Sunday, 29 November 2015

Campbell strikes Gold in Owen Sound

Scenic City Crokinole Champion - Roy Campbell (centre)
A tough battle, and a very difficult road it has been, but on Saturday Roy Campbell added his name to an elite list as an NCA tournament champion.

The 2015 Scenic City Crokinole Tournament was the 5th edition of the Owen Sound stop on the NCA Tour. The event has always been the final showcase of crokinole action for the calendar year, before the Tour goes into a slight hibernation for the winter months.

With players looking to display their best form of crokinole and bank NCA points for the second half of the Tour, the group of 24 competitive players was split into pools of 12 for the preliminary round.

Some very strong players proved to be very effective in the morning action. Ray Beierling, the tournament’s defending champion, scored 74 points through 11 games, well ahead of the rest of the field. Still finishing quite strongly were Jason Beierling at 63 and Brian Cook at 61 points. 

With the afternoon play being split into 3 different groups, the goal for several top players was attempting to finish in the top 8. Eric Miltenburg grabbed the final spot, scoring 48 points and 84 20s. That left several others just on the outside with Rueben Jong and Roger Vaillancourt at 46 points, and Cathy Kuepfer at 45.
The very unique aspect of the Owen Sound tournament is always its combination of competitive singles and recreational doubles. What it creates in organizational hassles it more than makes up for in overall enjoyment and quality of the event.

A large round robin was played in the recreational doubles event, as the well attended tournament led to a total of 30 players and 15 teams. A couple of doubles teams entered the event with a good amount of practice and experience from the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship in the month prior.

The Ontario Recreational Champions, Jo-Ann and Peter Carter, played well throughout the day but could only manage 56 points. The team the Carters defeated in the Ontario final, Bob Jones and John Lichty, managed better and were able to score 64 points to grab 4th place. Just ahead of them were Carl and Sharon Jolley who had 65 points for 3rd place, and Neil and Carol Cook with 68 points for 2nd. The Recreation Doubles Champions on the day were Clark Campbell and Paul Bryers who claimed the top prize with 70 points in 12 games.

In the afternoon singles play, a very strong leading position from Chris Gorsline in Pool C led to some extremely close scores battling for the final playoff spot. While Gorsline (43 points), Howard Martin (37 points), and Clare Kuepfer (34) comfortably advanced into the playoffs, the rest were very closely matched. Wayne Scott and Dave Brown had to feel slighted as they scored 25 points and only missed the playoffs by one single point. But it was even worse for Ken Hawkins, who scored 26 and lost out on a tiebreaker. Dale Henry was the beneficiary of all of this, also scoring 26 points but advancing as the 4th seed.

In the round robin playoffs, Clare Kuepfer turned up the heat and managed to pull through for first place with 18 points. Howard Martin scored 12 points for 2nd place.

Pool B Winner: Andrew Hutchinson
The Pool B singles action shaped up quite differently. Roger Vaillancourt scored 39 points for first place, while Rueben Jong earned the 4th seed with 30 points, just ahead of Peter Tarle at 28. But in the playoffs, Jong and Roger Vaillancourt would finish third and fourth respectively, as Bev Vaillancourt finished 2nd with 12 points, and Andrew Hutchinson won Pool B with 17 points. 

Hutchinson’s all-round crokinole game seems to be reaching a level that no player has gone before. While he’s already a World Champion in Cues play, his results on this stop of the NCA Tour are pointing towards him reaching the high levels of the Fingers game as well. While phrasing it as a “switch-hitter” may not be the best terminology, there may soon need to be a term for someone who can competitively dabble in both the finger and cues versions of crokinole. (Aside - I’m currently taking any suggestions for what the best moniker for this might be.)

In Pool A, the battle for tournament champion caused lots of nerves throughout most of the group. It was Roy Campbell and Brian Cook who seized the opportunity, scoring 39 and 35 points respectively. Jason Beierling and Robert Bonnett rounded out the playoffs with 27 points, just edging Nathan Walsh and Jon Conrad who both were within 2 points of advancing.

