The 2014 World Crokinole Championship has come and gone, and this year the name of the game was parity. In both cues singles and doubles, there was little room separating the victors from their opponents. Furthermore, this year saw a mixture of the "new and the old" taking home the money.
The morning began with 24 cues doubles pairs facing off with the hopes of landing in the top 6 to reach the A Division finals. Each pairing only played 6 games each in the preliminary round, making the opponents that you draw all the more crucial. When all was said and done, Andrew Hutchinson and David King took advantage of a relatively light draw to finish the first round in first place, with a total of 37 out of a possible 48 points. Stalwarts Wayne Schultz and Floyd Kuepfer and husband-and-wife duo Merv and Marjorie Roth finished a point behind with 36 points each. Ernie Martin and Maurice Sauder finished tied with the Brubacher brothers, Dennis and Dave, with 34 points each.
With these five teams comfortably in the A Division finals, one spot remained: three teams were tied with 30 points apiece, including James and Joseph Ward, the only cues doubles participants from outside of Canada, Gary Palmer and Sam Moore, last year's cues doubles runners up, and Jonathon and Jeremy Brubacher, the Brubacher cousins with a strong crokinole pedigree. The tie breaker came down to 20s accumulated, with the Ward brothers from Ohio coming on top with 59 20s scored in the first round.
Also looking in from the outside of the A Division finals, were some other traditional cues doubles powers. Last year's fourth place finishers Wayne Kipfer and Arthur Poole finished with 29 points. More shockingly, 3 time (and defending) champions Lorraine Proud and Carol Litt finished with 28 points. Newcomers on the rise, Doug Schwartzentruber and Josh Carrafiello finished with 27 points, and Jim Nau and Murray Walker rounded out the B Division finals.
In the B Division finals, Proud and Litt took care of business, with the Brubacher cousins and Kipfer and Poole in hot pursuit. But everybody's eyes were on the A Division final, to see who would take Proud and Litt's cues doubles crown away. The A Division draw was full of uncertainty, with no contestant having ever won a cues doubles championship before.
As the round robin finals got under way, it became quite clear that the final draw was filled with parity – in the end, the top 5 teams were separated by only 6 points. The Brubacher brothers were barely left on the outside of the money with 18 points. Martin and Sauder earned just enough points, 20, for the fourth place finish. In third, the Ward brothers came away with 23 points in their first time doubling up together at the World Crokinole Championship. Finally, both Schultz and Kuepfer, and Hutchinson and King finished with 24 points; like in the fingers doubles event on the other side of the arena, the championship would be decided by a tie breaker. Schultz/Kuepfer and Hutchinson/King had split their match in the finals 4-4, thus going to the second tie breaker, 20s accumulated. Schultz and Kuepfer finished with a strong 59, but that proved only enough for 2nd place, as Hutchinson and King's strong 20s showing (64) proved to be the difference, allowing them to claim their first cues doubles championship!
After a close and intense cues doubles tournament, the competitors had to refocus and prepare themselves for the cues singles tournament in the afternoon and evening. The question heading in was would some of the newer faces from the Division A final continue their strong play and make some more noise, or would some of the "old faithfuls" make a comeback in the singles event? A gruelling 10 game preliminary round would help determine the answer of that question.
There were 34 competitors in the cues singles events, meaning the top 16 would make it to the second round. In addition to seeing who would advance, the preliminary round would also decide the 20s champion. Despite the good conditions, no competitor was able to break the 100 mark, but Dennis Brubacher came close, winning the 20s title with 95. When all was said and done, the top 16 players advanced, scoring between 45 and 60 points. Players were broken into the following divisions for the second round.
- Wayne Schultz
- Wayne Kipfer
- Andrew Hutchinson
- Carol Litt
- Lorraine Proud
- Paul Weber
- James Ward
- Lorne Steckley
- Jon Brubacher
- Carl Litt
- David King
- Dennis Brubacher
- Murray Kuehl
- Ernie Martin
- Doug Schwartzentruber
- Arthur Poole
The second round always proves to be an extremely challenging round, with only the top 2 from each division advancing. At first glance, the A Division appeared to be an incredibly competitive division, and it lived up to such hype. Little separated the top two from the rest of the division, but after the 7 game round robin, Andrew Hutchinson and Wayne Schultz emerged on top, both with a score of 32 points. However, things could have gone very differently with James Ward, Wayne Kipfer, Lorraine Proud, and Carol Litt all within a handful of points away. The B Division proved to have a little less parity. Carl Litt and Murray Kuehl both comfortably advanced with scores of 37 and 34. Others had good showings such as Doug Schwartzentruber, Jon Brubacher, Dennis Brubacher, and David King, but none were able to get close enough to Litt and Kuehl.
Thus the finals saw the two most decorated cues singles players (Schultz had 8 top-four finishes and Litt had 7 heading into this year), and two relative newcomers (Hutchinson finished 4th last year, Kuehl had never finished top-four). Furthermore, from last year's four finalists, only Hutchinson had reached the top four again. In fact, the champions from the past three years (Kipfer – 2013, Proud – 2012, 2011) did not make it to the final four. Coming off of his doubles victory in the morning, Hutchinson came out hot in the 4 player round robin, winning each game 6-2, leaving the 3 other competitors fighting for the second spot in the final. Schultz (11 points) managed to hold off Litt and Kuehl (10 and 9 respectively) to earn a place in the championship game.
In the 3 vs 4 game, Litt faced off against his doubles partner of the morning, Kuehl. Despite less experience, however, Kuehl managed to defeat Litt. Litt however, could take solace in earning his 8th top-four finish in cues singles (to go along with 4 top-four finishes in cues doubles).
All the eyes, however, were focussed on the championship match. Could Hutchinson sweep the singles and doubles championships? Could Schultz avenge the tie-breaking loss in the morning's doubles finals? Schultz was motivated to beat Hutchinson after having lost 6-2 to him in both the round of 16 and the round of 4. While Hutchinson, knowing that he would be missing next year's World Crokinole Championships due to going to Africa to teach this coming year, was motivated to win his first singles championship.
The finals would prove to be extremely tight. Schultz was on top of his game and won the first game by a score of 5-3. The second game was down to the wire, going to 4-4 before requiring a tie-breaking round. Knowing that missing just one 20 could mean losing the match, Hutchinson went toe-to-toe with Schultz each scoring a perfect "six-pack" of 20s (in cues singles, each player only shoots 6 buttons per round). They would be forced to play another round tie-breaker. This time Hutchinson got up in 20s early and then played defensively, staying away from the hole the rest of the round. This proved successful, allowing Hutchinson to win the second game 7-5: it would go down to a decisive third game. Hutchinson, however, was never able to get ahead in the third game, missing his first 20 and losing the first two rounds to go down 4-0. Entering the third round, Schultz only needed a single point from a tie to claim the championship. Hutchinson went up a 20 early, but with the hammer, Schultz was able to tie the game with two of his pieces in the 10-ring. The tie was enough to earn Schultz his 5th point in the third game, winning himself the championship!
With the victory, Schultz earned himself a record 9th top-four finish in cues singles and also a record 4th cues singles championship. Hutchinson, on the other hand, proved that last year was not an anomaly, and let the rest of the cues crokinole world know he will be a force to be reckoned with when he returns from Africa after next year. This coming year, however, looks to be just as parity-filled as ever – but we will all have to be patient to see who emerges victorious in 2015!
Andrew Hutchinson is a competitive cues crokinole player who broke through in 2013 to finish 4th in the singles competition. He can be followed on Twitter at @FavouriteHutch