4th Annual Carlota Acosta Parcheesi Tournament

Parcheesi Board
Seems this Parcheesi tournament thing has really become quite the event in our family. We now play more often throughout the year in an effort to get some practice in (or decode our opponents’ strategies), and if we’re not playing, the conversation will still often stray to various related topics. Those topics will usually revolve around general gameplay, ways to improve upon and expand the tournament party, who we should invite for the next year, and reminiscing about past “I-came-THIS-close!” games. One of the themes of these Parcheesi conversations has always been the names of those who have managed to get their names up on the Golden Caldero — most notably, the fact that all the names were Latino, and none of them were women.

ParcheesiPartyNow, I can guarantee you there’s absolutely no exclusion of other nationalities or of women. Our family is Puerto Rican and represents the majority of players, but the remaining players who have married or befriended someone in our family have been mostly Scottish, Irish, Canadian or a Russian/English/German/Native American mutt, and the skill levels have pretty much run the gamut on both sides of the ethnic fence. The genders are also pretty much a 50/50 split, and women have always been a part the final game. Despite these facts, we couldn’t help but wonder, “When will the first gringo or first woman get their name up onto the Golden Caldero?”

This innocent observation would usually lead to an episode of trash talking and taunting back and forth, as my non-Latin relatives swore they would get their chance, and my sisters, mother and I insisted that next year was OUR year. There was also the small conundrum of whether my or my sisters’ not-so-hispanic married names would count as gringo names on the Golden Caldero, nevermind the craziness that would ensue simply because we were women. Certain patriarchs of the family also went as far as to VOW that there would NEVER be a gringo or woman’s name on that caldero for as long as he could help it! (All boastful pride and good-humored ribbing of course!)

Finalists2015This fourth year, after three rounds of preliminary games and much food, spirits, teasing and, of course, Larry coming so close to a win (he does this so often, we now call this particular type of choking larrying), the final Parcheesi game promised to change things forever. The finalists included (left-to-right) my sister, Lisa; my brother-in-law squared, Bryan; Bryan’s wife, Joyce; and my brother-in-law (and also Joyce’s brother), Jim. If the winner was my sister, the Puerto Rican streak would technically still remain, but regardless of who won, a gringo name would be going up on the Golden Caldero.

In the last turns of the game, Bryan had one piece left to go all the way around the board, and Jim had the same plus another piece about halfway around. However, Lisa and Joyce were in a dead tie for first, each with one piece left and each needing only to roll a 3 to win everything. Eventually Joyce was the one who rolled that 3 and took the title. And just like THAT, the Golden Caldero would bear a name that was both gringo AND a woman’s… all in one shot.

Congratulations, Joyce! Your pioneering Parcheesi win has blown the door wide open for gringos and women everywhere, and you’ll never be forgotten! Just don’t think for one second that anyone, whether Puerto Rican or non-Latin, or man or woman, is going to go easy on you in next year’s tournament just because you’re a girl. And seeing as she has known you since you were little, I’m pretty sure Mamita is damn proud of you too. 😉

Last year's winner, Chuck, passing the Golden Caldero to our 2015 Parcheesi Tournament winner, Joyce.
Last year’s winner, Chuck, passing the Golden Caldero to our 2015 Parcheesi Tournament winner, Joyce.

3rd Annual Carlota Acosta Parcheesi Tournament

ParcheesiCupcakesAndManicuresOur 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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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!

A gallery of moments from our last two Parcheesi tournaments.

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…

Stats going into the final game. A win is 5 points; all others get one point for each man home at the end of the game. Red dots represent “chivas” (shutouts) and are used to break ties. Four highest scores advance to the championship game.

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.

ChuckGoldenCalderoCongratulations 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. 🙂

2nd Annual Carlota Acosta Parcheesi Tournament

Our family, the bunch of Parcheesi-heads we are, hosted our second annual Parcheesi Tournament this past January in honor of my late grandmother, Carlota, aka Mamita. (See this post with my tribute to Mamita and her love of Parcheesi.) It was a blast, filled with laughter, yelling, neck wringing, and tons of food. It was also great to see the tournament expand from the previous year with four additional players, some of whom were quite new to the game but still played remarkably well.

Willie and The Golden Caldero
Last year’s winner, Willie, pointing to his name on The Golden Caldero.

This year, we introduced the “Stanley Cup” of our Parcheesi Tournament: The Golden Caldero. The caldero is probably the most important piece of cookware in the Puerto Rican kitchen: it’s the cast-iron pot in which the rice and beans are cooked, among several other Latin delicacies. My brother-in-law had a small caldero painted gold and mounted onto a trophy plaque. The name of last year’s winner, Willie, is now etched onto the plaque, basking in everlasting Parcheesi glory. Each year, the new tournament winner’s name will be added. We even started a new tradition of announcing the start of a new round of games by “ringing” the caldero with a spoon. It’s quite a raucous, attention-grabbing sound. 😉

I’m proud to say that I won the very first game of the day, in a decidedly quick and bloody match. *Pats self on back.* Unfortunately, that was just about all the winning I had for the whole tournament. I may love the game and know all the good key strategies, but I usually end up getting slaughtered. I generally blame bad luck, and getting ganged up on because I get too aggressive too soon in the game. Yeah, yeah… that’s what it is. *shrug*

Parcheesi Cake
Yes, it’s a Parcheesi cake. I told ya, we’re freaks.

In the second game I played, my father won before anyone else got a single one of their pieces home. A complete, full-blown shutout. When someone has no pieces home when the game is won, it is said that you “got chiva.” (Chiva is the Spanish word for a female goat, and it can also be slang for marijuana or heroine. Don’t ask me, I didn’t coin the term. :)) Dad was pretty darn proud of himself for that one, pointing his finger at each of his defeated opponents and badgering them. Holy Toledo! You all got chiva! You? Chiva! You? Chiva! You? You got chiva, too! Chiva! Chiva! CHIVA! Ah-OOOOOOO!”

It wouldn’t be a proper Parcheesi tournament if it didn’t have a whole lot of bridges, and this year was no exception. (Note the wear and tear on the board on the left. This is my family’s beloved original Parcheesi board from the 70’s. It has been through a lot. It’s barely in one piece, and the box is covered in duct tape so it doesn’t fall apart.)

Parcheesi Bridges

After the preliminary qualifying games, we were down to our four finalists: my brothers-in-law Pete and Jim (left and right respectively), my father Frank (center), and my cousin’s daughters Kristina and Lauren (who played as a team throughout the day, though they each proved worthy of playing for themselves next year).

The tournament finalists and the final game.

The end of the last game was a serious nail-biter. Everyone had their first three men home already, and all but one player had their fourth and final piece in the home stretch, just needing that one perfect roll of the dice to win the game. Turn after turn, ’round and ’round the table, with no one getting that desperately needed die. My father finally rolled the two he needed and won the tournament.

Congratulations Dad! Your name shall take its eternal place upon the plaque of The Golden Caldero (and now we all know exactly who to plot against next year. ;)).

Passing of The Golden Caldero
Willie passing The Golden Caldero on to this year’s tournament winner, Frank.

Here’s to you, Mamita. Hopefully you’re gazing upon us with a great big smile, watching the bridges we build in your honor, and salivating over all the ÂĄCOMIDA! Miss you. xoxo