Chess Apps – How Functional Are They?

CHESS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

Mobile Chess Interface

Mobile Chess Interface

We live in a culture of apps. Without apps, our smartphones, albeit powerful devices, would be stripped to the bare minimum. Even texting is an application! The ability to utilise third-party software on your phone is what makes it an extraordinary utility. Once, you were limited to the applications your phone provided, but not anymore; now, we have the luxury of choice, an essential component to customer experience So, whilst it’s certainly true to say we live in a “culture of apps”, it might be more appropriate, and accurate, to say we live in the ‘age of customisation’.

When we came to sit down and write this blog post, we initially decided to select four or so chess apps and review each one in turn. But given the size and scope of the app world, we didn’t feel comfortable selecting a handful at random and passing judgement without a better sense of context and a wider knowledge of what was available. It was plainly too arbitrary. As such, this post will principally serve as an introduction to chess apps, why they’re such an interesting development, and a broad look at what they have to offer more generally.

 

RAPID GROWTH

Chess on your iPhone

Chess on your iPhone

We can shape our handheld devices and cater them to our specific wants and needs – if we so choose, of course. The basic utilities remain, but with a few clicks on your device’s store page, you can make it into a whole lot more. From installing your preferred news outlet to alternative instant messaging apps, such as WhatsApp or Hangouts, your phone is a thoroughly malleable item. There are millions of apps available (for an example of the enormity of this trend, check out Apple’s trajectory of apps available, measured against the amount of times downloaded – that’s over one million apps in four years) many of which are free and most likely cross-platform (there’s also a lot of money to be made in microtransactions, ads, app costs, etc.). Anyone can develop an app, upload it, and instantly gauge peoples responses to it, and then tweak it accordingly – updates are rolled out continuously in response to feedback, bugs, and so on. It’s an enormous enterprise, and it barely existed until a few years ago. Now, it’s bigger than ever.

CHESS AS AN APP

So it comes as no surprise, then, that are quite literally hundreds of chess apps there. Hundreds! A couple of weeks ago we wrote about the world of digital chess and cursorily looked at the computer programs powerful enough to usurp world champions (see Kasparov and the Deep Blue event). It’s worth noting that we find it unlikely that the increasing power of computer systems capable of playing extremely skilled games of chess will supplant the nature of chess itself. That is to say, we don’t see it leading us away from human-to-human interaction, but it does have something very important and valuable to say about chess, the game, itself, which we’ll get to in the coming weeks.

Minimalistic, accessible Interface for Android

Minimalistic, accessible Interface for Android

But that human-to-human play over a board has changed in many respects, principally with the proliferation of apps and their ability to allow players access to one another over their smartphones, tablets, and so on. It is possible to have a speed game of chess with someone on the other side of the globe and finish the game within less than ten minutes. This poses exciting new possibilities for chess, at least to some extent. With concentration spans arguably diminishing, and peoples time being ever more precious and limited, there’s a very real chance – and this isn’t backed up with figures, it’s simply conjecture – that less and less people are going to take the time to sit down over a chess board and participate in a game of some length. Unless you’re a chess enthusiast or a regular board game player that, we think, is a fair assumption to make. Now, that is not to say players haven’t participated in games via alternative modes of communication before, but now we’re seeing a different kind of engagement and a different kind of interactivity. With chess at your fingertips – whether you’re a professional, amateur, or just someone keen to know more – there’s a huge opportunity to reach out to a wider community.

LITERALLY HUNDREDS!

As mentioned in the introduction, our plan to review a select few apps was nixed when it was clear there were so many available. So, we thought a broader approach on what chess apps can offer would be appropriate.

In our Digital Chess post we covered a lot of the different features apps have to offer: the ability to retrace your steps and watch replays, correct a move should you be practising (or, as is always a possibility on a handheld device, accidentally3d chess clicked the wrong spot!), and to tweak the difficulty level of your AI opponent. This is often in the form of a difficulty metre, but more often than that now it’s a matter of tweaking the computer’s response time, as they’re generally very quick on their ‘feet’ and able to plan their moves ahead of time essentially instantaneously.

