On the evening of Thursday 31 July twelve cosmopolitan croquet players assembled on the croquet lawns of CERN (Centre Europeenne pour la Recherche Nucleaire) for the first staging of the Swiss Open Croquet Championships. The two lawns, which are located in the CERN site at Prevessin (just in France), where in superb condition and promised to get faster as the weather got hotter over the weekend! Given the location it was expected that the balls would obey all the known laws of physics plus any new ones waiting to be proved!
In parallel with the croquet the CERN club, lead by David Payne, had organised a gastronomic tour of Switzerland, introducing us to some excellent wines (rarely found outside the Country, except of course in this part of France!!) and food.
So to the croquet. 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. Block A was fairly straight forward as Paulo de Petra won all his games, including a whitewash of local favourite and manager, Peter Payne. Peter, who finished second, had previously inflicted the same thing on John Davis with a faultless 8th turn triple. John also managed a triple against John Swabey and won three games to finish third. Norman Eatough and Kevin Garrad (who specialised in losing very close games) were the other players in Block A.
Block B was altogether more complicated but Peter had had the foresight to programme all eventualities into his computer. Fortunately the local nuclear physics research experiments did not interfere with all his electronic equipment and the spectators were able to follow progress with interest. Jonathan Lamb started well beating Andrew Cowing but then appeared to forget how to play as he lost three out of four by margins of 3, 3T and 5, all of which were crowd pleasers! Ian Sexton, who had inflicted the first of these, proceeded to win the block with 4 out of 5, his one defeat being against Ian Price, who won 3 games to finish third. Andrew Cowing came second, also winning 3 but having beaten Ian. Ferdinand de Ansorena was unlucky not to qualify with wins against Jonathan and Ian but a Thursday evening loss to David Underhill proved costly. The final game of the block, Ian against David, proved crucial. The winner was bound to qualify and a tense struggle went to time with Ian making some crucial hoops to win +8T.
The quarter finals saw the third place players in each group beating the second place players in the other group. Ian Price played very well to beat Peter Payne and John Davis narrowly failing to complete his triple in beating Andrew Cowing. Peter and Andrew thus qualified for the Plate.
The Plate was split into two groups of four with the block winners playing in the Final. Group A, despite the efforts of John Swabey and David Underhill, was a battle between Andrew and Fernando. With two wins each the deciding match was level after time with both players having one ball left on the lawn each for 4-back. There then followed a period of "slow creep" as the balls edged ever closer to he hoop, Fernando on the playing side. Finally he attempted the hoop and failed allowing Andrew to hit and win. The other group was won by Jonathan who remembered how to play and completed successive triples against Peter and Kevin. Jonathan then won the final.
The main event was going to plan as Paulo and Ian both won their semi-finals 2-0 to set up a final between the two best players of the weekend. Paulo was marginally favourite, having yet to lose, and he duly won the first game +15. The second game looked to be heading the same way until Paulo began to have trouble getting in front of hoops. This allowed Ian in and he took the second game +13. The impetus changed and Ian was quickly to 4-back and peg in the third. In sight of the finish he then missed a 4 foot rush to 4-back. Paulo quickly went to 4-back and produced a good leave. However, he might have left Ian's balls the wrong way round!! Ian picked up the ball for 4-back, took careful aim and rushed the ball by the peg to within 4 feet of the hoop! Game over. So the local man won but the visitor from Italy had played really well.
Three and a half days of croquet in increasingly hot conditions, excellent lawns, wonderful hospitality and this event has already been inked into my calendar for next year.
Paolo De Petra (Italy) 5/5 (bt Swabey +42, Davis +9, Garrad +2, Payne +26, Eatough +21)
Peter Payne (Switzerland) 4/5 (bt Garrad +4, Davis +26tp, Swabey +24, Eatough +11)
John Davis (Luxembourg) 3/5 (bt Eatough +9, Swabey +25tp, Garrad +5)
Norman Eatough (Switzerland) 2/5 (bt Garrad +10, Swabey +6)
John Swabey (Belgium) 1/5 (bt Garrad +8)
Kevin Garrad (Isle of Man) 0/5
Ian Sexton (Switzerland) 4/5 (bt de Ansorena +21, Lamb +3, Underhill +20, Cowing +1T (20-19))
Andrew Cowing (Switzerland) 3/5 (bt Price +20, Underhill +19, de Ansorena +20)
Ian Price (England) 3/5 (bt Sexton +12, Lamb +3T (21-18), Underhill +8T (21-13))
Fernando de Ansorena (Spain) 2/5 (bt Price +4T (24-20), Lamb +5)
Jonathan Lamb (Belgium) 2/5 (bt Cowing +17, Underhill +24)
Dave Underhill (Switzerland) 1/5 (bt de Ansorena +18)
Davis bt Cowing +22
Price bt Payne +22
De Petra bt Davis +7 +16
Sexton bt Price +17 +17
Sexton bt De Petra -15 +13 +16
Davis bt Price +12
Cowing 3/3 (bt Underhill +23, Swabey +21, de Ansorena +1T (23-22))
de Andorena 2/3 (bt Swabey +13T (19-6), Underhill +16T (25-9))
Swabey 1/3 (bt Underhill +8T (22-14))
Lamb 3/3 (bt Eatough +2T (18-16), Payne +19tp, Garrad +26tp)
Payne 2/3 (bt Garrad +25, Eatough +24)
Eatough 1/3 (bt Garrad +19)
Lamb bt Cowing +19
Note: The 2nd Swiss International Open will probably be held over the weekend of 31st July - 1st August 2004, extending either backwards or forwards by one or two days. Contact Peter Payne (peter.payne#span.ch) or Andrew Cowing (deerness#bluewin.ch) for more details when available.