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Kubb (pronounced [kɵb] in Swedish or [kub] in Gutnish) is a lawn game where the object is to knock over wooden blocks by throwing wooden sticks at them. Kubb can be simply described as a combination of bowling and horseshoes. Today's version originated on the island of Gotland, Sweden.
Rules vary from country to country and from region to region, but the ultimate object of the game is to knock the "king" over, before the opponent does. This, combined with the fact that there is a certain level of strategy that can be used by players, has led some players and kubb fans to nickname the game "Viking chess." However, unlike chess, if a player or team knocks over the king before achieving their objectives, that player/team immediately loses the game. Some games have been known to last for hours. The game can be played on a variety of surfaces such as sand, concrete, grass, or even ice. Kubb is a good game for children (under supervision), although in such cases, the 8-metre pitch length (specified in some instructions), is often shortened.
Although it is often claimed that the game dates back to the Viking Age and has survived on Gotland, there doesn't appear to be any firm evidence of this. The Föreningen Gutnisk Idrott ("Society of Gotland Games"), formed in 1912, does not list kubb as one of the traditional games from Gotland. There is anecdotal evidence of games called kubb being played in various places in Sweden in the early 20th century, but how similar those rules were to the ones used today, is unknown.
The game in its modern conception became popular in the 1990s when commercial kubb sets were first manufactured. The key feature of the game (opposing teams throwing) is shared by the games kyykkä and bunnock, both of which come from Karelia or neighbouring areas. The game has now gained international interest, and an annual World Championship has been held since 1995 on Gotland. Large kubb tournaments are now located throughout Europe and the U.S.
On December 13th, 2011, Eau Claire, WI became The Kubb Capital of North America. Among a host of other things in addition to hosting the U.S. Championship, various kubb clubs have formed, kubb leagues exist, and kubb sets are in the local schools, with some schools having P.E. kubb units.
There are twenty-three game pieces used in kubb:
According to the U.S Nationals Rules and World Championship Rules, kubb is played on a rectangular pitch 5 m by 8 m. Corner stakes are placed so that a rectangle is formed. The center stakes are placed in the middle of the sidelines (long edges of the rectangle), which divides the pitch into two halves. No other markers are required to demarcate the field's boundaries, although markings that do not interfere with game play are allowed (such as chalk lines). The king is placed upright in the center of the pitch, and the kubbs are placed on the baselines (short edges of the rectangle), 5 kubbs on each side equidistant from each other. Kubbs starting the game on the baseline are referred to as base kubbs. The baseline should run through the center of the kubbs.
|World Championship||US Nationals|
|Players only throw 1 baton, mandating teams of 6 or more||Players only throw 2 batons, mandating teams of 3 or more|
|"Perfect Game" allowed||"Perfect Game" not allowed. If in the first 5 throws you hit 5 kubbs, you must forfeit your last baton.|
Kubb is played between two teams, which may consist of only one person per team.
After determining which team throws first and which side each team will be the defenders, the game begins with the attackers throwing the batons from behind their baseline, attempting to topple the base kubbs on the defenders baseline.
Once all the batons are thrown, the opposing team gathers any base kubbs toppled during the turn, and throws them into the upfield (the far half of the opponent’s pitch). Kubbs thrown into the upfield are called field kubbs, and are raised by the first team (now the defenders) where they came to rest. The second team (now the attackers) throws the batons, first attempting to topple any field kubbs, then any base kubbs, then the king.
If they are unable to knock down all of their kubbs and the king then the first team picks up all toppled kubbs, throws them into play as field kubbs, and play continues to a second round. Rounds are continued until the game ends.
The game is won by the team who knocks down all the kubbs in the upfield and on the baseline then topples the king. However, if a team topples the king at ANY TIME prior to toppling all field kubbs & base kubbs then that team immediately loses the game. In a match the winner of best-of-3 games is determined to be the winner.
To determine who throws first, and what side each team will play from, the initial baton throw is performed by throwing a single baton towards the king at the same time by a representative from each team. The team closest to the king can either choose to throw first, or to choose a side. On the second and third game of a match teams switch sides and switch throwing order.
The following rules are followed for throwing batons:
The following rules are followed for throwing kubbs:
After all field kubbs have been thrown, and rethrown as necessary, they are to be raised upon one end, like a hinge. Kubbs always have 2 footprints. Kubbs must also adhere to the following rules:
Advantage lines are created when a team fails to knock down all the remaining field kubbs in the upfield. The un-toppled field kubb closest to the centerline becomes the new line to throw batons. Kubbs are always thrown from the baseline.
A team wins when the king is knocked over with a baton, after all opponents' kubbs have been toppled. Advantage lines cannot be used when attacking the king.
For informal play between players of widely differing abilities, such as an adult and a child it is permissible to shorten the width of the arena on the child's opponent's side, making it easier for the child to hit the kubbs, and it is also permissible to move the king closer to, but not behind, the child's line. Also, one team may get more sticks than the other.
The Kubb World Championship is held annually on the island of Gotland, Sweden. The U.S. Championship is held annually in Eau Claire, WI. The Australian Championships are held annually in Breamlea, Victoria.
Tournaments in the U.S. have exploded since 2007, especially in the Midwest. In 2012, the Midwest tournament list includes Eau Claire, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Rockford, IL; Decorah, IA; Appleton, WI; Des Moines, IA; Dallas, WI; Madison, WI, and smaller tournaments in a variety of small Minnesota towns. Lindsborg, KS and Atlanta, GA also host tournaments.
Links to some of these tournaments in the United States include:
There are also numerous other tournaments throughout Europe (Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy and more). Most countries have their own national championship tournament.
Other kubb tournaments in Europe include: