Monday, 23 April 2012

The PEI Crokinole Championships - The Ontario Perspective

After months of discussion and weeks of planning, 5 Ontario crokinole fanatics had accepted the challenge of traveling out east for the PEI Crokinole Championships. And we found what PEI crokinole was really like.

Friday night was the weekly crokinole party in Stratford, PEI, where the players from PEI, Nova Scotia, and Ontario could socialize before Saturday's event. It was an average turnout for the club as they ran 11 doubles tables at the Cotton Centre in Stratford. The club mixes men's and women's doubles pairing, and rotates in such a way that almost everyone will meet in the course of an evening. There was a strong mix of the 44 people who attended the evening with 20 women and 24 men. After getting used to the scoring system and a few rule variations, we really got to know and appreciate our crokinole compatriots. It was a great night of PEI crokinole to lead into another fantastic day on Saturday.

The tournament began at 9am in the Cornwall Fire Hall with singles in the morning. 27 tables with 54 players, including 20 women were in action, with an addition 6 players in the junior category. It was a tough division to advance through with several strong players, and only the top two advancing to the final round. After the 10 game preliminary round, Frederick Smith finished at the top with 65 points. Closely behind was Clare Keupfer, Eric Miltenburg and Lawson Lea. Finishing in second though was George Doughart, by way of more 20's (or "centres" as they are called in PEI) setting up an all PEI final. In the final, George Doughart took the first game, before Frederick Smith stormed back to win the next two games and take the PEI Singles Championship, winning the Sheldon Moore Memorial Trophy.
Wilfred Smith accepting the Sheldon Moore Memorial Trophy from Sheldon's son, Brian, as the PEI singles champion.

Sheldon Moore was a crokinole enthusiast responsible for organizing and founding crokinole clubs in PEI. After his death, the PEI Crokinole Championships were created in his honour, with the singles trophy named after him.

And while those in Waterloo, Ontario were being treated to free pie, we were all treated to a free lunch of sandwiches and snacks.

The afternoon was the doubles event with 14 tables and 56 competitors in play. After the 8 game round robin, Nathan Walsh and Clare Keupfer qualified first, with a log jam for second place. The PEI team of Wilfred Smith and Lawson Lea were tied with Nova Scotia's, Don and Travis Wood, with 44 points. Right behind were Ontario's Eric Miltenburg and Tom Doucette with 43 points. But ahead in the 20's tiebreaker were Lea and Smith, resulting in an PEI vs ON final. The final was definitely exciting with Keupfer/Walsh taking the first game and Lea/Smith taking the second. In the decisive third game it was Keupfer/Walsh who would come out on top to take the PEI Pairs title.

After the completion of the tournament, David Younker had invited us Ontario folk to his home for a few more games of crokinole and to meet his father, another man responsible for much of crokinole's success in PEI.

On Sunday we all began to make our way back to Ontario with the promise that we would return to PEI some day in the future, and the hope that we would see a few of them sometime in Tavistock for the World Championships. Overall it was a fantastic weekend for crokinole, and PEI was a great host.

Crokinole is alive and well in PEI.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Joseph Schneider Haus Crokinole Tournament Preview

In a couple of weeks the longest running crokinole tournament will have its 2012 edition. on April 21. And seeing as it will take place on the same day as the PEI Crokinole Championships, I think it's fittings to preview the Joseph Schneider Haus tournament now.
To my knowledge, the Joseph Schneider Haus Crokinole Tournament sits only second in length to the Ontario Crokinole Championships. That tournament is no longer running, but had been in play for close to 30 years, and used to take place in St. Jacob's. Perhaps more than any other, Joe Fulop owned this tournament, winning several titles. Unfortunately, the tournament fell apart, leaving the Joseph Schneider Haus as the longest running tournament in the crokinole world.
The tournament takes place in the Joseph Schneider Haus Museum in Waterloo, Ontario, which is the resting place of the oldest known crokinole board. The tournament is also unique in its format. Players compete in teams of four, all representing their respective clubs, and play a full round robin against every opponent not on their team. The winning club is awarded the official replica of the oldest board, to keep for a year, along with getting their club's name engraved on the championship plaque.
The tournament's team component is really the only one of its kind, with the exception of the Ottawa/Belleville/Quinte Crokinole Challenge. The tournament was crucial in bringing together some of the strongest clubs of the area. In its early years the tournament was dominated by the Preston and Cameron Heights Clubs. Preston is perhaps the oldest existing club, and has been around for over 60 years. The Cameron Heights club was a collection of teachers from Cameron Heights high school in Waterloo, who were often known for inventing and incorporating new defensive crokinole strategies. Beginning in the mid 90's, the Varna club began to dominate the tournament with players like Joe Fulop, Ab Leitch, and the Beierling brothers. Only About 5 years ago, Varna's grip on the Joseph Schneider Haus tournament has been challenged by the St. Jacobs club. Another historic and long existing club, who won titles in various years of the tournaments existence, but when Brian Cook became a prominent member, along with Jon Conrad, and Dan Shantz, they began to dominate.
Last year's competition saw Brian Cook dominate the competition, leading the team of Conrad, Shantz, and Fred Slater to victory. 
In recent years the tournament has hosted a few different clubs. In addition to the usual clubs of St. Jacob's, Preston, and Varna, the London and Waterloo clubs have joined the competition. The Toronto and Stratford clubs have also participated recently, but the tournament has since been dropped to 5 clubs.
The tournament also used to be counted towards NCA rankings, but was dropped as the tournament could not expand to add more teams and give everyone an opportunity to compete. The NCA has since discussed the idea of creating a team tournament to hold in its season, but nothing has materialized.
Heading into this year, St. Jacob's will be the favorites with relatively the same team. Varna will likely be their closest competition, led by the Beierlings, with the Preston club posing the next biggest threat. Both London and Waterloo clubs hold strong players, but it is sometimes questionable if they will make themselves available for the tournament.
In any case, the longest running crokinole tournament in the world is poised to have another successful competition at the Joseph Schneider Haus Museum in Waterloo, Ontario.
Coming Up - As mentioned the PEI crokinole championships are coming up on April 21. Expect to see lots of news, photos and videos from that tournament once I return from it.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Beierling Brothers meet in Final of London Crokinole Tournament

