Carrom (also known as Karrom) is a "strike and pocket" table game of Eastern origin similar to billiards and table shuffleboard. It is found throughout the East under different names though most non-eastern people know it by the East Asian name of Carroms (or Karrom). It is very popular in Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and surrounding areas and in the Middle East as well. In South Asia, many clubs and cafés hold regular tournaments. Carrom is very commonly played by families, including the children, and at social functions. Different standards and rules exist in different areas.
- 1 Origins
- 2 Objective of play
- 3 Equipment
- 4 Standardised rules and regulations
- 5 Variants
- 6 Board variations
- 7 Japanese carrom
- 8 In popular culture
- 9 References
The International Carrom Federation (ICF) was formed in the year 1988 in the city of Chennai, India. The formal rules for the Indian version of the game were published in 1988. In the same year the ICF officially codified the rules. The game is very popular throughout South Asia, mainly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. It has gained some popularity in Europe and the United States where it has been introduced by the Indian diaspora. The United States Carrom Association reports on competitions in the U.S. and Canada and has a player ranking list as of the last tournament.
The board and pieces can be bought in Europe or the U.S. and are usually imported from India. The most expensive boards are made to a high standard with high quality wood and decorations though cheaper boards are available. Some of the largest exporters of carrom boards are in India, e.g. Precise, Surco, Syndicate Sports and Paul Traders.
Objective of play
The objective of play is to use a striker disk with a flick of the finger to make contact with and move lighter object disks called carrom men, which are thus propelled into one of four corner pockets.
The aim of the game is to pot (or pocket) one's nine carrom men and the Queen before your opponent.
The game is usually played on a board made of plywood. The dimensions of the standardised game is a 29 inches (74 cm) square playing surface on a board of lacquered plywood. The edges of the playing surface are bounded by bumpers of wood, and the underside of each pocket is covered by a net which is 10 cm2 or larger.
Carrom is played using small disks of Wood or Plastic known as carrom men, sometimes abbreviated c/m. The pieces are also known as seed, coin or Pawnpuck. Carrom men are designed to slide when struck and are made with a smooth surface that allows contact with the board when the pieces are laid flat. They are struck by a Striker of standard specification which is larger and heavier. Carrom follows similar "strike and pocket" games, like pool, with its use of rebounds, angles and obstruction of opponent's pieces.
A carrom set contains 19 pieces (striker not included) in three distinct colours. Two colours to represent the player's pieces and one colour for the Queen. The usual colours are white (or unstained) and black for the player's and red for the queen.
ICF approved pieces must have a diameter of no more than 3.18 cm and no less than 3.02 cm. The pieces must be at least 7 mm and at most 9 mm thick. The pieces have a plain, rounded edge. The mass of the pieces is within 5 g and 5.5 g.
Striker pieces are used to push the carrom men and the queen across the board to the pockets.
The red disk is called the queen. The queen is the most powerful carrom piece. During board setup, it is placed at the centre of the circle. In accordance with the ICF rules, pocketing the queen adds 3 points to the player's total score. The dimensions of the queen must be the same as those of other carrom men.
- The player must pocket the queen and subsequently pocket a carrom man of the player's own colour. This is termed covering the queen. If, by mistake, a player puts the carrom man of the opposite team in the pocket after "pocketing" the queen, then the player owes the queen to defending player, or a due is fined. [clarification needed]
- If the player fails to pocket a subsequent carrom man, the queen is replaced at the centre of the circle.
- If the player pockets his or her opponent's last carrom man before pocketing the queen, the carrom man is placed back on the board
- If a player puts the queen and a carrom man of the player's own color in the pocket with one use of the striker, the queen is automatically covered, no matter which went first.
Fine-grained powder is used on the board to enable the pieces to slide easily. Boric acid powder is the most commonly used for this purpose. Boric acid has recently been reclassified by the EU as 'Toxic for reproduction'.
In the UK, many players use a version of anti-set-off spray powder from the printing industry which has specific electrostatic properties with particles of 50 micrometres in diameter. The powder is made from pure, food-grade vegetable starch.
Standardised rules and regulations
The ICF promulgates International Rules of Carrom (also termed "The Laws of Carrom"). ICF acts as the governing body of carrom. The organisation also ranks players, sanctions tournaments and presents awards. ICF has many national affiliates such as the All-India Carrom Federation, Australian Carrom Federation, and United States Carrom Association.
