jr. applied for US Patent #442, 438 “Parlor Tennis”. McLoughlin Brothers, of New York, N.Y. files their US patent for Tiddledy-Winks in 1890.
John Jaques and Son were the exclusive distributors of the game named Tiddledy-Winks. t became one of the most popular crazes during the 1890s, played by adults and children alike.
The birth of the modern game can be traced to a group of Cambridge University undergraduates meeting in Christ’s College on 16 January 1955. Their aim was to devise a sport at which they could represent the university.
In 1958 the Oxford University Tiddlywinks Society was formed; although the two universities had been playing matches since 1946. In 1957, an article appeared in The Spectator entitled “Does Prince Philip cheat at tiddlywinks?” Sensing a good publicity opportunity the Cambridge University Tiddlywinks Club challenged Prince Philip (later to become Chancellor of the University in 1976) to a tiddlywinks match to defend his honor. On June 13, 1958, The English Tiddlywinks Association was founded. During the 1960s as many as 37 universities were playing the game in Great Britain. In 1962, the Oxford University Tiddlywinks Society toured the United States for several weeks under the sponsorship of Guinness.
The North American Tiddlywinks Association was formed on 27 February 1966 with founders from both American (Harvard University and Harvard Medical School) and Canadian (University of Waterloo and Waterloo Lutheran University) teams.
Cornell and MIT formed teams in 1965. The game took particularly strong root at MIT, and the early development of most American players can still be traced to MIT today. A decline in interest within the UK in 1969-1970 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. The first serious trans-Atlantic contact was established in 1972 when a team from MIT including Dave Lockwood toured the UK.
Lockwood has won 41 national and world tiddlywinks titles. He has additionally won five international titles competing as a duo with Larry Kahn. In 1979, Lockwood held the record for most consecutive shots “potted” (made into the cup) without missing, at 722
Terminology (from Wikipedia)
- Blitz: an attempt to pot all six winks of a given player’s colour early in the game
- Bomb: to send a wink at a pile, usually from distance, in the hope of significantly disturbing it
- Boondock: to free a squopped wink by sending it a long way away, leaving the squopping wink free in the battle area
- Bristol: a shot which moves a pile of two or more winks as a single unit; the shot is played by holding the squidger at a right angle to its normal plane
- Carnovsky (US)/Penhaligon (UK): potting a wink from the baseline (i.e., from 3 feet away)
- Cracker (UK): a simultaneous knock-off and squop, i.e. a shot which knocks one wink off the top of another while simultaneously squopping it
- Crud (UK): a forceful shot whose purpose is to destroy a pile completely
- Good shot: named after John Good. The shot consists of playing a flat wink (one not involved in a pile) through a nearby pile with the intent of destroying the pile
- Gromp: an attempt to jump a pile onto another wink (usually with the squidger held in a conventional rather than a Bristol fashion)
- John Lennon memorial shot: a simultaneous boondock and squop
- Lunch: to pot a squopped wink (usually belonging to an opponent)
- Scrunge (UK): to bounce out of the pot
- Squidger: the disc used to shoot a wink
- Squop: to play a wink so that it comes to rest above another wink
- Sub: to play a wink so that it (unintentionally) ends up under another wink
- Tiddlies: points calculated when determining the finishing placement of winkers in a tiddlywinks game