Ray Beierling had been unstoppable at the London Crokinole Championships. Well, until his brother got in the way.
It was another fantastic final, but Ray Beierling's streak of London titles was stopped at 3, after his brother Jason defeated him 2-6, 5-3, 6-4, to claim the title.
St. James Westminster Anglican church was the site of the 4th edition of the London Crokinole Championships, and the 7th of 9 stops in the 2011-2012 edition of the NCA Tour. The London tournament was the first ever tournament on the National Crokinole Association (NCA) Tour in 2009 (then known as the World Crokinole League). Since, London has been a marquee event on the NCA tour.
And since its inception, only Raymond Beierling had claimed the title as London Champion, as he defeated a member of the Toronto Crokinole Club in the finals every year. Those wins came over Fred Slater (2009), Justin Slater (2010), and Eric Miltenburg (2011), with Jason Beierling finishing as high as 4th in 2011.
The 2012 Tournament featured 14 or the top 15 ranked Ontario players of the NCA, including Fred Slater returning from his second trip to the BC Crokinole Championships where he finished second behind Brian Cook, and teamed with Cook to win the doubles title. Also competing was several members of the Belleville club and a participant from the United States.
The day did not start out well for the Beierling brothers, both struggled in the preliminary round, but were able to finish 6th and 7th out of the 22 man field to make the top tier of 8. In the top group, which also included Ab Leitch, Nathan Walsh, Eric Miltenburg, Kent Robinson, Joe Arnup and Jon Conrad, only 4 could advance.
The 4 to advancing to the playoff round were Miltenburg, Conrad and the Beierlings, a repeat of the top 4 of the 2011 London tournament.
The playoffs were tight and featured several 4-4 draws, with Jason Beierling finishing first with 16 points. Tied for second was Ray Beierling and Jon Conrad, but Ray Beierling won the tiebreaker by scoring more 20’s, setting up the championship final between the two Beierling Brothers.
Despite several years in the top crop of the crokinole world, Jason and Ray Beierling had never played against each other in a singles final, but much to the delight of the crowd, they produced an entertaining affair.
In game one, Ray was able to steal 2 points on Jason’s hammer in the 3rd round to take a 4-2 lead. Ray sealed game one 6-2, by comfortably holding in the 4th round.
Jason answered back quickly in game two, by stealing two points without the hammer in round one, but gave one back as the two tied round two, to give Jason a 3-1 lead. Ray was able to hold in round three as he won two points on his hammer to draw game two to 3-3, and move within one win of his 4th London title. 
Ray had a lead in the 20 count and was closing in on the title, but he left two hanging discs that allowed Jason to pull in front and win the round, as well as the game 5-3.
For the second consecutive year, the London finals went to a decisive third game, and just like Ray Beierling’s classic match with Eric Miltenburg in 2011, this match headed to a 5th round tiebreaker.
Finishing 1st in the playoff round allowed Jason Beierling to have the hammer in the decisive round, which proved crucial as he grabbed an early advantage in the 20 count, and held on for the 2-6, 5-3, 6-4 win for the London title.
The win was the first NCA Tour victory for Jason Beierling and should move him from 5th to 4th in the 2011-2012 NCA Tour rankings. Ray Beierling’s 2nd place finish will allow him to move from 3rd to 2nd, and move him from 8 to 6 points back of Brian Cook for the Tour lead.
Remaining on the 2011-2012 NCA Tour are the PEI Crokinole Championships on April 21st, and the NCA Tour Finals in St. Jacob’s on May 5th.
A couple non-NCA tournament coming soon is the Joseph Schneider Haus Invitational tournament on April 21, and the doubles tournament in Varna on April 28.
All these lead up to the 14th edition of the World Crokinole Championships in Tavistock on June 3rd, 2012.