Friday, August 19, 2011

Novuss - interesting version of carrom played in Latvia

"Carrom" is not mispelled - it is actually a set of games which are possibly ancestrally related to billiards. It is played on a small board, with "pockets" in the corners, and you use your fingers to snap your stricker (i.e. cue ball) into the other game pieces to try to make them into holes. Carrom is thought to have originated in India or Pakistan, although surely some other similar game existed before that, just like billiards came from an indoor version of croquet or similar game. I do find it interesting that the name of the game is carrom, in my opinion very likely to be etymologically linked to the billiards term "carom".

I was in Riga, Latvia for a couple of days and while walking around the old town came upon this :
Novuss table, Riga, Latvia
Now I had seen carrom tables before. In fact I even played a bit of carrom in Germany - but what I had played was the "standardized" carrom game, which most definitely did not use a cue, and the table was smaller - more on standardized carrom on wikipedia.
Here I was at the wild frontier of cue sports, unable to play or even learn about this game, as the establishment to which it belonged was closed for the day.
I did do some basic research later when I rejoined the soothing internet bubble. The game is called Novuss, it is quite popular in Estonia and Latvia, to the point where semi-pro or even pro players exist. Fifty-five thousand practitioners? Really? That's enormous for such small countries (2.2 million in Latvia, 1.3 million in Estonia!)

I did not see any chalk around - not sure if it would be needed? Can you really put spin on the small hockey puck visible on the bottom right corner of this pic, the Novuss version of a cue ball?
Just for size reference, the table was about 3 feet by 3 feet and stood about3 feet high.

Here are a couple of facts about Riga :
  • The Christmas tree was invented here
  • The food is awesome and cheap
  • The only pool hall I found had 8-foot tables only and was almost empty, the few people that were there were weekend bangers and a couple of shady Russians telling us to go to the one nightclub which is on the american embassy list of known Latvian scam operations (they might have gotten me there by telling me there was a 9-footer in the back of the club though)
Pics of Riga :

Party houses built in the 14th century by rich, young and single German Hansa league merchants that dug Latvia

Plaque marking the location of the first ever Christmas tree. No joke.

Normal everyday life for the pillory boy

A clean, calm and pleasant city.
$5 buffet. The sausage was spectacular.

Pork knuckle!!! Yes!

as anyone played Novuss before? How about carrom? Comments please!