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Guinea Bissau Sports

Page history last edited by sam slater 9 years, 5 months ago

authored by Sam Slater ... sslater2@cca.edu


The most popular board game


The common game played by all adults is OURI (Oware) in Ghana.  Oware is an abstract strategy game and is the variant of mancala most widely considered suitable for serious adult competition.  English is Awari but one of the earliest Western scholars to study the game, R.S. Rattray, used the name Wari.



Following are the rules for the abapa variation, considered to be the most appropriate for serious, adult play.


Empty Empty Empty Empty Empty Empty
Empty Empty Empty Empty Empty Empty

The game requires an oware board and 48 seeds. A typical oware board has two straight rows of six pits, called "houses", and optionally one large "score" house at either end. Each player controls the six houses on their side of the board, and the score house on their end. The game begins with four seeds in each of the twelve smaller houses.

Boards may be elaborately carved or simple and functional; they may include a pedestal, or be hinged to fold lengthwise or crosswise and latch for portability and storage with the seeds inside. While most commonly located at either end, scoring houses may be placed elsewhere, and the rows need not be straight. When a board has a hinged cover like a diptych, the scoring houses may be carved into the two halves of the cover, and so be in front of the players during play. The ground may also be used as a board; players simply scoop two rows of pits out of the earth.

In the Caribbean, the seeds are typically nickernuts, which are smooth and shiny. Beads and pebbles are also sometimes used. In the West, some cheaper sets use oval shaped marbles. Some tourist sets use cowrie shells.


The object of the game is to capture more seeds than one's opponent. Since the game has only 48 seeds, capturing 25 is sufficient to accomplish this. Since there is an even number of seeds, it is possible for the game to end in a draw, where each player has captured 24.


Example turn:

2 2 1 2 3 1
3 1 4 Empty 6 (highlighted) 2

The lower player prepares to sow from E.

2 3 (highlighted) 2 (highlighted) 3 (highlighted) 4 2
3 1 4 Empty Empty 3

After sowing, cd, and e are captured but nota.

Players take turns moving the seeds. On a turn, a player chooses one of the six houses under their control. The player removes all seeds from that house, and distributes them, dropping one in each house counter-clockwise from this house, in a process called sowing. Seeds are not distributed into the end scoring houses, nor into the house drawn from. That is, the starting house is left empty; if it contained 12 seeds, it is skipped, and the twelfth seed is placed in the next house. The diagram shows the result of sowing from house E.

Knowing the number of seeds in each house is, of course, important to game play. When there are many seeds in a house, sometimes enough to make a full lap of the board or more, they cannot easily be counted by eye, and their number is often guarded by the player who controls that house. This may be done by repeatedly moving the seeds in the house. A player may count the seeds when contemplating a move; in such cases the last few are usually counted in the hand to avoid revealing their number.


After a turn, if the last seed placed into an opponent's house brought the house's total to exactly two or three, all the seeds in that house are captured and placed in the player's scoring house (or set aside if the board has no scoring houses). If the previous-to-last seed also brought an opponent's house to two or three, these are captured as well, and so on. Therefore, seeds may be captured from every consecutive house on the opponent's side whose seed total was brought to two or three on the player's current turn. However, if a move would capture all an opponent's seeds, the capture is forfeited, and the seeds are instead left on the board, since this would prevent the opponent from continuing the game. In the diagram to the right, the lower player would capture all the seeds in houses cd, and e but not a, since it is not contiguous to the other captured houses.

Let the opponent play

The proscription against capturing all an opponent's seeds is related to a more general idea, that one ought to make a move that allows the opponent to continue playing. If an opponent's houses are all empty, the current player must make a move that gives the opponent seeds. If no such move is possible, the current player captures all seeds in his/her own territory, ending the game.


The game is over when one player has captured 25 or more seeds, or each player has taken 24 seeds (draw). If both players agree that the game has been reduced to an endless cycle, each player captures the seeds on their side of the board.


