"And what is your chosen specialised subject, Mr. Purvis?" "Winking World articles, 1960 to the present day." You have two minutes to decide whether, having started, you'll finish reading this. Presumably, the current WW Editor, in asking me to update an article which first appeared in WW23, assumes today's readership was still in nappies in those heady days when a certain person discovered that "If you don't play Alan Dean -- flukey -- shots in the 20 minutes and miss, you don't have to play Alan Dean -- flukey -- shots successfully in rounds to win."
One of the interesting things I have noticed in the intervening 17 years is that there are still very few players who, when faced with a pot from the top, middle or bottom of a pile, do not degenerate into nervous wrecks but actually know how to attempt the shot. It is important to realise from the outset that we are dealing with situations where winks behave quite differently from normal, and `hit it and hope' will get you nowhere. Getting the feel of the winks by practising the various shots is essential, and I will start by recommending a method which came at the end of my earlier article. It not only helps, but is good fun. Put all 24 winks in the pot, shake 'em up a bit, then upend it on the mat. Remove the pot carefully and place it wherever is best for potting the winks. Then pot them from where they lie. I try to avoid deliberate break-up shots, unless they occur naturally in a potting attempt. If you can achieve a score of 30 shots on a regular basis you don't need this article!
1. Potting from the bottom of a pile
This is probably the easiest shot to bring off with any regularity, as the object wink is usually flat on the mat. The skill required is to clear the upper winks out of the way, both physically and mentally. Concentrate on the one you have to pot, almost to the exclusion of anything else. If the pile is stable, don't be afraid to rest on the top wink, as this will help assess the strength of the shot. Obviously, there will be many situations where an air shot is necessary, but the technique is similar. Play a firm, normal potting-style shot (squidger at about 45 degrees) and consciously emphasise the contact with the bottom wink so that the squidger goes right through to the mat. The less you can see of the object wink at the start, the more vertical the squidger needs to be, and the sharper the action of playing.
2. Potting one off one (same size or small off large)
Here we need the assistance of a diagram, as the type of shot depends on the lie of the winks:
Examples A, B and C are all `straight line' shots where both the winks and the pot are lined up. For this purpose, exact alignment is unimportant; the principles apply when a straight line can be drawn through both winks to about half of the pot. Example D shows the two winks aligned exactly at right angles to the direction of the shot. This is the dividing line for the consideration of the two main types of angled shot.
The method is much the same in A and B. The further back the wink becomes in B, the less any fancy tricks are necessary, as the shot reverts to a normal pot. The simplest way to describe the shot is "aim to squop the pot". The great danger is potting the bottom wink, which is much more likely if you play a pot-shot. Squop-style, with the squidger moving to a more upright position the moment it crosses the edge of the bottom wink, should see the lower one scoot across the mat and hit the base of the pot, while the top one scuttles in. Position A, the totalled wink, may require a more vertical squidger from the outset, and possibly a stabbing action. Try it and find out what suits you best.
In C(i) and C(ii) the only difference is whether the top wink is or is not touching the mat. Provided enough of it is on the bottom wink, the shot requires initial downward pressure on the centre of the top wink, a quick upward flick of the wrist, whilst at no time allowing the squidger to go through to the mat. You will hit the lower wink with the squidger, but you don't propel it forwards because the squidger doesn't pass across its edge. It should pop straight up and down again. C(iii) needs the squidger to be stabbed between the two winks with an almost vertical potting action so that the bottom wink goes backwards. The shot should be commenced approximately above the edge of the lower wink.
D is where the most judgement is called for, because the angle varies according to the exact position of one wink on the other. For the first time, you will need to aim away from the centre of the pot. Before discussing the target line, the style of shot needs to be considered. If the top wink is positioned as shown in D, or forward (nearer the pot), the potting shot should be employed, with the squidger becoming more vertical the more the right-angle position in D is approached. With the top wink behind position D, the squop shot should be used, until you get to the point where the lower wink is not affecting the shot, when you can revert to normal. Again, only experience will determine these cross-over points. The area where most players go wrong is the lack of allowance in their aim for the effect of the underneath wink. This is so important that I've given it a diagram to itself, (E).
In E(i) the line A-B goes through the points of intersection of the winks. If the squidger is placed as shown, at right angles to this line, in an attempt to squidge the top wink along it, the result is that it diverts along line C-D. It is therefore necessary to compensate by angling the squidger and aiming by the equivalent angle to the opposite side of A-B.
E(ii) shows an actual example with the pot in place, and the squidger aiming the wink at a point outside the rim. Even if it feels wrong, it is important to gain the confidence to stick with it. Occasionally it helps to adjust the angle as you go through the shot, effectively `slicing' the shot by bringing a part-Bristol element into it.
3. Potting a large wink off a small
This has its own problems depending on the position of the small wink. If it is sticking out the back of the large, the shot will be as in C(i). If it is invisible from above, then use the squop style as for A and B. In these cases it is still important to assess whether the small wink is central or to one side, as some adjustment of angle may be needed. Naturally, no real problem exists if it is sticking out the front or very close to the leading edge of the large wink.
4. Potting from the middle of a pile
I can only offer a few general guidelines here because any pile containing more than about three winks will have unique characteristics. Take a good look at the wink you want to pot, and the ones immediately beneath it. How are they going to influence its behaviour? How stable are they as a base, or will the object wink have to be driven past them to the mat prior to playing it? The answers to these questions will determine whether the shot needs to be played in a similar fashion to the one-off-one situation, or more like a `bottom of the pile' situation. Bear in mind that all the cautions on not potting the bottom wink in a one-off-one may actually come to your aid here. If there is a wink overhanging the back of the object wink, the correct pressure on it could turn it into a substitute squidger. The same applies in the fairly routine scenario where you want to pot the lower of two and the top wink is behind the bottom one.
5. "He's got the perfect angle off this black to go into the pack."
If Tiddlywinks can be compared to Snooker, it is in the angles described in section 2, and that a sequence of pots is akin to a break. One of the more spectacular possibilities in a game occurs when you have a wink, typically a large one, one the edge of a big pile and pointing in the vague direction of the pot. So far, we have only really considered the potting of individual winks, not the consequences of the shot. Here, though, it's Lucy in the sky with diamonds time, as a game which might have been slipping away suddenly offers vistas of glory. Imagine the results of the shot if all you do is crud it. The consider if the effect would be dissimilar if a solidly-played air shot potting attempt were tried instead. The big difference is that you get another shot if successful. This could lead to more pots or a better position for squopping dependent upon how the winks fall. Don't be afraid to throw cautions to the wind sometimes.
6. Potting two winks at once.
This opportunity doesn't occur very often! You have to be able to recognise the possibility if it ever happens to you. The classic case is where you are on your partner's last wink, and you just carry on and get the 7-0 without the enemy getting a look-in. The position of the winks is critical -- the top one must be slightly overhanging the back of the lower, and slightly behind the right-angle position shown in D. Start with a normal potting action, but change quickly through the squidger motion so that, at the point of release, it becomes almost a squop shot. Large on small is easiest. What's the point? Well, if they are both your winks, you get two extra shots in the same turn.
7. Potting from the Altrincham Coffin
Stupid old fogey -- what does he mean? This is the area "too close to the pot to do anything useful". Most people know that large winks are easier than small, because their centre is beyond the pot's overhang even if they are touching the base. Small winks are more tricky (some might say illegal), but in either case technique is essential and, for the only time in this article, I will suggest that the type of squidger is important. It should be two inches in diameter and slightly flexible. The flexibility is less critical for large winks, and I personally prefer a more rigid squidger anyway, but I have seen enough players successfully using carved-up phone or credit cards to be open-minded on this. Start the shot well on the pot-side of the wink, and use a lot of wrist-flick. If the wink is touching the pot, you won't be able to use much downward pressure until the squidger gets over the centre of the wink, at which point all the effort is required. Finally, and most importantly, when under the lip, don't aim straight at the centre of the pot, because the rim is more obstructive. Aim at the edge, giving a few extra millimetres of fresh air to assist the wink's passage.
8. General tips
O.K., I lied -- use a sharp-edged squidger for all the shots in sections 1 to 6.
Unless the circumstances of the game dictate otherwise, don't attempt to pot either nurdled winks or from long distances if the pot is either totally empty or very full, because the chances of scrunging (bouncing out) are much greater. In other words, think carefully about the order of your pot-out attempt.
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