In the round robin playoffs, Roy Campbell dominated, winning each game 6-2 for 18 points and the first seed. Jason Beierling recovered from his 6-2 defeat to Campbell, to do exactly the same to his counterparts and earned 14 points for the other spot in the tournament final.

Roy Campbell and Jason Beierling "relaxing"
before their championship match.
So the Scenic City Crokinole Tournament, and title of the “King of Scenic City Crokinole”, would come down to Roy Campbell and Jason Beierling. It was Campbell’s first ever NCA tournament final, still very impressive being that he was only introduced to the competitive side of crokinole in 2011. Meanwhile, for Beierling, it was already his third final of the 2015-2016 NCA Tour (having lost to Brian Cook at the Turtle Island tournament, and having won with his brother at the Ontario Doubles event).

The finals was a “first-to-11” point structure that amplified the importance of winning games with the “hammer” (last-shot) advantage. The match started out even with players trading wins to be tied at 4-4. The match took its first turn when Beierling got an early lead in round 5 and was able to hold it for a 6-4 lead, stealing 2 points without the last shot. He then consolidated the lead in the next round, with the hammer, to go up 8-4.

But Roy Campbell was able to reset and find his game. After stopping the string of 6 consecutive points from Beierling, he stole 2 points and had levelled the match at 8-8.

Jason Beierling enjoying a tasty bite out of his silver medal.
And with the match on the line, Campbell was unflinching. He sealed the final two round to take the match 12-8, and win his first NCA event with a victory in Owen Sound.

Roy Campbell’s victory now adds to the parity of the NCA Tour so far in 2015-2016. With 6 events so far, only one player (Justin Slater) can claim two tournament titles. With the runner-up performance, Jason Beierling will join his brother Ray with 191 points for 1st place on the NCA Tour.

As previously mentioned, NCA Tour play takes a break for December and most of January, before 2016 crokinole action begins in Hamilton for the Golden Horseshoe Crokinole Tournament.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Beierlings Three-peat at Ontario Doubles Championship

If home field means much in crokinole, it sure showed as Jason and Ray Beierling were able to turn the tide in an elite level final against Jon Conrad and Tony Snyder, winning the match for their 3rd consecutive Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship.

A field of 52 strong made up 26 teams for the 6th annual Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship, packing the hall of the Brucefield United Church on Halloween. While everyone came for the crokinole, the costumes of many crokinole players brought out a joyful exuberance, well aligned with the good spirit that comes from the game.

12 doubles teams competed for the provincial title in the competitive division. Among the field was two teams with multiple world titles and several more with a proven track record in high quality competition.

A full round robin was played in the competitive pool, with each team looking to score enough points to make the top 4 and advance to the playoffs. Jon Conrad and Tony Snyder were the class of the field, scoring 62 points and a tournament high 121 20s, for the number one seed. The two-time defending champion Beierling brothers finished 2nd with 55 points.

Dwayne and Christina Campbell may have flown under-the-radar in the tournament, but they certainly won’t be anymore, as they scored 53 points and 93 20s to take the 3rd seed. Equaling the Campbells in points were Tom and Rex Johnston, who took the 4th seed with 88 20s.

Howard Martin and Roy Campbell unfortunately missed the playoffs due to a “cooling-off” in the afternoon. They settled for 5th place with 48 points. The local team of Ab Leitch and Cor Vanden Hoven were just behind with 47 points, and Abijah and Reuben Jong followed with 45.

In the Recreational division, the morning round robin was followed by splitting the field into 2 groups for the afternoon. In Group B, Doug and Dave Mills had the top spot with 33 points and were joined in the finals by Doris Giddings and Phylis Lightfoot who scored 30 points through 5 games. Despite being the lower seed, Giddings and Lightfoot came through in the finals and claimed the Recreational B division title.

