# Problems with the rules of tiddlywinks

(last update: 5th May 2012)

The purpose of this page is to present contentious issues with the rules of tiddlywinks. The rules themselves can be found at http://www.etwa.org.

I would like to thank all the people who have contributed to the discussions on this site: Patrick Barrrie, Matt Fayers, Andrew Garrard, Tim Hunt, Larry Kahn, Charles Relle, Brad Schaefer, Geoff Thorpe, Julian Wiseman and Patrick Driscoll. I am always keen to hear suggestions of new problems, new solutions to old problems, or ways to improve this site.

The problems are numbered for easy reference; missing numbers correspond to problems which have been resolved. The problems are sub-divided according to the section in the rules to which they refer.

As of September 2007, rules problems are now in four categories:

situations not covered by the rules or where the rules are ambiguous;

situations where the rules are clear but are frequently flouted;

situations where the rules are clear and generally obeyed, but for which some people would like the rules to be different;

situations where the wording of the rules is unsatisfactory.

Some problems don't fit clearly into one category; please don't argue with the choice of category I've made for each problem – I don't care what you think, and won't change it. Each problem also has an importance factor: a factor of zero indicates that the situation couldn't crop up even if the players tried to contrive it, while a factor of ten indicates that the problem occurs very often. The assignment of importance factors is even more arbitrary than the assignment of categories, so don't read too much into them.

## 13. Squidgers must not damage the winks when used 3

This rule raises the obvious question of what happens when a squidger does damage a wink. In practice, the two-inch rule effectively prevents winks' being smashed, but scratching is another issue. Some people think that a squidger which could damage winks should not be used at all, but other people claim that this applies to almost all squidgers. This rule doesn't seem to present a problem in current play, but it could certainly be cleaned up.

## 21. Units 5

The units used for the various distances mentioned in the rules are inconsistent: some are imperial, and some metric. A suggestion to tidy this up was rejected at a rules meeting. We could, at least, give both measurements.

## 8. Nothing is allowed inside the pot except winks 10

This rule is clearly important, because it prevents a player who is about to attempt a pot from placing some sort of cushion in the pot to prevent a scrunge. However, the rule is frequently broken in practice by some players who hold the pot in place by placing a finger inside. An alteration to the rule to make this legal (as long as no winks have been potted) would probably meet most people's approval, although a situation where a wink then hits the finger would be interesting. Meanwhile, people who object to the flouting of this rule are left with no recourse.

## 5. A pile that is squidger-damaged affects the outcome of the shot 7

This is one of the biggest real problems with the rules, and crops up fairly often. If a player is trying to pot a wink with a pile behind it, he is inevitably going to destroy the pile with his follow-through. This is legal, but a problem arises when the wink bounces off (or out of) the pot and lands where the pile used to be. The usual solution in this situation is to re-construct the pile, and then throw the wink at it, hoping to reproduce its trajectory. A way to solve this problem would be to make the disturbance of nearby piles illegal (analogously with snooker), but this is clearly against the tradition of the game.

## 11. Sticky squidgers and legal shots 2

What if a player uses a legal squidger that has a high coefficient of friction (say, rubber) and during a normal shot stroke slides the wink along the mat in the opposite direction to that which the wink might normally hop? This can be turned into an intentional shot where the wink is slid along the mat, never leaving the mat. This could be used as a shot to bring in a wink (with the accuracy of a 'squop-style' bring-in, but none of the risk of rolling), or it could be used to 'bomb' a pile (with the advantage being that the wink is very likely to hit the side of the pile). The shot is made with a normal squidger motion involving downward pressure and the squidger easily fits all legal definitions.

This type of shot is possibly illegal under the 'quick and continuous' clause. But this is a matter for some debate.

Another questionable shot: for a shot which requires the wink to move slightly up a pile (e.g. to take a wink next to it, also on the pile) you might rest the squidger on its side, Bristol style, on the mat, and then move it horizontally towards the wink. The downward curvature of the squidger pushes the wink into the pile, but also horizontally in a controlled manner. It's substantially easier than suspending the squidger a millimetre above the mat and trying to play the same thing. In fact, this one seems to be illegal, for the following reason: Rule 13.5 states '... The squidger must first touch the upper surface ... of an unsquopped wink ...'; in particular, the squidger must touch a wink before it touches the mat.

Charles recalls a discussion between Oxford and Cambridge of the definition of a legal shot. Oxford said that for a shot to be legal the squidger had to go in one direction and the wink in another. Shots were much less complex in those days, but substitute 'a' for 'the', and you are some way towards a definition. Andrew suggests changing the wording to suggest downward motion.

## 23. Do we want a note about the Cambridge convention for squidge-off order? 4

In which order should players squidge off? There seem to be two conventions: the Cambridge convention says that yellow, blue, green and red squidge off in order, while the American convention says that someone (arbitrary) squidges off, then one of his opponents, then the partner of whichever player is closer. Neither of these seems to be particularly closely adhered to (even in Cambridge and/or America); the squidge-off order is rather more haphazard and doesn't cause contention, even though there is a small potential benefit in squidging off later than one's opponents. A sensible rule of thumb is 'if you're ready to squidge off, then don't wait for an opponent to do so'.

For those keen to adopt a convention, surely the following is fairer then either the Cambridge or the American convention (and easier to implement than the latter): one player squidges off, then both his opponents, then his partner. However, this proposal was turned down at a rules meeting.

## 6. Should one miss a shot for going off? 9

This is easily the most contentious issue with the rules. Several people feel that the penalty for sending oneself off is too harsh; others feel that the penalty should be the same for sending any wink off. This has been discussed in Winking World issues 48, 49, 50, 68 (an excellent article by Geoff) and 80, to name a few. Various solutions have been proposed, of which the most frequently-mentioned is the American perimeter rule: there is no penalty for going off, but any winks that go off are replaced on the boundary at positions of the opponents' choosing.

Tim points out that eliminating the penalty for going off would simplify the rules in several places.

## 50. Implicit or explicit pass? 5

The rules do not currently recognise an 'implicit pass' – Rule 14.1 states that 'the opponents must be informed' of a pass. There has been some call for the reinstatement of the implicit pass.

Example 1: There are no free yellows and blue plays when it's red turn. Some would favour this being an implicit pass by red, and so blue's turn is in the correct order, and it is green to play. Under the current rules, blue has played out of turn (which gives the opposition the choice of having the shot taken back, or continuing with green or yellow).

Example 2: Blue/red have a squop-up, but blue plays when it's red's turn. If there were lots of free turns available, I suspect in most cases people would adjudicate this to be an implicit pass by red, but technically blue has played out of turn. If the opponents accept this and continue with green, then the counting of free turns can be awkward. The situation can get very messy if implicit passes are allowed and there are few free turns left (e.g. if it was red to free).

## 17. Winks sent off the mat should be replaced 10cm from any other wink 1

A quick calculation on the back of an envelope will make it clear that this is impossible in some bizarre situations. Even in non-bizarre situations, the ten-centimetre rule can cause winks to be placed much further from or closer to the pot than they would otherwise be placed. This sometimes seems unfair, especially when the 10cm minimum is being maintained between friendly winks. Matt suggests two solutions.

1. Winks going off are replaced as near as possible to the point where they went off subject to being 22mm from the boundary, at least 10cm away from opposing winks (and opposing baselines with winks behind them) and 2mm from friendly winks (and friendly baselines with winks behind them). The problem with this suggestion is that it can create doubletons of friendly winks which go off near each other; perhaps 22mm would be better than 2mm.
2. Winks going off are replaced as near as possible to the point where they went off subject to being at least 22mm from the boundary and at least 10cm from any other wink (or baseline with winks behind it).

## 18. A very tall pile that contains a wink partially supported by the rim of the pot 0

This really would be amusing if it ever happened, and would raise the question of whether the wink is potted. Rule 8.2 says 'any wink coming to rest on the top rim of the pot', which is open to interpretation. If we decide that it is potted, then removing the wink into the pot could present problems if the wink is itself supporting other winks.

## 26. Pot supporting wink supporting wink 6

When a wink is leaning against the pot, it is put down flat unless it forms part of a pile. This seems strange in the case where the wink is unsquopped, since it is made considerably more difficult to play by virtue of being on another wink (rather than just a bit more difficult). The rule used to say that the wink was put down unless squopped, and got changed because of a situation where a large wink was leaning against the pot and small wink was leaning against the underside of the large wink. It would make a lot of sense not to interfere with winks leaning against the pot at all.

## 34. Winks in a pile crossing the boundary 2

There's a problem with winks' going off the mat when they are part of a pile (e.g. if blue on green is Bristolled onto yellow, and only the green is over the boundary). As the rules currently stand, it seems that the winks which have partially crossed the boundary should be extracted from the pile and replaced 10cm away. This is ugly, and could cause structural difficulties with the pile.

