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I was saddened to see that the legendary Corson Hardware shop in Edinburgh has shut down. Admittedly it’s been hard to tell if it was still in business over the last few years. That means no more games of Corson, the game that sprung from weekly visits to Stockbridge while our daughters were at dance classes and was elegantly defined by Professor Richard Williams.

Game over…

There will be no more thwarted attempts to buy impact adhesive or light bulbs that are inadequately described.

For posterity, here is a photograph of the shop in its heyday and the rules of the game.


CORSON is a game for two players.

Players must take the role of either the Customer or Corson. The game is played in an old-fashioned hardware shop in Stockbridge, on the North side of Edinburgh. The play has competing objectives. If the player is the Customer, the objective is simply to buy any item from the shop. If the player takes the role of Corson, the objective is to prevent the Customer from making a purchase. Detailed rules follow:

  1. The Customer enters the shop and requests an item of hardware normally found in such a shop. Nails, screws, bolts and tools are all typical requests. Toasters, vacuum cleaners and other domestic goods are also acceptable requests. For a request successfully fulfilled by Corson, the Customer scores one point.
  2. Corson cannot refuse a request for an item he has in stock at the time of play. He may however immediately refuse any request for an item not described in sufficient detail. For example: a request for a nail’ may be refused on the grounds of insufficient detail. Likewise, a toaster’ if it does not specify colour, design etc.
  3. Corson may also legitimately refuse a request on the grounds that the particular item requested is not for sale’, although this move is permitted only once per round.
  4. After a failed request, the Customer is entitled to ask for one further item. The same rules apply.
  5. If after two failed requests the customer has not succeeded, he must leave the shop at once. Corson should smile enigmatically as the Customer leaves. Corson scores one point. This outcome is of itself known as a Corson’.
  6. The ladder’ rule. Corson may choose to climb a ladder at any point to search for requested items. If Corson deploys the ladder and fails to find the requested item, double points (2) are awarded. If as the resort of the use of the ladder, the Customer is successful, then double points are due to the Customer.
  7. The early closing’ rule. Corson always closes on Wednesday afternoons and Sundays during which time the game may not be played. At any other time, Corson is entitled once per game to close the shop in order to prevent a sale. No points are awarded to either party in this case.
  8. The Paraffin’ rule. The Customer is entitled, once per game, to ask for paraffin’, an item which Corson always has in stock. Paraffin’ counts as a successful sale, but no points are awarded to either player in this case.
  9. How long to play. The game is played on a weekly basis, over a decade. At the end of each decade, the Customer and Corson add up the points scored. Whoever has the largest number of points wins. At this point, players traditionally switch roles.
  10. Disputes, and further information. The long duration of the game makes accurate recording of play essential. A notebook for the purpose can be purchased from many retailers in the vicinity, but, it should be stressed, NOT from Corson himself. Attempts to buy a notebook from Corson cannot be counted as play. Disputes over play should be directed to The Adjudicator, Board of Corson, 30 Woodburn Terrace, Edinburgh EH10. The Board meets twice per year, and considers all reasonable requests. The Adjudicator also organises an annual Corson Ladder. Entrance to the Ladder is by invitation only, determined by the Board on 1 March each year.
Posted on June 20, 2022   #Edinburgh  

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