Sunday, 9 June 2013

Conrad Repeats as World Champion

Throughout the season, John Conrad showed some fantastic form, making the top 4 in every tournament he played, but never was he able to display the finishing kick that one needs in order to come away with the title. But that didn't phase him in Tavistock, as he defeated Ray Haymes in the final to win his second consecutive World Crokinole Championship.
2013 World Crokinole Champion - John Conrad (right)

On a humid day, almost 300 participants flocked to the Tavistock Recreation Centre for the 15th World Crokinole Championship.

As always, the morning play featured the doubles action. 36 teams in the competitive division all gunning for a top 6 place to make the A group playoffs. Fred and Justin Slater, having previously finished in the top 4 three times, placed in first through the preliminary round with 40 points. The 2006 doubles champions, Raymond and Ronnie Haymes qualified in second with 38 points. Also with 30 points and taking the 3rd seed were the reigning world champions, John Conrad and Tony Snyder. The third place finishers from 2003 and 2008, Raymond Kappes and Kevin Bechtel took the 4th spot with 36 points. And grabbing 5th and 6th with 34 points were Jason and Raymond Beierling, 6-time world champions, and the runners-up from 2011, Dave and Matt Brown.

Narrowly missing the cut, but making the B group were Howard Martin and Roy Campbell, and Nathan Walsh and Clare Kuepfer with 33 points, and Lloyd and Steve Wiseman with 32.

In the B group playoffs, Bill Freeman and Dan Shantz would take the top prize by a margin of 3 points, just ahead of the team of Martin/Campbell and the PEI team of Lawson Lea and Donald Steeves.

In the A group playoffs, the tightly contested battle came down to a replay of the 2012 scenario. In the third game of the round robin, Justin and Fred Slater would steal two points against the hammer of John Conrad and Tony Snyder in an abbreviated round, cut short by the 13 minute time limit, to split 4-4 in the game. The team of Kappes and Bechtel would fall out of the hunt for the world title, only mustering 14 points, while David and Matt Brown would finish just out of the money with 18. The Haymes team would take the 4th place prize money with 19 points, and the Beierlings would finish 3rd with 20. And at the top of the heap it was Justin and Fred Slater narrowly defeating the 2012 World Champions of Conrad/Snyder, with 25 points against 24 for the 5 game playoff.
Justin (left) and Fred Slater (middle) being congratulated by Matt Brown (right) after being crown 2013 World Doubles Champions

In the “interesting stat” department, the first World Doubles Championship title for Justin and Fred Slater would give them a clean sweep of all top 4 places at the World Championships. The two finished 3rd in 2009, 4th in 2011, 2nd in 2012, and now 1st in 2013. They are the second team to accomplish this as Richard and Robert Mader have also finished in all 4 top places.

In the other doubles categories, Carol Litt and Lorraine Proud won the Cues Doubles World title by 2 points over Sam Moore and Gary Palmer, while Jason and Kathy Carter won the Recreational Doubles division by one point over Alex Protas and Dennis Ernest.

Shifting into the afternoon play for the singles action, the main attraction was the 20’s competition. A somewhat awkward event to claim a winner for and players attempt to score a high amount of 20’s while also qualifying for the round of 16 playoffs. Last year all previous records were shattered when Justin Slater scored 142, but a high degree of humidity almost ensured such a number was not to be achieved on the day. Nevertheless, the two main 20’s shooters, who have collectively won every 20’s title since 2008 met again at the top. Only 6 players were able to score over 80 20’s in the 10 game preliminary round. Since winning the 20‘s title in 2006 and 2007, Brian Cook had not had too much luck in the competition, but this year he finished in 3rd only 6 back of the leaders. And tied at the top were Ray Beierling and Justin Slater with 99. As in 2011, there would be a shootout to determine the 20’s champ. Back in 2011, Justin Slater won the shootout 6-3 for the title. However, this time around both players were in much better form and Raymond Beierling would score 10 20’s in the 12 shot shootout to win his third 20’s title.

