Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Ye Olde Cottage Inn, Chester

I've stated on several occasions here on this blog that in the rush to devote space to dining, or simply cramming more vertical drinkers in, town centre pubs are rapidly becoming Pub Game free zones. For example, venues for most forms of the game of skittles are now almost entirely located in suburban, or rural village locations, often making it hard to track down a game when visiting larger towns and cities. Even the humble Darts Board has become a rarity on the town centre circuit.

There are of course exceptions. Venues with Bagatelle Tables in the Chester area are refreshingly easy to find, in what is still a fairly compact city blessed with a good number of pubs. Most of the venues are located little more than a 15 minute walk from the town centre, and many are particularly handy for the rail station. There's even a solitary club venue located within the old town walls. A map giving the location of venues for Bagatelle is not particularly well sign-posted on the otherwise excellent Chester & District Bagatelle League website, but can be found here, and is I believe reliably up to date.

Ye Olde Cottage Inn is one such venue, located on the eastern side of Chester on the way out to the leafy suburbs of the 'Hotel Quarter' at Hoole. It is also very handy for arrivals at the nearby rail station. It's a terrific corner local, cosy and welcoming, with an open fire which pumps out more than enough heat to warm the whole pub through the Winter months. The pub is well supplied with, and has a very strong emphasis on traditional pub games. Darts, Dominoes, and Pool are all played in local leagues, as of course is the much rarer game of Bagatelle.

League Bagatelle play seems to have returned (?) to the Cottage in 2011. Since then the pub team have steadily crept up the league table, and at the time of writing are sitting fourth at the tail end of the 2013/14 Winter Season. Various cup competitions are also a feature of the league, including a recently introduced 351 Cup. In this competition, teams of four players play alternate 'sticks' against the opposing team, aiming to finish on exactly 351 points in the fewest number of balls. The Cottage were the winners of the current Winter season 351 Cup.

The sunken 'Cups' on a Bagatelle Table number '1-9', with the highest scoring located across the centre, and the central cup scoring '9'. A maximum score for a 'Stick' (a single players turn at the table) is 54, and requires all of the balls to be potted, with the Black (which scores double) in the central '9' pocket as shown above. I'm not sure how often maximum scores occur during a typical season. All I can say is that I've certainly never managed to get close to achieving the feat myself. I believe that scores in the 30's or 40's are more usual for a competent player.

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