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Oware → French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish.


Oware
Other Names: Abapa, Adji,
Kui, Aghi, A-i-ú, Alé, Aualé,
Awalé, Aware, Awari, Awélé,
Ayo, Ayoayo, Ayo Olopon,
Coastal Oh-Wah-Ree, Dagbo-
prou, Huri, Kale, Kboo, Kpoo,
Kuoless, Langa-holo, Òrè, Ori,
Ôrim, Orôá, Oura, Oure, Ouri,
Ouril, Ourin, Owani, Owari,
Poo, Uale, Uali, Uri, Urim,
Urin, Urinca, Wahree, Walé,
Walle, Waré, Wari, Warra,
Warri, Wa-wee, Woaley, Woll,
Wolo, Wora, Wori, Woro
First Description: Richard
Jobson, 1620
Cycles: One
Ranks: Two
Sowing: Single laps
Region: Western Africa,
Caribbean, South America
Owarefrance7c

Oware in France. Red: tournaments; blue: other events.

Oware is the national mancala game of Ghana, and the particular name "Ɔware" is that given by the Akan speaking people there. This game or closely related variants are played in most of West Africa (Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, West Central Africa (Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo), the Caribbean (Antigua, Barbuda, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, US Virgin Islands; possibly also on Martinique and Saint Kitts) and South America (Brazil, Guyana, Suriname). Perhaps it was also known by plantation slaves and their descendants in the USA (see Warra). Nowadays, the game is very popular in immigrant communities in Europe and the USA (New York) and is increasingly enjoyed by native Europeans, mostly in England, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. A variant specifically designed for children is sold in Germany under the name Apfelklau ("apple pilfer").

The game plays an important role in the Epic of Sundjata (c.1210-1255 or 1260), the first king and founder of the Mali Empire. It also appears to have been mentioned by the English traveller Richard Jobson who had been in Gambia in 1620. He wrote in his account Golden Trade (1623):

"In the heat of the day, the men will come forth and sit themselves in companies, under the shady trees, to receive the fresh aire, and there passe the time in communication, having only one kind of game to recreate themselves withall, and that is a peece of wood, certaine great holes cut, which they set upon the ground betwixt two of them, and with a number of some thirty pibble stones, after a manner of counting, they take one from the other, untill one is possessed of all, whereat some of them are wondrous nimble."

A famous legend tells that, after the battle of Feyiase, the Juaben king Yiadom Adarkwa killed Ntim Gyakari, the king of Denkyira, when he played a game of Oware against his wife with golden counters. Since then golden counters are associated with misfortune. The game spread to Cape Verde, the Caribbean and South America through the slave trade.

Playing oware in kumasi

Oware players in Kumasi, Ghana

The game has become in recent decades an important mindsport. Tournaments are held every year in Western Africa, many European countries, and in Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean. In 2009, 810 students participated in an Oware tournament held in Mataro, Catalonia.

African Oware boards are often carved from Osese wood (Holarrhena floribunda) and the most elaborate ones adorn the collections of ethnographic museums in the whole world. The boards sold on Ebay or African markets, however, are mostly low-quality designs, specifically made for tourists who are travelling back to their country again and which were therefore described as "airport art". The counters are typically nickernuts.

A closely related variant called Awari was created by computer scientists in the 1990s. It was solved in 2002 by the Dutch researchers John W. Romein and Henri E. Bal. They proved that perfect play is a draw. A public Java applet, the Awari Oracle, is based on data found by Romein and Bal.

Origin of the Name

Ashant architecture

1817, Picture of traditional Empire of Ashanti architecture with two men playing Oware, by Thomas E. Bowdich

"The Akan term Oware was acquired from the famous king of the Ashanti kingdom called Katakyie Opoku Ware I (1700-1750) Katakyie who usually used this game to settle dispute between married couples particularly when they were on the verge of separation. This would happened after the king and his elders had managed to settle the case and they would charged the couple to sit down together and entertain themselves with this game. The servants in the king's palace would be singing songs whilst this game was in progress. In the end, the Ashanti realized that the king needed an honour for utilizing this game to repair family issues. Hence, the O was taken to preceed the Ware to form "Oware". Ware in Akan (Ashanti) means "marry". This Oware game was played most in the king's palace and after the troubled family had finished playing that game, there was no way they would seldom understand each other."

An Ashanti Legend

Rules

Following are the rules for the Abapa (Twi for: "the good stone") variation, considered to be the most appropriate for serious, adult play.

The game requires an Oware board and 48 seeds.

A typical Oware board has two straight rows of six holes, called "houses", and optionally one large house at either end. Each player controls the six houses on his side of the board, and owns the store on his right.

Initially there are four seeds in each hole


Waurieini

Initial Position


Players take turns moving the seeds.

On a turn, a player chooses one of the six houses under his control. The player removes all seeds from that house, and distributes them, dropping one in each house counter-clockwise from this house.