In the Group A Recreational division, John Lichty and Bob Jones easily took the top seed with 27 points. Peter and Jo-Ann Carter joined them in the final with 23 points, but not before they barely fought off Bill and Kathy Geris (scoring 21 points) and Andrew Hutchinson and George Whittal (20 points).

In what was a great seesaw battle, Peter and Jo-Ann Carter came through in the clutch. Tied at 8-8 in a “first to 9” match, the Carters edged out Lichty and Jones in the final round for the 10-8 victory and the Recreational A title.

The competitive division playoffs kicked off with Conrad/Snyder playing Johnston/Johnston, and Beierling/Beierling playing Campbell/Campbell. While both matches were entertaining and filled with lots of the strategic attention-to-detail that comes with the rhythm of doubles play, Conrad/Snyder and Beierling/Beierling showed why they own multiple World Crokinole Championship titles, and advanced to the final.

The final match began with two high quality rounds that set the stage for the epic match, but both rounds went to the team with hammer, making it 2-2, with the victor being the first to 9 points.

The reigning World Champions, Conrad and Snyder, were flawless in the next two rounds and took a 6-2 lead. But the Beierlings brought the match back to 6-6 after two high scoring rounds. The definitive moment of the match may have come mid-way through the 7th round, when Ray Beierling lined up a shot looking to make a double takeout of two opposing discs sitting in the 15 circle. While a double takeout would have been impressive, it was the fact that he also managed to score a 20 that brought the house down. From there, Jason and Ray Beierling had all the momentum they needed, and won the match 10-6.

Ray (left) and Jason Beierling (right):
2015 Ontario Doubles Crokinole Champions
As mentioned, it was the third straight year the Beierling brothers have claimed victory at the tournament which they operate so well. Their streak of victories began in 2013, at the same time that Brian Cook and Fred Slater’s streak of 3 straight victories at the event ended. Will they be able to make it 4 straight next year?

For now, the NCA and the focus shifts to the November stop in Owen Sound on Saturday the 28th. Ray Beierling returns to the event as the defending champion and will look to add to his NCA Tour leading score of 191 points. Registration for the event is open and details can be found below.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Slater wins in Belleville

With the goal to repeat as Belleville Champion, Justin Slater sat down to face Ray Beierling for yet another clash of crokinole’s (arguably) greatest rivalry. While the match had an irregular number of blunders that could easily be credited to early-season rust, Justin Slater would still find an elite level of play and pull away as the 2015 Belleville Crokinole Challenge Champion.

A brand new location for the tournament brought the crokinole action to the Quinte Sports & Wellness Centre. A spectacular facility, perfectly suited in a hockey arena, provided ample space and generated a decent amount of foot traffic as the Saturday hockey crowd took a gander at another Canadian game with roots just as old.

The crowd of 29 split into 3 groups for the preliminary round in the morning action. Justin Slater scored at the highest rate to grab the first spot, while he was joined by Ray Beierling and Matt Brown at the top of the heap. Also completing the top 10 were the Waterloo bunch (Nathan Walsh, Roy Campbell and Howard Martin), a Golden Horseshoe duo (of Fred Slater and Reuben Jong), and a Quinte/Kingston mix of Peter Tarle and Wayne Scott.

Peter Klaassen, right, accepting the top prize
in Group C from Dave Brown, left.
Dave Brown and Clare Kuepfer missed the top group narrowly and were joined in Group B in the afternoon with many other top players, including the newcomer of John McFeeters from Oshawa who quickly picked up a few tips and found himself in the thick of the competition.

In the afternoon, Ron Hebden earned the top spot in group C, while Peter Klaassen finished 2nd (with a group high of 39 20s). They were joined by Betty Waite, and a lone non-Quinte Crokinole Club member in Gloria Walsh. A long semifinal battle, with several extra rounds of crokinole needed, would see Hebden and Klaassen advance. Finally, Klaassen would be victorious claiming the C title.
Eric Miltenburg, right, accepting the prize for 2nd in pool B.

