Our family’s third annual Parcheesi tournament was another rousing success! Every year the contest grows bigger, and we added another four players this time around. As always, it was loud, it was fun, it was full of yelling, and certainly full of upsets. Plus tons of food. Oh, we can’t forget the Parcheesi cupcakes. Yes, I made Parcheesi cupcakes. I also painted my nails with Parcheesi colors. I guess I was in the spirit!
My brother-in-law and nephew were unable to make it this year, so I recruited my friend, Andrew, to help fill the vacant spots. Any time I post about Parcheesi he comments how he loves the game, so I knew he’d be a great fit for the tournament. He hadn’t played in a while though, so my husband and I hosted a warm-up game with him two nights before to make sure we were on the same page as far as the rules go. This proved to be interesting: Andrew pointed out two rules that we never play by in our family:
- If you roll a 5 and have a piece in your nest that’s able to come out, it must come out. As Andrew put it, “You can’t just hide in your nest the whole game then come out when it’s convenient for you!” Fair enough. It’s a strategy we’ve used in our games to take advantage of someone’s pieces rounding the corner and becoming fodder. Apparently, that’s illegal. Oops!
- In the rules it states that when you’re in your “home stretch” lane, you can only enter home on an exact roll. We’ve always interpreted this to mean that once a piece is in that lane—including the safety at the far end—it’s basically cemented there until you roll exactly what you need to get in; you can’t inch your way up the lane when you roll less than the required amount. Apparently we were over-interpreting it, and you can inch up. The rule simply clarifies that you can only enter home if your roll lands you directly on home. So, say you need 2 to go home but you roll a 3. You can’t send that piece home and pretend it’s moving one more imaginary space once it gets there.
Even though Andrew was correct on these rules, he accepted that our house rules were our house rules, and faithfully observed them for the tournament. There were a couple rules he learned from us as well, like rolling doubles counting as 14 since you get to count the reverse of the dice. But it’s crazy that we’ve been playing this game forever, and still didn’t know all the official rules. In all honesty, I don’t think I’d ever actually read the rules. I learned by playing with my family and following the rules they enforced. It never occurred to me that they might be playing the game wrong!
Last year, the tournament winner was my father, Frank. Now, he’s known in our family to be a bit of a cheater. We always have to watch what he’s doing, count along with him, and keep track of which parts of his move he’s already taken so he doesn’t try to take them twice. If you ask my father outright, he’ll swear up and down that he’s an honest player. Yet, the night before, as my sisters and I were helping Mom get things set for the next day’s festivities, Dad had a touch too much to drink and we all overheard him telling my uncle, Chuck, precisely how he cheats and who he prefers to cheat against. Hmm, interesting…
The three preliminary games this year were full of almost-wins and disappointments. In the last qualifying game, my cousin Larry had one piece left in the home stretch and all he needed was a 7 to win the game. My father-in-law got two men around the board and in for the win before he could roll that lousy 7. From what I understand, this happened to him twice that day. In fact, in each of the three games he played, he left only one piece on the board. Sooooo close, Larry. So close!
After winning his first game, my friend Andrew played his third game against both former tournament winners—Frank (my “I don’t cheat!” father) and Willie—plus my uncle, Chuck. My father was playing to the left of Chuck, so Chuck had to pass my father’s nest just before heading home. Frank had a bridge at his doorstep so Chuck’s pieces were stuck behind him, patiently waiting for the opportunity to get past and go those few spaces into his home. At one point, my father broke his bridge… for no apparent reason. Willie and Andrew looked on with astonishment while Chuck’s last pieces went right in with little resistance. Andrew swears the game was rigged, but in all honesty, since Frank had won his last two preliminary games he was all but guaranteed a place in the final game and probably figured he’d just let Chuck get the win. Since this was Chuck’s second win of the day, he would be in the final game, too. If my father or Willie had won, Chuck’s granddaughter Jackie would have taken that last seat. More interestingly, if Andrew had won that last game he would have advanced to the championship. Maybe my dad wanted to do his part to keep it in the family. (For now.)
The finalists were my father (Frank), my uncle (Chuck), my sister (Lisa) and my brother-in-law squared* (Brian). (*My term for him since he’s my brother-in-law’s brother-in-law.) The game went through its usual twists and turns. A bridge here, a bridge there, a bunch of people getting eaten. Soon, it was down to Lisa and Chuck, as they each had three pieces in and only one left to win everything. Chuck eventually got his last piece at the penultimate spot—only one space away from home—while Lisa’s last piece had half the board to go. Chuck rolled his 1, and the tournament was his.
Congratulations Chuck, and thank you for unseating Frank as the Parcheesi tournament champion! The Golden Caldero shall bear your name and we will target YOU next year! But we’re still not taking our eyes off of Frank…
Cheers to you, Mamita. We love you and hope you’re gazing upon us and enjoying the cut-throat games of Parcheesi we play on your behalf. I hope we’re doing you proud. 🙂