Excerpts from


Stephen Potter


The great second axiom of gamesmanship is now worded as follows : THE FIRST MUSCLE STIFFENED (in his opponent by the Gamesman) IS THE FIRST POINT GAINED. Let us consider some of the processes of Defeat by Tension.

The standard method is known as the ‘flurry.’

The ‘flurry’ is for use when changing in the locker-room before a rackets match, perhaps, or leaving home in your opponent’s car for, say, a game of lawn tennis. The object is to create a state of anxiety, to build up an atmosphere of muddled fluster.

Supposing, for instance, that your opponent has a small car. He kindly comes along to pick you up before the game. Your procedure should be as follows: (1) Be late in answering the bell. (2) Don’t have your things ready. Appearing at last, (3) call in an anxious or ‘rattled’ voice to wife (who need not, of course, be there at all) some taut last minute questions about dinner. Walk down path and (4) realize you have forgotten shoes. Return with shoes; then just before getting into car pause (5) a certain length of time (see any threepenny edition of Bohn’s Tables) and wonder (i) whether racket is at the club or (ii) whether you have left it ‘in the bath-room at top of the house.’

Like the first hint of paralysis, a scarcely observable fixing of your opponent’s expression should now be visible. Now is the time to redouble the attack. Map-play can be brought to bear. On the journey let it be known that you ‘think you know a better way,’ which should turn out, when followed, to be incorrect and should if possible lead to a blind alley. (See figure.)

Sketch plan to show specimen Wrong Route from Maida Vale to Dulwich Covered Courts.

Meanwhile, time is getting on. Opponent’s tension should have increased. Psychological tendency, if not temporal necessity, will cause him to drive faster, and – behold! now the gamesman can widen his field and bring in carmanship by suggesting, with the minutest stiffening of the legs at corners, an unconscious tendency to put on the brakes, indicating an unexpressed desire to tell his opponent that he is driving not very well, and cornering rather too fast.

NOTE I. – The ‘flurry’ is best used before still-ball games, especially golf, croquet or snooker. Anxious car-driving may actually improve opponent’s execution in fast games, such as rackets or ping-pong.

NOTE II. – Beginners must not rush things. The smooth working of a ‘flurry’ sequence depends on practice. The motions of pausing on the doorstep (‘Have I got my gym shoes?’), hesitating on the running-board, etc., are exercises which I give my own students; but I always recommend that they practise the motions for at least six weeks, positions only, before trying it out with the car, suitcase and shoes.

Stephen Potter, Gamesmanship, 1947.

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