We returned to Winchester in September looking forward to another stage on the UK Tour. While it wasn’t the biggest turnout to date, it was still a very enjoyable weekend…
Fortunately there was no repeat of the chaos of last year, when the M3 was closed all day; so it was a tad disappointing that we only had 46 players in the main tournament. More positive were five beginners all having their first taste of a tournament – it’s always encouraging to see new faces!
The Saturday followed the usual pattern of Swiss 7-pointers, and with relatively small numbers, three wins would give a very good chance of qualifying for the Sunday main. Early leaders Kevin Jones, Peter Christmas and Isaac Rye carried their good form on all day to end up at the top of the list; by the end of the day there weren’t many surprises in the rankings. Meanwhile, our beginners were playing a complete round-robin of three-point cubeless matches. This ended up with Maggie Snow winning all her games and taking the trophy home, very closely followed by one of our two juniors, Bartholomew Foster who ended up with four good wins and the closest of losses to Maggie.
With time pressing onwards and a hard closing time there were some late finishes in the Swiss – the most notable being a superb backgame by Tony Steward to come back and snatch a qualifying place against Isaac. Great to watch but not good for a TD’s stress levels, especially when she then goes and gets the playoff draw wrong! Mea culpa… though all was resolved in the end. Saturday night in Winchester means the mid-tournament curry and more than a third of the entire field came along – surely a record?
Sunday’s Last 16 featured a lot of familiar names and the draw kept the favourites largely apart, so not many surprises; the main upset was Neil Robins beating Jon Barnes in round 2. Meanwhile we had just 30 in the consolation, meaning we could have more substantial 7-point matches, and 5-pointers in the Last Chance. We also had a reprise of the Really Last Chance 1-pointers with re-entry, keeping everyone who wanted to stay around busy until we were in the final stages, and giving us our first winner: Crispin Duke took home the bottle of bubbly. Next to finish was the Consolation; at 6-0 up Adam Sinclair had one hand on the trophy, only for it to be snatched away by Anna Price with a thrilling comeback. The Last Chance final was a much closer affair, won by Bob Young against Ron Slattery.
By 5pm a hush descended upon the hall and only the most determined spectators remained to watch the final between Kevin Jones and Tim Cross. Fortunately, you can see the whole lot on Youtube thanks to Steve Bibby (as well as all Tim’s other matches). Kev led through most of the early stages, only for Tim to recover each time. Finally, in a long holding game at DMP, the dice decided to turn evil – first Kev (red) hitting a distant shot and closing Tim out, and then this:
No, not 44 – 31 first, played 21/18 5/4, and then – 11. Board broken, Tim re-entered and three times Kev couldn’t find the eight pips to get home to safety. Finally Tim found the hit with a seven, and there was no way back. Many congratulations to both, it was great to watch and could so easily have gone either way.
The win also meant Tim became the first player ever to reach 1900 on the UKBGF rankings – a remarkable achievement given that at the time, he was nearly 100 ahead of his nearest rival. A week later he reached the all-time peak of 1916.5 – how long will it be before anyone else reaches these heights?
Thanks to everyone who took part and made it a pleasure to direct. Also many thanks to Simonetta for another comprehensive album of the weekend – Winchester is a lovely place to spend time and enjoy the historic surroundings! Watch this space for news about next year’s Tour – we will be back on the south coast but not quite the same…