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Ace-King-Queen (Chinese handball)

Guys playing Ace-King-Queen
Click for bigger picture
Ace-King-Queen typical setting

This game is a hybrid between handball and boxball, and it can be played anywhere that a decent wall and sidewalk meet. Each player (anywhere from two to six) has a box that they defend. The player on the leftmost side (the "Ace") serves by bouncing the ball on the ground first, where it then hits the wall and goes into the "box" (defined by cracks in the sidewalk) of the player on his right (the "King"). That player then hits it in the same manner against the wall and into the box of the next player ("Queen"), and so on down the line (each player in line gets the name of the descending card in the deck). When the last player receives the ball, he switches its direction, sending it back on its journey towards the Ace. As in handball, the ball can bounce only once, either arriving at or leaving the wall.

If a player misses the ball or hit its out of bounds, he gets a point and moves to the end of the line. Play to 11 points; the loser might be subjected to asses-up, the game's most endearing feature. Needless to say, this is the part that everyone remembers.

One of the most distinguishing features of Ace-King-Queen is that you're in control of your own box and can keep the ball in play by hitting it to yourself. A player might work the wall, refining the shot, hitting it against the wall again and again, until the bounce is perfectly positioned, whereby he can slam it over into his opponent's box. "Waterfalls," "skinny minnys," and other terms that describe these tactics are important concepts in the lexicon of the game. Alternatively, sometimes Ace-King-Queen is played without boxes (probably the case in our picture on this page) and each player must go in order--or lose the point. Sidewalks typically have boxes, whereas pavement doesn't.

So why do some people call it Chinese handball? Is it because it originated in China? Maybe in Chinatown, or other Asian neighborhoods? Is it Chinese because the rules are different from the standard game, and therefore the opposite of Western convention? It's obvious that this term was coined long before our politically correct era! Who knows, but whether you call it Ace-King-Queen or Chinese handball, this is a major street sport.


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