The 2nd Swiss Open was held over the same weekend as last year, including the Swiss National Day of August 1st. On the evening of Thursday 29th July twelve heat resistant (they had to be after last year's experience) croquet players assembled on the croquet lawns of CERN (Centre Europeenne pour la Recherche Nucleaire). The two lawns, which are located in the CERN site at Prevessin (just in France), were in very good condition despite not very kind weather conditions in recent weeks.
Unlike last year, when he was free to concentrate on our gastronomic needs, this year David Payne combined this with playing in the tournament. Fortunately he was ably assisted by his sons Jeremy and Christopher. Well done and thank you very much boys! The food and drink experience was every bit as good as last year, particularly on the last day, but more of that later!
So to the croquet, which followed the same successful format as last year. The players were split into two blocks of six, the winners going straight into the semi-finals. The second and third placed players played off for the other semi-final places. Unlike last year the two blocks followed very similar but complicated patterns with nothing being clear until the last match in each block had been completed.
Block A was eventually won on "hoop difference" by the manager Peter Payne, equal on 4/5 with Ian Sexton (the defending champion) and Kevin Garrad. Kevin, playing much better than his handicap played really well to inflict Ian's first defeat of the tournament. Would it be his last? This block also featured Payne the elder (David) on 2/5, Fernando de Ansorena 1/5 and Danny Davids, playing his first open tournament.
Block B had the same problem. It was won by Andy Cowing, equal on 4/5 wins with Norman Eatough and John Davis. Each beat one of the others in close games! The other players in the block were local hero Dave Underhill 2/5 plus a close -3 to John Davis (which Dave deserved to win), John Swabey 1/5 and Alfredo Beaumont from Spain.
The quarter-finals saw the Block A triumph with Ian Sexton easily beating John Davis +17 and Kevin Gerard winning a tight struggle with Norman Eatough +11. John and Norman thus qualified for the Plate.
The Plate was split into two groups of four with the block winners playing in the Final. Group A, boiled down to an epic tussle between Fernando and Norman with Fernando winning by the usual +1T. However the main feature of this block was Alfredo winning his first match beating Dave Underhill +5T. This prompted a Mexican wave (in Spanish style) from the crowd. The other group was won by John Davis. However, here the main event was Danny Davids winning his first game beating David the chef +3T. The final, which took place after an excellent lunch, washed down with a wonderful Swiss rose saw Fernando completely outplay John Davis +23.
The main event was hotting up. Kevin Gerard finally proved fallible and lost -6, -25 to Peter the manager. Ian Sexton, taking the defence of his title seriously beat Andy Cowing +4,+14.
So the final. This all-Swiss affair provided a close first game which Ian won by 5 after both players tried hard to lose it. The second game proved a bit one sided as Ian won +24 to retain his title. As the most consistent player over the weekend he deserved it. Peter's consolation was to win the peeling prize for the only successful TP of the weekend (against the chef!!).
Once again the Swiss proved excellent hosts, beating us at croquet but providing excellent food and drink as compensation. Coinciding as it does with the Swiss National holiday this event should be in everyone's' diary.
Next year's edition will be held over 4 days, 29th July - 1st August, conveniently a week before the WCF World Championship to be held in Cheltenham, England. Book early to avoid disappointment. Full details, when available, will be sent on request to peter.payne#span.ch