The official rules for squash are somewhat longwinded, so here I have tried to provide a brief summary. The official version of the short rules is available on the World Squash Federation site. For the full and detailed WSF rules for all squash related games, click here.
Squash is a game for two people, each equipped with a racket, and sharing one ball. At any one time, one player starts a rally by serving the ball, hitting the ball to the front wall. Then each player plays the ball in turn onto the front wall until one player fails to hit the ball before it bounces twice, or one player hits a ball that goes out of court, or fails to reach the front wall, or the rally is stopped because one player impedes the other.
I should point out that it is good practice to hold your racket by the handle end, and to hit the ball at the strings end, although this is not part of the rules. There is nothing in the rules about how to hold the racket, and in particular about whether you may swap the racket from hand to hand. You may assume that this practice is allowed. But the corollary of this is that if the ball touches your racket handle you are deemed to have played your shot.
The ball must always stay below the red line at the top of the walls, and above the red wood batten above the "tin" at the bottom of the front wall. Unlike in tennis, if a ball touches the red, it is out.
The server must have at least one foot touching only the floor inside the service box. The ball is tossed from the free hand, and hit by the racket without bouncing, and the ball must hit the front wall above the service line before it hits any side wall. If opponent lets the ball bounce before hitting it back, it must bounce inside the back quarter of the court opposite the server. The server can serve with any kind of stroke, backhand or forehand stroke, overarm or underarm.
Once the ball is in play, a player can hit it in any direction, provided it hits the front wall before it bounces. Typically a player will hit the ball directly to the front wall, or onto a side wall before it reaches the front wall. Occasionally the player will hit the ball onto the back wall so that it rebounds onto the front wall.
Every time the ball is hit, it must not hit any wall above the red line, it must hit the front wall before bouncing and it must be returned by the receiver before it bounces for a second time.
That's pretty much all there is to the basic rules of the game. The rest is about scoring, and about what to do when something goes wrong, when players get in each others' way, and when there is a dispute.
There are two main methods of scoring. The method that has been adopted officially for the last few years is called Point-a-Rally (PAR), or American scoring. A point is scored at the end of each rally. A server winning a rally scores a point and continues to serve. If the server loses a rally, opponent scores a point and starts to serve. The first to reach eleven points wins a game. However, if the score reaches ten all, the game continues until two clear, that is until one player leads by two clear points. At club level, there is a tradition that at ten all the receiver must announce two clear or play is to just one ahead. If the receiver does not announce two clear, then the next rally decides the game, with a score total of eleven to ten. A match is usually the best of five games.
There have been trials of point-a-rally games played to fifteen points, with a match consisting of the best of three games.
In the old-fashioned scoring method, usually called English, receiver does not win a point when winning rally from opponent's serve. In other words, only the server can win a point. A game is generally the first to nine points. At eight all, receiver can announce two-up, in which case the winner will have to score ten points to win, whether loser has eight or nine points. If receiver does not announce, the winner is the first to score their ninth point.
In English scoring, games can be very long, with the service swapping from player to player. In club PAR scoring, playing to eleven points, games are limited to 21 rallies unless the receiver calls two clear.
The basic difference when you are playing is that with English scoring you can have long periods when you are vying for the lead, the serve swapping from hand to hand, before one of you makes a breakthrough. In PAR scoring, if you swap serves like this then the scores rise inexorably, with the person with even a slim lead retaining that lead until the end of the game. In PAR you can't take a rest and hold your opponent at bay, unless you are in the lead. With English, even if you are behind, you can hold the scores steady with good service returns while you get your breath back.
Squash is played in a court of restricted size between two energetic players. There are bound to be occasions when the player who has just played the ball gets in the way of opponent who is about to return the ball.
Each player must make all possible efforts after hitting the ball to clear the way for opponent to get to the ball, and likewise each player should make all possible attempts to return the ball, even if impeded by opponent. In addition, each player should refrain from swinging their racket if there is any likelihood that either the racket, or the ball, will strike their opponent.
A player must also give opponent a clear sight of the ball. Occasions where this rule is relaxed is when a player hits a drop or a hard drive which would obviously be out of the reach of the receiver.
When one player does impede another, whether by being between the player and the front wall and preventing the player from playing a shot, or by being between the player and the ball, and preventing the player reaching the ball, at the club level of our sport there are two courses of action.
First, if the player is prevented from making a clear possibly winning shot, then that player is awarded a stroke. He is deemed to have won the rally.
Second, if the situation is less clear cut, but the player would probably have been able to reach and return the ball, then the player is awarded a let, the rally is voided, and the player serves again.
Then there is the situation when a player does not hold up on a shot, and the ball strikes a player. A player interrupting a ball on its way to the front wall loses the point. If a player interrupts a ball on its way to the side wall, a let is called. A player interrupting a ball on its way from the front wall, whoever was last to hit the ball, loses the point.
Players discuss and argue about the interpretation of the rules of strokes and lets a great deal. In social squash, fairness is paramount, lets should be offered freely, and strokes are rare.
The World Squash Federation provides a basic guide to interference.
In summary, they say that you, the striker, have four basic rights, and interference occurs if your opponent fails to provide you with any one of these, even if he has made every effort to do so.
Unobstructed direct access to the ball after completion of a reasonable follow-through.
This strange wording means that after your opponent has completed a reasonable follow-through he must provide you with direct access to the ball to play your stroke.
A fair view of the ball on its rebound from the front wall.
This is probably the least understood kind of obstruction. I am guilty myself of not asking for numerous lets when I am hovering behind an opponent only to see the ball streak past him inches from his waist, far too fast for me to react.
Freedom to hit the ball with a reasonable swing
You and your opponent are playing drop shots and you want a higher backswing to play a lob, but your opponent is crowding you. You can fairly ask for a let.
Freedom to play the ball directly to the front wall
The word "directly" is key here. You do not have a right to play any cross-court boast you fancy. The idea here is that if you find your opponent in front of you when you come to play a shot to the front wall, then it was his poor shot that led to the situation, and you get a let.
The person who is currently serving is called "Hand-in".
When the service changes hands it is called a "Hand-out".
A player hitting the ball onto the side wall before it hits the front wall is said to have played a "boast".
If the ball hits a wall above the red line, it is simply "Out", or "Out of court".
The red line halfway up the front wall is called the service line.
The line across the court halfway between the front and the back of the court is also called the service line.
The 'T' is the centre of the court where the two lines intersect.
If a ball bounces twice before a player hits it, it is called "Not up".
If a ball hits the tin, or the red strip above it, the ball is called "Down".
A marker tells the players that a let is being awarded, or being declined, by saying "Yes, let", or "No let".
All scores during a game are announced with score of the person who is about to serve first.
So in PAR, if a player served when leading 3 to 1 and lost the rally, the announcement is "Hand out, two three".
Copyright (C) Richard Hart 2015 - 2018