Children playing carrom in Yemen

Carrom is a family of tabletop games with gameplay that lies somewhere between billiards and table shuffleboard. Carrom is known by many names around the world, including carrum, couronne, carum, karam, karom, karum, fatta (Punjabi) and finger billiards. The game was originated in Sri Lanka, but may have developed in more than one part of the world independently. Formal rules for the game were not published until 1988. The game and its variants are played in many countries across the world, recreationally and as a competitive sport (as organised by the International Carrom Federation). Carrom employs simple equipment enabling a wide player base. Variants of carrom that employ cue sticks also exist.



The origin of the game is uncertain. Sources suggest that the game is of Sri Lankan origin.[1] Variations of the game played with a cue stick similar to billiards-type games may have independently developed. Such similarity is evident in games such as table shuffleboard.

The International Carrom Federation (ICF) was formed in the year 1988 in the city of Chennai (Madras). In the same year, the rules for playing Carrom were formally codified.

The game is very popular in South Asia (Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & Pakistan). Similar games are played throughout the world, and may or may not share common origins with carrom. There is a carrom-like game also played with cues in China. Games similar to carrom appear all over Asia, for example vindi vindi in Fiji and szhe szhe in Israel. Some variants make use of discarded objects instead of fashioned playing pieces; bottle caps are used for games similar to carrom in both Mexico and Java.[citation needed] Various North American and European games bear a resemblance to (and may be related to) carrom, including crokinole, pitchnut and pichenotte, and novuss.


In India and Pakistan, the game is played on a board made of lacquered plywood. The dimensions of the standardised Indian game is a 29 inches (74 cm) square playing surface on a board of lacquered plywood. The edges of the playing surface are bounded by bumpers of wood, and the bottom of the board is covered by a net which is 10 cm2 or larger.[2] Carrom uses disks, and not balls. The objective of play is to use a striker disk with a flick of the finger to make contact with and move lighter object disks called carrom men, which are thus propelled into one of four corner pockets.

Carrom men

Carrom men and two strikers, arranged at the start of a game

Carrom is played on the board using uniform, small disks of wood or sometimes plastic, called carrom men (also carrom-men, carrommen), sometimes abbreviated c/m. Carrom men are also known by colloquial terms such as seed, coin, puck, or goti). Carrom men have a smooth movement in a flat position on the surface of the carrom board when hit by a striker of standard specification.

Carrom men are used in three distinct colours. Two colours are meant to represent invidual or team opponents. These colours are white (or unstained) and black. Red is a special colour that designates the queen.

ICF approved pieces must have a diameter of no more than 3.18 cm and no less than 3.02 cm. The pieces must be at least 7 mm and at most 9 mm thick. The pieces have a plain, rounded edge. The mass of the pieces is within 5 g and 5.5 g.

Modern references[who?] prefer the term carrom pieces to carrom men for gender neutrality.

The queen

The queen

The red coin (or disk or seed) is called the queen. The queen is the most powerful carrom piece. During board setup, it is placed at the centre of the circle. In accordance with the ICF rules, pocketing the queen adds 3 points to the player's total score. The dimensions of the queen must be the same as those of other carrom men.

  • The player must pocket the queen and subsequently pocket a carrom man of the color chosen by the other player. This is termed covering the queen.
  • If the player fails to pocket a subsequent carrom man, the queen is replaced at the centre of the circle. The player is further penalised by being forced to skip the next turn.
  • If the player subsequently pockets a carrom man of the color chosen by him, he loses the game.
  • When playing for a cumulative point, the player must pocket a white coin.[3]

The striker

The striker is larger and heavier than the carrom men. According to ICF rules, "the striker is smooth and round, with a diameter that does not exceed 4.13 cm."[2] Its weight should not be more than 15 grams.[4] Ivory and metal strikers are not allowed in tournaments.[2] The striker can be flicked with a finger to hit carrom men into corner pockets or against another.


Fine-grained powder is used on the board to enable the pieces to slide easily. Boric acid powder is the most commonly used for this purpose.[2]

In the UK, many players use a version of anti-set-off spray powder from the printing industry which has specific electrostatic properties with particles of 50 micrometres in diameter. The powder is made from pure, food-grade vegetable starch.

Standardised rules and regulations

Carrom board

The ICF promulgates International Rules of Carrom (also termed "The Laws of Carrom") ICF acts as the governing body of carrom. The organisation also ranks players, sanctions tournaments and presents awards. ICF has many national affiliates such as the All-India Carrom Federation, Australian Carrom Federation, UK Carrom Association and United States Carrom Association.

The toss

Order of play is determined by the process of "calling the carrom men" or "the toss". Before commencing each match, an umpire hides one black and one white carrom man in his hands. The players must guess which color carrom men are being held in each hand. The player who guesses correctly wins the toss.

The winner of the toss must either choose to strike first or to change sides (from white to black) and give up the opening break. No option to pass this decision to the other player is available. If the player chooses to strike, the loser can change sides, but if the winner chooses to change sides the loser must strike first. The player taking the first shot (or break) gets to play white. The opponent plays black.


The aim of the game is to pot (or pocket) one's own nine carrom men before one's opponent pots his/hers. It is necessary that the queen be pocketed before pocketing a player's final carrom man. Any player pocketing the queen is required it cover it by pocketing a carrom man of his/her chosen color. The player is allowed to shoot with any finger, including the thumb (known as "thumbing" or a "thumb shot" or a "thumb hit").

Crossing the diagonal lines on the board by coming in touch with it, or pocketing the striker is a foul. A player committing a foul must return one carrom man that was already pocketed. If a player pockets his striker, he has to pay a penalty. This penalty is usually 10 points.

