Opens - Saturday. Fulford v Aiton singles semi-final
Good morning from Surbiton - Chris here. The sun is trying its best to shed a bit of warmth on proceedings. 45 minutes until the start of todays semi-finals. Yesterdays play from Bamford and Fulford was fabulous and if they do the same today, I would expect 3-0 wins for both. However, croquet's not usually that predictable, so buckle you seat belts and get ready for exciting matches!!
I'll be covering the Fulford v Aiton match and Andrew Gregory will have the tortoise v hare Bamford v Death battle.
A bit more about the venue before the players arrive. Surbiton has 7 lawns and they are in wonderful condition. Every time I come, they seem to have improved. The rain of the last few days has made them fairly easy, but the balls still roll a bit further than you expect.
George Noble is in charge of them and I am delighted to report that they are being cut daily. This is the standard that has now been set. During the Mac last August, the mower was set to 6mm, but it is now down to 5mm for this event.
And the club itself is great. Why? Because of the members. A core of dedicated hard working friendly croquet enthusiastics who ensure that everyone needs are met. Last night there was a free BBQ for everyone. Not just your standard BBQ, but top quality meats cooked to perfection with 7 or 8 salads and a bar that is very reasonably priced. And it's a croquet club, not a country club. What a wonderful venue.
That said, fitting 48 players onto 7 or 8 lawns does mean some waiting around and as usual with the Opens, many players will have entire days without play.
There have been some improvements to the format this year. Firstly the event started Saturday lunchtime which means that we are now in a much better position in regards to finishing the event than in past years. Congrats to the CA tournament committee for making this change.
Secondly, the format for the plate is better. I'm not sure when this was changed, but for a few years, there was a dreadful format where all the strong players went into the process with one life and the weaker ones into both halves.
Whilst the stronger players still only get one life (which I disapprove of), at least they are split evenly between the draw and process now.
Fulford v Aiton will be only lawn 3. Lawn 2 is currently being timed and the verdict is........ 11 seconds.
George's stimpmeter has now been used and has produced 15.75. The next step is to take the square root and multiply by 3, so if my maths is rights that makes it 11.9 Plummers
Personally, I think it looks closer to 11 seconds than 11.9 seconds
The players are warming up.
Looks like Keith has won the toss
G1T1 U (Aiton) 9y N of C4
G1T2 R (Fulford) Duffer tice 2 feet SSE of hoop 6.
G1T3 K misses U narrowly from A-Baulk.
G1T4 Y hits R in the middle
Rob has made hoop 1 and is going round. Will he go to 1-b, 3-b, 4-b or hoop 5?
G1T4 (cont.) Rob has made hoop 5 and looks like he's trying to get a tight E/W cross-peg. This is one of the best leaves to deny oppo the chance to make your sextuple more difficult.
The question is, why is Rob choosing different tactics today. My best suggestions are;
1. He's not as scared of Keith's shooting as he was of Rutgers.
2. He's practicing for the final.
G1T4 (cont.) Rob has put his clip on 1-b. UK are cross-pegged E/W and R has a rush in-lawn on Y about 12y S of C2
G1T5 Keith lifts U and shoots at R from B-Baulk. It is a very gently shot..........misses
G1T6 Rob will be looking to peel 1-b before hoop 2, but hasn't tried to peel it before hoop 1.
Marcus Evans informs me that Keiths lift shot was dreadful.
Rob needs to approach hoop 1 from 2 yards E.....it's ok, but ideally he wants a rush out of the hoop and he has a 2 foot hoop.
Rob makes sure of the hoop and fails to get a rush. He's played a good roll though and should be able to rush Y in front of 1-b. Y is rushed 2 feet in front of 1-b and he'll be trying to peel this hard going to U his hoop 2 pioneer. It's through, but only by 18".
Rob approaches hoop 2 so that the peelee isn't in his way and will now be setting up to peel 2-b before hoop 4.
G1T6 (cont.) Rob has jawsed Y in 2-b before hoop 4 and rushed the escape ball at 2-b to 2 foot in front of hoop4.
