The Fifth Belgian Indoor Tournament was held in Genval, near Brussels over the weekend 29/30 December. Winner was Samir Patel, who beat Don Gaunt in a tight final. Third was Bruce Rannie, who beat Rutger Beijderwellen. Colin Hemming won the plate event, while John Moore won the special plate prize for the fastest finish.
Twelve players, and some consorts, gathered at the Chateau du Lac resort home of the Belgian Croquet Federation for this annual event, played on two large indoor courts in one of the conference / exhibition halls in the hotel. The original carpet tiles are used, with the hoops mounted on thin metal plates (thinner than common in the UK - Rolf Harris could use them for wobble-boards), covered by thin felt and taped down. The only concession to size was to limit the baulk lines to level with Hoop 1 (3) rather than the mid-point.
The players, five from England, one from Scotland, two from Ireland, one from the Netherlands, and three local, were divided into two blocks, to play each other in 100-minute twenty-point advanced games ("first ball through Hoop 1 means other clip goes onto 1-back, which means the sextuple is still on" was the reason given, but I didn't see more than a couple of deliberate peels over the whole weekend!). In one block, Samir Patel and Rutger Beijderwellen took all before them, with Samir winning the last block game between the two. In the other, Don Gaunt won all of his five games, although the last one against Jonathan Lamb needed a significant break to peg-out in the turn after time. Bruce Rannie was the other qualifier for the semis, beating Philip Brabazon in the vital final game, again in the turn after time.
Both semis went to sudden death, with Samir beating Bruce, despite Bruce having first attempt at his winning hoop, and Don beating Rutger after another ten minutes of jousting. Bruce took third, as Rutger was defeated by the consequences of continuing to attempt to win the prize for the first triple peel - those balls just don't stop, and the pull over the plate is indefinable.
The consolation event was thirty-minute one-ball, with the remaining eight first split into two blocks based on finishing positions in the main blocks, then further blocks of four based on those results, to decide final positions. John Moore started with a 28-minute and bits finish to lead the race for the fastest finish, and he, John Swabey, Colin Hemming and Carl von Schmeider battled for the Cup. Colin won this on who-beat-whom, after Carl beat John in the last game. In the other block, Yvonne Marriner defied Gabor Weiner's effort to pinch the fastest break prize, despite him having reached Rover with eleven minutes in hand. Jonathan Lamb and Philip Brabazon were the other participants.
The Belgian Croquet Federation laid on a fabulous tournament dinner on the Saturday, with poems from Jonathan Lamb, and songs from John Swabey, while Don Gaunt thanked the hosts on behalf of all the visitors. Bob Appels laid on great lunches to be taken on the hoof for both days, and we were all thankful for the continuous supply of liquid (not just the rain), as the hall was very dehydrating.
So the cups went back via Eurostar, or the Shuttle - just as well, as they would have caused excess baggage charges on aircraft because of the slate bases. We all got chocolate medals too - not all of those left the venue! The friends and family found plenty to do too, with regular on-time trains into Brussels, and fitness rooms in the hotel.
So the advert is out already - book for 2004 in good time to guarantee your place.