A spare (sometimes also referred to as a half-strike) is a term used in bowling to indicate that all of the pins have been knocked down after the second ball of a frame. The symbol for a spare is a slash mark (/).
A "spare" is awarded when no pins are left standing after the second ball of a frame; i.e., a player uses both balls of a frame to clear all ten pins. A player achieving a spare is awarded ten points, plus a bonus of whatever is scored with the next ball (only the first ball is counted). It is typically rendered as a slash on scoresheets in place of the second pin count for a frame.
- Frame 1, ball 1: 7 pins
- Frame 1, ball 2: 3 pins (spare)
- Frame 2, ball 1: 4 pins
- Frame 2, ball 2: 2 pins
- The total score from these throws is: 7 + 3 + 4(bonus) + 4 + 2 = 20
A player who bowls a spare in the tenth (final) frame is awarded one extra ball to allow for the bonus points.
Correctly calculating bonus points can be difficult, especially when combinations of strikes and spares come in successive frames. In modern times, however, this has been overcome with automated scoring systems, linked to the machines that set and clear the pins between frames. A computer automatically counts pins that remain standing, and fills in a virtual score sheet (usually displayed on monitors above each lane). However, even the automated system is not fool-proof, as the computer can miscount the number of pins that remain standing.
The term "hard spare" refers when no pins are knocked down on the first ball, due to a foot foul or a ball thrown into the gutter, and then a spare is converted with all ten pins remaining with the second ball. This is sometimes mocked as throwing a strike one ball too late.
Since throwing three strikes in a row is referred to as a "turkey," novices who have three spares in a row usually use terms related to birds such as a "sparrow" to celebrate this achievement.
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