Our Game in the Wood, set amongst the mature plane trees of Victoria Park a fortnight ago, was a resounding success, with a number of experienced players expressing the belief that ‘ordinary’ three sided football would never feel the same again. The classic version of 3sf we have played over the last two years has frequently been described as an amalgam of football, chess and poker. The introduction of pinball to this beautiful blend was a master stroke.
Setting the game amongst trees was done in an effort to reunite some of the current players with aspects of the game’s earliest incarnations and this particular set up brought together Stewart Home’s Alytus games and the constraint methodology of WNLA.
Although the workshop for non-linear architecture (wnla) are only understood to have played a single game of three sided football after being introduced to this aspect of Jorn’s thought by Fabian Tompsett at the 1994 Glasgow Winter school, their resulting game was undertaken in an unusual manner. Following a pattern they had practiced over the previous year, the playing of the game was subjected to the constraint techniques of the Oulipo, whereby the pure flow of an otherwise unrestricted derive/constructed situation was directed in its apparent randomness (and given an element of control over its protagonists) by the application of parameters; and in this case, the parameters were a seriously undulating pitch. The application of parameters to experimental situationist activity was discussed by wnla with Fabian & Stewart and the playing of a game under such constraints had actually been suggested by Stewart at the time of Winterschool game on Glasgow Green.
As we intend to recreate this game in a future match (once a suitable pitch is found) I will refrain from a detailed description until the relevant post. Its applicability to our game in the wood stems from the fact that it was only with Stewart’s breathtaking genius in setting the Alytus games amongst trees that the real potential for constraint games was fulfilled. By detourning the fledgling rules of 3sf in such a way Stewart not only made the game more fun – thus alluding to the essential ludic nature of situationist activity – but he made an important contribution to the avoidance of the recuperation that the game will inevitably face by undermining the seriousness with which is it played – and in which it is held.
For a better understanding of the flavour of the Alytus game, this link is a pretty effective taster:
Following our publicity about the holding of such a repeat game, D3FC and Polsky Budovlancy were asked by a number of participants at the London Anarchist Bookfair whether they could provide the third team. The challenge was accepted and, with the pitch all set up, their arrival eagerly awaited. Unfortunately, for reasons yet to be conveyed, the assorted anarchists failed to show. We did however have enough players to run a three a side game and instead of playing a team of Assorted Anarchists, we instead introduced a further component of 3sf past and played D3FC v Polsky v AAA. The Absent Assorted Anarchists being a mnemonic stand in for the Association of Autonomous Astronauts who played the very first ‘game in a wood’ on the slopes of the densely forested One Tree Hill in South East London in 1998:
With our teams recombined, kick off got underway at 1.00pm, with the match set to repeat the Alytus game’s three fifteen minute rotations.
Initial play was focused on trying to come to terms with the trees. To start with it was difficult to see them as anything other than obstacles to be avoided and the first rotation had the feel of ordinary 3sf but with a collection of rather motionless extra players getting in the way. By the end of the 1st a single goal had been conceded by each team, though D3FC could easily have been three or four down had it not been for some excellent defending by a carefully positioned straining trunk about 4 metres out from their goalmouth.
The second rotation got off to a more cunning start, with the crafty Poles having realized the potential for concealment offered by the thickness of the trees. It was difficult to always keep a grasp of who was where amongst the assorted timbers and they decided to plant a hidden player out of view of an attack. Just as D3FC were bearing down on their lonely goal defender, the concealed player jumped out from behind a tree, shimmied past the attacking player and passed through the boughs to the other forward who had positioned himself – invisibly – far to the right of the D3FC goal. Before the attackers could regroup an open goal was easily taken. Our first taste of the potential had been savoured.
This type of play now dominated the game, players darting in and out of cover and passing to voices rather than visible players. By the end of the second though the scores remained close with the Poles in red holding off the others 2.3.3.
By now however another aspect of the game had come into play. In the first half of the game the trees had been avoided – we had attempted to shoot past them. This had not always been effective and on a number of occasions the ball, just as in a game of pinball, had ricocheted off to change the direction and course of play. This had often had a more positive than negative affect on the unfolding of the game, so by the third the deliberate forceful shooting towards a collection of trees had become strategy rather than consequence. In tight situations where an obvious pass could not be judged – invariably because you had no real idea of who was where – the best thing became the random deflection. This flushed out the concealed players and – counterintuitavely – cleared the way for a more educated attack.
With all these strategic options now available the game rapidly quickened. AAA & D3FC utilized both to level the scores at 3.3.3 and with the alliance holding put another beyond the Poles to leave them trailing. Switchbacking on the run of play, D3FC took advantage of a sudden Polsky team up and now placed one neatly past the absent anarchists to take a solo lead. Only six minutes now remain and Deptford decide to try and hold out, taking the ball into the far corners of the pitch and hold it there.
Polsky and AAA are united in wearing this down and despite valiant efforts an equalizer is headed in from a cunning deliberate rebound from the really big tree to the left of the Deptford goal.
4.4.4. with only ninety seconds to go. Alliances break down and the game becomes a mad scramble. The ball is ping ponging around the pitch as everyone fights for a final second advantage. AAA bear down on the reds, D3FC pile in to help and a goalmouth scramble sees the Poles concede. Desperate not to end up trailing, Polish Tomasz picks up the new ball and races through the trees to find space to place a shot. Hemmed towards the AAA goal by a concerted wall of Deptford defenders and with only seconds to play he fires a beautiful arcing ball towards the far post. The goal is empty and the net assured but the same defending tree that saved Deptford in the 1st gets in a glancing block and the ball careers wide.
Game over. 4.4.5
This will be repeated.