Carrom is a tabletop game of South Asian origin. The game is very popular in the Indian subcontinent, and is known by various names in different languages. In South Asia, many clubs and cafés hold regular tournaments. Carrom is very commonly played by families, including children, and at social functions. Different standards and rules exist in different areas. It became very popular in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth during the early 20th century.
The word carrom simply means any strike and rebound. The game of carrom originated in India. One carrom board with its surface made of glass is still available in one of the palaces in Patiala, India. It became very popular among the masses after World War I. State-level competitions were being held in the different states of India during the early part of the 20th century. Serious carrom tournaments may have begun in Sri Lanka in 1935 but by 1958, both India and Sri Lanka had formed official federations of carrom clubs, sponsoring tournaments and awarding prizes.
The International Carrom Federation (ICF) was formed in the year 1988 in Chennai, India. The formal rules for the Indian version of the game were published in 1988. In the same year the ICF officially codified the rules. The game has been very popular throughout South Asia, mainly in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives. The game is also popular in many of the countries in the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. It has gained some popularity in United Kingdom, Europe, North America and Australia where it has been introduced by the Indian diaspora. The UKCF was formed in 1991 in London. The main work of this organisation is to promote the game of Carrom throughout the UK and ensure the participation of UK players in all major international championships. The UKCF have hosted 3 Euro cups in England and have had fantastic success in the tournament with UK players. UKCF organised national championships and league tournaments throughout the UK on annual basis.
The United Kingdom Carrom Federation has finalised their preparation for the 7th World Carrom Championship, to be held in Birmingham, United Kingdom from 7 November til 11 November. Around 20 countries have confirmed their participation in the Championship.
The United States Carrom Association reports on competitions in the US and Canada and has a player ranking list as of the last tournament.
A group of Carrom lovers grouped together in 2004 and established the Pakistan Carrom Federation or PCF. The PCF have worked to build clubs across Pakistan to promote and teach the game.
The German Carrom Federation was founded in 1986 with the objective of supporting and maintaining the game of Carrom. The federation over sees Germany Carrom Clubs and teams throughout Germany.
The Italian Carrom Federation was founded in 1995 by a group if Carrom enthusiasts and is responsible for the spread of the game throughout Italy. The federation is supported by a large number of volunteers who regularly run events throughout Italy to teach and educate about the game.
The Japan Carrom Federation was established in 1997. In 2001 they moved into their new headquarters in Tokyo from Hikone. Originally set up to allow players to compete in overseas tournament but held their first national championship in 2004 and now hold tournaments, demonstrations and training camps across Japan.
The board and pieces can be bought in UK, Europe, North America or Australia and are usually imported from India. The most expensive boards are made to a high standard with high quality wood and decorations though cheaper boards are available. Some of the largest exporters of carrom boards are in India, e.g. Precise, Surco, Syndicate Sports and Paul Traders.
The game is usually played on a square board made of plywood, with a pocket in each corner. The dimensions of the standardized board is a 29 inches (74 cm) square playing surface. The edges are bounded by bumpers of wood, and the underside of each pocket is covered by a net which is 10 cm2 or larger.
Carrom is played using small disks of wood or plastic known as carrom men (sometimes abbreviated CM, c.m. c/m, etc.). These pieces, aside from the special queen, may also be known as seeds, coins, pawns (as in chess), or pucks. Carrom men are designed to slide when struck and are made with a smooth surface that slides easily when laid flat on the board. They are struck by a Striker of a standard specification which is larger and heavier. Carrom follows similar "strike and pocket" games, like pool, with its use of rebounds, angles, and obstruction of opponent's carrom pieces.
A carrom set contains 19 pieces (striker not included) in three distinct colours: one for each player, and another for the queen. The usual colours are white (or unstained) and black for the players and red for the queen.
ICF-approved pieces must have a diameter of no more than 3.18 cm and no less than 3.02 cm. The pieces must be between 7 and 9 mm thick. The pieces have a plain, rounded edge. The mass of the pieces must be between 5.0 and 5.5 g.
Striker pieces are used to push the carrom men and the queen across the board to the pockets. The carrom striker normally weighs 35 grams of size 4.1 cm diameter.
The red disk is called the queen; it is the most valuable piece. During board setup, it is placed at the centre of the circle. In accordance with the ICF rules, pocketing the queen adds 3 points to the player's total score. The dimensions of the queen must be the same as those of other carrom men.
Fine-grained powder is used on the board to enable the pieces to slide easily. Boric acid powder is the most commonly used for this purpose. The EU has classified boric acid as a "Serious Health Hazard" and states that "this substance may damage fertility or the unborn child".
In the UK, many players use a version of anti-set-off spray powder from the printing industry which has specific electrostatic properties with particles of 50 micrometres in diameter. The powder is made from pure, food-grade vegetable starch.
Main article: International Carrom Federation
The ICF promulgates International Rules of Carrom (also termed "The Laws of Carrom"). ICF acts as the governing body of carrom. The organization also ranks players, sanctions tournaments and presents awards. ICF has many national affiliates such as the All-India Carrom Federation, Australian Carrom Federation, and United States Carrom Association.
