Southport B Level Weekend 2009

25-26 July 2009, Southport

This was my first visit to Southport, and my first time managing a tournament in England (though I'd done plenty in Scotland during the past 11 years).  So here are the impressions of a newcomer...

The town: Southport is a pleasant place, with a sense of spaciousness about it and some interesting large brick-built houses.  I enjoyed the hospitality of Terry and Melanie, and the short walk from their house to the croquet club on Saturday morning.  (On Sunday morning it was raining and I was happy to accept a lift.)

The croquet lawns: Good lawns, and plenty of space for expansion.  Not as fast as the Meadows lawns, but at least as good as anywhere else in Scotland.  A curious and possibly unique feature is that the lawns are below the high tide level and so their speed is affected by the state of the tide.  (So, at some times of day, the B Level was below the sea level!  Having recently bought a watch which tracks the phase of the moon and deduces a rough estimate of local tides, I wondered whether this might be construed as an artificial aid and therefore banned from use while playing here.)

The pavilion: Not huge, but adequate for a tournament of this size, and well-equipped - with, among other things, a broadband Internet connection, which I appreciated as I had my laptop computer with me and was using it to do the management.  (I think this was my first paperless tournament as a manager, an addition to the other "firsts" noted above.  It probably won't be my last, since it seemed to work well.)

The food and drink: Delicious lunches and afternoon teas, and a well-stocked bar - thanks to Margaret and all the others who helped.

The incidental entertainment: Music from a series of concerts in an adjoining area of the park was clearly audible, and we were regaled with Abba songs on Friday evening (when I helped Terry to deliver the bar stock and had a little practice on the lawns), classical music followed by fireworks on Saturday, and more music on Sunday.

Now on to the croquet.  With 16 entrants in the handicap range from 2 to 8, I had planned the tournament to consist of four blocks of four, seeded by handicap and then by CGS ranking, with the top two performers in each block (after tie-breakers if required) going into a three-round knockout while the remaining players had a flexible Swiss consolation event.  And that was pretty much what happened - the only deviations from plan being that David Turner didn't turn up, reducing one of the blocks to three players, and that in the one block whose results called for tie-breakers, with three players in contention for the second place, two of the three declined the opportunity and so Terry Foster went through to the knockout stage by default.

The block games were completed soon enough for the knockout quarter-finals to be played on Saturday, leaving time for a best-of-three final after Sunday morning's semi-finals.  The semi-finalists were Jonathan Lamb (from Uruguay, handicap 2), Keith Roberts (Southport, 5), Terry Foster (Southport, 3.5) and Richard Smith (Bowdon, 2); the results were in accordance with handicap and ranking, and hence it was Jonathan against Richard in the final.

The weekend's only triple peel was performed by Jonathan Lamb in his third block game, against Andrew Webb, on Saturday, and he found it a particularly memorable experience with Land of Hope and Glory sounding out in the background!

The final was completed in two games, in each of which Richard overcame Jonathan by a narrow margin: +6 in the first, and +1 on time in the second.  So Richard received the newly substituted cup (the original having been stolen from a previous winner's car some time before) plus £20 in cash, and Jonathan got the second prize of £10.  The final of the consolation event was between Don Williamson (Southport) and myself, and Don prevailed to receive the nonexistent plate and a real £5.  I was thus the losing plate finalist for the second weekend in a row, having ended up in a similar position at the Scottish Open a week before; but I consoled myself with having had my lunches free of charge as manager, in addition to the Fosters' hospitality already mentioned and a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

Overall the quality of croquet was much as one would expect from this handicap range: some good breaks, some scrappy play, a few triples attempted but only one completed.  The fact that 19 out of 44 games went to the 2.5-hour time limit (with at least one more game reaching a peg-out after time was called) was also a fair reflection of the standard of play.  Jonathan and Richard were worthy finalists, a cut above the rest of us, and it seems reasonable that they shared the honours - Jonathan doing the one TP but Richard winning the cup.

For anyone else who hasn't been to Southport before, I can recommend it.  (For Scottish-based players, it's easy to reach by train from Edinburgh or Glasgow.)  And to the locals I say: thanks for your hospitality!

A few photographs appear below.

Fergus McInnes


Main event:
Winner: Richard Smith
Runner-up: Jonathan Lamb

Consolation event winner: Don Williamson

Main event results in full

Block A:
Jonathan Lamb beat John Wilkinson +12, Terry Foster +1T (22-21), Andrew Webb +24 TP
Terry Foster beat John Wilkinson +16
Andrew Webb beat Terry Foster +4T (11-7)
John Wilkinson beat Andrew Webb +7T (15-8)
(Webb and Wilkinson declined tie-breaking games)

Block B:
Tony Thomas beat Fergus McInnes +16, Carol Lewis +1T (15-14)
Fergus McInnes beat Carol Lewis +10

Block C:
Keith Roberts beat Don Williamson +4, Ken Jones +10, Sylvia Steer +11
Don Williamson beat Sylvia Steer +14, Ken Jones +20
Sylvia Steer beat Ken Jones +1T (20-19)

Block D:
Richard Smith beat Diana Williamson +21, Brian Lewis +19, Michael Steer +1T (17-16)
Michael Steer beat Brian Lewis +17, Diana Williamson +4T (8-4)
Diana Williamson beat Brian Lewis +7T (19-12)

Jonathan Lamb beat Fergus McInnes +17
Keith Roberts beat Michael Steer +9
Terry Foster beat Tony Thomas +7
Richard Smith beat Don Williamson +1T (17-16)

Jonathan Lamb beat Keith Roberts +12
Richard Smith beat Terry Foster +5

Final (best of three):
Richard Smith beat Jonathan Lamb +6 +1T (17-16)

Plate results in full

1 Carol Lewis beat Brian Lewis +17
2 Diana Williamson beat Sylvia Steer +5T (19-14)
3 Fergus McInnes beat Andrew Webb +13
4 John Wilkinson beat Carol Lewis +4T (16-4)
5 Brian Lewis beat Ken Jones +4T
6 Michael Steer beat Tony Thomas +18T (22-4)
7 Don Williamson beat Diana Williamson +5T (21-16)
8 Sylvia Steer beat Andrew Webb +1T (15-14)
9 Fergus McInnes beat Keith Roberts +10T (22-12)
10 Don Williamson beat Michael Steer +8T (14-6)
11 John Wilkinson beat Diana Williamson +13
12 Brian Lewis beat Tony Thomas +5T (22-17)
13 Ken Jones beat Carol Lewis +14
14 Ken Jones beat Terry Foster +24
15 Don Williamson beat Fergus McInnes +9


(by Fergus McInnes, except for the one with him in it, which he thinks was taken by Melanie Foster)

Croquet in the sun on Saturday afternoon.

Carol Lewis playing in the depleted Block B on lawn 3, with games in Blocks C and D on lawns 4 and 5 in the background.

View through fence and bandstand towards the source of the music.

Keith Roberts arranging the balls for an in-court cannon during his semi-final, watched by double-banker Terry Foster.

Line-up for presentations: Terry Foster (Club Chairman) with the cup, Richard Smith (winner), Jonathan Lamb (runner-up), Fergus McInnes (tournament manager and temporary treasurer for the prize money), and Don Williamson (winner of the consolation event).

The finalists and manager looking well pleased!
(Note (1) that the manager didn't get to keep any of that money, which in fact he handed over to Richard a few seconds later, and (2) the watch with the tide graph - not that it's obvious at this resolution - at lower right of picture.)