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  Inside Out - South: Monday June 9, 2003


Close up of marbles
World Marbles Championship 2003 gets underway

It's England v Germany - but not as we know it! It's the World Marbles Championship 2003 - a contest which can easily reduce grown-ups to tears. Inside Out's Chris Packham flexes his fingers and finds out more…

The World Marbles Championship takes place every year at Tinsley Green in West Sussex.

You may have indulged in the pastime yourself, but don't be fooled into thinking that this is the childhood sport you innocently enjoyed in the playground.

This is a game in which a dozen players furiously battle over a six foot concrete ring.

A black and white picture of men playing marbles
Marbles has been enjoyed for generations

The game has its own rules, rituals and vocabulary. In order to play you need to know all about the nose drop, knuckling down, fudging and cabbaging.

In the beginning…

The game has been played in Sussex for centuries and the current championships started at the Greyhound Inn in 1932.

Four times world champion Barry Ray played here as a boy in 1952.

"Thousands of people used to come," says Barry.

"Perhaps because the championships took place on Good Friday when there was almost nothing else to do apart from go to church!"


Tolley - Marble used for shooting which must not exceed 3/4s of an inch.

Nose Drop - The start of the game. Players drop their Tolley from their nose to a line in the sand. The player whose Tolley lands nearest the line goes first.

Knuckling Down - Position of hands for shooting. Knuckles must rest on the concrete ring.

Fudging - Moving your hand forward when shooting, this is a foul!

Cabbaging - Another form of cheating! Shooting from an incorrect spot.

The Game

The Forty nine marbles are placed in a ring. Players get a point for each marble their Tolley - a shooting marble, knocks out of the ring. The first team to reach 25 points wins.

Sounds simple, but don't be fooled. The sport is highly competitive.

As the championships grew so the concept of adults flicking glass balls turned into an international sport.

Germany on top

Andreas vom Rothenbarth was on holiday in Sussex when he first saw the game being played.

"It was wonderful to see rich and poor, young and old all playing marbles," says Andreas. "I thought this is what we need in Germany."

Andreas brought a team back with him in 1997 and last year a German team walked away with the World Cup.

A marbles team celebrating
For the second year running, Germany are Marbles World Champions

This year five German teams followed Andreas to Sussex setting the scene for a nail-biting championship.

Twenty teams took part in this year's championship.

With hundreds of spectators, the pressure was on for Britain.

But even with the support and limited marble playing skills of Chris Packham, Germany scooped the coveted title for the second year running.

Bad luck Britain - there's always next year!

See also ...

BBC: Brits lose world marbles contest

On the rest of the web
The National Marble Museum
Andeas vom Rothenbarth
How to play marbles

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