A top 16 playoff singles match from the 2019 World Crokinole Championship between Jon Conrad and Reid Tracey.
A top 16 playoff singles match from the 2019 World Crokinole Championship between Jon Conrad and Reid Tracey.
The World Crokinole Championship (WCC) Committee has decided to revise the playoff format used at the WCC tournament, and has come up with two proposals for the singles competition. The WCC Committee is seeking player input to help make the decision on which of the two proposals should be implemented for the 2024 edition of the tournament.
The descriptions of the proposals are outlined below. Players wishing to share their opinions on the matter should do so by January 10th, by submitting an email to email@example.com.
The WCC Committee has embarked on this process to modify the tournament format after receiving noticeable competitor feedback of a desire to expand the playoff format to include more players. Of key consideration as well for the WCC is a strong desire to maintain the current tournament schedule, given that the tournament offers both doubles and singles competition and serves nearly 400 players.
The format for the competitive, cues, and recreational divisions in 2023 and in prior years was the following:
That format has been mostly unchanged since the first year of the tournament in 1999. The only change of note was in 2019 when the semifinal head-to-head matches were introduced, replacing the prior format where the final 4 consisted of a 3-game round robin.
If the number of competitors is less than 50 then the format remains unchanged. If the category has more than 50 competitors, then the following format is used:
Here is the proposal described in a visual format:
For the competitive division:
For the cues and recreational divisions the same format is used, but with the top 8 players (1st-8th) advancing into an upper bracket, and the next 16 (9th-24th) advancing to a lower bracket.
Here is the proposal described in a visual format:
Also worth mentioning is the WCC committee will implement a change to the doubles competitions. Currently the top 6 teams from the preliminary round advance to the playoffs, in which a 5-game round robin determines the champion.
The new doubles format will see the top 12 teams from the preliminary round advance to the Round of 12 playoffs. The 12 teams will be split into two pools of 6 teams each, where a 5-game round robin will be played. The top 2 teams from each pool will advance to the Final 4. In the final 4 the teams will play 2 games (crossing-over to play one game each against the teams from the other pool). The total points scored through all 7 playoff games (5 games in the Round of 12 plus 2 games in the Final 4) will determine the champion.
2023 was crokinole’s first full year back from the covid-pause. I was thinking back on the year and being impressed by the breadth of it all. If you make a small-time hobby out of relaying crokinole stories, there was too much in the last 12 months to stay on top of it all. So in lieu of a professional job, here’s a non-definitive, non-comprehensive, (possibly non-good grammatical) recap of 2023.
There was lots of news regarding the National Crokinole Association early in the year. New tournaments started up in Elmira and Chatham, and the NCA went through a formalization process to enact a set of by-laws and elect an inaugural board of directors.
Elmira saw Ron Langill record his best-ever finish in a singles event, placing 2nd, but his break-through performance was overshadowed with a titanic clash in the other semifinal. Connor Reinman and Justin Slater squared off on the board, but also in the minds of all competitive crokinole players who were wondering which of the two was currently the best player in the game. Reinman won the semifinal match and the tournament, pushing such perceptions in his favour.
Ray Beierling re-emerged at the top of the crokinole game in Chatham, defeating Reinman in the final, and winning his first singles tournament since 2017. That championship match was out-done by the Match of the Year, a stupendous 3rd-place-match between Justin Slater and Jeremy Tracey. Even if you’ve already seen it, that match is well worth a rewatch. I’d recommend sliding it in between your family’s viewing of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Special and the 6-hour re-broadcast of the yule log fireplace.
Champions returned in the Spring-time with Justin Slater winning the NCA event in London. The win was his first singles victory, after 4 non-victorious finishes in prior tournaments, snapping his longest victory drought in over 10 years. A month later the Beierlings won the US Open in Voorheesville, defeating Jeremy and Reid Tracey in the championship match.
