A game traditionally associated with English schoolboys, although there is a national conkers league in the UK and the adult members take it very seriously indeed. Additional information (October 3, 2000): I have been reliably informed that in at least one other country, Poland, a very similar game is played. I am now firmly of the opinion that conkers should become an international sport, and perhaps one day even be featured in the Olympic Games.

To play conkers you first need to acquire a conker. Unlike money, these fortunately do grow on trees. A conker is simply the ripened fruit of the horse chestnut tree. On the tree it will be encased in a fleshy green spiky covering, but inside is a hard nut-like object, the conker.

Once you have acquired your conker, you prepare it for play by making a hole right through the centre. This can be drilled or simply knocked through with a hammer and nail: the choice is entirely up to you. Once the hole has been made, thread the conker onto a bootlace (this is traditional: the more modern player may use any convenient length of string -- about a foot in length is ideal). Secure the conker to the string by making a knot in one end. Your opponent must perform the same operation with his conker.

Play now proceeds in turns. The first player allows his conker to dangle from the string, and holds it out in front of him. The height of the hand is adjusted to suit the striker, and the conker must be kept perfectly still for the hit. The attacking player takes his conker in one hand and holds the opposite end of the string in the other hand. The player then strikes by making his conker swing sharply downwards so as to hit his opponent's conker. The aim is to shatter the opponent's conker sufficiently so that it falls off the string. Then you've won. If the strike doesn't completely destroy the enemy conker, turn passes to the other player.

Scoring is as follows. If your conker breaks another player's virgin (brand new) conker it gains one point. If it then breaks another virgin conker it gains another point and is now called a "two conker", and so on. However if you break a conker that itself has defeated others, you gain all the other conker's wins. To put it more simply, if you have a "fiver conker" (you've smashed five other fresh new conkers with it), and you take on someone with a "tenner conker" (they've had ten kills) and beat them, your conker is now worth 15 points! Top quality conkers can exceed 50, 100 or on occasions 200 kills.

Tips and tricks: countless theories abound for making your conker stronger. Most of them require attention to the conker before it is first used. Many players swear by soaking their conkers overnight in vinegar or salt water to harden them. Others bake them in the oven, or leave them in the dark for weeks on end. At the end of the day experiment to find out what works best for you. Then go out there and kick some schoolboy arse!

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