An excerpt from Winking World 56


by Larry Kahn

Despite the proliferation of maniac potters, squopping is the way to go. Even if you play pot-squop (ugh), it's still important to be able to stop the opponents or rescue yourself. Here's some general advice to get started with.

Squidger and grip

The squopping squidger should be a thin-edged one somewhere between 1and 1inches in diameter. The material is not critical unless the squidger sticks too much or is so slippery that winks come out too early. The squidger should be gripped from the side with the thumb and first two fingers. Make sure to grab enough of the squidger to maintain a firm grip, but not so much that your fingers get in the way of the shot. When using a one-inch squidger this is particularly important.

I use my regular squopping squidger for at least 90% of my squops. The few exceptions are when a one-inch is needed, for speciality shots such as clicks, and for squopping with big winks from about a foot or more. For the longer distances I find that going to a 2 inch squidger reduces accidental rolling.

The basic shot

The set-up for a normal short squop starts with the squidger touching the wink about of the way (or further) back from the leading edge with the top of the squidger angled forward. The more the squidger is tilted, the lower the trajectory the shot will have (vertical squidger gives highest trajectory). Anything much past vertical gives you the usual potting shot. To shoot the wink, press down slightly and slide the squidger back until the wink jumps out and forward. This takes some practice since everyone does the shot a little differently and you should find a style that's comfortable for you. I tend to start fairly far back on the wink and sort of chunk them out while others like to stroke it more.

There are only two reasonable ways to line up the shot: shooting straight towards yourself or shooting straight away from yourself. Shooting towards yourself has the advantage of seeing more of the shot and making it easier to keep your fingers out of the way. I always liked shooting away from myself because I could get the distance better. One thing I found was that for very short or delicate shots, particularly at critical times, towards was better because you could see the shot and the way your hand rests makes for a more stable base. I highly recommend at least getting comfortable with both methods since there are times when only one method can easily be used. For most squops use whatever method is producing best results.

Squopping single winks

The most important thing to remember when going after a single free wink is that most of the time you must aim short of the wink since if you hit it on the fly the shot will probably be too hard. The breakpoint for this distance is something between one and two inches depending on the mat and the winks. Anything shorter than this can be shot at directly, but for longer shots the squopping wink needs to hit just short of the target wink and then bounce on. It's hard to explain exactly where to aim for and a reasonable amount of practice is required to get the hang of it. Once you feel confident of making the shot you can concentrate (on the short shots) on getting on Bristollably, but your first priority should be to make the shot in the first place.

The quality of the mat can have a big effect on squopping. If the mat is dead, it become more difficult to get the winks to bounce, resulting in a lot more shots butting off the front edge. About the only thing you can do is use a more vertical squidger angle and a little more downward pressure to try and get more height on the shot.

Also, temperature and humidity have an effect on the slipperiness of winks. It appears that cold winks are more slippery than warm ones, and that high humidity will cause stickiness. Scratchy winks are of course more sticky than unscratched ones. Beware of new or rarely-used winks, since these will consistently shoot short for both squopping and potting until they are broken in. You can speed up this breaking in process by rubbing two winks together face to face with lots of pressure; this seems to get some of the shine off.

Squopping onto piles

Probably the easiest squop shot of all is the one in which the target wink is ramped up facing you. This shot has a large margin for error in the too hard direction since the upward ramp will slow you down a little. Conversely, with the ramp facing away from you, the squopping wink tends to slide off. However, for the ramp away shot the biggest danger is to miss short, allowing an easy double. You must aim to hit the top of the target wink so the squopping wink will be slowed enough to stay on. Usually it is better to miss long in this case rather than short.

In general, the higher off the mat the target wink is, the more difficult the shot. Even squopping a two wink pile can be dangerous if it is set up for a Bristol because if you miss and land close you are dead meat. It is best to practise squopping a two wink pile from different distances and angles to get the feel for when you can aim straight for the top wink and when you have to try and bounce them on.

For larger piles be aware of what other winks may be able to do for you. Sometimes there will be an obvious backstop that you can use so you may want to shoot a little harder than normal. If the wink is up fairly high, a direct shot may work because, as the whole pile topples over, the winks will often fall down in order and the end result is something like a line squop. Also, squopping pot-style onto a wink right in the middle of a pile will often work, particularly with a big wink from medium distance.

Special shots

Click shot - This is a shot in which you are shooting a wink from off another wink and they are positioned so that you must launch off the lower wink without being able to hit the mat. This is a difficult shot, and the best way to try it is to use a one-inch very sharp squidger held almost vertically. You have to start the shot close to the edge of the wink and chop straight down without much backward squidger motion. This shot does work a reasonable amount of the time so don't be afraid to try it.

Squop and drag off - Sometime you don't have any choice and need to perform both of these at once. If you have a choice, pick a target set-up in which the top wink is already partly off the bottom one with the bottom one being closer to you. For this shot you pretty much have to land on the target wink and hope that the momentum carries it off the lower one and that your wink is still squopping it. Unless the target wink is mostly off to start with this is pretty much a crapshoot but I have made the shot with a small wink onto a totally vertical big wink pile from about six inches so it's never completely hopeless.

Boondock and squop - The usual mistake here is to have the squidger coming down from the wrong angles. Imagine a two wink pile, top wink half over the bottom, and you are trying to squop a wink behind your top one. The boondock should be performed with the squidger at right angles to your wink (so that the boondocked wink goes off at a 90 degree angle to the line along the original three winks) as you would be in a Bristol shot. Before you do the shot decide on which of the two parts of the shot is most important and make sure you get at least that part of the shot done.

Knock-off - A lot of times simply knocking off the offending wink can be almost as useful as actually getting it since you gain a tempo and are now in the area. Almost all knock-offs are done by hitting the target on the fly. Aim for the close edge of the target wink. A pot-style shot can also work from medium to long range.

Shooting at multiple winks - Sometimes you'll be lucky enough to try for more than one wink. The difficulty here can be that the target winks can block your intended landing area or they may be slightly apart. If you are going to try for all of them it can sometimes be right to cover one of them just slightly to avoid a butt shot. This is typical when shooting a little at two bigs which are not quite touching. If you're really in doubt it might be better to wuss out and make sure of getting one wink rather than miss everything.

Some final advice

If you are just starting out, squopping isn't as hard as it looks. The first thing to do is get used to shooting squop-style so that you can gauge distances; then practise in the two inch and shorter range. Being able to consistently make a one inch squop is the key to winning a lot of games. The more difficult shots come with practice, especially pile shots where no two are the same. I like to do a lot of experimenting in practice games to see what works and what doesn't. It really doesn't take that long to get reasonably competent. An hour a day of squop games for a few weeks will do it (unless you're a total turkey, in which case you might want to try something less physically demanding, like Go or chess).

Copyright: English Tiddlywinks Association.

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