Meanwhile, Eric Miltenburg cruised to the top spot in Group B with 43 points and 77 20s. Clare Kuepfer, Jason Hogan and Chris Gorsline would complete the semifinalists. The result would leave Dave Brown one point on the outside of advancing for the second time of the day. Jason Hogan would claim victory over Kuepfer in the first semifinal, while Miltenburg would edge out Gorsline. As Hogan had to leave early, a make-shift final would be played by Kuepfer and Miltenburg. With the pressure somewhat relieved, the quality of play was spectacular, and Kuepfer gained a small edge to take the title.

Matt Brown, left, and Nathan Walsh, right,
accepting their prizes as A group semifinalists.
In Group A, Slater, Beierling and Brown would once again rise to the top of the pile. Nathan Walsh grabbed the 4th spot and played Justin Slater in the first semifinal. After a tense 5-3 win in the first game, Slater would claim a spot in the final to play for a chance to repeat as tournament champion. In a close 3-game matchup, Ray Beierling would just beat out the local favourite in Matt Brown for the other spot in the final.

The pressure of fighting for the Belleville title appeared to affect both players in the final, with a few uncharacteristic mistakes made from both players. In another match that was taken to 3 games, Justin Slater would come out on top and become the 2015 Belleville Crokinole Challenge Champion.

Greatest Rivalry in Crokinole?
2015 Belleville Crokinole Challenge Champion - Justin Slater
While recency can distort logic, Justin Slater and Ray Beierling seem to have developed what could be considered the greatest rivalry in crokinole. There is a very strong case to be made that it is the most compelling rivalry at this very instant, and could be argued that it is one of the best all-time.

Working in its favour is that both are consistently meeting each other in playoff rounds deep in each tournament, and both are top competitors in all aspects of crokinole (doubles, singles and even the high 20s score). While the game of crokinole has other players who can always be counted on as tournament favourites (such as Brian Cook and Jon Conrad), it seems that J. Slater and R. Beierling are able to schedule the majority of the head-to-head encounters.

In the past 12 months, the two have finished 1st and 2nd in the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship, the St. Jacobs Crokinole Tournament, the World Crokinole Singles Championship, the NCA Tour and the Belleville Crokinole Challenge. Even when they don’t meet in the final, they are still facing off in the final playoff rounds, such as their encounters at the 2014 Owen Sound Crokinole tournament and the World Crokinole Doubles Championship.

Name the tournament, and these two played a crucial match against each other.

Feel free to debate with me on the subject, but I think these two gladiators of the game of crokinole deserve some recognition for the struggle of having to face each other when both are at the peak of their game.


I have several excuses for the extreme lateness of the blog post, but writing them only delays this tournament review further. If you want to hear them, I’ll tell you at the next tournament, which is the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship on October 31, 2015. If all goes well, you can expect that tournament review in a much shorter timeframe.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Cook Repeats in New York

While the National Crokinole Association always officially kicks off their Tour at the World Championships, the New York event has always seemed to be the unofficial start to the Tour, where all of the focus is squarely on the Summer and Fall swing of crokinole tournaments.

With their 4th annual tournament, the Tuscarora Crokinole Club ensured it was a roaring start to the Tour, bringing in a tournament-record 40 players for the 2015 Turtle Island Crokinole Tournament.

The August stop on the NCA Tour, just South of the Canadian border, attracted several strong competitors looking to score big, early in the 8th season of the NCA Tour. The high-class field included 5 World Champions, as well as 4 of the NCA’s top 5 Tour leaders.

In the first round of competitive action, Ray Beierling showed himself to be in fine form after the Summer break, scoring 71 points and 103 20s for the top spot. Brian Cook and Jon Conrad also looked very strong, both scoring 64 points. The remaining 5 spots in the A group cutoff were jammed as 6 players fought tooth-and-nail for every point. Roger Vaillancourt and Clare Kuepfer each scored 52 points, while Jason Beierling cut it a little closer with 51, just leaving Tony Snyder on the outside with 49.

