Edinburgh Tournament 2006

14-19 August 2006, Fettes

The entry for this year's Edinburgh Tournament was slightly lower than ever before (so far as the current manager's records go), with 26 players taking part, against the previous minimum of 28 attained in 1998.  The number of players in the doubles was particularly low: 14 entered, and only 12 - which was half as many as in recent years - ended up playing, as Ruth Goudie had to withdraw with a shoulder injury too late for a replacement (player, not shoulder) to be found.  For those who did play, the small total entry had the benefit that they could get more games each (though not in the doubles event, which was a straight knockout), as the demand for lawn space was often exceeded by the supply.  Indeed the total number of games played, at 110, was slightly over the average of the past three years, though a lot lower than in some years with larger entries.

Taking part here for the first time were David Harrison-Wood (handicap -2), Richard and Diana Stevens (8 and 12 respectively), Bryan Sykes (3) and Helena Urban (20) - all visiting from south of the Border except that Bryan had just bought a flat in Edinburgh.  They joined returning visitors Graham Brightwell, Graeme and Kathy Holland and John Seddon, and 17 Scottish resident players - though Jonathan Kirby's Scottish residence on this occasion was only transient, a sojourn of a few weeks between his doctoral studies in Oxford and his departure for a year in Chicago.

As usual Monday was devoted to games in the unrestricted handicap event.  This had 18 players, and after three rounds of games those in contention for the main knockout event had been reduced to three: Richard Stevens had got a place in Saturday's final, and had won a handicap reduction to 7, and David Harrison-Wood and Fergus McInnes (3.5) were to play the semifinal in the other half of the draw.  There were games for most players in the flexible Swiss consolation event, with more of these to follow later in the week.  The tricky Fettes lawns, abundantly supplied with slopes and on this occasion fairly fast, took their toll, with 12 out of 26 games going to time.

Tuesday was occupied with games in the four class events.  The Open had two players at handicap -2 - David Harrison-Wood and Jonathan Kirby - and they won all their games as expected, playing level against opponents of positive handicap.  The other level advanced event was for players of handicap 4 or above; the eight entrants were divided into two blocks, and by the end of the day James Hopgood had won the first block (he had a long day, with three games to time, but narrowly won them all) and Martin Stephenson and John Seddon were in contention to win the second.  Events 3 and 4, for handicap ranges 8+ and 14+ respectively, had five players each (before Ruth's withdrawal from Event 3), and here it was less clear who was likely to win, with everyone having at least one loss except for Joe Lennon, whose third game in Event 3, against Richard Stevens, was pegged down at the end of the day.

Wednesday was doubles day, and with the very small entry it was a sparse day, although a few singles games were fitted in as well (including the conclusion of the pegged-down game, which Richard won to leave Event 3 still very open).  The outcome of the doubles was that Graeme and Kathy Holland (handicaps 12 and 18) would meet Fergus McInnes and Alan Wilson (3.5 and 5) in Saturday's final.

On Thursday and Friday the courts were more populated again, with a mixture of Swiss handicap games and further games in the class events.  Fergus McInnes nearly achieved an upset in the Open, getting both balls to the peg against David Harrison-Wood, but failed to finish on the difficult slopes of court 3 before David hit in and overtook.  The next day they were to play the handicap semifinal, and Fergus felt he had a good chance in this with 5.5 bisques, but they didn't quite last out and the result was +8 to the still-unbeaten minus player.  David did have a loss after that, -26 with four bisques standing, in a handicap game against James Hopgood (9 at the start of the tournament but now down to 7), who thereby established himself as unbeatable in the Swiss with seven wins from eight games.