Rob sends his hoop 6 pioneer 2 yards S of hoop 6 and rush peels Y through 2-b. Y is croqueted 4 feet SW of 3-b going to his hoop 5 pioneer
G1T6 (cont.) Rob rushes Y a bit too far and is now peeling from further E than ideal meaning he'll have to play R S of the peg. Y is peeled all the way to 4-b and he hits a 3 yarder pointing E on his hoop 6 pioneer. Approaches 6 from 3 yards SE and he has a 3 foot 30 degree hoop 6. Runs it, but only by 2 yards and now has a 6 yarder on U near the N bopundary........hits.
G1T6 (cont.) Rob has left his 2-b pioneer at 4-b and is now making 1-b.
After 1-b, Rob rushes over to 4-b and leaves K 4 feet W of 4-b, rushes Y in front of 4-b and jawses it getting a rush on U to 2-b. Rushes U 5 yards NNW of 2-b . Good approach and he's amde it with a rush back north-eastwards
G1T6 (cont.) Rolls U 2 yards E of penult going to Y which looks like it is actually through 4-b. Taps Y and croquets it poorly to penult, leaving it 3 yards NE of the hoop.
On the positive side, he's done the most important thing and has a good rush to 3-b which he plays well. He's made 3-b with a forward rush and it should be all over from here.
For those who haven't seen Fulford and Bamford in action for the last 15 years, the last days play is a pretty good summary of their strengths and weaknesses.
Reg is a fantastic physical player who usually gets away with making things more difficult than necessary due to weaker tactics due his his physical skill.
Rob is a fantastic tactician who has very good physical skills.
Rob' s sextuple leave has made his turn easier than the sextuple leaves that Reg was using yesterday. In time, Reg will learn to copy Robert's tactics.
Rob has a straight rover peel left, but the peelee is 4 feet SSE of rover as he makes penult.
Rob has a good deep ball and a reasonable side ball and has rushed Y 2.5 feet straight in front of rover. I don't think he'll irish from this far out
G1T6 (cont.) Rob peels rover by 9 inches and jumps through rover and over the peelee. Bombards Y away from the hoop and rushes to 1 yard from the peg
Game 1 to Fulford +26SXP*
G2 - Rob chooses to go 1st and Keith takes RY
G2T1 K (Rob)to 11y N of C4
G2T2 Y (Keith) to C2
G2T3 U misses K from A-Baulk
G2T4 R shoots at K from A-Baulk..........gets closer to U
G2T5 Rob plays K and gets a rush on R to C2. However, his rush hits hoop 2 and finishes close to the hoop. He's looking at leaving Y in C2 and wirng R at hoop 2, so it can still hit UK.
Now he's looking athe take-off behind Y
Finally rolls R towards C2, hits Y, sends Y 5y N of C1 and plays K off the E boundary about 14y N of C4 leaving a 4 yarder W on U.
Harley wouldn't approve of that.
G2T6 Y shoots at U or K .........not clear which
G2T7 Rob has rushed well to hoop 1 and I expect the same leave as in game 1
G2T7 Rob is round to 1-b and has made the same leave as G1, an EW cross peg laying up 12y S of C2 with a rush at the peg
G2T8 Keith lifts Y and shoots at Rob from B-Baulk...........another dribble which flicks K.
G1T8 Keith has made hoop 1 and despite not having a hoop 2 pioneer should be away. I expect he'll stop at 1-b, but can he make a leave to make the sextuple difficult if Rob hits?
G1T8 Keith has gone to 1-b and has made a fairly horizontal spread. U (1) is at the peg and K (1-B) is almost on the W boundary, which does make the sextuple a bit harder.
He has laid a rush for his 1-b ball as yesterday, so he'll be playing for a tp.
G1T9 Rob is looking at U at the peg and may think that it doesn't rush perfectly to 1????, or maybe that it offers an extra percentage from B-Baulk
He's lifted K and is shooting at U from the end of B-Baulk. K misses U on the left and hits hoop 5 finishing 3y ESE of hoop 5.
This gives Keith the opportunity of a sextuple. Various players think he should play his hoop 1 ball now. I think he should stick to plan A and go to 4-b. He hasn't shown any likelihood of playing well enough to make the sxp the optimal line of play.
Keith plays Y and makes 1-b
He's gone to 4-b and is making another horizontal spread. This time, K is at the peg.