Meanwhile in the Recreational group, Neil Cook, Carol Cook and Doreen Sulky were the high scorers from their group, and Wayne Wolfgang, Janet Diebel and Ray Henry grabbed the top 3 spots on their side.

The Recreational C group playoffs saw Erwin Printup and Stephanie Banks take the top 2 spots with nearly identical scores. After E. Printup defeated Zionne Jong and S. Banks defeated Tiffany Henry, the two met in the finals. But it was Stephanie Banks grabbing the glory as she beat Erwin Printup for the C group final.

In the Recreational B group, NCA newcomers, Derek McKie and Dave Carnahan faired extremely well, both making the playoffs and competing against each other in the semifinals. While McKie would advance to the final, John Ramsey would score an upset victory over Sarah Mason. Ramsey would continue his playoff run, beating McKie in the final to claim the B group title despite only advancing to the playoffs on a 20s tiebreak win.

Lastly, Neil Cook continued his strong play in the Recreational A group, scoring a high 42 points. However, Abijah Jong was able to score the semifinal win over Cook. Carol Cook and Ray Henry met in the other semifinal, with Henry scoring the win to advance to the final. In the A final, Abijah Jong came out on top to win the Recreational title.

In the Competitive group, the fierce battle continued in the second round, with players in the A and B groups fighting for spots in the semifinals. In the B group, Tony Snyder played strong to grab the top seed, but was defeated in the semifinals by former Cameron Heights colleague, Barry Kiggins. Wayne Scott won the other semifinal over Beverly Vaillancourt, while Reuben Jong and Cathy Kuepfer just missed making the top 4 cut off. In the finals, Barry Kiggins continued his playoff momentum to beat Wayne Scott for the B title.

In the A group, Jon Conrad and Brian Cook were the class of the second round, scoring 36 and 35 points respectively for the top 2 spots. The Beierling brothers, matched each others scores with 29 points to finish 3rd and 4th, just ahead of Roger Vaillancourt and Roy Campbell.

It was the third consecutive top 4 appearance in New York for Brian Cook, Ray Beierling and Jon Conrad, while it was Jason Beierling’s first. Brian Cook beat Ray Beierling in the first semifinal, in what was another instalment of one of crokinole’s greatest gladiator battles. Jason Beierling’s play, true to form, improved significantly throughout the day, as he defeated Jon Conrad to make the final. It was Jason Beierling’s first final since the Ontario Doubles Championship last October, and Cook’s first final since he won the Turtle Island title the year before.

Interestingly, it was the first time J. Beierling and B. Cook had met in a final since the 2012 Ontario Doubles Championship (won by Cook and Fred Slater), and the first time they had met in a singles final since the 2006 World Crokinole Championship (won by Beierling).

In the final, Brian Cook successfully defended his New York title, and began his 2015-2016 NCA Tour with a cool 50 points.

Speaking of the NCA Tour, here’s a look at the current standings after 3 events.
First Name
Last Name
Home Club

Cameron Heights
Rob Jr.

Ray Beierling’s consistent finishes so far have him in a slight lead, with Jason Beierling and Jon Conrad close behind after the New York event.
Before the NCA Tour moves on, it should be mentioned that tournament organizer, Dale Henry, often works tirelessly in his promotion efforts for the event, usually sending out tournament information 6 months in advance. It is astonishing to think that the club itself is only 4 years old, and the tournament has grown to its large size from the modest start of 10 in 2012. This popular Tour stop once again brought in players from Ohio and Ontario, and several from the local club.

