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
sport, and perhaps one day even be featured in the
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