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A thumb war or thumb wrestling is a children's game played by two players in a tournament called a thumb-a-war (or thumb war) using the thumbs to simulate fighting. The object of the game is to pin the opponent's thumb, often to a count of three. The San Francisco Chronicle called the game "the miniature golf of martial sports."
The players face each other and each holds out their left hand or right hand in a "thumbs up", and they link hands in a monkey grip. Gameplay has several tactics such as "playing possum", aiming for the knuckle rather than the nail for a pin, going for a quick strike, and waiting for one's opponent to tire. Variations include making the thumbs "bow", "kiss", or both before warring, and to war with both hands at once, or sneak attacks, which involve using your pointer finger to take over the opponent.
The game is typically initiated with both the players uttering the rhyme "One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war", and their thumbs passing over each other in time with this rhyme. The rhyme is sometimes extended with "Five, six, seven, eight, try to keep your thumb straight." Variations of the second half of the rhyme include " Five, six, seven, eight, you are stupid, I am great. " or "Five, six, seven, eight, you are going down mate. " and "Five, six, seven, eight, this is going to be a piece of cake." In Spanish, the starting song is "ésta es la pulseada china", with the same thumbs passing over as in English.
Competitive matches on thumb wrestling have been held in Long Island and Lowestoft. The 826 Valencia Foundation holds an annual thumb-wrestling competition, which has been won three times by San Francisco Chronicle book editor Oscar Villalon.
These are the main, most commonly used rules in a thumb war.
Thumb War Rule #1
You must start each game with a chant, the specifics of the chant can be negotiated at the beginning of each match. The ones above are the most commonly used chants.
Thumb War Rule #2
A player must Pin their opponents thumb for five seconds. Often the length of the pin will be decided on a per match basis (usually 3-5 seconds). A pin is considered an established length of time where the opponent cannot move their finger from contact with the top of the other opponents clenched fist.
Thumb War Rule #3
No other fingers can be used in any way, this include but is not limited to the "black hole" rule which involves player A imbedding his or her thumb into their palm while simultaneously declaring "black hole". This includes unlocking fingers and using a hand to overpower the opponents thumb, and also includes 'tag-teaming' where a player 'tags' another finger into play in attempt to gain the upper hand and win the match.
Writer Norman Mailer was passionate about thumb wrestling. Author and humorist Paul Davidson claims that his grandfather Bernard Davidson invented thumb war in the 1940s. American copywriter Julian Koenig claimed to have invented thumb wrestling in 1936 as a boy at Camp Greylock.
A thumb wrestling ring is a toy used for thumb wrestling. The players insert their thumbs in opposite sides and proceed with the thumb war.