## 16. De-squopping 1

This is similar to problem 17. When a pot-out occurs, it's not always possible to move the winks so that they're at least 2mm apart and all still at the same distance as they were from the pot. It doesn't seem worth while legislating, but Geoff has two proposals.

1. The distance of each wink from the pot is measured, and the winks are removed from the mat, being replaced only when they are being played.
2. Forget the de-squopping and following-in business. When someone pots out, calculate the score using tiddlies as usual, and then do the point transfer.

## 7. Point transfer 3

The question has been raised at various times of whether transferring a point to the winners of a pot-out game is ideal. Some people would like to see the point transferred to the pair that effected the pot-out. This was tried at a friendly tournament, of which a report appears in WW69.

## 9. Should one play a freeing shot? 4

This is the rules dispute which has provoked most ranting, chiefly from Matt and Charles. The question is what should happen if someone deliberately fails to free (which can be preferable to playing a freeing shot in certain circumstances): should this be treated in the same way as an accidental failure-to-free, i.e. incur a nominated wink penalty in the usual way, or should the player be regarded as cheating and perhaps forfeit the game 7–0? There are arguments both ways here, which I will not describe in full. Suffice it to say that the current position (which could perhaps be clarified in the rules) is that all failures to free result in a nominated wink, whether deliberate or not. In case someone interprets the rules otherwise, note that:

1. the Rules sub-committee decided this the last time it met;
2. there is a precedent: in the NHIP a few years ago, Tim (partnering Cyril?) deliberately (blatantly, and by his own admission) failed to free, and his opponents (Matt and Christine?) had a nominated wink in the usual way.

Incidentally, if we do go the way of harsher penalties for deliberate failure to free, we need to consider the following situation: blue and red have a squop-up, and it is blue to play, after which red is due to free. If there are no free reds, is blue obliged to attempt a freeing shot?

## 31. More on freeing shots IV 5

Some people suggest that the allowances made to the squopping pair in the case where there are no flat winks (gaining an extra free turn in the case where the next colour in sequence is squopped up) is unfair: the squopping pair should be deemed to have failed to free. Of course, removing this get-out clause allows extreme Plan 47 situations, where you can get a nominated wink by subbing or potting without your opponents' having a chance to free. Would this be a bad thing?

## 36. Nominated winks 3

Red goes off, yellow squops up, green fails to free. Does red get to play a nominated wink? The rules seem to indicate 'yes', because red is due to miss the next shot due to be played 'with that colour', which a nominated wink won't be. On the other hand, the rules state that the nominated colour is played 'as if it were the person's normal colour', which perhaps suggests that red should not get a nominated wink. The first interpretation leads to the following nasty consequence: red and blue have a squop-up. Red fails to free and sends himself off in the same shot. Yellow has a nominated wink, but if he nominates a red, then the nominated wink is the next shot due to be played with red, and so is forfeited.

It seems that perhaps a player who has just sent himself off shouldn't be allowed to play a nominated wink. So the rule about going off should talk about the next shot due to be played 'by that player', but with a clever wording to cope with singles.

At present, when counting free turns, we look at unsquopped unsquopping unpotted winks which have been played from behind the baseline. Some people suggest that we might include winks which haven't been played from behind the baseline, as yet another sop to the squopping pair who might otherwise leave themselves a tricky freeing shot.

## 49. Failure to free in Round 6 0

At present, if a failure to free occurs in Round 6, then the opposition are not entitled to a nominated wink. This seems inconsistent.

## 51. Simplifying the conditions for a failure to free 5

At present, the requirements for avoiding a failure to free after a freeing shot are rather complicated: Rule 27.4.2 is not easy to decipher, but the upshot is that whichever colour is freed must remain free until it gets a turn. The reason for this is presumably that otherwise the squopping partnership could play a freeing shot and continue to leave opponents' winks free without ever giving them a chance to play a shot: blue leaves a yellow free; red squops the yellow leaving a green free, which blue then squops leaving a yellow free, and so on. However, note that

1. in practice, this is very difficult to do for any period of time, and
2. it is perfectly permissible behaviour for a pair which hasn't just played a freeing shot.

I think that deleting the second sentence of 27.4.2 would be worth while; it would simplify the rules, while only affording the squopping-up pair a marginal advantage.