Order of play is determined by the process of "calling the carrom men" or "the toss". Before commencing each match, an umpire hides one black carrom in one hand and one white carrom man in the other hand. The players guess which colour carrom men is being held in each hand. The player who guesses correctly wins the toss.
The winner of the toss strikes first, which is called the opening break. The winner of the toss has the option to change sides from white to black and give up the opening break. The winner of the toss may not pass this decision to the other player. If the winner of the toss chooses to change sides then the loser must strike first.
The player taking the first shot (or break) gets to play white carrom men. The opponent plays black.
The aim of the game is to pot (or pocket) one's nine carrom men and the queen before your opponent does. A successful pot entitles the player to shoot again. This means that, like pool and snooker, a player may pot all his pieces and cover the queen from the start of the game without the opponent being given the chance to shoot.
Any player pocketing the queen is required to cover it by immediately pocketing one of their carrom man on the entitlement shot. If after potting the queen the player fails to cover it then the queen is returned to the center of the table. It is illegal to pot the Queen after the last piece since the queen must always be covered.
Thumbing is allowed by International Carrom Federation which allows the player to shoot with any finger including the thumb (known as "thumbing" or a "thumb shot" or a "thumb hit").
Crossing the diagonal lines on the board by coming in touch with it, or pocketing the striker is a foul. A player needs to ensure that his striking hand does not infringe/cross the diagonal lines aerially/physically. A player committing a foul must return one carrom man that was already pocketed.
If a player pockets his striker, he has to pay a penalty. This penalty is usually 10 points.
Simple-Point Carrom (Family-Point Carrom) is a variant that is very popular with the young and old, or when playing with an odd number of players. Players are allowed to pocket carrom men of any colour. A majority of people play by the following simple rules:
- The objective of play is to use a striker disk with a flick of the finger to make contact with and move a carrom man (or coin) into one of four corner pockets.
- Typically a Black carrom man (coin) gives 5 points, white/khaki color (or non-black) gives 10 points and Red color (queen) gives 25 points to the player.
- Pocketing the queen must be followed by pocketing another carrom man (coin) on the same strike. To get Red color (queen) points, one needs to put a carrom man of any color in the pocket after the queen. If the player fails to cover the queen in this fashion, the queen is put back in the center of the board.
- The player or team will win if they have the most points.
- Sets of 1, 3 or 5 are common.
- With the points system, if one team/player gets queen points early in the game, the opponent still has a good chance to win by earning more points.
- This style of play is widely accepted in many areas of South Asia and quite popular with housewives.
Point Carrom is a variant that is popular with children or an odd number of players. Game play is as described above with a variation. Players are allowed to pocket carrom men of any colour.
- Carrom men of black colour are assigned 1 point and white colour are also assigned 1 points.
- The red queen is assigned 3 points.
- Pocketing the queen must be followed by pocketing another carrom man on the same or subsequent strike.
- The first player to reach 21 points is declared the winner.
- If no player reaches 21 points, the player with the highest points is declared the winner. If the scores are tied, a tie-breaker must be played. Players who are tied (in points) select a colour. They are allowed to pocket carrom men of an alternate colour only on rebound.
- This style of play is common in some areas of East Asia.
- Total point carrom is a variant of point carrom, in which the black carrom men are worth 5 points and the white ones are worth 10 points.
- The red queen is assigned 50 points and must have a subsequent carrom man pocketed after it.
- To win, a player must receive all the carrom men on the board.
- After the first round the player or team with the lowest score puts all their carrom men in the center.
- The others must match this score in the center and the players play for the carrom men in the center.
- They repeat this until one team or player has all the carrom men.
- This style of play is widely accepted in many areas of India and Pakistan.
- Each Team or player is assigned a color coin and can only pocket that color coin.
- Pocketing the queen must be followed by pocketing another coin on the same strike.
- The red 'queen,' can be pocketed at any time after sinking your first piece but must be sunk before your last one. After pocketing the queen, you must sink one of your carrommen, thereby 'covering' it, into any pocket in the next shot, or she is returned to the center spot.
- Once the queen is covered, whoever clears all their carrom men first wins the 'board'.
- Queen & cover can't be on same pocket.
- The winner of a board collects one point for each of the opponent's carrom men left at the finish and three points for the queen if covered by the winner (if covered by the loser, no-one gets those points). No more points are collected for the queen after your score reaches 21.
- A game consists of 29 points.