The Breakthrough Player of the Year honours is bestowed to Josh Carrafiello. One of the top players in the cues game, he started playing on the fingers side in 2020. Coming into 2023 his best ever finger-singles finish was a 15th, but he had an impressive showing in May, winning the prestigious Ontario Singles Championship after wins against Reinman in the semifinals, and Andrew Hutchinson in the finals. Carrafiello would not play on the fingers side at the World Championships, determined instead to win the cues division once before converting to fingers-play permanently. That goal was achieved in spades, as Carrafiello claimed the triple crown at the Worlds, winning the doubles, singles and 20s categories, including setting a cues 20s world record along the way.
While Connor Reinman was defeated in the Ontario semifinals, the performance was enough to cap off his marvellous 2022-2023 NCA season, culminating in his first ever NCA Tour Championship. He was joined on the NCA podium by Ray Beierling in 2nd, and Andrew Hutchinson in 3rd.
Leading into the World Crokinole Championships there was much excitement about the crokinole action happening around the world.
A number of well-attended crokinole tournaments took place in the UK. A pretty exciting match took place between Tom Curry and Mike Ray early in the year at AireCon. Happening on the same day as the World Championships was the 2nd edition of the UK Crokinole Championship. The legendary Brian Cook won the first edition in 2022, and returned to retain the title in 2023; his stiffest competition on the day coming from Tom Curry in a slim 10-8 semifinal victory.
Following these events was the establishment of the Crokinole UK Tour, which operates in similar fashion to the NCA Tour. The inaugural season is scheduled to have 6 events, concluding on June 1st, 2024 for the UK Crokinole Championship. Winners on the season so far include Árpád Lonsták (more on him in a bit), Tom Curry, Brian Cook and Mark Thurling. The battle for the Tour championship should be fun to watch.
A new face has entered into the Hungarian crokinole circuit, named Árpád Lonsták. He’s had a very successful 2023, winning in Scotland in the first ever UK Tour event, and then winning on home soil in the last 3 events, which include the 28th and 29th editions of the MOM Kupa, and the 2023 Hungarian Crokinole Championships a couple weeks ago. Krisztián Berzlánovich still remains a top name in Hungary, having finished 2nd twice and 4th in those three tournaments.
In Spain, crokinole has been getting a lot of attention with TV appearances in 2023. The first featuring Antonio Cuaresma, and the second on the subject of the 2023 Open de Catalunya. The marque events of the year seem to be the Spanish Open, the doubles and singles championship matches are available for viewing in their respective links.
The pair of Stef Schenkelaars and Sjoerd Diemel continued their crokinole promotion efforts with another edition of the Dutch Doubles Crokinole Championship in 2023 in Utrecht. Their annual crokinole tournament is one-of-a-kind and has the atmosphere of an English or Dutch darts tournament (with the crowd of spectators using the same types of chants). The 2023 national championship was won again by Sander Brugman and Joert Edink, and the final match can be viewed here.
The team of Brugman/Edink also compete at the Belgian national championships. For the third year in a row Brugman/Edink lost to the powerhouse Belgian pair of Bert Costermans and Dennis Vrints. Crokinole NL provided a short recap of the event. The 2022 championship match can be viewed here, and tournament information for 2024 can be found here. The full 2023 championship match can be viewed here, which features the round of the year in the 6th round when the players scored 19 consecutive open-20s.
And in Engholms, Sweden, Magnus Rundström has started up a club featuring crokinole action.
Some clubs have popped up in Australia in the last few years, and in 2023 was the 3rd edition of the Bottom Half of the World Cup.
There was lots of events of note in the USA. In Ohio Grant Flick and Travis Keener battled in the tournament final, with Flick coming away victorious. The Extra Pink Texas youtube channel has lots of videos one can watch of the action. That group is based in Houston, but there’s also a club in Dallas gaining momentum. A club in Toledo was also launched in the year and is producing enthusiasts and competitive players-alike. There’s also action in Alaska, where the Dry Bay club held the Alaska State Doubles Championship.
I can’t say that I know what the crokinole scene is like in Japan, but I can say this youtube channel posts crokinole videos from time-to-time, and they are always really pleasant and relaxing to watch.
Most of the Canadian news is covered in the rest of the report, but I’ll take this time to point out a couple other items. The first is a new club in Windsor. The second is that the current volunteers of the BC Provincial Championships are looking to hand-off the responsibility and accrued assets to an interested party. Running a tournament is a difficult task, but it is made much easier when there’s boards and a set of procedures readily available.