The aesthetic of the apps is also worth mentioning as it brings us back to choice. If you’re going to be playing on your mobile, what is it you want to be looking at? A chess board, obviously, but there’s a choice there between the flat, two dimensional boards and the 3D iterations of the game. Personally, we’re more in favour of the flat, birds-eye-view aesthetic; it’s clean, minimalistic, and simple. Many of them have audio, but that too can be tweaked (we don’t: if an app gets the sound just right, there’s a real pleasure in hearing the ‘click’ as your chosen piece is moved to its designated place on the board). And if you’re in the process of learning the game, almost all apps will happily provide an option to show where each piece can move once you have clicked on it. And besides replays, there are ancillary apps that allow you to keep track of your games and your movements without having to jot them down, allowing you to pour over the game after to plot it out differently.

Returning to the 3D chess apps, the problem begins with the aesthetics: they’re clunky, obtrusive, and, at least to us, are a move away from what apps ought to be: accessible. The idea is obviously an interesting one and it’s been around for some time, but the practicalities of playing on a 3D chess board via your phone seems to fly in the face of what the app should be offering: quick, minimalist engagement with the game. You can’t replicate the feel of sitting down with someone over a chess board, so offering alternative tool with a minimal interface is arguably the better option.

THE MAGNUS CARSLEN CHESS APP

The Magnus Carlsen App

The Magnus Carlsen App

One of the best apps we found is the official Magnus Carlsen app. Endorsed by Carlsen himself, this particular app is one of a kind. Indeed, it pushes up against one of the most important themes running through our posts: that chess is an essential tool in education, and one more than capable of making the world a much smarter place. As we’ve constantly iterated, chess apps bring accessibility, and they bring unity. Such is the mission statement of the team behind this great app.

The unique selling point for this app – which is free! – is that players can challenge Carlsen at various ages, from 5 upwards, when he first started taking an interest in chess. The computer is tailored to the skill set of Carlsen at these ages, and provides some background information on him as you progress. It’s fresh and exciting and allows players to engage with the chess world, which might otherwise remain on the periphery. There are learning videos, some of which are free, others of which have to be bought, and there’s also the opportunity to play Carlsen live should you win a tournament.

Thus far, this has absolutely proven itself our favourite app (alongside chess for android, which is super accessible and easy to use), and if you’re looking for a little more than just a standard chess game, then this is the app for you. Interestingly enough, Carlsen managed to lose at his ten-year-old self… I’m at age 8, the point at which most players begin to lose on average to the computerised Carlsen. Let’s see if I can get to 9…

 

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REGENCY CHESS HAS A CHANCE ENCOUNTER – HOW GOOD ARE BOARD GAME CAFES?

  Chance & Counters

Last week we paid a visit to a newly opened café in Bristol, Chance & Counters – the first café in Bristol to cater exclusively to board games, created by friends Richard Scarsbrook, Steve Cownie, Alex Ratcliffe and Luke Neal. It’s our intention here at Regency Chess to really reach out to the growing number of establishments that are providing a home for chess, and board games more broadly, within the cosy, vibrant environments of cafés and bars. Whether you’re a board game enthusiast or simply looking for a new experience, the prospect of having a venue to sit down with a group of friends (or strangers!) over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine to play a game of chess, monopoly or whatever you should fancy is an exciting one.

CHANCE & COUNTERS

Outside Chance & Counters

Outside Chance & Counters

Nestled at the bottom of Christmas Steps, Bristol, just off Colston Avenue, Chance Encounters looks very much like a standard café, innocuous in its appearance. What stands out, however, is its quirky sign, attached to the side of the building; and, of course, your eyes are immediately drawn to “board game café”. At first it’s a little bit of a curiosity, but when you stop and think about it, it’s very much an obvious direction for a café or bar to go in. When it comes to creating a diverse, dynamic and inspired environment, building it around inherently social activities is a no-brainer.

Upon entry, both Julian and myself were very much impressed; Chance

A huge selection of board games...

A huge selection of board games…

Encounters is an excellent example of how to put such an enterprise to together. Not only were we treated to great customer service, a very friendly and open chat about how the business came together, but we were able to witness the fruits of their hard work paying off first hand. Although it was quiet when we arrived (roughly 10:30 in the morning), we witnessed a steady stream of customers coming in during our time there, all of whom were sampling the games on offer.

