Author Topic: The Decline of Pongo  (Read 895 times)

Austin Lockwood

  • Administrator
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 4
    • View Profile
The Decline of Pongo
« on: October 17, 2018, 01:54:20 PM »
Here's something I wrote for John Knudsen's "Chess Samizdat" thirteen years ago.

The ICCF webserver was barely a year old at the time and I was writing as the webmaster of an independent CC server (; can you spot all the metaphors and references? - many of them refer to old TCCMB discussions which got rather heated back then, but most of which have now long been put to bed or forgotten about.

The Decline of Pongo
by Austin Lockwood 

Dead as a Didus Ineptus

Pongo is a game with a rich history, stretching back hundreds of years.  The world body, responsible for administering Pongo, used to be the International Pongo Federation (motto: Didus Ineptus).  The IPF was the only organisation able to award official Pongo titles and norms, (and you could be sure that these titles were really official, because the IPF said they were).   

Traditionally, Pongo players communicated their moves using Pongo Drums, this enabled players in different villages to compete, however two recent developments changed the face of International Pongo beyond all recognition.

The Pongo Machine - this clever invention was a steam powered engine, which had the ability to play an almost perfect game of Pongo.  In a recent match in London the Pongo Machine annihilated one of the top Drongo grand masters in six sets (Drongo is similar to Pongo, but played ‘over the court’).  Fortunately Pongo grand masters are still scoring a few sets against the Pongo Machine, but it’s getting better every day and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes completely invincible (except, of course, from other Pongo machines).   

For the last few years of the IPF, all the tournament winners were simply the players with the biggest Pongo machines.  In fact a recent Pongo world champion was quizzed about a finer point of Pongo rules and admitted that he had no idea because… “The Pongo machine looks after all that stuff – I just beat out the moves on my Pongo drum!”

The Pongo Kiosk – The proliferation of alternate communication media also had a profound effect on Pongo.  The Pongo Kiosk used smoke signal technology to enable people to play Pongo across vast distances with virtually no time lag.  The main effect of the Pongo Kiosk was to increase the popularity of Pongo several thousand-fold almost overnight.  No longer was Pongo a game played by an elitist minority but it became truly a game of the people.  Several casual Pongo kiosks were established, with new ones still springing up all the time – the sport was never so popular!   

Unfortunately the IPF were rather left behind by these developments.  The IPF Eggs didn’t really understand how the Pongo Kiosks worked and insisted that their tournaments continued to use Pongo Drums.  The IPF was managed by the Director of Divisional Organisations (DoDO) as a collection of regional ‘divisions’, but Kiosk technology allowed people to play Pongo across divisions, unfortunately the IPF were too slow in reorganising to accommodate these technological advances, resulting in a mass exodus of players to Kiosk organisations.   

Additionally the IPF encouraged the use of Pongo Machines, unfortunately this meant that they ultimately became dominated by people whose brains slowly seized up because they didn’t have to think too hard about their Pongo games.   

The ultimate tragedy, however, was that the IPF refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Pongo Kiosks.  Rather than taking their responsibility as custodians of world Pongo seriously and embrace the Kiosks, they chose to regard them as competitors.  Since none of the myriads of new Pongo players could really understand this attitude, and couldn’t really see the benefits of joining the IPF (since their Kiosks were not represented anyway) they just didn’t bother.

In the final years, there was a half hearted attempt by the IPF to establish it’s own Pongo Kiosk, however this further reinforced the view of the majority of Pongo players (who by now already had their own favourite kiosks) that the IPF just wasn’t for them.

Eventually the IPF became extinct; Pongo however is currently in its golden age and is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of players around the world!

Copyright 2005 by Austin Lockwood, all rights reserved.

About the Author

Austin Lockwood ([email protected]) is the kioskmaster of, although he has recently been experimenting with Pongo Drums and is enjoying it immensely.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2018, 01:59:13 PM by Austin Lockwood »

John Knudsen

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 6
  • We are friends!
    • View Profile
Re: The Decline of Pongo
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2018, 11:18:30 PM »

Thanks for the chuckle. I have many fond memories of those days - TCCMB, of course - but also Samizdat and everything that came with it. Lots of work finding/transcribing public domain texts from the past, and trying to beg for new material from people who were willing to share with everyone without compensation. I find chess to be an awesome area for humor in particular. Wooden pieces and wooden problems and all that. Imagine the time and effort that we have expended on the activity!

We sometimes speculated on TCCMB whether everything that needed to be said had been said. I believe in the creativity of the community still - there is more to be said, to be discussed, and I guess it is up to us to stimulate that...

Best Regards,