For these athletes, the board is their field

May 11, 2007, midnight | By Poorva Singal | 15 years ago

Blazers compete in tiddlywinks tournaments, hoping to raise world rankings

Senior Max Lockwood doesn't need a large field or a court to play his sport. Nor does he need to run a few laps to warm up. All he needs is a cup, a three by six foot felt mat, a table to put the mat on, some small colored disks called winks and a shooter disk called a squidger for his choice sport: tiddlywinks.

Lockwood, president of Blair's tiddlywinks club, describes tiddlywinks as a quirky yet addictive game. The object of the game is to score the most "tiddlies" by pressing down a squidger on the winks to "pot" them – flip the small disks into a cup placed in the middle of a mat. Winks may also be flipped to "squop" – completely or partially cover – an opponent's winks so that the opponent's wink cannot be played until uncovered.

Squopping and potting is just what Lockwood did in the National Pairs tournament in England on April 28 and 29. Because an odd number of players went from Blair, Lockwood partnered up with a British player, Keith Seaman. With a decent finish of seventh out of 11 pairs, Lockwood was able to maintain his world rank of 48 in the game.

Sport or Child's Play?

Tiddlywinks, though, is more than just a game – it's a sport, or so Lockwood claims. "It requires an element of physical skill," he says, contrasting it with a game of chess, where you can ask someone else to move the piece for you as long as you have made up your mind about where it goes.

Junior Wenbo Dou, also a member of the tiddlywinks club, believes that it is all a matter of definition whether or not the game is a sport. "If you define [a sport] as something that requires physical talent, then definitely," he says. "The game itself is really deep as there's a huge variety of strategies you can take," Dou adds.

Lockwood agrees that tiddlywinks requires physical ability in addition to mental skill. "It deals with physics and deals with how much pressure you put on the wink and at what angle you put the squidger on the wink," Lockwood says. "The touch that is required to be able to know where your wink is going to go only comes through practice."

The squidger ranges from 1 to 2 inches in diameter and is pressed down on a wink to flip the wink into the pot. But for Lockwood, potting a wink is barely 10 percent of the game and should be saved for near the end of the game. Once a wink is in the pot, it cannot be retrieved for the remainder of the game, putting one in a handicap against an opponent with more winks on the mat.

As Lockwood sees it, tiddlywinks has all the elements of a sport. "With the strategy involved, with the competition that comes into it and with the real feeling of satisfaction if you do win and the real feeling of the fact that you have to practice and try harder…really defines it as a sport," Lockwood says.

Taking the sport to tourneys

Lockwood encourages all other members of Blair's tiddlywinks club to go to tournaments as well. Seniors Kurt Hendrix and Joe Davis accompanied him on the trip to England. They paired together in National Pairs and though they came in 11th place, the two are not too far behind Lockwood's world ranking. Hendrix and Davis are currently ranked 57 and 58 respectively.

Though no prerequisites are necessary to go to the National Pairs tournament, Lockwood says that it is a good idea to have at least a little experience. All three seniors have had practice in tournaments and continue to practice after school in Room 345, where the club meets every Thursday at 3 p.m.

This March, Lockwood and Davis, along with Dou and freshman Jonathan Lockwood, Max Lockwood's younger brother, went to a the National Teams Tournament at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and came in first place against teams from MIT, Cornell and Ithaca.

The Blazers were late to MIT because of bad weather and even thought about turning around and heading back home. "Our entire team was almost stopped from competing because of weather," said Dou. But they decided to still give it a shot even though others had already begun play.

'Winks in the future

The elder Lockwood's first tournament was actually when he was merely eight. His father, Dave Lockwood, once ranked number one in the Tiddlywinks world, passed his love for the game on to his children. Lockwood is sure that even when he leaves Blair this year, the club will continue to grow. He is confident that with his freshman brother, who is right behind in the world tiddlywinks rank at number 49, the club is "only going to gain momentum."

The Lockwoods are not the only fans of tiddlywinks. According to Max Lockwood, Prince Phillips, Duke of Edinburgh, is another fanatic and once even reported that he thinks tiddlywinks should be in the Olympics. Since 1961, he has awarded the Silver Wink Trophy to the winners of the inter-University Tiddlywinks Championships.

Lockwood is hoping that the Prince will follow through and submit tiddlywinks London's choice for a demonstration sport. "So now that London has the Olympics in 2012 we are trying to get him to make good on his word," he claims. After that, it must be approved by the International Olympics Committee. "We're hoping that tiddlywinks will make it," he says, in hopes of going to the Olympics himself.

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