Order of play is determined by the process of "calling the carrom men" or "the toss". Before commencing each match, an umpire hides one black carrom in one hand and one white carrom man on the other hand. The players guess which color carrom men is being held in each hand. The player who guesses correctly wins the toss.
The winner of the toss strikes first, which is called the opening break. The winner of the toss has the option to change sides from white to black and give up the opening break. The winner of the toss may not pass this decision to the other player. If the winner of the toss chooses to change sides then the loser must strike first.
The player taking the first shot (or break) plays white carrom men. The opponent plays black. If that player cannot score any points then that player loses the turn and their opponent can choose to play any carrom man, Black or White in favor.
A successful pot entitles the player to shoot again. This means that, as in pool and snooker, it is possible for a player to pot all his/her pieces and cover the queen from the start of the game without the opponent being given the chance to shoot.
Any player pocketing the queen is required to cover it immediately by pocketing one of their carrom men on the entitlement shot. If after potting the queen the player fails to cover it, then the queen is returned to the center of the table. It is illegal to pot the Queen after the last piece since the queen must always be covered.
Thumbing is allowed by International Carrom Federation which allows the player to shoot with any finger including the thumb (known as "thumbing", "thumbshot", or "thumb hit").
Crossing the diagonal lines on the board by coming in touch with it, pocketing the striker is a foul. A player needs to ensure that his striking hand does not infringe/cross the diagonal lines aerially/physically. A player committing a foul must return one carrom man that was already pocketed.
If a player pockets his striker, he has to pay a penalty. This penalty is usually 10 points.
Point carrom is a variant that is popular with children or an odd number of players. Each player is allowed to pocket carrom men of any colour.
Family-point carrom (also known as simple-point carrom) is an informal variant suitable for an odd number of players. Each player is allowed to pocket carrom men of any color.
Carrom boards are available in various board sizes and corner-pocket sizes. There are smaller boards and boards with larger pockets. Boards with larger pockets are used by beginners for easier gameplay. On traditional carrom boards, the corner pockets are only slightly larger than the carrom men, but smaller than the striker. On boards with larger pockets, it is possible to pocket the striker, resulting in a "" as in pool. This results in a "due". On a due, the player has to return one previously pocketed carrom man to the board. The standardised association and federation size is a 74 × 74 cm  (29 × 29 inch) square playing surface with 5–10 cm (2–4 in) borders. Other play-area sizes are not used in tournaments and competitions.
A popular variant of the game called duboo is played mostly in Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan. In duboo, the size of the board is larger(2.50 x 2.50 feet) and the striker is slid instead of flicked.
Main article: Carrom Company
American carrom is a variant developed around 1890 in the United States by Christian missionaries to Asia, who brought the game back with them. Concerned with young boys loitering around pool halls (where gambling was common), a Sunday school teacher named Henry L. Haskell altered the game for Western tastes. Much of the game is the same, but the striker's weight is reduced and the carrom men are smaller. Generally, instead of disks, carrom men (including the striker) are rings, originally of wood but today commercially made of light plastic. In addition, as an alternative to using the fingers to flick the striker, some of the American carrom boards use miniature cue sticks. American carrom boards also havebuilt into the corners, rather than circular holes in the board, to make pocketing easier. While traditionally made boards vary widely, current commercially produced American carrom boards, by the Carrom Company of Michigan, are squares measuring 28 inches (71 cm) to a side, are printed with checkerboard and backgammon patterns, among others, and are sold with dice, skittles, etc. to allow other games to be played on the same board. These boards may also be printed with the circular pattern for playing crokinole.
Carrom was introduced to Japan in the early 20th century. Carrom became popular as tōkyūban (闘球盤, Japanese for 'pounding board', 'fight ball board' or "throw ball board'), but fell in popularity in the Shōwa period. However, carrom is still popular in Hikone, Shiga under the name Hikone Karomu (Hikone carrom). The Hikone carrom board has larger pockets (not unlike those of pichenotte), the discs are arranged in a ring (also like in Pichette), each player is given twelve discs instead of nine, and the queen (known as the "jack") is pocketed last (similar to Eight-ball or Black ball).
It is similar to Carrom played in South Asia, but coins are used rather than rocks.
Since 2008 there is a Mexican variation called fichapool or colloquially, fichapúl (from Spanish ficha). The men (12 each side) as the strikers, are plastic rings. As the South African fingerboard, it has larger pockets.
Bangladesh Carrom Federation was formed in 1990. Although carom is widely practiced and popular all over Bangladesh, the reason for its lack of success at the international level may be that the game is played at different levels at the roots level.
Several companies made copies of Haskell's carrom game board. The Transogram Company made a version in the 1950s and called it Skooker. Coleco made reproductions in the 1980s with names like "Carom-playing Games Board" with up to 202 derived replication games. Some variants in the 1970s were called "101 Games Board" and "Carom-playing 166 Games Board". An ice-box manufacturer made "Combinola" and "Crokinola" variants.