95% OF CUSTOMERS ARE HERE TO PLAY

The décor is modern and minimalistic, and although it’s still in the early stages of development, it’s clear that the focus is on the interactions of players and of what’s going on across the purpose-built tables. And that, arguably, is exactly where it should be. The vast array of boards games, tastefully and clearly positioned on a wide black shelf in front of the counter, are the centrepiece of the café’s aesthetic. The selection they have on offer is quite eclectic, and there’s certainly something for everyone within their current selection of over three-hundred(!), a number which is sure to grow as the business picks up speed.

Julian versus Ross (Round 1!)

Julian versus Ross (Round 1!)

The time we spent there was fun and interesting, and we even had a chance to chat with one of the owners, Richard Scarsbrook, enjoying our tea and coffee and treating ourselves to a game of chess. Chance & Counters in part comes off the back of Scarsbrook’s own background, writing his MBA dissertation on small businesses – specifically a case study in board game cafés. When asked about the ratio between customers coming in just for a drink or a slice of cake, against those who do so to play a game, he said roughly “95% of customers are gamers”. That’s quite a percentage, and definitely speaks to the demand for such a business and the interest in alternative venues.

KICKSTARTING IT ALL

Like many small businesses with nascent ideas, the guys turned to Kickstarter in order to fulfil their goal. Crowdfunding campaigns are a great way to assess interest and get yourself off the ground, whilst also rewarding backers for their support. The team set themselves a £10,000 target, but like many of the best campaigns rocketed on past it to over £13,000, allowing them to stock more games and expand the café. The reward tiers included a variety of different membership deals (discounts, lifetime membership, etc.) and more personal rewards, such as having tournaments held in your name, or “thank you” cards within a board game of your choice. The campaign took place over the course of a month – January to February – and in spite of a few inevitable delays, the campaign’s success allowed them to open at the end of May.

The Kasparov Set

The Kasparov Set

For our game of chess, Julian and I opted for the ‘Kasparov Championship Chess Set’. It comes with a sleek, elegant wooden board with nine-centimetre pieces. The game was short, and Julian lost – too busy enjoying his coffee, I should imagine. I’m sure he’ll have a chance to come back in the future. On the subject of coffee, it’s worth noting how reasonably priced the café is for the quality on offer. Lattes and cappuccinos are in the £2 range, tea a very reasonable £1.80 – coming in a narrow mug – with a good selection of affordable wines (which we hope to sample the next time!)

As we were leaving, Scarsbrook was leaning over the table of a young couple playing a board game that was relatively new to them, and he was enthusiastically, and politely, explaining how to play it. The enthusiasm on display is evident and the guys’ passion for their business clear. It’s fantastic that they’ve managed to get this up and running in Bristol, and we highly recommend you pay it a visit the next time you’re in town.

Coffee and Chess

Fun, refreshing, and relaxing – cappuccino and chess!

The Essential Information

http://www.chanceandcounters.com

Tel: 0117 329 1700

 

 

THE DIGITAL CHESS MASTERS

Computer Chess

Computer Chess

Having used the onset of summer to probe a handful of New York City’s many sites in which members of the public can meet one another and play a game of chess (or two!) with human partners, we thought we’d look at one of the flip sides to public play: computer chess in the digital era.

Many of the activities that we were once required to actively seek out can now be accessed on a single device. Rather than carry your dog-eared paperback book in your bag, you can carry hundreds of them on a Kindle Fire; similarly, you can just download an app to your phone that allows you to play chess on a bus, a train, or anywhere you like and at any time. And it’s not just a throwaway bit of light entertainment in an age of endless diversions, either. You can have your small, portable chess board with you at all times, playing games of varying lengths against strangers or friends or, more interestingly, the computer itself.

DIGITAL CHESS

Chess on your iPhone (image courtesy of Arizona-Software

Chess on your iPhone (image courtesy of Arizona-Software)

Digital incarnations of chess have been available for some time now, dating from the mid-70’s, before really picking up the pace and coming to the fore in the 1980’s. But there’s no doubt it has become increasingly widespread in the world of smart phones, laptops and tablets. The game is there at your fingertips, whenever you should wish to match your skills against an artificial opponent. This hasn’t had a discernible impact on sales of chess boards (there will always be a demand for chess boards as a decorative item), but rather it has arguably expanded the game’s influence and, ultimately, made it more accessible to people who might not otherwise have taken an interest in the game. So much of the digital era is catered to accessibility and instant gratification; as a delivery model, it is unsurpassable.