The next event on the NCA Tour is the Belleville Crokinole Challenge, put on by the Quinte Region Crokinole Club, taking place on September 19, 2015. More information on the tournament and how to register can be found here.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Slater Wins Second World Crokinole Championship

Justin Slater, 2015 World Crokinole Champion,
posing with the World Champion signature board.
It seemed like old times for Justin Slater, which seems hard to say for a 22-year-old. Fresh off an NCA Tour victory in early May, and facing a long-time rival in the finals, Justin Slater rekindled the ice cool precision of 2010 to win his second World Crokinole Championship title.

The 17th annual World Crokinole Championship came with great anticipation, that included more crokinole squeezed into shorter day. More importantly, anticipation for the event rose through a couple stories such as CTV’s Marek Sutherland paying a visit, and the intriguing story of a Brooklyn duo that would later become the two crowd favourites despite being newcomers to the WCC. (more on that below)

The doubles preliminary round changed slightly this year with the addition of two more games in the preliminary round, to bring the total to 8. The change was significant enough to see a 3 point difference from 6th to 7th place for the cutoff of the A group playoffs, in what is normally a log-jam. The following teams made it through to the coveted top 6 playoffs:

1. 53 pts, 74 20s - Clare Kuepfer and Nathan Walsh (2nd straight top 6 finish)
2. 52 pts, 80 20s - Ray Beierling and Jason Beierling (3rd straight and 12th overall top 6 finish)
3. 52 pts, 78 20s - Jon Conrad and Tony Snyder (3rd top 6 finish as a team)
4. 50 pts, 64 20s - Rex Johnston and Tom Johnston (3rd top 6 finish)
5. 49 pts, 65 20s - Paul Brubacher and Roy Campbell (1st top 6 finish)
6. 46 pts, 58 20s - Fred Slater and Justin Slater (5th straight and 6th overall top 6 finish)

Photo Credit: Bill Gladding/Tavistock Gazette
As mentioned, there was a bit of a gap until the 7th place team of Matt and Dave Brown, who failed to make it their 4th top 6 appearance after earning 43 points through 8 games. Also joining them in the consolation playoffs were Dave Meijer and Kevin Brooks (42 points), Bob and Robert Mader (41), Ray Kappes and Kevin Bechtel (39), Brian Simpson and Roger Vaillancourt (39), and the PEI team of Wilfred Smith and Lawson Lea (39).

Before the doubles playoffs began, the World Championship competitors were introduced to Gregory Pinel, one of the aforementioned Brooklyn duo. He told the story of how, even as a Canadian, he learned about crokinole when he moved to the US. Not only did he quickly find the same passion many of us share for crokinole, he is planning to incorporate it into his ambitious after-school programs that serve students of under-funded schools in the New York area. If you are interested it is highly recommended to read more about his story.

As mentioned by Pinel in his letter, he and partner Tommaso Mazzoni, had their sights set on championship performances. They played great in their first ever WCC tournament, but fell just short of the playoffs with 38 points.

2015 World Crokinole Doubles Champions
Tony Snyder and Jon Conrad
Photo Credit: Bill Gladding, WCC
The consolation playoffs were won by Bob and Robert Mader, followed by Dave and Matt Brown and Wilfred Smith and Lawson Lea. In the A group playoffs, Justin and Fred Slater saw their two-year run as World Doubles Champions end as they finished 4th with 21 points. In the crowded finish for the top prize, Rex and Tom Johnston equalled their best ever finish at 3rd place, with 24 points. Also at 24 points, but with a win through the tiebreaker, Ray and Jason Beierling grabbed 2nd.

For the third year in a row, it took 25 points to win the doubles title, which was reclaimed by Jon Conrad and Tony Snyder. Since teaming up in 2012, Conrad/Snyder have won twice and finished 2nd once. The two had played with a few different partners previously, but this win gives Jon Conrad his 4th Doubles title (with Paul Hartman in 2003 and 2005), and Tony Snyder (with Jarmo Puiras in 2004) his 3rd.

After doubles play wrapped up, CrokinoleCentre was able to interview a couple of players for their thoughts on the doubles event. 

