Tiddlyinks is played with either two or four people (singles or pairs). The winks — small button-sized disks — come in four colors: blue, red, green and yellow. Each color has six winks, and the goal is to get them into a pot by flipping them with a “squidger” (a slightly larger wink). A player who gets all six of his or her winks in the pot wins by “potting out.” The rest of the winks are scored with a series of rules that are too elaborate to explain here.
The best part of tiddlywinks is the terminology: to “squidge” is to press a small wink with the squidger. “Squop” is to land your wink on top of your opponent’s. Then there’s a boondock (to squop a wink from far away); a scrunge (when your wink bounces out of the pot) and something called the John Lennon Memorial Shot (a boondock and squop combo move, very difficult to pull off).
The game dates back to the Victorian era, but competitive tiddlywinks didn’t start until 1955. A group of Cambridge University students took up the game, believing it was one of the few sports they knew their school could win. By the 1960s, tiddlywinks clubs had sprouted up at dozens of British universities. The sport is now overseen by the English Tiddlywinks Association (ETA), which organizes a series of regional, national and international competitions.
The pasttime reached America in 1962, when a group of Oxford students traveled around the U.S., challenging everyone from the New York Yankees to local theater troupes to a game. The first world championships were held in 1973. Oddly enough, the Americans dominated the sport for the first 22 matches.