Finchley Central is a mind game in which two players take turns naming stations in the London Underground. The first person to name Finchley Central is the winner. Of course, the first player could say "Finchley Central" straight away, but as maths professor Jonathan Partington notes,
An opening move of "Finchley Central" is too much of a cheat, and you might wish to start with, say, Liverpool Street, when, assuming that your opponent isn't rude enough to reply with Finchley Central, leaves you with a mate on your second move (though you probably would prefer to stall by playing, say, Bank, in the hopes of a more spectacular win later).
Possibly inspired by the New Vaudeville Band's song "Finchley Central" ("Finchley Central / is two-and-sixpence / from Golders Green on the Northern Line..."), the game was first described by the mathematicians Anatole Beck and David Fowler in the Spring 1969 issue of Manifold magazine (A Pandora's Box of Non-games page 32). Beck and Fowler note,
It is clear that the ‘best’ time to say Finchley Central is exactly before your opponent does. Failing that it is good that he should be considering it. You could, of course, say ‘Finchley Central’ on your second turn. In that case, your opponent puffs on his cigarette and says, ‘Well…’ Shame on you.
In a similar game played in Slavic countries, kaladont, each player has to say a word starting with the last two letters of the previous player's word, and the player who can't continue loses the game. There are many words ending in unplayable combinations (like "kaladont"), but it is often considered poor form to end the game quickly even if all players are good.
- Partington, Jonathan R. "Paradoxes and Unplayable Games". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- Beck, Anatole; David Fowler (Spring 1969). "A Pandora's Box of non-games". Manifold. Warwick Mathematics Institute (3): 31–34.
- Wright, Mic. "You just lost The Game: the enduring hold of the pre-Web world's Rickroll". The Next Web. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- Manifold issue 3 (Spring 1969), Ian Stewart (editor), University of Warwick