Photo Credit: Bill Gladding, WCC
After a short break, play began again for the singles. This time all singles events ran concurrently, with a world record of 100 boards in use simultaneously.

The competitive singles portion saw 82 players battling for a spot in the top 16 playoffs, along with a few others who had hopes of scoring the most 20s in the preliminary round. The top 3 spots were grabbed by Jon Conrad (67 points out of a possible 80), Ray Beierling (65) and Matt Brown (64). There was decent gap until the crowd appeared to fill out the rest of the top 16. That group included Gregory Pinel, who finished 4th at 58 points. He and Wilfred Smith of PEI were the only 2 non-Ontario players to make the top 16. (For the data we have from the World Crokinole Championships, that may in fact be a record, as previous years had as many as 1 single player from outside of Ontario in the top 16.)

2015 World Crokinole 20s Champion - Ray Beierling
Photo Credit: Bill Gladding, WCC
Roger Vaillancourt was the unlucky 17th place finisher. He was involved in a 3-way tie with Ezra Jantzi and Rob Mader at 52 points, but their 20s scores of 74 and 67, beat his score of 54.

Speaking of 20s, the 20s scoring was relatively low in comparison to previous years. In 2014, 6 players scored more than 90 20s in the 10-game preliminary round, meanwhile in 2015 only one player scored more than 90. Justin Slater was the runner-up in this category scoring 88 20s, ahead of Jon Conrad and Ray Kappes at 82 and 81 respectively. But while the field was scoring lower, Ray Beierling was performing just as he had hoped (as indicated in the above interview), earning 116 on his way to a record-extending 5th 20s title.

Also awarded through the preliminary round was the title of Women’s World Crokinole Champion, this year with prizes being given to the top 3 finishers.

Cathy Kuepfer was able to finish 3rd, while Kathy Geris grabbed 2nd place. Beverly Vaillancourt once again came out on top, with 42 points, to claim the title for the 3rd-straight year.

So the play shifted to the top 16 playoffs as players were split into the following pools:
Pool A
Jon Conrad (2012 and 2013 World Champion)
Matt Brown (2014 4th place finisher)
Justin Slater (2010 Champion, 2012 and 2014 runner-up)
Robert Bonnett (3rd straight top 16 finish)
Paul Brubacher (2011 3rd place finisher)
Jason Beierling (2006 Champion, 2002 runner-up)
Wilfred Smith (PEI champion, first top 16 finish)
Ezra Jantzi (2nd straight top 16 finish)

Pool B
Raymond Beierling (2011 Champion, 7 top 4 finishes)
Gregory Pinel (first ever WCC appearance)
John Harvey (5th top 16 finish in last 7 years)
Roy Campbell (2nd top 16 finish)
Raymond Kappes (2003 Champion)
Nathan Walsh (2009 runner-up, 2014 3rd)
Rex Johnston (2nd top 16 finish in last 4 years)
Robert Mader (2008 3rd place finisher)

In Pool A, Justin Slater rolled to the top spot, earning 40 points in the 7-game round robin. Robert Bonnett would take the other qualifying spot, barely nudging out Jon Conrad with 33 points to Conrad’s 31.

In Pool B, Ray Beierling also took the top spot by a decent margin with 41 points. Roy Cambell finished second with 36, similarly edging Robert Mader who had 34 points.

So the top 4 was set with a pair of one-time World Champions, and a pair of newcomers to the top 4.

In the first game of the Round of 4 playoffs, Ray Beierling and Justin Slater were dominant, winning 8-0 and 7-1 respectively.

The script changed in game 2, as Roy Campbell beat Ray Beierling 6-2, and Robert Bonnett was deadly in 20 shooting to win 5-3 over Justin Slater.
Top 4 Playoffs: Roy Campbell faces a relaxed Justin Slater

The final game of the round pitted Beierling against Slater, who played to an electrifying 5-3 win for Slater, including a perfect round of 8 20s each for Beierling and Slater. 