The weather had been kind on the earlier days of the week, with some sunshine every day and nothing worse than a little drizzle, but heavy rain arrived on Friday afternoon, and in early evening it turned torrential.  Only one game had been started in the evening, between Brian Murdoch and David Harrison-Wood in the Open, as others declined their optional Swiss games and chose to depart or watch from the pavilion while the two players braved the rain.  David was taking his first ball round when the really heavy rain came on; he played valiantly for a while on the increasingly soggy lawn, but eventually decided that approaching 3-back through a large puddle was not on, and walked off with his red ball in hand.  After a few minutes' wait for the rain to ease off so that the positions of the balls could be marked, the game was pegged down for completion on Saturday.

To everyone's relief, the weather on Saturday was benign, with none of the further rain that had been predicted.  The croquet was good too.  Richard Stevens, receiving 9 bisques, defeated David Harrison-Wood in short order, +26, in the morning's handicap final.  David had his own +26, with his second triple peel of the tournament, in the resumed game against Brian Murdoch.  Meanwhile Jonathan Kirby had also had a triple, in an Open game against Bryan Sykes, the score this time being +24.  The two triplers met in the decider of the Open in the afternoon, and by way of a change Jonathan won it with a TPO - believed to be the first one ever at Fettes - after David broke down at hoop 3 on his second break.  John Clark won the 8+ final against Joe Lennon in the morning, and the remaining finals were played in the afternoon and were all won by wide margins: +21 for Graeme and Kathy Holland against Fergus McInnes and Alan Wilson in the doubles, another +21 for Martin Stephenson against James Hopgood in the 4+ singles, and +24 for Sheila Tibbels against Jamie Edgar in the 14+ (after narrow wins for both of them in the morning against Helena Urban and Kathy Holland).  Only one of the final day's 11 games went to time, bringing the proportion of games to time during the week down to 38.2% - still above average but well below the 2004 record of 43.6%.  Tea and cakes and the presentation of prizes - by Edinburgh Club President Ian Wright, with Sheila Tibbels as Club Chairman presiding - rounded off the day.

A good time appeared to be had by all, and we hope to see this year's visitors again, and others joining them, in 2007.  The lawns at Fettes may be far from flat, but for those who like their croquet to be entertaining that can add to the amusement.  (Also Graham Brightwell's feat of running hoops 5 and 6 in a single stroke would have been more difficult on a flat lawn!)  And of course Edinburgh at Festival time has a lot to commend it in other ways as well.

Fergus McInnes



Event 1 (Open Singles): Jonathan Kirby
Event 2 (Advanced Singles for players of handicap 4 and over): Martin Stephenson
Event 3 (Advanced with Bisques, handicaps 8 and over): John Clark
Event 4 (Handicap Singles, handicaps 14 and over): Sheila Tibbels
Event 5 (Handicap Doubles): Graeme Holland and Kathy Holland
Event 6X (Unrestricted Handicap): Richard Stevens
Event 6 Swiss: James Hopgood
The Lauder Bowl (player getting furthest without winning any event): David Harrison-Wood

Results in full


(by Fergus McInnes and Ian Wright)

A relaxed Wednesday:

Outplayers in the doubles: Kathy Holland, Rod Williams and James Hopgood.

Open games:

Bryan Sykes with his lovingly restored lignum vitae mallet.

David Harrison-Wood playing catch-up against Fergus McInnes; Brian Murdoch in play against Graham Brightwell in the background.

A rainy Friday:

Spectators stay under cover.

Play abandoned for the day in Harrison-Wood v Murdoch.

Saturday morning:

Richard Stevens in the handicap final ...

... intently watched by his wife, friends and opponent David Harrison-Wood.

Sheila Tibbels nearing a finish in her closely contested game with Helena Urban.

The Open final:

David Harrison-Wood plays a stop shot during his break with red.

Jonathan Kirby attempts the rover peel on the way to his pioneer at 3-back.

Rod Williams referees a hampered shot after penult ...

... and another after rover.

The rush to the peg to complete the TPO.

Closing formalities:

President, Chairman and prizes.  (One doubles cup and the Milne Trophy were missing.  The beer was for the manager's crossword competition.)