Tournament Report - 06/05/2010 21:21

Southwick May Bank Holiday Tournament 1-3 May 2010


Report by Colin Hemming

I suppose we could call this a portmanteau tournament.  Two in one.  Not
only a handicap but also a B-level.  Common enough to have concurrent events
in a week-long tournament, but unusual (unique?) in a weekend.
Unfortunately, the number of entries was disappointing overall, and
particularly in the handicap event, which attracted only five entrants, and
the event was played, as you would expect, as an American block.  There were
14 entrants for the B-level event, which manager Chris Constable had split
into two blocks of  7, the  winner to be decided by a play-off between the
two block winners

The alert amongst you will have realised two things: that the Handicap block
wouldn't generate enough games to fill three days of competition, and that
with an odd number of players in each block there was going to be a certain
amount of sitting-out.  Chris had planned to solve (partially) the second of
these issues by having the B-class players who had drawn a bye in each round
play a cross-block game.  I'm not sure how she was planning to solve the
lack of handicap games, because any plans she had were overtaken by events
when one of the B-level entrants withdrew on the eve of the tournament due
to injury.  Ingeniously, she introduced two byes in place of one in each
round of the depleted block and had the extra "sitter-out" play a
cross-block handicap game.  There were a few mutterings from players who
"hadn't signed up to play handicap" but the plan worked well and kept
everyone occupied, at least until the morning of the last day.

Day one  (Saturday) was a good day for croquet.  A bit of sunshine, just a
hint of a shower in the morning, but overall an enjoyable day to spend out
on the croquet court.  Because of all the byes it was difficult to get a
clear picture of who was showing promise in either of the B-level blocks,
but in the Handicap block Sam Murray was creating waves of consternation by
two good wins.  On the sartorial front, only Tudor Jenkins was creating
waves; apparently unaware of the use of a peak to shade the eyes from the
sun, was creating a dead-end kids look by wearing his baseball cap
back-to-front.  Definitely not PC (Preferred for Croquet).  A discussion at
teatime referred to one of the players "Rolling all over the court".  A
sight to be seen, you may imagine, but his opponent was only referring to
his roll-shots.  Kevin Ham has gone down in legend at Colchester as the
player who took one of his shoes off during a Mary Rose match some years
ago.  Why?  To remind himself that he had a lift of course!  If he had had a
contact he would have taken both shoes off!  It was good to learn that both
practices are still going strong.

The forecast for Sunday was for heavy showers for most of the day.  In the
event, this proved to be wildly optimistic.  A wall of heavy rain rolled in
from the North East and just kept on rolling.  All day.  It briefly hinted
at lifting just after lunch but as soon as we were all on court again it
came back with even more ferocity.  But we were British.  And we were
Croquet Players.  So we carried on.  It took some doing, mind you.  Pauline
Davey pulled her hood close to her head to keep out the wind and rain,
resembling the Egyptian croquet-playing ladies we have all seen photographs
of.  David Gaitley, realising that his shower-proof jacket wasn't up to this
sort of punishment, went for the Beano look, and was briefly seen in a large
plastic sack with holes cut out for his arms, before going home to find
something more suitable and returning with a high-visibility workman's
jacket with the London Underground logo emblazoned on it: ask no questions.
Tudor, having terrible trouble with rain on his spectacles, persevered with
the baseball cap, but still back-to-front, and blissfully unaware that a
secondary use for its peak can be to keep rain out of you eyes and off your
spectacles.  Kevin was wearing his Crocs.  Very comfortable, of course, and
ideal for slipping off to remind you of your lifts and contacts, but since
they have about a dozen half-inch holes in the top of each one not the best
choice for the pouring rain.

But despite all the punishment that the players (and the courts) were
taking, all the games were completed, and at the end of the day, Sam Murray
had already done enough to assure a win in the Handicap event.  Block A of
the B-level was between Paul Miles and Colin Hemming, both having won all
four of their block games, and due to play each other the following morning.
In Block B the situation was far less clear-cut.  Kevin Ham was the
front-runner with four wins out of  five, but with Anthony Dix, Jonathan
Isaacs and Pauline Davey all on three wins and breathing down his neck.
Everything to play for the following morning, with Kevin due to play Pauline
and Anthony vs Jonathan.  A potential managerial nightmare.

It was a dry forecast for the Monday, so imagine the players' dismay when it
started raining shortly after the morning games had started.  It was
short-lived, however.  "Thank goodness for that" we all thought.  And then
the wind veered (or should that be "backed"?) and started to come from the
North.  Straight from the Pole.  It was very, very cold, especially for May.
But we were British.  And we were Croquet Players.  So we carried on.  In
Block A, Paul Miles progressed to the final by destroying Colin Hemming +25
in little over an hour.  So your intrepid reporter ventured boldly forth and
took up residence in the lawn 5 hut, which occupies a central position and
from where he could watch the two games which would decide Block B,
meanwhile keeping a sneaky eye on how his wife Georgeen was faring against
Sam on lawn 6.  It was still cold, even inside the hut, and the way it was
rocking in the stronger gusts made me imagine I must be in the wheelhouse of
a trawler battling through the North-Sea.  (Clearly a fantasy: there aren't
any North Sea trawlers any more are there?).  The first of the B-level games
to finish was Jonathan vs Anthony: Jonathan won +15, with very careful and
accurate placing of pioneers.  The game between Pauline and Kevin was a much
closer affair: Kevin took an early lead But Pauline fought back and gained
the upper hand with only minutes to go.  Kevin made a valiant attempt to
overtake her during the turn in which time was called but had only pulled
level when he failed 3-back.  Pauline (still sporting her Pashmena look,
incidentally) was able to run only one more hoop in her final turn, but it
was enough to win +1 on time.  It was all for nought in the end, though,
because with Jonathan, Pauline and Kevin all on 4 wins Jonathan was adjudged
the block winner on the first differentiator, which was the number of wins
within time (3 for him, 2 for both Kevin and Pauline).  Meanwhile, Sam beat
Georgeen to make it a clean sweep in the Handicap block.

The final of the B-level, then, was between Paul Miles and Jonathan Isaacs.
The plan had been for the manager to arrange additional games for those who
wanted them.  In the event, though, the only other players to brave the
Arctic conditions were Tudor and Kevin who played a (quick!) game of Golf
Croquet.  (The holes in Kevin's shoes were now letting in freezing cold air
rather than water and Tudor still hadn't worked out that the peak of a cap
belongs at the front not the back).  The other competitors (those who hadn't
already left) gathered to watch the B-level final.  This turned out to be  a
very one sided affair, Jonathan destroying Paul just as efficiently as Paul
had destroyed Colin earlier in the day, by playing very precise croquet and
winning in four breaks (albeit with a bit of to-and-fro between his breaks).

So in the end, a very enjoyable tournament in spite of the fearsome
conditions on the last two days.  It is unfortunate that there were so few
entries in the Handicap event, but the manager coped well with that.  If the
weather had been better, it would have been sad that most people would have
played only one competitive game on the last day, and be left only with
meaningless games in the afternoon.  It may have been better to play the
B-level as a Swiss, keeping the event alive until the end.   Better still,
from my personal view, it could be played as a flexible Swiss to enable more
than three games a day for those lucky, or unlucky, enough to have a short
game.  But that format doesn't fit very easily with an event that styles
itself as the "Southern B-level Championship".  (Hmmm  -should it?)

Thanks are due to Chris Constable for managing, to Frances Low who stood in
for Chris on day 2, and to the army of Southwick volunteers who kept us well
supplied with (hot!) lunches and teas throughout the weekend.