Merrills - an international game

The article ``Merrills, anyone?,'' Nov. 8, awakened memories from my childhood in Hungary. This was the favorite game for everyone then; it was played by preschool kids, and golden-agers throughout the land and was called malom (mill).

A ``poor man's'' game required only one sheet of note paper, a ruler for drawing three concentric squares, and 18 beans as pieces. The two players alternately placed one bean on one of the 27 spots of the squares. The catch was to secure two corners across the square or one in the corner and one in the center. The next bean meant a ``malom'' - or mill - in either direction and the removal of one of the opposition's beans. The bean-letting went on until one of the players lost all but two of the beans, which made a three-bean combination impossible.

Malom was a family game. It cost not a single cent, and the winner had 18 beans toward supper - the price for expertise. Stephen Torok, Oswego, N.Y.

It was a delight to read this article on Merrills. I have played the game for over 30 years, knowing it as the ``mill game'' or ``Nine Men's Morris.'' I became acquainted with the game in the early 1950s through Cooperative Recreation Services Inc., a small, barn-based operation run by Lynn Rohrbaugh. Mr. Rohrbaugh devoted his life to promoting international understanding through exchange of games, puzzles, and songs from around the world. Kenneth Stapp, Oneida, Ky.

My wife and I were pleased to see the article on the traditional English game of Nine Men's Morris (Merrills). We were greatly surprised to discover this game carved in stone at two locations visited in China! In November 1983 we visited the Four Gate Pagoda, one building at the Liu Bu Historical Sites, a Buddhist monastery complex near Jinan in Shandong Province. On the steps of the simple pagoda is carved an outline of Nine Men's Morris.

In 1987 we climbed the 6,565 steps up Taishan, the ancient sacred mountain with steps starting at the city of Taian. Once more I spotted the outline of Nine Men's Morris on one of the steps about a half-mile above the Temple of the Red Gate. In Chinese I asked the gathering crowd if anyone knew how to play the game. One old gentleman come forward and we began playing. I discovered that he used the same rules I had learned, with two exceptions: He used 12 men instead of nine and the corner holes were connected by diagonal lines.

Did the game originate in China or in Europe? This question is a mystery. Gene Hibbard, Monroe, Wash.

This article evoked fond childhood memories. When we were growing up in the '20s, our grandmother (of German descent) taught us what she called ``the mill game.'' Her board was a square of cardboard with lines drawn thereon. We used black and white buttons for ``men.''

Now I play card and board games with my grandchildren and often have wished I could recall exactly how to play that good old game of my childhood. There it was in the Monitor, complete with instructions. Thank you. Ardith Harrison, Stockton, Calif.

The US and HDTV The opinion-page column ``Advanced TV's lessons for US R&D,'' Nov. 8, provides an alarmist vision of US technological failure.

The Japanese high-definition television system is already a dead duck as far as a new worldwide standard is concerned.

The Federal Communication Commission has indicated that it will not authorize any system of a thousand lines which is not compatible with existing domestic television receivers.

The Japanese proposal is noncompatible and will therefore never be authorized in the United States. The Europeans have also cold-shouldered it.

There is now a scramble to produce a viable HDTV-compatible system and there are numerous American laboratories well to the fore in this work.

There is no question that the Japanese have created a commanding position for themselves in the world's electronic market.

Retrieving America's leadership position in this field is not helped, however, by misrepresenting the current situation in regard to HDTV. Brian Winston, University Park, Pa., Dean, School of Communications, Pennsylvania State University

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