Point carrom

Point Carrom is a variant that is popular with children or an odd number of players. Game play is as described above with a variation. Players are allowed to pocket carrom men of any colour. Carrom men of black colour are assigned 1 point and white colour are assigned 2 points. The red queen is assigned 5 points. Pocketing the queen must be followed by pocketing another carrom man on the same or subsequent strike. The first player to reach 17 points is declared the winner. If no player reaches 17 points, the player with the highest points is declared the winner. If the scores are tied, a tie-breaker must be played. Players who are tied (in points) select a colour. They are allowed to pocket carrom men of an alternate colour only on rebound.

Total point carrom

Total point carrom is a variant of point carrom, in which the black carrom men are worth 5 points and the white ones are worth 10 points. The red queen is assigned 50 points and must have a subsequent carrom men pocketed after it. To win, a player must receive all the carrom men on the board. After the first round the player or team with the lowest score puts all their carrom men in the center. The others must match this score in the center and the players play for the carrom men in the center. They repeat this until one team or player has all the carrom men. This style of play is widely accepted in many areas of south Asia.

Board variations

Carrom boards are available in various board sizes and corner pocket sizes. There are smaller boards and boards with larger pockets. Boards with larger pockets are used by beginners for easier game play. On traditional carrom boards, the corner pockets are only slightly larger than the carrom men, but smaller than the striker. On boards with larger pockets, it is possible to pocket the striker, resulting in a "scratch shot" as in Pool. This results in a "due." On a "due", the player has to replace one previously pocketed carrom man on the board. When the scores are tied at a point in the carrom game, a tie-breaker is played. The team which has pocketed the "queen" does not gain any advantage.

American carrom

A simple American version with cue sticks and a chess/checkers pattern. Note the pockets, which are much larger than traditional Indian carrom holes.
A more elaborate American board, with even more markings for other games.

American carrom is a variant[clarification needed] on carrom derived in America by missionaries to the East, around 1890.[citation needed] Believing that the game required restructuring for Western tastes, a Sunday school teacher named Henry Haskell altered the game.[citation needed] Much of the game is the same, but the striker's weight is reduced and the carrom men are smaller. Generally, instead of disks of solid wood, ivory, or acrylic, carrom men (including the striker) are rings, originally of wood but today commercially made of light plastic. In addition, as an alternative to using the fingers to flick the striker, some of the American carrom boards uses miniature cue sticks. American carrom boards also have pockets built into the corners, rather than circular holes in the board, to make pocketing easier. While traditionally made boards vary widely, current commercially produced American carrom boards are 28 inches (710 mm) square, are printed with checkerboard and backgammon patterns, among others, and are sold with checkers, chess pieces, skittles, etc., to allow other games to be played on the same board. Often, these boards are also built to play crokinole.


A version of American carrom was played in Southern California schools in the 1950s–1980s, using a somewhat larger square board and wooden rings struck with cue sticks.[citation needed] There was both a golf version and a maze version. In the golf version, there was a series of nine "holes" (really just green areas on the board.) A player had to start at the tee for a particular hole and get a carrom coin completely within the green region to advance to the next hole. Sand trap hazards would cause the player to lose a stroke and lake hazards would cause the player to lose two.[citation needed] A modified commercial version also exists. In the maze version, the playing board was divided by wooden rails into a maze of spiral corridors. The object was to be the first to get to the center. The surface was marked with areas that would send the player forward or back if landed on, similar to other board games. A commercial version of this is now also available.


A popular variant in Latvia and Estonia is called novuss (or koroona), and is subject to notable amateur and even professional competition between the two countries. Like the American game, it is played with cue sticks (but they are much closer in size to pool cues, and the game is played while standing), and the board has comparatively large netted corner pockets instead of simple round holes. The board is 40 inches (100 cm) square, mounted on a roughly groin-height table, and there are two striker pucks (one for each player), eight object disks ("men") per player, and no queen. The game dates to the mid-to-late 1920s, the first professional match was held in 1932, Latvian national championship began in 1964, and "international" (i.e. Latvia vs. Estonia) competition began in 1993. There are an estimated 55,000 players.

Japanese carrom

Carrom was introduced to Japan in the last years of the Meiji period or Taishō period by someone from the UK and in the early Shōwa period by someone from the USA. In the middle Shōwa period, carrom was called "fighting ball board" or "tossing ball board" (闘球盤 or 投球盤 tōkyūban?) and was a popular board game throughout Japan. Carrom gradually lost popularity, but is still played in Hikone, Shiga. In Hikone, carrom is called karomu (カロム?) and many homes have their own carrom boards and use derivative rules.

Other related or similar games

The chiefly North American games crokinole and pichenotte (and the latter's derivative, pitchnut), bear a striking resemblance to carrom, and may be local variants of it. The Russian game chapayev is seemingly a hybrid of draughts (checkers) and carrom. In Denmark a game called bob (or bobspil), similar to carrom, is played with cues rather than fingers.

In popular culture

  • The Tamil movie Chandramukhi starring Rajinikanth, featured the game.
  • In 2010 a Hindi "Bollywood" film titled Striker was released, including on YouTube. The movie focuses on carrom Template:Hustling in Mumbai in the 1980s.
  • The Hindi film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. also featured the game with Sanjay Dutt and his accomplices playing it with a hostage.
  • The Hindi film Ankush showed ability of carrom in helping four unemployed youth 'escape' painful realities of life.

In the American TV show Outsourced, the character Gupta plays carrom in one episode.


  1. ^ "What is Carrom?". Carrom UK. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Standard equipments". Punjabi State Carrom Association. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  3. ^ "queen". Punjabi State Carrom Association. Retrieved 2009-06-04. 
  4. ^ "Official Laws of Carrom". Retrieved 2009-06-04. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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