With Slater comfortably into the finals at 15 points, and Beierling at 13, there was a chance for Bonnett and Campbell to narrowly grab the other spot in the final. But the two played to a tight 4-4 draw, setting the 2015 World Crokinole Championship final as Justin Slater against Ray Beierling.

In the 3rd-place game, Roy Campbell used an impressive display of defensive crokinole to beat out Robert Bonnett, winning 6-4, 6-4.

The Slater/Beierling final was a very fitting finish considering the 2014-2015 National Crokinole Association Tour. The two of them not only finished 1st and 2nd in the overall Tour, but they also played in the final of the NCA Finale in St. Jacobs just over a month prior to the Tavistock meeting. Justin Slater had gotten the better of Beierling in both the Tour and the St. Jacobs final, but it was Beierling who had edged out Slater in both the Doubles and 20s competitions earlier in the day.

With that it was hard to tell who had the advantage going into the final. Looking at experience, Slater had the advantage entering his 4th championship final to Beierling’s 2nd. But Beierling’s final record had remained unblemished, while Slater had failed to take home the title both of the last two times he’d made the final. The confidence and mental state of both players had to be intriguing heading into a match with everything on the line.
Ray Beierling and Justin Slater square off for the title

The match began easily for Beierling, winning 2 points on his own hammer without any pressure. Slater responded in the best way possible, scoring a perfect round to tie the first game 2-2. Slater carried that momentum into the next round, scoring 20s in his first 5 shots to lead 4-2.

In the fourth round, Slater was exemplifying some great defensive play, but Beierling put the pressure on with a great double-takeout 20 shot. It wouldn’t be enough though as Slater made all of his remaining shots to tie the fourth round, and win the first game 5-3.

The crowd forms in gathered hush as the
day reaches the championship finals.
Beierling got off to a good start in the second game, winning 2 points against the hammer after a few Slater errors gave Beierling the chance to pile on the 20s. Slater responded strongly again though, going perfect on his 20 attempts to jump to a 4-2 lead and move within one point of the title. 

In the fourth round Slater took an early lead in the 20s, and twice Beierling’s attempts to level the round by scoring a 20 skipped over the hole. An interesting scenario developed late in the round as Beierling had 2 discs on the board, but remained down a 20, and in need of a win rather than a tie in the round. Beierling was left with a nearly impossible shot at the end, needing a long ricochet off of a peg to score a 20 to extend the match.

While he hit the peg he was looking for, the weight on the shot was too much, and Slater had claimed the 2015 World Crokinole Championship title 5-3, 6-2.

The Elite 4 of the 2015 World Crokinole Championship
Ray Beierling, Justin Slater, Roy Campbell and Robert Bonnett
Photo Credit: Bill Gladding, WCC
Slater reflected on the day as the newly crowned World Crokinole Champion, which must have been a relief after making the finals in 2012 and 2014, but just coming up short.

A small sample of all of the boards that were in action at
the 2015 World Crokinole Championship.
So the 17th annual World Crokinole Championship came to a close, in what was a major success in terms of overall registration growth and organizing efficiency, making it perhaps the best run tournament yet. The volunteers that run the event cannot be thanked enough.

And with that comes much expectation for next year and what is to come next for the World Championships and the great game of crokinole. Several visitors from far away promised to make their return again soon, and we look forward to seeing them in 2016.

Until then, the National Crokinole Association continues with the next tournament in New York in August. Meanwhile at CrokinoleCentre, the vow to edit and post the videos from this year’s World Championships in a much more timely manner begins. It will take time, but over the summer months they will become available.

Thank you for all enjoying the 2015 World Crokinole Championship, I look forward to the next one.

To the good times we’ve shared with crokinole, and to many more.
Nathan Walsh

Several photos in this blog were taken by Bill Gladding of the Tavistock Gazette, who wrote a comprehensive review of all of the events at the 2015 Championship than can be read here.