Conker or is it Conqueror?

November 5, 2008 Updated: November 5, 2008

Playing in a Conker tournament  (Courtesy of the Home of the World Conker Championships at www.worldconkerchampionships.com)
Playing in a Conker tournament (Courtesy of the Home of the World Conker Championships at www.worldconkerchampionships.com)
Young and old, novices and experienced, plus thousands of spectators from many nations all travel to the British village of Ashton on the second Sunday in October. Since 1965, Ashton has been the site of the Annual World Series of Conker, a folk game that has gladdened the hearts of British, Scottish, and Australian school children every fall for generations.

What is ‘Conker’ all about?

For one, conker refers to the fruit of the horse chestnut tree; a hard, shiny brown sphere inside a prickly outer shell that falls from the tree when it ripens in the fall. It is also the name of the game and of the participants.

The fruit chosen for the game must be symmetrical, hard, and free of cracks. To test for sturdiness, the chestnuts are placed in a bucket of water. Undamaged ones sink to the bottom, while the lesser ones float on the surface.

Bull's eye: someone is the winner  (courtesy of the Home of the World Conker Championships at www.worldconkerchampionships.com)
Bull's eye: someone is the winner (courtesy of the Home of the World Conker Championships at www.worldconkerchampionships.com)

Before using the nut, a hole is drilled and a 60 cm (24-inch) leather thong or shoelace is threaded through and knotted at one end.

Each conker (contestant) takes turns trying to smash the opponent’s conker. The first to break the opponents chestnut is awarded one point. The winner is also awarded the points of the losing conker.

Conker: Old Rules

The person who calls "First" the fastest gets the first series of strikes. The opponent must hold his/her conker out so the opponent can strike at it with their conker. The lace must be threaded around the finger and not longer than 20 centimeters (8 inches). The game begins when the conker is steady and not swinging.

The first hitter is allowed three strikes to destroy the opponent's conker. If he/she is unsuccessful, it is the opponent's turn. This goes on until one of the conkers is smashed.
It is not easy to hit a conker as the laces can become tangled. When this happens, the person who calls "lace" first is granted a free hit.

One way the game can quickly end is if the conker flies off the lace and falls to the ground. In this case, a fast reaction is required to call, "kick" (by the opponent) or "no kick" (by the person whose conker flew away) to decide whether or not the conker will be smashed.

The final victor is escorted to the Conker Throne.

This exciting game can also be played for fun with friends or acquaintances. It can be played anywhere, is inexpensive, and fun for all ages.

Warning: watch your fingers!

The new rules of the game can be found at www.worldconkerchampionships.com