As the evening came, the playoffs began with the Round of 16, two groups of 8 with the top 2 from each group advancing to the round of 4.

Group A (with preliminary rankings and points out of a possible 80)
1. 75 - Justin Slater
3. 69 - Ab Leitch
5. 63 - Roger Valliancourt
7. 62 - Wilf Olson
9. 61 - Robert Bonnett
11. 58 - Wilf Olson
13. 57 - Louis Gauthier
15. 55 - Raymond Haymes

Group B
2. 71 - Brian Cook
4. 66 - Matthew Brown
6. 62 - Raymond Beierling
8. 61 - Nathan Walsh
12. 58 - Kevin Brooks
14. 57 - Tom Johnston
16. 54 - Ronnie Haymes
17. 54 - Roy Campbell

Due to a no show, Roy Campbell was able to fill into the top 16 playoffs.

There were a few predictions that suggested the same four players as last year may make the top 4 again. The possibility was there as Cook and Beierling were in group B and Slater and Conrad were in group A.

However, that was not the case. In group A, John Conrad and Raymond Haymes advanced with 33 and 32 points respectively, leaving Louis Gauthier and Justin Slater on the outside looking in with 31 and 30 points. In group B, Raymond Beierling cruised into the top 4 with 38 points, while Tom Johnston scored 34 to edge out Ronnie Haymes at 32 and Brian Cook at 30.
Top 4 from 2013 - Beierling, Haymes, Conrad and Johnston

In the round of 4, Raymond Haymes came out flying, defeating Raymond Beierling 7-1 in the first game with a vast array of spectacular shots. That big start left Haymes in a comfortable position as Conrad, Johnston and Beierling slugged it out. In the final game of the round of 4, Beierling matched with Johnston and Conrad with Haymes. Both Conrad and Beierling would win their matches, but it was John Conrad with 13 points to Ray Beierling’s 11, who snagged the second spot in the finals.

In the 3v4 game, Ray Beierling came out ahead to finish 3rd as Tom Johnston took 4th.

And so it was first-time finalist, Raymond Haymes vs 2012 World Champion, John Conrad. 
John Conrad adjusts his chair while Raymond Haymes collects his discs before the Championship match of the 2013 World Crokinole Championships

In the first round, Haymes had to surrender two consecutive hangars after his open 20 attempts bounced out of the hole, to give Conrad an early steal of two points. Conrad would ride the momentum of the first round to easily take the second, and jump to a 4-0 lead. The third round did not start well for Haymes when his first Open 20 attempt sailed right through the house. But he would recover, forcing Conrad into a mistake after hiding his disc behind a peg and holding on to win his hammer round. Down 4-2, luck was still against Haymes when his first 20 attempt resulted in a rare “leaner”. John Conrad would use his 4th disc of the round to make a great angle ricochet 20 and that would be enough to win the first game of the best of 3, 6-2.

But Haymes would start out the second game well, getting ahead an early 20 and then playing successful defence to grab a 2-0 lead. Conrad would not be behind for long, scoring a fantastic 20 off of a peg to even the game at 2-2. Scoring without hammer would continue into the third and fourth round, as game 2 would be forced into a 5th round tiebreaker. Haymes was without the hammer, and needed to win to keep the game alive. On his 4th shot, a Haymes ricochet 20 attempt would stop just short giving Conrad an easy 20 off of a hangar, and as he does best, Conrad would not relinquish the lead to win 6-2, 6-4 and earn his second consecutive World Crokinole Championship.

With the win, John Conrad becomes only the third man to win more than one singles World title in the 15 year history of the tournament. And next year, he will try to join those other two men (Brian Cook and Joe Fulop) at the top of the class with 3 world titles.

And with another crokinole season done, there is not much of a break before we enter the 6th season of the NCA and gear up for the 2014 World Crokinole Championship.
A nice little before/during comparison of action in Tavistock for the 2013 World Crokinole Championships

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