## 38. One discontinuous shot or two legal ones? 4

This question was discussed in WW68: if a player plays a shot in which there are distinct movements, can the opponents claim that he played two legal shots, of which the second was out of turn (and therefore accept the first but not the second)? The intent of the current rules seems to be 'no'; it should always be clear when the attempt is to play one shot. Here's a situation in which regarding one shot as two causes problems: in a singles game, green is squopped up, and blue is attempting to lunch a red. If he does this discontinuously, then regarding it as blue's shot followed immediately by red's means that the state of play is no different from how it would have been had the lunch been smooth; which seems lenient on a player playing a dodgy shot. If a player is judged (by some higher authority) to have played an additional shot deliberately (and there are situations where a player with very sharp reactions might realise that he's played a very bad shot and immediately make some adjustment so that the opponents decide that it's best to have to whole lot put back) then he should of course be punished severely. In the absence of a shot judge the player playing the shot should surely receive the benefit of any doubt.

## 52. Illegal click shots 10

Sick Boy points out that Rule 13.7 is particularly relevant when playing click shots; it's not clear how well-worn this discussion is, but I often see quite senior players playing what I consider illegal click shots, and there are possibly different interpretations of 13.7. If you play a click shot and remain resting on the bottom wink for some time, then you are contravening rule 13.7, which requires that the squidger movement be quick and continuous until contact between squidger and winks ceases. When playing click shots, most players try to pick the squidger up off the bottom wink as quickly as possible, and this is OK, although it's not clear what 'as quickly as possible' means. It might be nice if the rules included the click shot as a specific example of the relevance of Rule 13.7. Meanwhile, when I see players lingering on the bottom wink, I tend not to take them to task immediately, but to discuss it politely with them after the game. I suggest other people do the same.

## 41. Punishing illegal shots 6

Some people feel that foul shots are punished particularly lightly, and that perhaps if the shot is put back, the player should not have an opportunity to have another go. What would be the consequences of not allowing foul shots to be re-played? Firstly, it would make people much more careful to play their shots legally – they probably wouldn't go so near to unplayable winks during pile-breaks. Secondly, it would result in shot judges' being called more often, since there would be much more at stake if legality were questionable. Given the inconvenience of obtaining a shot judge in the current tournament atmosphere, this might be a problem.

## 47. Playing out of turn III 2

If I accept my opponent's out-of-turn shot, I may continue with whichever of my colours I choose. But it might be to my advantage to have play continue with one of my opponents' colours; do we think the rules should be changed to allow me this option? In case you can't work out how it could be to my advantage, here is an example. Suppose that red plays out of turn and creates a squop-up for red and blue with one free turn. I might like to accept this and have blue play next, if his freeing shot is very awkward; however, I might not want to continue (and automatically pass) with yellow if that would end a round.

## 43. Re-writing Rule 31.1 5

There has a been a suggestion to re-write Rule 31.1 to make it clearer what umpires and shot judges are supposed to do. Here are some preliminary ideas and questions.

1. There are two distinct types of neutral official who might be consulted.
1. An umpire, who makes a judgement on the current state of the game:
1. whether a particular wink is above another particular wink;
2. whether a particular wink is on the field of play;
3. who has won the squidge-off;
4. whether a squidger is legal;
5. what a particular rule is/means.
2. A shot judge (which should be named as such in the rules), who should be called in advance of a shot to judge:
1. whether the shot was legal;
2. whether any winks not in the same pile were disturbed and, if so, where they should go;
3. whether a wink was potted (in the case where it might have scrunged or knocked another wink out of the pot).
2. Possibly 'statement and clarification of the rules' should be a separate portfolio, as should 'manual placement of winks'.
3. The person called should be competent. Does a player have the right to veto a particular official on the grounds of incompetence?
4. The umpire's decision is final. But then what happens when the pile possibly gets hit by a later shot, and the same umpiring job needs to be done? Should players make an effort to call the same umpire (as they often do), or should we assume that all umpires are perfect and would therefore all make the same pronouncement?
5. If the opponents decline the right to a shot judge, they should forfeit any right to contest the legality of the shot afterwards. (Of course, they may politely suggest that the shot was illegal, and the player playing at may agree. In the current tournament climate, players are usually good enough to admit that their shots are illegal.)
6. Conversely, if a player plays without giving his opponents the opportunity to call a shot judge, he should forfeit the right to contest the illegality of his shot.
7. The players and the shot judge are responsible for making the necessary preparations for the shot judge's pronouncement (i.e. building a replica pile).
8. Can an umpire refuse the job, having examined the situation and being unable to make a decision? What about a shot judge?