The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship, by Stephen Potter

Most people understand the concept of gamesmanship, but how many these days know who coined the word, let alone have read the book that popularised it?

Stephen Potter's humorous classic, subtitled "The Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating", was first published in 1947, but this reissue of his slim but influential volume contains many ideas that seem remarkably modern. Take "Number Three of the General Principles of Gamesmanship: 'Play against your opponent's tempo'. This is one of the oldest of gambits, and is now almost entirely used in the form 'My slow to your fast'. At golf especially, against a player who makes a great deal of 'wanting to get on with the game', the technique is (1) to agree (Jeffreys always adds here 'as long as we don't hurry on the shot'); (2) to hold things up by 15 or 20 disguised pauses."

And Potter's suggestions on how to goad a steady player into a rush of blood to the head –"for, he remembers, hadn't he once been chaffed for breaking a window with a cricket ball while he was on holiday at Whitby" – are irresistibly reminiscent of Freddie Flintoff's injunction to West Indies fast bowler Tino Best to "mind the windows, Tino", causing the latter to charge down the wicket next ball to be stumped by yards. Potter pioneered the use of cod footnotes and spuriously scientific-looking charts and diagrams, and his deadpan humour is often bolstered by the addition of a qualifying clause, such as when, discussing poker, he states: "I do believe that a trace of American accent – West Coast – casts a small shadow of apprehension over the minds of English players."

In an earlier career as a lecturer in English literature, Potter wrote a critical appraisal of D. H. Lawrence's work, in which an unfortunate typographical error rendered one chapter heading as "Sex and Sardinia" rather than the intended "Sea and Sardinia". The publisher's press release for this reissue of Gamesmanship claims that Potter "lived in Aldeborough, Sussex", as opposed to his real home of Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

I suspect both cock-ups would have amused him as much as this book amused me.

Published in hardback by Elliott & Thompson, £9.99

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms