The Art of Domino

When you think of domino, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a domino effect, a series of events where one small action triggers much bigger and more catastrophic consequences. You’ve probably seen a lineup of hundreds or even thousands of dominoes, set up in a careful sequence, all toppling with the slightest nudge. In domino shows, builders set up incredible and complex domino designs that take minutes for all of them to fall—a testament to the power of physics and how chain reactions work.

Domino is also the name of a mathematical polygon that consists of two equal-sized squares connected edge to edge, with each side bearing an arrangement of dots called pips, similar to those on a die. It’s also the name of a popular game in which players try to score points by laying dominoes end to end so that their exposed ends match—one’s touch one’s, two’s touch two’s, and so on. A traditional domino set contains 28 pieces.

Hevesh is a master of creating the most intricate domino designs and has even helped to set several Guinness records, including for the largest circular domino design and the most dominoes toppled in a row. She’s worked on projects involving more than 300,000 dominoes and says that there’s one physical phenomenon in particular that makes her constructions possible: gravity.

As she sets up her enormous displays, Hevesh starts with a flat arrangement and then gradually builds up a line of dominoes that will eventually form the most complex 3-D structures. She then adds the finishing touches—the small, round dominoes that sit on top of each larger piece and that help the whole thing stay together.

She spends hours ensuring that the dominoes fit together perfectly, and she films each section of her creations in slow motion to make precise corrections as needed. Often, she’ll create a domino design for an event, like a wedding or a movie premiere, and then have the filmmakers film the entire event from above, so they can see how the dominoes work together to tell the story.

Dominoes can be played with any number of players, but the most common strategy involves a positional game in which each player in turn places a domino on the table such that its exposed ends are either identical (i.e., 5 to 5) or form some specified total. The first player to do so wins the round. The remaining players then play the same move in reverse order. If all players have completed their turns and no one has scored any points, the winner is the player who has placed the most dominoes in a row. The game can also be played without scoring, in which case the winner is the first player to place all of their dominoes on the table. In some variations, the game is played in teams of two or three. The game is typically played in public houses or social clubs.