If Rob hits in with U, will he TPO or sxp? Or both :-)
G2T11 Rob lifts U and is taking the long lift at R from B-Baulk................misses narrowly
G2T12 Keith has made hoop 1 and has played for a roll from C4 sending U to hoop 3 going to Y at hoop 2. It's ok, and he hits his 8 footer at partner.He's made hoop 2 with an eastwards rush and this should be 1-1
G2T12 Y is peeled through 4-b after hoop 3
G2T12 Keith has just sent his 1-b 4y N of 1-b, but is continuing with his normal line of play.
He's peeled penult after hoop 6 and has rushed K to the N boundary in front of 1-b. He can't get a 2-b from there.
G2T12(cont.) Stops K between 1-b and 2-b. Should be fine - he has sufficient control to be able to get a dolly rush to 2-b.
G2T12(cont.) Rushes K to 2 yards in front of 2-b.......he's made the hoop and should be able to peel rover before 3-b.
G2T12 Keith doesn't rush in front of rover and plays to get a rush over after 3-b. Grovels through 3-b and he's lucky to have U at the side of the hoop to hit.
G2T12 (cont.) Has a 5 foot backward take-off to 4-b........copes.
G2T12 (cont.) Just a straight rover peel left. Everything under perfect control, peeling from 9".
Aiton Wins Game 2 +20TP to Make it 1-1*
That was good from Keith. Chose sound tactics that suited his current performance level, stuck to them and reaped the rewards.
Lunch break for the players
G3T1 U (Keith) 9y N of C4
G3T2 R Duffer tice 5 feet N of hoop 6
G3T3 K shoots at R from C3...........misses badly
G3T4 Y shoots at R.........hits in the middle rushing it to 2y W of hoop 5.
G3T4 (cont.) Rob plays a thick take-off to K sending R West and rushes K towards C1, plays a stop-shot approach, runs the hoop and has the first break.
G3T4 (cont.) Rob has made hoop 6 with oppos wired at the peg on a C2/C4 line, but fails to rush partner to the W boundary , has left it 8 yards in front of hoop 2 and is now looking at a tight cross peg and laying up mid-lawn
G3T4(cont.) Rob doesn't get the tight cross peg and opts to croquet U 9y N of C4, leaving W in reverse spread position at the peg. He has dribbled back to 5feet E of R
G3T5 Keith lifts K and is shooting at Y from B-Baulk. If he misses this, I expect Rob to take his 1-b ball to 4-b. Keith shoots...........I'm not sure that got within a yard. I have had some bad patches of shooting in my career, but never anything this bad.
G3T6 Well, I'm wrong.....Rob has played R and rushed to the E boundary, croquet it inlawn a few yards and rushed U 4y S of K. He's failed to get a rush on K and now needs to approach hoop 1 from the W boundary.
A good roll, leaves him 4 feet in front of the hoop which he runs. He rushes K to the S boundary behind hoop 4, croquets it to hoop 3 getting a good rush on Y to 2. If he peels 1-b before 2, it will be amazing.
He's rushed it virtually 1 yard straight of 1-b and will be attempting the early peel
Fails the peel (bounces out) and doesn't get a rush back to hoop 2. He's lucky that Y didn't stick in the jaws.
Approaches hoop 2 sending U deep and West, so he'll be running 2 hard and then peeling Y going to K at 3
G3T6 (cont.) Rob is peeling 1-b from a bit of an angle......peel goes through by about a foot and his hoop 4 pioneers is at 2-b rather than hoop 4. He's got some work to do now
G3T6(cont.) Poor approach to hoop 3, but copes. Fails to rush K to the N boundary, so this is really going to test his stop shot ratio. Sends K 3yards SW of hoop 5 and rushes Y 4yards NE of the peg. Needs a decent croquet stroke now to get a rush to hoop 4.
G3T6 (cont.) Perfect croquet stroke receives a round of applause from the crowd.
G3T6 (cont.) Sends U WSW of hoop 5, so that he can rush it south after hoop 5 and change parity.
Peels 2-b leaving himself a 3 yarder on K. Approaches hoop5 with a stop shot sending K 2 Y WNW of 3-b. Complete understanding of ball movements there from Fulford
G3T6 (cont.) A couple of poor strokes leave U 7 yards W of the peg and Rob fails to rush Y in front of 3-b.
This 3-b peel going to the dodgy U before 1-b is going to test him
G3T6 (cont.) He's rushed Y directly in front of 3-b. Hoop 5 is in play of going to U.
