We have the pleasure of lecturing every year on various aspects of Unsolved Mysteries for our friends in the Mensa at Malvern group, and one of our recent lectures made reference to an ancient Sumerian game, discovered by Sir Leonard Woolley when he was exploring the timeless city of Ur.

Estimated to be around 5 000 years old, and also known as The Game of Twenty Squares, The Royal Game of Ur has turned up during archaeological explorations in India, Egypt and many parts of the ancient Middle East.

An excellent book giving all the details and facilities for playing it is available from The British Museum Press, ISBN 0-7141-3112-1, just called Games. Full details of how to obtain a copy are available from:

We are providing a Trophy to be awarded annually to the winner of the Royal Game of Ur Competition to be held during the Mensa at Malvern weekend in April each year. Some details of the 2005 Mensa at Malvern programme, to give a flavour of this most enjoyable week-end, can be found on:--


Photograph of the Royal Game of Ur Board and pieces in the British Museum


There are various forms of the rules, and the Mensa at Malvern Committee – with help from those interested in participating in the competition -- will approve a final, official M at M version which will apply to that competition.

The basic object of the game is to get all your seven pieces off the board; moves are controlled by dice throws; the skill element is in deciding which piece to move, when to make a capture, when to double up pieces, and so on. There seems to be a deep, religio-mystical ideology underlying the game: the player’s seven pieces probably represented the seven metaphysical stages of existence in Sumerian thinking, and getting all seven off the board (escaping from the stresses, strains and worries of the secular world into a wider, freer, happier sphere of existence) won the game!

We shall be more than happy to liaise with all our friends at M at M to give what help we can to getting things organised for the first M at M Royal Game of Ur Competition for April 2006.