Expat adventures

Wed, 10. Mar. 2021

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were known for their love of Gstaad. I learned recently that my husband and I have something more than a Gstaad connection in common with these two glamorous film stars. Not, unfortunately, the good looks, star appeal, fame or wealth but our devotion to the dice game Yahtzee.

Competition stakes
Every single member of my family is what you would call ‘competitive’. In fact, that’s putting it mildly. We adore board games, card games, dice games… you name it, we’ll play it.

We discovered Yahtzee by chance about eight years ago. We had rented a holiday cottage for the children’s half term break and the weather had turned sour. We needed a way to keep the boys entertained that didn’t involve a mobile phone or computer. Stuffed at the back of a drawer in the sitting room was a tatty box containing five dice, a score pad, instruction sheet and small collection of pencils: Yahtzee. We played our first few tentative games and became immediate converts.

As with a lot of the best things in life, Yahtzee is incredibly simple. It involves players rolling five dice to achieve various combinations, which you mark off a score sheet. It’s a game of luck, strategy and (according to my husband the mathematician) probability. I, on the other hand (as a non-mathematician who celebrates the summer solstice at Stonehenge), firmly believe you can use mindset to influence or guide your results in the game. However you choose to look at it, Yahtzee is totally enthralling.

Anytime, anywhere
It seems as though Richard Burton felt the same. His diaries, published in 2012, are littered with references to the game: “Had lunch at Olden where we were taught a dice game called ‘Yatsee’ (sic) – most interesting. Taught it at 1pm (approximately) and were still playing it 6.45pm (approximately).”

The Olden is certainly one of our favourite Yahtzee haunts in Gstaad. Likewise the Rialto terrace, Coop café and the Bernerhof Stübli. Anywhere, in fact, with a flat surface. I’ve even created my own version of travel Yahtzee, which I carry around in my handbag. Yes, we’re that serious.

So keen, in fact, that my husband and I have held an annual Yahtzee championship for the past three years. We complete a terrifyingly high number of games – coming in at just over a thousand each year – yet on two occasions the actual championship has come down to games played on the very last day of the year. Nail-biting stuff.

We have friends who roll their eyes at our eagerness to play Yahtzee, but I like to think Richard Burton would have taken an interest in our championships. It appeals to me that his diaries contain frequent references to the game, showing another side to the Hollywood superstar living the jet-set lifestyle. It’s said he continued to enjoy Yahtzee throughout his life, going on to teach friends and relatives. I understand his zeal. Despite our fierce competitiveness, we enthusiastically play non-championship ‘friendlies’ with others whenever the opportunity arises and long may that be so.

Girl power
In closing I’m delighted to report that my husband and I have another striking parallel with the famous couple. Burton’s diaries are peppered with scores of Yahtzee games he played with Taylor, suggesting she was the more successful of the two. Not unlike us. So far, I’m beating my husband two championships to one.




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