And lastly, in April of this year Joe Fulop passed away. I had the honour of writing the summary that appeared on the World Championship website regarding Fulop’s influence on crokinole. Crokinole has a long history, but much of it was never written down. When a few people started the effort of chronicling the game, Joe Fulop was the first star of crokinole, and will now always be regarded as one of the greats of the game.
I’ll leave this section with just a couple sentences, because the Tracey Boards social media feeds do a better job of recapping this they I can. Tracey Boards went on an extensive tour of the USA in 2023, hitting up numerous gaming conventions and connecting with several newly formed clubs along the way. If you can’t find the social media feeds, here’s a few links to get you started.
In June Justin and Fred backed-up their 2022 NCA Players Championship with a doubles title as the World Crokinole Championships returned after a 3-year hiatus in 2023. Their title coming by a margin of two points ahead of Connor Reinman and Jeremy Tracey. In the mix as well in the doubles playoffs was the Hartung duo, including Bruce Hartung, the 2005 World Champ making a return to competitive crokinole after a decade absence. He would also be in the mix in the singles, making the top 16. But the headlines in singles are usually reserved for those making the top 4. Matt Brown had the surprise performance of the day, finishing first in his round of 16 group, and becoming the 19th player to make the WCC top 4 more than once. Justin Slater finished 3rd on the day, making the top 4 for the 8th time. Meanwhile, Andrew Hutchinson and Connor Reinman both qualified for the championship match for the first time, where Reinman won a tense and entertaining match to win the World title.
The performance of the year has to go to Reinman as well for his play during the Round of 16. He won all 7 games and along the way scored 2 perfect rounds. He scored 104 20s over 7 games (pro-rates to 148 over 10 games), which is the record 20s score at the World Championships, and good enough for 3rd all-time. He also scored 43 points, which is tied for the 3rd-most points scored in the round of 16 phase at the WCC, and he notched the largest ever margin between 1st and 2nd place finishers in round of 16 group, by finishing 11 points ahead 2nd place Hutchinson.
The NCA Tour returned to Tuscarora in August, and was joined by a visiting Brian Cook who placed 4th. Reinman came away with another victory, beating Ray Beierling in the finals, and narrowly defeating Hutchinson in the semis.
In Belleville, Justin Slater was in spectacular form and played flawlessly in the championship match against Hutchinson, after defeating Ron Langill in the semifinal.
The Owen Sound tournament’s competitive division featured team doubles for the first time. We saw rare Beierling/non-Beierling doubles team as Ray Beierling and Connor Reinman teamed up and went into the tournament as favourites along side the team of Jeremy Tracey/Andrew Hutchinson. However, both of those teams would be defeated in the semifinals. The team of Oliver and Philip Ware finished 30th at the World Championships, and put on a dazzling and surprising display to advance to the finals. They were defeated by the new formed team of Josh Carrafiello and Ron Langill, giving Carrafiello his second NCA title, and Langill his first.
That set the stage for the final event of 2023: the Ontario Doubles Championship. The tournament entry list was stacked with perennial contenders in the Beierlings and the Slaters, while Andrew Hutchinson/Jeremy Tracey, Nolan Tracey/Reid Tracey, and Carrafiello/Langill joined in as tournament favourites. Spicing up the field even more was Jon Conrad, playing in his 3rd event in 2023 after sitting out 2022, partnering with Reinman.
The tournament was defined by many close calls. In the morning action Tracey/Tracey advanced by a margin of 3 points ahead of Gloria Walsh/Nathan Walsh, while Conrad/Reinman advanced by virtue of a tiebreak ahead of Darlene Kuepfer/Jo-Ann Carter. Then in the cut-off for the quarterfinals, Conrad/Reinman again advanced through a tiebreak ahead of Peter Carter/Robert Bonnett. The drama continued in the playoffs where 6 of the 8 matches were decided 2 points, and other 2 matches only decided by 4 points. Darren Carr/Gina Schick, Jason Molloy/Seth Frank, Slater/Slater and Hutchinson/Tracey were eliminated in the quarterfinals. Conrad/Reinman made the finals after beating Tracey/Tracey, but lost to the Beierlings who beat Carrafiello/Langill in the other semifinal.
