FEW people realize that this year is the 100th anniversary of tiddlywinks. The game was invented in 1888 by Joseph Assheton Fincher, who apparently has no other claim to fame. And if the game had to be invented, a fellow with a name like Fincher would be the one to do it.
A discussion sometimes arises as to whether tiddlywinks is a game or a sport, because the exercise factor is extremely limited. In fact, the only muscles employed to any extent are the thumb and forefinger in squidging. It is so difficult to classify this game as a sport that no nation is sending a tiddlywinks team to the Olympics at Seoul this year.
It is described by some players as a ``mental'' game, rivaling chess. Of course one doesn't have to be a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to play a game of tiddlywinks, but it does seem to help.
The foremost players are from MIT and Oxford University. In fact, the recognized world champion is Larry Kahn, an MIT graduate who lives in Miami, and in whose cellar the world championship games of tiddlywinks will be played this fall.
Mathematicians are especially attracted to the game, and the complicated factors in winning seem to be endless. The intricacies are so mystically described by players that I am amazed children ever dared to play it. Apparently there are levels of tiddlywinks the novice can hardly imagine.
Aside from the challenging complications of the game, much of the appeal may come from the use of ridiculous words such as squidging, double wink bristol, squop, nerdle, and winkers. One evidently finds a certain pride in using the right word.
It has been said by those who play both chess and tiddlywinks that chess is boring by comparison. One strategic move in tiddlywinks can change the outcome of a game.
Potting a wink is a main goal, but not the only way of winning. At game's end a wink in the pot is worth three points, while a wink still unsquopped is worth one.