From Academic Kids

Fives is a British form of the American game handball in which a ball is propelled against the walls of a special court using gloved or bare hands as though they were a racquet. The name may be derived from the slang expression "a bunch of fives" (meaning a fist). The game has also been known as hand-tennis and historically was often played between the buttresses of church buildings in England. There are links between Fives and the Irish and North American handball games and indeed, in recent years, British clubs have begun to establish ties with clubs in those countries.

Fives is not the same as Long Fives, which is played in a real tennis court.

There are two main forms of the game, Eton Fives and Rugby Fives. Eton Fives is played competitively as a doubles game, while Rugby Fives is played as both a singles and a doubles game. The rules for Eton and Rugby Fives were both published in 1931, and Rugby Fives had an official varsity match from 1925. The ball for both versions and also Winchester Fives is the same; being the same weight, size and hardness as a golf ball but much less elastic.

The Eton Fives court is modelled on part of Eton College's Chapel and is enclosed on three sides and open at the back. A small step splits the court into upper and lower sections, and sloping ledges run horizontally across the walls, one of which forms the "line". The first courts at Eton were built in 1840.

Eton Fives has a more complex variation and some specific court features or 'hazards'.

Rugby Fives uses a simpler court, quite similar to a squash court, and has a back wall. However, the court is generally finished in cement not plaster and playing fives in a squash court typically causes immediate damage. A variation of Rugby Fives, known as Winchester Fives, differs by the addition of a buttress (resembling the tambour of a real tennis court) on the left-hand wall.

Fives is a small sport played by enthusiasts numbering perhaps 4,000 active adult players in the United Kingdom. A similar number play in schools.

About forty schools are affiliated to the Eton Fives Association (the governing body of the Eton Fives variation), and there are a number of Old Boys' and university clubs. There are some well-established clubs overseas, such as the Zuoz Fives Club in Switzerland, and the game is also vigourously pursued in northern Nigeria.

The Rugby Fives Association (the governing body of Rugby Fives, founded in 1927) has affiliations from over forty schools and thirty-two clubs, from Edinburgh to Tavistock, and there are also a number of clubs overseas, for example in South Africa and the United States.

The first match on record between schools was when one Eton pair played at Harrow in 1885 (F. Thomas and C. Barclay of Eton beat E.M. Butler and B. R. Warren of Harrow).

Although the image of Fives has been dominated by the well-known eponymous public schools, courts do exist at state schools, and in recent years many of these have been brought into full use. The advantages of economy of space and low playing costs (ball and gloves) make it an attractive sport for schools. Fives continues to developed in England and has started to attract interest from the wider community.

There are also numerous championships, notably the (doubles) Eton Fives Kinnaird Cup and the Rugby Fives Singles Open championship (The Jesters' Cup). Other events include schools, university, age-group, Winchester and (recently) ladies championships.

Exceptional players in recent times have included John Patrick Reynolds and Brian Matthews (Old Citizens, Kinnaird Cup) and Wayne Enstone (Manchester Y.M.C.A., Rugby Fives).

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