At ARHS, old game made new, Teacher launches 'pitchnut' club

By Bob Dunn: Staff WriterJoey, Noah, Jeff, and Scott begin a game of pitchnut last week at Amherst Regional High SchoolJoey, Noah, Jeff, and Scott begin a game of pitchnut last week at Amherst Regional High SchoolRemember when board games were made out of boards?Lee Larcheveque does, and he's sharing that memory with his high school students by introducing them to a game called pitchnut.Larcheveque, an Amherst Regional High School teacher, has started an afterschool club for students to learn and play what has become a traditional game for him and his family.Game, though, might not be the right word for pitchnut. Addiction is more like it.Larcheveque began playing as child, taught by his grandfather. He then introduced it to his friends in high school, who became hooked and they began running tournaments and would play all night long.He continued to play in college and graduate school, and taught his nephew how to play.His nephew continues to spread the word by starting up a pitchnut league the first day he arrived at college.'He's a man on a mission,' Larcheveque said. 'It thrills the heck out of me.'The game borrows elements from three different board games, Carrom, Crokinole and Pichenotte.The Americanized pronunciation of the word 'pichenotte,' which is the French word for 'flick,' provides the game with its name.Pitchnut is played on a handmade wooden board, 28 square inches, with a pocket in each corner. There's a sunken lane that runs along the outer border of the playing area and there are screws set around the center and in front of the corners of each pocket.Two sets of colored discs are arranged around the center to begin play and an odd colored disc, the 'poison,' is set in the center.The rules are similar to eight-ball: There are four pockets, each player or team takes turns flicking their 'shooter' at their colored discs on the board. The discs assigned to each side are determined by the first color sunk after the break. Each side then tries to land their discs in the pockets at each corner.Once those discs are cleared, the poison must be sunk last. If it's pocketed earlier, it's a loss for the side that sunk it.Although there's no real reason for it, Larcheveque says, the losing side breaks the rack on the next round.'I think it's just so the winning side can say, 'loser breaks,' ' he said. 'There's a bit of ego involved.'Most new players are a little confused when they first hear the rules, but they catch on quickly.'It's amazing how some people pick it up right away,' Larcheveque said.Larcheveque, who teaches yearbook, computer graphics and audio-visual technology at ARHS, has taken advantage of recent downtime at school to introduce his students to the game.Eli Lisseck first played the game last year when a power outage at the school interrupted Larcheveque's computer graphics class.Scott Stevenbooth received his introduction during a study hall on the first day of classes when there was nothing else to study yet.Stevenbooth has already boasted that the pitchnut board - up for grabs for the winner of a proposed pitchnut tournament this spring - will be his.Larcheveque makes the boards by hand, based on his grandfather's design, and invests anywhere from 8 to 10 hours constructing each one.His hope is that students that develop an interest in the game will start making their own boards.The excitement among the players is contagious. They leap out of their chairs, toss friendly taunts across the board and take great pride when Larcheveque, the veteran, absorbs a rare loss.'I beat him!' Stevenbooth yells to a bystander.'Loser breaks,' he tells Larcheveque.Published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on Wednesday, September 20, 2006