Rob has peeled 3-b by 2 yards and has a 3 yard rush to 1-b which he rushes well.
G3T6 (cont.) This is all back to standard now and Rob will be peeling 4-b before 3-b
G3T6 (cont.) Y is peeled through 4-b and Rob rushes U poorly to 3-b - it finishes 4 feet NE of the hoop.
He's made 3-b, but without a forward rush.
Another poor stroke leaves a rush on Y pointing at the end of B-Baulk. It will be a straight double now.
G3T6 (cont.) Rob has rushed Y nicely in front penult and will be irish peeling.
Peels Y to 4 feet W of rover.
G3T6 (cont.) Rob rushes Y to 2.5 feet straight. I think it will be a stop shot peel again.
Peels Y by 2 feet and he'll be jumping over that - no problem
That was no problem until he walked over Y and moved it by a foot. Multiple referees converge as he raises his mallet. This is a straightforward replacement of the ball and no penalty because it was not during the striking period.
G3T6 (cont.) Y is replaced and Rob finishes.
Rob Takes a 2-1 Lead Winning G3 +26SXP* - Great Turn
G4T1 Rob plays K 9y N of C4
G4T2 Keith plays Y justr S of C2
G4T3 U misses K from A-Baulk
G4T4 Y shoots at K (U must be hittable, only 2 feet away)..........misses
G4T5 Rob plays K and gets U 6 yards in-lawn and rushes R to hoop 1. He's made hoop 1 and should go round.
G4T5 Rob has played some poor strokes and now has a 7 yard backward take-off to hoop 2............runs a 4 foot 20 degree hoop off the No boundary. The hoops sound like they have no resistance.
G4T5 (cont.) Rob is making his usual tight cross peg leave. All good.
Ed Cunningham has just written in, quite rightly pointing out that Keiths choice of shots for this lift is unusual. We both prefer shooting at partner from B-Baulk.
Anyway, Keith lifts R and is shooting at the oppo balls from B-Baulk again. I just don't think this is short enough to justify given his standard of shooting....................misses
G4T7 Rob has made hoop 1 and has good chance of the 1-b peel before.
Peels K through 1-b by 15 yards and has a rush to hoop 2
G4T7 Rob peels 2-b before hoop 4.
Lovely control, peeling 3-b from 6" straight before hoop 6. Overhits the peel to 2y S of the N boundary and neeeds to approach 6 from 3 yards. No problem.
G4T7 (cont.) Rob is setting up to peel 4-b before 2-b. Peels 4-b and now has a1 yard rush to 2-b....rushes it 4 yards W of 2-b
Approaches a bit short just as it starts to rain.........takes loads of wire, buit runs it comfortably.
Rob has rolled back up to 4-b from the S boundary. The good news is that he gets a dolly rush on the peelee, the bad news is that R finishes 2y SW of C3.
Rob rushes K in front of penult and doesn't peel it on the way to 3-b.
Out of nowhere, Rob blobs 3-b
G4T8 Keith turns down a 4 yarder with Y at U in 3-b and takes a 2 yarder at R from B-Baulk. U is in the middle of 3-b and K is about 1 foot in front of penult.
Y hits R, takes off and has a 3 yarder pointing N on U......hits it but without any power.
Very good croquet stroke sends U perfectly to hoop 2 and gets a 2 foot rush to hoop 1. Rushes it 3 yards NNW of hoop 1
G4T8 Keith takes off 2 feet in front of hoop 1 and doesn't get anywhere near running it.
G4T9 Rob hits Y with K, his penult ball. It'll just be 2 hoops and a leave.
G4T9 Rob has a 3 yard backward take-off to penult.........crashes through penult to the South boundary where Y awaits him.
G4T9 Before I tell you what the leave is, have a think about what is the best possible leave from here if you are Rob. He is 4-b and peg vs 1+1 not conceeding a lift
R is 6" N of C1
Y is 5 feet WSW of 4-b
UK are 2y S of C3 wired from Y with a 2" rush to 4-b
This is what you want as a leave. Firstly oppo has a very long shot. Secondly, if they move Y from 4-b and hit R, it isn't easy to go round. If R shoots at Y, it goes you everything and they still have work to do to get a break.
G4T10 Y shoots at R..........misses
G4T11 Rob finishes to win +26SXP -20TP +26SXP +26