1. Having the right mental attitude
The origins of this game are obscure. It is popular in Asia and is played amongst family and friends. It is a game of fun and rules are kept to a minimum. In the early days there were no written rules and it was all handed down by word of mouth.
All games should be played to be enjoyed. As with all other games the element of competition creeps in. You want to show that you are better than the next person in playing the game. However, if you are the loser all the time then you lose interest in the game.
If you are playing a beginner who is not very good, bend the rules slightly for your opponent’s advantage but not to your advantage. Make sure they know what the rule is so that in a normal game it will apply. Perhaps, after the break remove some of their pieces so that they have to get say only five in the pockets instead of nine (decrease the number you remove as they get better).
In the UK, Carrom is starting to get popular and competitions are being held at all levels. More and more rules are being introduced like setting time limits between shots; not talking to your opponent in case you put them off; not being able to stand up during a game to stretch your legs; not being able to shout and jump in the air when you are successful after a difficult shot etc. Adjust your approach to the game depending on whether you are in a competition or playing for enjoyment amongst friends.
2. Flicking the striker
There are several ways of flicking the striker with one of your fingers. Try all of them and then select the method that suits you the best. You might find later on that changing your style might improve on your accuracy.
No matter which method you choose two things are important. The first is steady your striking hand on the board with the base/edge of your palm, and/or thumb, and/or non-striking fingers. This ensures that the striker is flicked and not pushed. The other thing is make sure your striking finger is as close as you can to the striker, touching it if possible. This has the effect of propelling the striker without hurting your finger. If your finger is a distance from the striker, when you flick it your nail will hit the striker, which could cause pain in your finger. If you get more pain than enjoyment from this game I don’t think you would want to continue playing.
More rules about flicking the striker (but remember the beginners’ code of bending the rules until you improve):
- The striker must be struck and not pushed.
- Only one hand to touch the board whilst playing.
- Only the palm of the hand to touch the playing surface behind your base line whilst flicking the striker.
- The forearm of the striking hand may touch the frame.
- The elbow is not allowed inside the frame.
- No part of your body to cross the imaginary diagonal lines that run from the centre of the board to your bottom pockets and beyond.
3. Propelling the striker in the right direction at the right speed
If you flick your striker with not enough force, the piece it hits will not have sufficient momentum to travel to the pocket. If you hit it too hard the piece will rebound on the frame around the pocket and not fall in.
To judge if you are flicking the striker with the right force try this exercise. Place the striker on your base line and flick it so that it rebounds against the opposite frame and comes to rest on your opponent’s base line. This is sufficient for direct straight line shots. For cut shots you will need a bit more force. How much will depend on the angle of the cut. You will need to determine this on a trial and error basis.
To determine if you can make the striker travel in the direction you want it to go, you need to carry out an exercise with as little variables as possible. The constants that are on the board are the position of the pockets and markings of the base lines. The variables are how the board is behaving, whether you are playing with the grain or against, how many pieces are blocking your path, how far the piece is from the pocket, how close the piece is from the base line, is a piece blocking your hand placement for flicking the striker, is it a simple straight shot, is it a difficult cut shot, are you in the mood for playing carrom, is your opponent playing well, there are lots more.
Here is an exercise to help you flick the striker in the right direction.
- Start with a clear board.
- Place the striker on the right moon.
- Flick the striker into the top right pocket.If you can pocket the striker on five consecutive attempts then you can make the striker travel in the direction you want it to go.
Now try the left moon to the top left pocket. Again five consecutive times and you are smoking!
Now try the right moon to the top left pocket. Easy for left-handers, more difficult for right-handers because if you are sticking to the rules you have to make sure your elbow does not break the imaginary diagonal line running from the top left pocket to the bottom right pocket.
Now try the left moon to the top right pocket. More difficult for left-handers. Once you can pocket the striker from left or right moon into top left or right pocket, you can then pocket a piece that is in the pathway of the striker from moon to pocket.
To position a piece in the pathway of the striker to the pocket, get a piece of Blu-Tack and string. Line up the string so that it passes the centre of the striker and the centre of the pocket. Stick the string and Blu-Tack to the outside edge of the frame passing through the centre of the pocket. Hold the other end of the string so that it passes through the centre of the striker. Position a piece so that the string runs along the diameter of the piece.
Now just imagine you are trying to pocket the striker. When it hits the piece at the position marked by the string, the piece will be propelled forward in the direction the striker was travelling, which is the pocket. If you flicked the striker with the correct force, the piece should drop into the pocket. Well done.
Now try practising pocketing the striker into any top pocket from anywhere on your base line. Once you are happy with this, place a piece in the path that the striker will take on its way to the pocket and see if you can pocket that piece.
Another exercise. Spread nine pieces in a row parallel with your base line and about two striker’s width in front of your base line. Try and pocket all nine into any top pocket from anywhere between your two moons. How many attempts to pocket all nine? Try and beat your score the next time. Nine in nine and you’re moving up the ladder!
Yet more exercises. Keep moving the row of nine further away from your base line to the centre of the board and try pocketing them.
Once you go past the centre of the board the pieces in the middle are no longer in the direct path of the striker from moon to opposite top pocket. The closer you get to a top pocket, the less positions there are for a piece to be hit in a straight path to the pocket. Draw an imaginary triangle from base line, left moon, left top pocket and right moon. A piece in this area can be hit in a direct straight shot to the pocket (provided no other pieces are in the way). The same applies to the triangle on the right. If you cannot imagine the triangle get some Blu-Tack and string.
If you can pocket a piece from anywhere within these two triangles you are well on your way to becoming a top carrom player.
4. Where should the striker hit the carrom piece?
If you have been pocketing pieces that were in a straight path between the striker and the pocket you have been hitting it in the correct place.
Place a piece just outside the two imaginary triangles that form the areas for direct straight shots. Take your Blu-Tack and string running from the centre of the pocket and cutting the diameter of this piece. You will notice that the string does not extend to your base line.
Place the striker immediately behind this piece with the string cutting the diameter of the striker and the diameter of the piece. The striker has to arrive at this point from your base line and hit the piece at an angle. This is known as a cut.
On a normal straight shot the angle formed by a line drawn from the pocket, to the piece, to the striker is 180° i.e. a straight line. If the angle formed by the line drawn from the pocket, to the piece, to the striker is 90° or less then the piece cannot be pocketed. The closer the angle gets from 180° to 90° the more difficult to pocket the piece.
You will need to flick the striker with a bit more force than a normal straight shot. The further away the piece is from the pocket and the smaller the angle, the harder you would have to flick the striker. The harder you hit the striker the less accurate you become. Cuts are more difficult than straight shots because you have brought in two extra variables, the angle and the additional force of the flick. May the force be with you!