"Grand Slam" variations

A grand slam is when you capture all of your opponent's seeds in one turn. There are variations to the rule that applies, which may be one of the following:

  1. Grand Slam captures are not legal moves.
  2. Such a move is legal, but no capture results. International competitions often follow this rule.
  3. Grand Slam captures are allowed, however, all remaining stones on the board are awarded to the opponent.
  4. Such a move is legal, but the last (or first) house is not captured.

Various other rules also exist.

History and society

A game of awale.

Oware is perhaps the most widespread game in the mancala family of games.

Reflecting traditional African values, players of oware encourage participation by onlookers, making it perhaps the most social two-player abstract. Games may provide a focus for entertainment and meeting others. The game, or variations of it, also had an important role in teaching arithmetic to African children.

In May 2002, two scientists from the Free University in AmsterdamNetherlands reported that they had used computers to solve the game of "Awari" using a brute force approach. Over 889 billion positions were considered, with their solution demonstrating that perfect play leads to a draw. However, some oware players have noted that this experiment was not done using the abape ruleset used in international competition, but rather with the Grand Slam variation.






Djurtus RECORD 




2010 qualifying in the very first stage 

Sports in Guinea Bissau.

The most popular sport 

in the country is far and 

away football.  A domestic 

league of 

The national team, although 

not very good, is extremely 

well supported and it is not 

uncommon for attendances at international matches 

to be in excess of 50,000.  

They are enjoying a run of 

form at the moment in the 

qualification round of the 

African Cup of Nations, 

having recorded their first 

victory in two years in October against Kenya (who 

are actually quite good).

Guinea-Bissau have never 

reached the finals and are 

widely considered one of 

the continent’s minnows. 

But a new Portugal-born 

coach and an influx of 

young expatriate and foreign-born players saw this 

nation, which has a population of less than two million, start off qualifying 

in style earlier this month 

with an unlikely 1-0 victory 

over Kenya.

Their previous ranking of 

188th - 72 places behind 

Kenya at the time - was 

partially a reflection of the 

national team not having played an international match in almost three 

years. But the result was 

still significant for the Djurtus, who had not won an 

official match since 1996 

and were eliminated from 

- losing 1-0 to Sierra Leone over two 

legs. But a breakaway goal following 

a defensive giveaway just 14 minutes 

from time allowed the hosts to knock 

off a side that included Inter Milan’s 

highly rated McDonald Mariga. It 

was a result that cost Kenya’s Twahir 

Muhiddin his job as coach, while his 

opposite number Norton De Matos 

will surely have his Guinea-Bissau 

players enjoying their time at the top 

of Group J, an honour they share with 

Uganda. The underdogs will next test 

their resolve in the second weekend 

in October away to wounded Angola, 

who sit bottom of the table after a 3-0 

loss to Uganda.

“It was an important win,” said De 

Matos, who lives in neighbouring 

Senegal. “A win that gives us better 

conditions to build for the future that 

will make people believe that we have 

good players, players who, within the 

context of Africa, can really play an 

important part in each match they 

play. However, let’s not get too carried 

away with it. We still have one month 

to prepare for our match against Angola and, again, we’ll fight for the best 

result with the same confidence and 


Guinea also face a tall task in the next 

round of qualifying as they host Nigeria in Conakry. However, the Syli Nationale have some history on their side, 

having never lost to the Super Eagles 

at home.




Our flag bearer from the 

Beijing Olympic Games, Augusto Midana, is now back in 

the saddle and competing in 

preparation for a medal show 

in London 2012.  Hopefully 

her efforts in freestyle wrestling will give out country its 

first olympic medal in any 

sport.  And Augusto understands the weight of national 

expectation on her shoulders 

as a motivating factor in her 

training.  “I like the pressure”  

she says.  Well, Augusto, 

we’re all behind you.  

Augusto is proud to be of a 

rare lineage of Giunea Bissau 

Olympic athletes.  We have 

contributed athletes to every 

Olympic event since Atlanta 




Comments (1)

Annette Diniz said

at 9:46 am on Feb 2, 2011

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