There is also the added advantage of being able to tailor the game to your skill level. Your computer opponent can be tweaked to have different response times in-between moves, and you also have the ability to see what moves each piece can make by clicking on them, should you be new to the game. Other features include undoing moves and being able to trace back your steps, which is perhaps a tidier method of deconstructing the game rather than writing down every move you make as you go. Some apps even have notifications describing certain moves. And almost all of this is happening on smartphones. The possible iterations of chess on mobile devices – the form it can take, the ways in which it can teach and educate, and so on – are infinite. It’s certainly our intention to take a look at several of these apps in the near future to take a closer look at what they have to offer. After all, one of the most important features all of these devices have in common is connectivity. By simply being able to access chess on your smartphone or your tablet puts you into contact with people all over the world, fostering an entire community of novices, experts, and people who simply want to reach out and play the game with someone on the other side of the globe, probably on the bus to work.

THE THING…AND CHESS

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)

When we think of computer chess, our minds go straight to John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)…yes, we know, our minds tend to gravitate towards film on a fairly regular basis! But it’s a great example in and of itself, and hey, this is the decade in which computerised chess started to take off! The film’s ambiguous opening sequence begins with a helicopter chasing a husky across the Arctic wilderness, frantically firing at it for reasons as yet unknown to us. We then segue to the American camp, Outpost 31, where life, as yet undisturbed by the coming menace, continues banally – men of various professions are seen reading, playing pool, and doing whatever else they can to chip away at their six month isolation.

One man, Kurt Russell’s R.J MacReady, is sitting alone in his shack (‘alone’ being a condition they won’t want to find themselves in soon enough), playing none other than chess on his computer, with a glass of whisky in his hand. The computer itself, ‘Chess Wizard’, is fictional, but there were many such devices available at the time. There’s a lot of room to explore the relationship of chess to the film itself, but we’ll only take a cursorily look here.

MacReady contemplates his next move...

MacReady contemplates his next move…

First and foremost, it sets up the conflict nicely; throughout the film, MacReady is constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the malevolent alien that has taken human form, in the hope of outsmarting it before it can decimate the camp. Towards the end of his game, MacReady thinks he’s got it sussed – “Poor baby, you’re starting to lose it aren’t you”, only to be beaten with the next move (the film concludes with MacReady defeating the Thing, only to realise his victory is more tenuous than he initially believed). He couldn’t beat the machine, which can process multiple possible moves at once, in a similar fashion to the Thing itself, which has many disguises with which to rely upon. But perhaps what is most interesting is that in this all-male cast, the computer is voiced by a woman (provided by director John Carpenter’s then wife Adrienne Barbeau). “My move, rook to knight six. Checkmate, checkmate.” Displeased with his unexpected defeat, he pours his whisky into the machine, killing it off. “Cheating bitch”, he declares, leaving the shack. It’s a hell of an introduction for the character, and by genderising his opponent – a machine – it establishes the tone of masculinity that runs throughout the course of the story. Genderising and anthropomorphising machines is fairly common, but here it has a particularly interesting part to play – is the Thing itself genderless, or is their nemesis in fact female? I’m not sure Carpenter ever gave it that much thought, but that’s easily one of the delights of film criticism: finding meaning (here at Regency, it’s primarily the role of chess) out of the assemblage of pieces within the film itself. One of the problems with that, coined by the excellent ‘FILM CRIT HULK‘, is avoiding undue extrapolation. Only ever work with what the film gives you!

MacReady's Chess Wizard

MacReady’s Chess Wizard

Although the ‘Chess Wizard” device did not exist, the program MacReady was playing was quite real: a feature of an Apple II computer. According to notes by co-producer Stuart Cohen, the crew tried to capture a shot of MacReady playing the game in real time in a single frame, but this did not work out.

 

KASPAROV AND THE DEEP BLUE

At the time, chess computers were becoming more and more widespread, and were consistently able to defeat strong players. This culminated in the late 1990’s – 1996, in fact – when Deep Blue, a computer designed by IBM, was able to defeat reigning chess champion Garry Kasparov in the first game of their six-match confrontation (however, Kasparov was able to secure overall victory). Following an upgrade to the Deep Blue a year later, Kasparov again came face-to-face with the machine, and he – the world champion – was beaten in a match that applied the standard rules of the game. Kasparov called foul play, and it has been suggested that the match was in part composed in order to boost their market value. A documentary of this was produced in 2003 – Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine. That, however, is a subject for another time, and another post.

