Hand-to-Hand Combat

Rock-paper-scissors is sumo for nerds
By GEORGIANA COHEN  |  January 26, 2009

"So easy to learn, so hard to win." That's how Somerville resident Brian Loring describes the timeless game of rock-paper-scissors. Last Wednesday night at PA's Lounge, though, he called himself "Rock Star," strutting around in a cowboy hat and reflective shades, ready for action. "I came to win."

It was Loring who inspired his wife, Mimi Graney — director of Somerville's Union Square Main Streets booster group — to suggest a rock-paper-scissors tournament for what turned out to be the organization's largest "Second Wednesdays" community event yet.

With 58 registered participants — sporting nicknames like "Iron Fist," "Hands Like Feet," and "Sissy Fist" — and dozens more on hand to cheer (or for the beer), the fists, palms, and fingers were flying.

"It's like sumo for nerds," emcee Gerry Green exclaimed at one point, as a steadily enthusiastic stream of competitors took the stage for four bracketed rounds of play.

The contestants' experience varied. "I play with my seven-year-old nephew all the time," said 33-year-old Lauren "Pile Driver" Pouchak. "He throws scissors first." Strategy, too, was mixed. One Somervillian said only "luck and wit" could help you when the fists hit the air, while another planned a complex application of game theory.

The tournament received a late endorsement from the World Rock Paper Scissors Society, which is (technically) no joke. According to the 35-page tournament rule book, opponents must stand at least a cubit apart. When you throw paper, make sure you're not throwing vertical paper, a/k/a "the handshake" — that's not allowed. And when throwing scissors, your index and middle finger must be between 30 and 45 degrees apart.

The refs — event organizers Anne Keffer and Jason Kean — weren't exactly holding protractors up to contestants' fingers, and, well . . . they may have missed a call or two here and there, but after three beers, who's counting?

In the end, it came down to Nate "Papelcut" Taneja, a 28-year-old Inman Square resident, versus Daniel "Shark" Shark, an unassuming 19-year-old BU student who probably didn't realize when he crossed the river that he'd end his evening battling someone wearing a set of paper-clenching shears dangling from a gold chain.

Papelcut eventually fell to the Shark, who took home half of the door proceeds ($128), a rock-paper-scissors champion mug, and a copy of the game Rochambeau Twist, created by Somerville-based Veritas Games. But for organizers and attendees alike, it wasn't so much about winning or losing as it was about coming together around something that is, as Keffer described it, "completely ridiculous."

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Somerville, Jason Kean, Jason Kean,  More more >
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