Candlepin bowling

From Academic Kids

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Candlepin Bowling pins are approximately 16 inches in height and 3 inches in diameter at the center.

Candlepin bowling is a variation of bowling that is confined to the New England states of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire and to the Maritime provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It was developed in 1880 in Worcester, Massachusetts by a local bowling alley owner, Justin White. As in other forms of bowling, the players roll balls down a wooden pathway to knock down as many pins as possible. The main differences between candlepin bowling and the predominant ten-pin bowling style are the facts that each player uses three balls per frame (see below), the balls are much smaller and do not have holes, the fallen pins ('deadwood' or simply 'wood') are not cleared away between balls during a player's turn, and the pins are thinner, and thus harder to knock down. One of the results of these differences is that scoring points is rather more difficult than in ten-pin bowling, and the highest officially sanctioned score is only 245 out of a possible 300 points. (In ten-pin bowling, virtually every bowling alley has a list of people with "perfect games," meaning they have scored 300 points.)

A game of candlepin bowling is divided into ten rounds, each of these rounds being most commonly referred to as a "box," rather than a "frame" as in ordinary ten-pin bowling. In each box, each player is given three opportunities to knock down the pins. They roll their first ball at the pins. Whatever pins are knocked down are counted and scored (if a ball rolls into one of the gutters that run along either side of this pathway -- called the 'lane' -- no pins will be knocked down, and no points will be scored, even if a pin felled by a previous shot partially protrudes into the gutter and knocks down a standing pin or pins after being struck by a ball rolled into the gutter). Then the player rolls a second and a third ball at any remaining targets. In the event that all ten pins were knocked down with the first ball (a 'strike'), they receive points and a bonus, and play passes to the next competitor. If all ten pins were knocked down with two balls (a 'spare'), they also receive points and a bonus, and play passes to the next competitor. A player has no more than three balls to play in each box, so even if they neglect to knock over all of the pins, after they have taken three shots, play passes to the next competitor.

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The Bowl-Mor candlepin pinsetter is the most common machine in use. Many have been in service for more than three decades.

The ten candlepins are automatically set by machine into a triangle with 4 pins in the back row, then 3, 2, and finally 1 in the front, at the center of the lane. As in ten-pin bowling, due to the spacing of the pins, it is impossible for the ball to strike every one. However, while in ten-pin a well-placed ball (usually between the front pin and one of its nearest neighbors) will result in a strike from the chain reaction of pin hitting pin, in candlepin the smaller thickness of the pins makes that extremely difficult, and thus, very rare. In general, a forcefully thrown ball hitting near the center of the pins will result in many pins being knocked down, but not all. In order to count, the pin must be knocked over entirely; in unlucky circumstances, a pin may wobble furiously, yet come to rest upright, thus not being scored (and will not be reset to its original position for any shots that remain).

In addition, a line exists ten feet down the lane from the foul line; this is the lob line, and the ball must first contact the lane at a point on the bowler's side of it. Violation of this rule constitutes a lob and any pins knocked down by such a ball do not count, and the pins so fallen are not reset if the lobbed ball was not the third and last shot for that player in that box (in some older alleys the method of enforcing this rule is not automated, and an employee of the establishment, known as a "lob-line judge," needs to be hired).

Candlepin bowling uses its own colorful jargon to refer to the many scenarios that can arise in a game, with most of the terms denoting different combinations of pins left standing after the first ball has been rolled. Examples of these terms include:

  • Four Horsemen: Four pins in a diagonal line, from the head-pin outward; if the 1-2-4-7, it is known as "Four horsemen, left side," and if the 1-3-6-10, it is known as "Four horsemen, right side."
  • Spread Eagle: A configuration consisting of the 2-3-4-6-7-10, caused by the first shot striking the head pin too directly, leading to a failure to scatter the pins.
  • Diamond: Four pins that form a diamond-shaped configuration, either the 2-4-5-8, known as "left-side diamond," or the 3-5-6-9, known as "right-side diamond" (this same configuration is usually referred to as a "bucket" in standard ten-pin bowling, and while it is very difficult to convert into a spare in candlepin bowling, in ten-pin bowling a spare is usually made from it by an experienced bowler).
  • Half Worcester: Perhaps the most distinctive term used in the game. This results when the first shot strikes either the 2-pin or 3-pin too directly, and knocks down only that pin and the one immediately behind it; when only the 2- and 8-pins fall it is a "Half Worcester Left," and when only the 3- and 9-pins fall it is a "Half Worcester Right" (less commonly - and especially if the bowler is a woman or young child - only the 1- and 5-pins may be knocked down with the first ball, producing a "Half Worcester Center"). According to legend, the term was coined when a team from Worcester and another team from a nearby town were competing in the semifinal round of a statewide tournament held sometime in the 1940s; late in the last match of the round, one of the bowlers on the Worcester team knocked down only two such pins with his first ball, prompting a member of the opposing team to taunt him by saying, "You're halfway back to Worcester."