As technology continues its rapid expansion, we’re seeing increasingly more powerful computers capable of extraordinary feats, and one wonders if they will reach a point in which “solving chess” – the optimal strategy in which victory can always be attained or at the very least the game forced to a draw – will come from that of an artificial intelligence, and not a human world champion.

I, on the other hand, have been dabbling with a chess app on my Android device, and it has thus far beaten me exactly 81 times! I’ve yet to douse the phone in a glass of whisky, but 100 may prove to be the breaking point…and I’m no Gary Kasparov.

‘SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER’ – PUBLIC SPACES AND CHESS

 Chess in Public

Last week we explored the exceptional documentary Brooklyn Castle and the lives of its incredibly talented young chess players four years on. This week, we’re going to be looking at another film, again ostensibly about chess, but rather than devote the entire post to it, we’re going to use it as a jumping off point for something very different: chess in public spaces, with New York City as our focal point. And with summer just around the corner, the timing couldn’t be better!

Searching for Bobby Fischer

Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)

In Steven Zaillian’s 1993 film Searching for Bobby Fischer, the young chess master, Josh Waitzkin, played with wonderful sensibility by then eight-year-old Max Pomeranc (at the time of filming, he was in the top 100 U.S chess players), is introduced to the game whilst playing in Washington Square Park. Here he meets Vinnie (Laurence Fishburne), a speed chess hustler who begins teaching Josh unorthodox play styles, much to the chagrin of his mentor, Bruce Pandolfini (Ben Kingsley). There are so many directions to take with Zaillian’s debut it was difficult to settle on one topic. We have its biographical roots, the source book having been written by the real-life Waitzkin’s father, Fred Waitzkin (here played by Joe Montegna), a writer for the New York Times. Fred Waitzkin and Bruce Pandolfini alone make fascinating subjects in the world of chess. And then there’s the film’s thematic elements. Searching for Bobby Fischer is totally invested in the question of genius and its place in an individual’s life and is eloquent in its sentimental approach to it. Where does it take us, and is there a cost to that? The quiet pain of Kingsley’s Pandolfini carries the weight of that question as much as Josh Waitzkin does. And, of course, there’s the titular Bobby Fischer, a spectral presence in the film, the oddity of which is more haunting than reassuring in Josh’s journey to realise his potential without sacrificing his decency. And a lot of that comes down to his time playing chess in the park.

Chess in the Park

Josh plays Vinnie in Washington Park

Josh plays Vinnie in Washington Park

New York City and chess are a frequent pairing in cinematic language, and it’s a fairly iconic image. But Fischer takes the time to investigate the nature of playing chess in a public space, and it proves essential to the film’s empathetic core – something its antagonists, singularly obsessed with the game, conspicuously lack. His mother, Bonnie (Joan Allen), is understandably nervous when Josh takes an interest in the park’s players, who are seen gambling for drugs and hustling their opponents. But there’s a vibrancy to the proceedings in the speed at which the games are played, the swelling crowd of spectators, and the systematic breakdown of social barriers as we’re drawn into the game. Josh starts playing there for the love of the game and his love of the people with whom he is playing – a far cry from the halls of the Metropolitan Chess Club. Pandolfini asks if Bonnie and Fred can stop Josh from playing in the park, but having grown to appreciate their worth, Bonnie declines. “No. It’d kill him not to play in the park, he loves it.” The message couldn’t be clearer.

As Chess in NYC’s slogan goes, “More than a game, it’s our culture.”

Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park; Photograph by Alexander Porter

Washington Square Park; Photograph by Alexander Porter

A section of Washington Square Park – a hub for all kinds of public activities –  is decked out in stationary chess tables, and attracts a variety of players from across the social spectrum. There’s something here for everyone to enjoy and become involved in, and again we come back to the idea that ran through Brooklyn Castle – chess takes many forms, but is, above all else, a powerful educational tool. It’s an obvious and perhaps even trite point, but the notion of chess being available to everyone in a delineated public space (for $5 a pop!) engenders a sense of social compassion.