- When placing the striker on the board to shoot, it must touch both 'base lines', either covering the end circle completely, or not touching it at all. The striker may not touch the diagonal arrow line.
- Shooting styles are very personal - whichever 'grip' works for you is fine as long as you 'flick' the striker and don't push it. Generally, it's best to orient your body in order to see the line of your aim while shooting comfortably; you may not move or leave your chair.
- For forward shots, you can use your index finger, middle finger, or even the 'scissors' shot. Before shooting, try touching the striker with your fingernail, to be sure that its really on line. This will improve your accuracy and prevent you from hurting your finger.
- Carrom men can be struck directly only if they are not touching the player’s baseline or situated behind the base line. If the carrom man is behind the baseline, the player must hit the carrom man by rebounding the carrom striker off any side of the carrom board or any other carrom piece on the board
- Sinking the striker costs you one piece and your turn. But, if you sink a piece in the same shot, then two come up and you do not shoot again.
- After sinking the striker, your opponent places the due piece(s) within the center circle. If you haven't sunk one yet, you owe one.
- If while shooting for the queen you also sink one of your carrom men in the same shot, the queen is automatically covered, no matter which went first.
- If a piece jumps off the board, it is placed on the center spot. If pieces land on end or are overlapping, they are left that way.
- If the center spot is partially covered when replacing the queen or a jumped piece, the piece should cover as much red as possible. If totally covered, the piece is placed opposite the next player behind the red spot.
- If you touch your last piece directly before the queen, you have to pay a penalty.
- If you sink your opponent's piece, you lose your turn. If you sink their last piece, you lose the board and three points.
- If you sink your last piece before the queen, you lose the board, three points and one point for each of your opponent's pieces left. 
- If the striker does not leave both lines, go again. You get three tries to break before losing your turn. 
- These rules are mostly played in UK and India.
A popular variant of the game called Duboo is played mostly in Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan. In dubbo the size of the board is bigger than carrom , and instead of flicking the striker people usually slide it.
Carrom boards are available in various board sizes and corner pocket sizes. There are smaller boards and boards with larger pockets. Boards with larger pockets are used by beginners for easier game play. On traditional carrom boards, the corner pockets are only slightly larger than the carrom men, but smaller than the striker. On boards with larger pockets, it is possible to pocket the striker, resulting in a "scratch shot" as in Pool. This results in a "due." On a "due", the player has to replace one previously pocketed carrom man on the board. When the scores are tied at a point in the carrom game, a tie-breaker is played. The team which has pocketed the "queen" does not gain any advantage. The Standardised Association and Federation size is 29" x 29" Play Surface with borders between 2" each to 4" each. Other play areas are not used in Tournaments and Competitions.
A relatively rare series of makes among Western Carrom boards contains a variant referred to colloquially as a "Carrom maze" on the reverse, in which an entirely different game is played. The oblique side of the board is fashioned into a labyrinth via the addition of small plywood "walls" that restrict the carrom to defined paths; the objective becomes to traverse the maze with a single carrom and reach a region designated as the end of the maze successfully in the least amount of strokes (similarly to golf), or to be the first to finish the maze among competitors. Various regions within the maze, often found in "traps" or sharp corners and differently colored or designated via artwork, contain regions in which the player's carrom must not be caught when coming to rest, at risk of penalty of extra strokes or forced relocation of the player's carrom to an earlier position. Positive or bonus regions, usually small and hard to target, may offer "shortcuts" relocating to a region nearer the goal, or stroke count reduction. In solo play, course records may be kept for public tables.
Carrom was introduced to Japan in the early 20th century. Carrom became popular as tokyu-ban ("fight ball board" or "throw ball board") and it fell in popularity in the Showa period. However, carrom is still popular in Hikone, Shiga.
In popular culture
- In 2010 a Hindi "Bollywood" film titled Striker was released. The movie focuses on carrom hustlers in Mumbai in the 1980s.
- The Hindi film Ankush showed the ability of carrom to help four unemployed youths escape the painful realities of life.
- A Tamil film called Vilayaada Vaa released in 2012 was also focussed on carrom board.
- Indian movies Munnabhai MBBS and its Telugu remake - Shankar Dada MBBS, Tamil remake - Vasool Raja MBBS, Kannada remake - Uppi Dada M.B.B.S. also features a movie scene with Munnabhai playing carrom to heal an elderly friend with his friends and an Orange Juice
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- "The queen". Punjabi State Carrom Association. Retrieved 2009-06-04.
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