If the starting house contained 12 seeds, it is skipped, and the twelfth seed is placed in the next house.

If the last seed was placed into an opponent's house that brought its total to two or three, all the seeds in that house are captured and placed in the player's store (or set aside if the board has no stores).

If the previous-to-last seed also brought an opponent's house to two or three, these are captured as well, and so on.

However, if a move would capture all an opponent's seeds (often after a full sowing around the board known as "Grand Slam"), the capture is forfeited, and the seeds are instead left on the board, since this would prevent the opponent from continuing the game. A variation common in Africa and promoted by the Ivory Coast champion allows Grand Slams to capture, if they result in the cumulative capture of more than 24 seeds (thus ending the game).

The proscription against capturing all an opponent's seeds is related to a more general idea, that one ought to make a move that allows the opponent to continue playing. If all houses of the opponent are empty, the current player must make a move that gives the opponent seeds ("to feed").

The game ends, when a player can't move at the start of his turn or when the game has been reduced to an endless cycle.

If the game ended because a player couldn't move, his opponent captures all seeds that are still in his holes.

If the game ended because seeds continued to circle around the board and no player could capture them, they are divided between the players, when each one of them has seeds on his side. Each player gets the seeds, which are in his holes.

Sometimes it is agreed that the game should end as soon as one player has captured 25 or more seeds, or each player has taken 24 seeds.

The player who captured more seeds wins the game. The game is a draw, when both players have captured 24 seeds.

Special Rules for Matches

Oware is often played in a match, which consists of several games, especially on tournaments.

  • In Antigua, players usually try to be the first one to win 6 games or they try to win 3 more games than their opponent.
  • In international tournaments, the goal is often to be the first player who wins 3 or 5 games (three in Cannes, France).
  • Yoruba players try to win 3 games in a row.
  • The Akan in the Ivory Coast tried to achieve 5 victories in a row, but today their goal is to win 3 games out of a match of 5.
  • In Kumasi, players try to be the first one who wins 5 games.

Nomenclature

Ori (1)

Oril on Santagio (Cabo Verde)

  • In most of the Caribbean to capture is to cut.
  • In Antigua, the leftmost hole is called foot, the rightmost head and the hole next to the head, throat or neck.
  • Usually the holes are called houses, but in Antigua a house is a kru
  • Heavily loaded holes are known graniers, kru, kroo, krou, Aklou, odu, etc.
  • A capture initiated by a kru is usually called "grand slam". In versions, where the rules permit it, a grand slam is also the act of capturing all 6 houses of one's opponent.
  • If seeds are dropped into an opponent's kru so that it contains too many of them to be still useful is called to rot it.
  • A kru is said to be mature, when it could reach the opponent's side.
  • In Barbados, the seeds are called horse nickers, which is supposed to come from arsenicals because the seeds contain some arsenic.
  • Giving seeds to an opponent whose holes are empty is to feed him.
  • The seeds and the game often share the same name.

Oware Endgames

Problem 1

Oware-endg1

South to play and win! (Víktor Bautista i Roca, 2008)

Problem 2

Owareprob5

South to play and win! (Víktor Bautista i Roca, 2008)

Shortest Game

This is the shortest game ever recorded (19 moves). It was played between Ralf Gering (first player) and a beginner (second player) on brettspielnetz.de on January 13, 2010:

6-6-3-5-3-6-2-4(+2)-4(+4)-4-2-5-3-3-5(+7)-1(+6)-1(+7)-2-6(+9).

Proverbs

"When you play Warri with God, you get no seed."
From Antigua.

"By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed."
From Ghana.

See also

External Links

Federations

Miscellaneous

References

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Solution

Problem 1

1 or 3!

Best moves:

(a)
1!, 2, 3!, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6 (+10), 6 - South captures the nine remaining seeds.

(b)
3!, 2, 1!, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6 (+10), 6.

(c)
3!, 2, 4, 3, 1!, 4, 5, 5, 6 (+10), 6.

(d)
3!, 2, 4, 3, 5, 4, 1!, 5, 6 (+10), 6.

Problem 2

One solution:

6!, 2, 4, 1, 5, 2, 1, 3, 3, 5, 2, 4, 4, 5, 3, 6, 6, 2, 5, 1, 4, 3, 2, 2, 1, 4, 3, 3, 2, 5, 4!, 4, 3, 5, 5!, 1, 6 (+1), 1, 4, 2, 5, 3, 6, 6, 1, 2, 2, 1, 4, 3, 3, 5, 2, 4, 4, 6, 1, 5, 3, 6 -- South wins the last four seeds and the game.

Copyright

(1) The section on the game rules were adapted from the Wikipedia article, "Oware" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oware, used under the GNU Free Documentation License.
(2) The section on the nomenclature and matches is © Wikimanqala. By: Víktor Bautista i Roca. Published under the CC by-sa 2.5.
(3) The references section was released into the public domain by Ralf Gering on November 13, 2007.

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