The park went through a series of renovations throughout the 20th century, and saw a $16 million refurbishment in 2007. It has continued to be an enduring icon of New York City. Significantly, Bobby Fischer, much like Waitzkin, played in Washington Park, tutored by his mentor, William Lombardy, who lived close by.

However, Washington Park’s chess culture took a hit a few years ago with the closure of the Village Chess Shop in Greenwich Village (a block down from the park), which had opened its doors in 1972, the year in which Bobby Fischer won the World Championship in a match against the USSR’s Boris Spassky. The store sold a variety of chess-related products, and arguably contributed enormously to New York’s chess scene.

Bryant Park

Manhattan’s Bryant Park, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and 40th and 42nd Street, is another great chess locale. Here, there is a dedicated Bryant Park Games station, where visitors can enrol to play a variety of different games, chief among them for our purposes is chess! This includes Chinese Chess, called Xiangqi, which, whilst bearing many similarities to its Western variant, features some slightly different rules.

Central Park and the Check and Checkers House

Central Park is a must-see destination in Manhattan, which offers, among many other sights, a place to play chess, checkers and backgammon. The Check and Checkers house provides visitors with pieces for games should they wish to play.

An Enduring Legacy

What is perhaps most striking about staging many of the scenes sequences in Washington Square Park, and, more broadly, chess in the public, is that without it, there may not have been a Joshua Waitzkin. There may have been no book, no film, and no enduring legacy in that regard. That’s just speculation, of course. I’m sure there are many ways in which Waitzkin may have discovered chess, but the possibility that his walk through the park could have been experienced sans chess tables does open up the idea that chess and Waitzkin may never have come together. The real-life Waitzkin describes his first experience of encountering chess in the park thusly: “I remember the shape of the pieces, I remember the experience of chess as this jungle that pulled me in, and I remember this feeling, this bizarre feeling, of discovering a lost memory, as if I’d seen chess before.” It’s an interesting and powerful statement, one I think that is suggestive of a child’s ability to immediately latch on to something and begin learning without actually realising it, which is something Waitzkin himself similarly describes. Indeed, Waitzkin dismisses the idea of being a “prodigy”, instead arguing that chess – and anything else, really – is something that anyone can learn, providing they’re willing to put the work in. It’s the 10,000 hour rule – apply a substantial amount of time and effort to a given skill, and you will absolutely master it. Chess permeates the city of New York and creates a kind of cultural memory, a resonance that many people are familiar with, as the game is married to our image of the city. It gave us Joshua Waitzkin, and all the possibilities in which this post could have been.

The opportunity to access that in a public space is absolutely essential, engendering learning, social compassion, and great scenes with Laurence Fishburne and Max Pomeranc moving pieces around the board at a blistering speed!

New range of croquet sets on sale at Regency Chess Company in the UK

Croquet set

The Townsend Croquet Set

Croquet Set on the lawn

 

 

 

In the past we had offered a small selection of croquet sets, more as a basic side line than anything else. As part of our drive to add more products throughout 2016 we’ve totally over hauled the range on offer. The basic range of sets has now gone and been replaced with the full range of sets offered by Garden Games Limited, a UK based company who offer an excellent range of croquet sets as part of their collection of outdoor games.

We also have plans to add other high quality brands to the range and develop the section on our website further. We feel it’s important that we only offer well made, high quality croquet sets so we’ve picked the range very carefully. The range of sets will all be offered with our super fast shipping and we can ship them all over Europe at highly competitive rates.

 

A little bit about Croquet

Croquet setsThe game of croquet has been played in some form or other for hundreds of years, in the 1800s it was formalised as the game we now call ‘Croquet’. It remained hugely popular for many years but eventually became eclipsed by tennis. Many croquet lawns were converted into tennis courts and today tennis courts outnumber croquet lawns by quite a margin.

Fun Croquet Facts

  • An early version of Croquet was called ‘Pal Mal’ which loosely translates as ‘Mallet & Ball’ in Latin
  • Wimbledon tennis club started life as a croquet club
  • Croquet as we know it was first played in Britain in 1851
  • John Prescott is alleged to have increased sales of Croquet equipment at Asda by 300% after he was famously caught playing it
  • There is more than one version of the game: Association, Lawn, Garden, Golf, American six wicket, nine wicket and ricochet