After such close doubles action, there’s a lot of storylines heading into the US Open and World Championship competitions in 2024.
Crokinole is about fun, and in case you forgot somewhere along in 2023, there was enough tomfoolery to remind you.
Regarding that last one, it’s apparently an American crokinole tradition to have a comical consolation prize. Gary Wasielewski found a historical record of Nebraska politicians playing crokinole, where "considerable amusement was created over the efforts of the gentlemen to avoid winning the consolation prize.”
It was a few years ago when Shut Up & Sit Down reviewed the game of crokinole, in a video that now has over a million views. They talked about crokinole again briefly in a recent video around here and it was pretty funny to hear carrom described as “not as round” as crokinole.
I’ve already given out a few "blank of the year" awards above, and at this point I should remind the reader this is a non-definitive honour bestowed with minimal research effort.
That being said I can confidently award the following:
The hardest selection was that of shot of the year, but I’ve landed on Lizz Mackie-Donnelly’s shot during the US Open, which resulted in a double-takeout 20.
Lastly there is the honour of video of the year. In 2022 the Netherlands group came out with two videos which were pretty hilarious even if one had to use translated subtitles to figure out what was being said. The first was actually on the local news and discussed a doubles partnership that disbanded after one player’s crucial miss eliminated them the following year. The second video gave a dramatic recap of the 2022 event.
An honourary mention goes to video which wasn’t filmed in 2023, but I can’t believe no one made mention of it before I did. I would be a little surprised if famous TV personality Jon Stewart knows what crokinole is, but one of the guests on his show decided to coin a crokinole-related term in hilarious fashion.
“Holy crokinole” gets coined on American TV, during season 1 episode 7 of the The Problem with Jon Stewart— CrokinoleCentre (@CrokinoleCentre) October 7, 2023
Warning: curse words pic.twitter.com/ZtHP3uRGfE
2023 Video of the Year goes to Calvert Hall College, a catholic prep school from Maryland. Watch and enjoy:
Recently WMAR joined us on campus to learn more about one of our newest clubs on campus - Crokinole! Watch this 90 second video to learn more about the game that has been around since 1876. pic.twitter.com/DMQfcOzJov— Calvert Hall College (@calverthall) December 5, 2023
While I haven’t seen him take credit, I’m assuming the thanks for creating this club goes to Mr. Ufnar, and doesn’t this look like a good time everyone can get behind!
Some incredible quotes in this video.
"When we tell them 'Hey, it’s a board game.' They’re like 'uh, that’s boring!'" Yep, been there many times in my life.
"I come to crokinole because it’s fun, and I like trash talk." I'm sure this is what Jeremy Tracey was like in highschool.
"You realize it’s not just some stupid game, it’s really competitive." High praise indeed!
"It really does get pretty cut-throat, in this silly board game." And that’s how this game has been for 150 years.
Also seeing students in full suits play crokinole is pushing me even closer to following through on this idea.
Love photos like this! I’m very tempted to show up to a crokinole tournament in a full suit https://t.co/0hlrfCRm5X— CrokinoleCentre (@CrokinoleCentre) April 6, 2023
The last shot in crokinole, aka the hammer, it’s an advantage right? Certainly! We all know that and it’s perhaps the first bit of strategy any competitive player knows; if it’s all tied up and you’ve got the hammer, you are probably in a position to win.
But how important is it to have the hammer? For a while I’ve thought the advantage of hammer between two equally skilled players was around 60-40. (That is, against an equal opponent the player with hammer would win a single round 60% of the time.) This wasn’t based on any analysis, just a feeling really, and I had a feeling the hammer advantage for doubles play was slightly higher, maybe 65%.
Such an advantage for the hammer, if those percentages were accurate, is significant so it’s a good thing crokinole games are typically four rounds so that such an advantage is nullified. There is of course one exception, which is elimination matches where a tie is not an acceptable result.
Thanks to a 1960 article on the Ontario Crokinole Championships, and to Howard Martin for digging it up, we know the concept of a “first to X points” race format is long familiar to crokinole.
