Sunday, 10 May 2009

Taking the bigger slice

Last Sunday's's edition of a terrible TV game show called Beat the Star (originally Schlag den Raab; sixteen episodes on German TV since 2006 and still running) featured a game which, unlike the show, deserves to be more widely known.

It is played with two identical lengths of salami, and I should mention at once that it is in no way connected with the constant references Kenneth Williams used to make to his old friend Maudie Fittleworth (Fun-With-A-Frankfurter), particularly in a radio show called Just a Minute in which he starred together with assorted drolls such as Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Peter Jones, who vied with each other in keeping up a flow of off-the-cuff conversation, displaying great erudition and wit.

But I digress. The salami game is for two players, each of whom chops off a slice of his salami: the one whose slice is the heavier wins the round. A game consists of five rounds. These are the only rules.

Can tactics in this game involve mathematics, or can you win when you have played many games with the same opponent by recognizing and exploiting non-random behaviour, as it is said you can in Rock-Paper-Scissors?

After a game, of course, you can celebrate its conclusion by eating the consumables. You just need to add a baguette, radishes, butter (you already have the knife for spreading it), parmesan, salad, and a bottle of wine; this is not true of other games like croquet or bowls. You can do something similar when you have been using chocolate chessmen or playing Go with jelly beans, but it's not so much fun.

I suppose if Maudie Fittleworth's cryptic subtitle referred to some sort of game one could finish a tournament in the same way, but Kenneth Williams has left us, alas, so we shall never know.


Froog said...

Do you have to make a cut in the 5th round, or can you submit the whole of the remaining portion of your sausage? I suppose if you could do that, the contest would effectively be over after the 4th Round, when you could weigh the last two pieces from each contender at the same time. But surely, then, there must be some rules about how much of a remnant you have to leave?

Sorry, it's the lawyer in me. I'm always fascinated by rules.

It does sound a rather jolly game. It's making me hungry just thinking about it. It's difficult to get good salami round these parts.

Tony said...

I'm not too sure about that, Froog: the international rules have yet to be agreed. But my guess would be that there are four cuts and the fourth and fifth rounds take place simultaneously, with the penultimate and ultimate slices (i.e the fourth slice and the remainder) being weighed separately and consecutively, and scored accordingly.
I should have mentioned that vegetarians, orthodox Jews, Hindus and Moslems can play it with bananas, courgettes or, in Italy and the US, zucchini).

Barbara said...

...and in Japan it's called Mifune's Cut and the slashing has to be very fast, so that a game is over in three seconds.

Zabar said...

But the orthodox CAN do it with my salami!! See my website.
(Not for Hindus or Moslems though.)

eric said...

I was somewhat disappointed to find that the game does not entail beating annoying celebrities over the head with a salami. But the actual game does seem to have its charms. And, as a lapsed New Yorker, I can vouch for the excellence of Zabar's salami.