Table Squash

Poetry in motion

The exhilaration of cutting a high ball down to the table backhand from your forehand court is only to be exceeded by doing the same thing forehand from your backhand court.

Table squash is a simple and obvious derivative of table tennis that has undoubtedly been invented many times. Although the name does not really describe the game adequately, it is hard to find a suitable alternative. The version detailed here was developed in Glasgow and played by Glasgow University students in the late 1970s. Subsequently the game has been developed in Leeds (Wikipedia 2009). Originally it used half a table-tennis table mounted conventionally and the other half mounted vertically. It requires half (or less) playing space than table tennis and considerably less storage space and can be practised effectively in the absence of an opponent.

Many commercial tables can be adapted for the game without serious modification, but the advantages of a DIY approach are compelling. The basic requirement is for two sheets of 12 mm medium density fibre board (MDF) dimensions 1.2 m x 1.5 m, painted in classic table tennis colours with white edging. The care in colour choice and the quality of the finish cannot be overestimated in its effect on the morale of the owner.

Mounting is easily improvised, although varying degrees of sophistication can be employed. Storage considerations indicate that there should be two standard designs; the PC model for use in pubs and clubs, and the H model for use in the home, the difference being that the H model is made from four boards of dimensions 0.75 m x 1.2 m, assembled  to give the same dimensions as the PC model, but more easily stored, for example under a bed, and suitable for transport in a typical hatchback car.

The rules of play are intuitive in that service is from the player’s home court to the wall board and down to the away court.

Spin and the third dimension

In table tennis, skilled players tend to keep the ball low. The same tactic can be employed in table squash, but the great pleasure of the game is to take full advantage of the third dimension by using all the varieties of spin available to keep the ball on the table. Here the most satisfying technique is to undercut the ball to steepen its drop from the wall and (perhaps unfortunately) its rise from the table, and to couple this with side-spin to curve it towards, or away from, the net. The skills required are quite different for the left and right hand courts and for forehand or backhand play; some of the techniques are easily acquired by solo practice, but others are very difficult to learn without an opponent.

The open game

Table tennis, like tennis, is designed to be won from the outset; hence the dominance of the aggressive serve. Table squash can be played in the same way, but that is to miss the important point, the pleasure of crafting each return. To this end, two rules are suggested:-

1) that the opening shot (the serve) must strike the wall board above a pre-determined service line; an inherently non-aggressive move.


2) a new method of scoring be considered, herein called the rally-tally, in which winner of each game receives as a score, the number of exchanges in the rally. The winner of a set of games is the first to accumulate a specified number of points, for example a memorable number such as 137. This should lead to some intriguing applications of game theory as the stakes rise.

© Tony Lawrence 2016