From 1958 until 1996, a weekly professional bowling match was held in Massachusetts, carried in Boston on television station WHDH-TV/WCVB-TV Channel 5, in Springfield on WWLP-TV Channel 22, and (until 1978) on WRLP-TV Channel 32 in Greenfield, on Saturday morning; the winner of this match would return the following Saturday to face a new opponent determined by the outcome of qualifying matches, or "roll-offs," held during the week. Cash prizes were awarded to both the winner and loser of the televised match, with bonuses for rolling three consecutive marks (strikes or spares in any combination, or a larger bonus for three strikes in a row), and for rolling a cumulative score of 400 or higher in the three games, or "strings," of which each match consisted. For most of the year, this competition was restricted to men only, with a few weeks devoted to matches for women only; other televised matches were also held, involving mixed doubles teams of one man and one woman bowler.


In general, one point is scored for each pin that is knocked over. So, in an imaginary game, if player 'A' bowled over 3 pins with her first shot, then 5 with her second, and 1 with the third, she would receive a total of 9 points for that frame. If player 'B' knocks down 9 pins with his first shot, but misses with his second and third, he would also score 9.

In the event that all ten pins were knocked over by any one player in a single box, bonuses are awarded.

  • Strike: When all 10 pins are knocked down with the first ball (called a strike), a player is awarded 10 points, plus a bonus of whatever he scores with his next 2 balls. In this way, the points scored for the two balls after the strike are scored twice.
Box 1, ball 1 - 10 pins (strike)
Box 2, ball 1 - 3 pins
Box 2, ball 2 - 6 pins
Box 2, ball 3 - 1 pin
The total score from these throws is: 10 + (3+6) + 3 + 6 +1= 29
A player who scores multiple strikes in succession would score like so:
Box 1, ball 1 - 10 pins (strike)
Box 2, ball 1 - 10 pins (strike)
Box 3, ball 1 - 4 pins
Box 3, ball 2 - 2 pins
Box 3, ball 3 - 2 pins
The score from these throws is:
  • Box one... 10 + (10 + 4) = 24
  • Box two... 10 + (4 + 2) = 16
  • Box three... 4 + 2 +2 = 8
TOTAL = 48
A player who bowls a strike in the 10th (final) box, is awarded two extra balls so as to allow for his bonus points. If both these balls also result in strikes, a total of 30 points (10 + 10 + 10) is awarded for the box.
  • Spare: A 'spare', is awarded when no pins are left standing after the second ball of a box. For example, a player uses the first two balls of a box to clear all ten pins. A player achieving a spare is award 10 points, plus a bonus of whatever he scores with his next ball (only the first ball is counted).
Box 1, ball 1 - 7 pins
Box 1, ball 2 - 3 pins (spare)
Box 2, ball 1 - 4 pins
Box 2, ball 2 - 2 pins
Box 2, ball 3 - 1 pins
The total score from these throws is: 7 + 3 + 4(bonus) + 4 + 2 + 1 = 21

A player who bowls a spare in the 10th (final) box, is awarded one extra ball so as to allow for his bonus points.

  • X box: An 'x box' (or "10-box") is awarded when no pins are left standing after the third ball of a box. A player achieving an x-box is awarded 10 points, but without any bonus for the following ball.
Box 1, ball 1 - 7 pins
Box 1, ball 2 - 2 pins
Box 1, ball 3 - 1 pins
The total score from these throws simply is: 7 + 2 + 1 = 10

To correctly calculate bonus points can be a bit tricky, especially when combinations of strikes and spares come in successive boxes. In modern times, however, this has been overcome with automated scoring systems, linked to the machines that set and clear the pins between boxes. A computer automatically counts pins that remain standing, and fills in a virtual score sheet (usually displayed on monitors above each lane).

The maximum score in a game is 300 - a perfect game. This is scored by bowling 12 strikes: one in each box, and a strike with both bonus balls in the 10th box. In this way, each box will score 30 points (see above - scoring:strike). As noted above, this has never occurred in candlepin bowling.

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