The World Championships utilized a slightly more sophisticated approach, with a best of 3 games format with each game being a race to 5 points. The early years of the NCA saw many innovations for competitive crokinole, but the format used for nearly all championship matches remained identical to that of the World Championships.
Either format was widely considered acceptable for tournament elimination matches, however it was openly acknowledged that both formats presented an inherent advantage for one player. Under the circumstances of closely contested play, the championship match would be determined by one final round that would break a tie, and thus one player would have the hammer advantage for one additional round. But such a case seemed too rare to expend much energy correcting. After all, how likely was it that a first to 11 points match would be tied 10-10, or that a best of 3 games match would be tied 4-4 in the final game?
It turns out, it happens often enough.
The finals of both the 2011 (Ray Beierling winning over Eric Miltenburg) and 2012 London tournaments (Jason Beierling winning over Ray), as well as the 2012 World Championship final (Jon Conrad defeating Justin Slater) would all be decided with a sudden death round after the 3rd and final game was tied 4-4. In all three matches, the player with the hammer advantage was victorious.
No one was disputing the results of the matches, and generally all agreed it was exciting stuff, but people began to ponder if there was a better way. Only two years earlier a first round Wimbledon tennis match had made headlines by lasting 3 days and 11 hours of playtime. The length of the match was due to a rule that equalizes the number of games where each player has the advantage of serving. One of the players in the match, John Isner, has the second-highest percentage of service games won in the history of tennis, doing so 92% of the time. He also had a relatively poor winning percentage in return games, at around 10%, creating a perfect scenario for an extended match.
The Quinte Region Crokinole Club would be the first to come up with an idea to address crokinole’s hammer advantage, creating the Quinte Convention and running it at the 2012 Belleville Challenge, where it would be used immediately. The format was played as a best of 3 games but allowed any game to be tied 4-4. If after 3 games the players were tied with an equal number of games won and tied, then the match would be decided in successive 2-round mini-games. If one player managed a 4-0 or 3-1 win after each player received the hammer advantage for one round, then the match would be over. But if the score was 2-2, then another set of 2 rounds would be played. Both the semifinals of Jon Conrad vs Brian Cook, and Nathan Walsh vs Fred Slater would require 6 rounds of overtime crokinole to be played to determine a winner.
Around the same time Fred Slater came up with a format he dubbed the Wimbledon rule. It allowed the first two games of a best of 3 to be decided by a one-round tie-breaker, but if the final decisive game was tied 4-4, then successive 2-round mini-games would be utilized until a clear winner emerged.
Personally I greatly enjoyed both of these formats when they were introduced. I liked the idea of a thrilling close-fought battle on the crokinole board being stretched out a bit longer than you’d expect, like a thrilling tennis match or NHL overtime playoff game. But mostly I liked the idea of the equality the format brought to both players. If the hammer advantage would give one player a substantial 60-40 edge to win the match, then it made perfect sense to me to utilize a format that negates it.
But then we started to see a few matches where the Wimbledon and Quinte Convention formats were used to their fullest, and I became less enthused.
In the 2013 Belleville B division final, Clare Kuepfer and Phil Somers played the equivalent of 5-games of crokinole and roughly 40 minutes to decide the match. At the 2013 Ontario Doubles Championship, Conrad/Snyder played Johnston/Johnston in a first to 10 points match with a Wimbledon tiebreaker. The match was eventually won 18-16, thanks to the foresight of tournament organizer Ray Beierling who declared the match would switch to sudden death at 16-16. The match took over an hour to complete. The B division semifinals of the 2018 Ontario Singles Championship was a WCC rematch with Robert Bonnett and Jon Conrad. The first to 9 points match should have captured the full attention of the audience as the match was tied 8-8, but spectators drifted away from the board as the Wimbledon rounds extended on and on. Eventually Conrad would win by a score of 18-14 after playing the equivalent of two full matches.
Such marathons caused some headaches for tournament organizers, and the Wimbledon and Quinte Conventions eventually faded from use; the last time it was employed was the 2020 Hamilton final.
Even if the format was fairer, I started to wonder if it was really worth the extra time and waning of spectator interest. From my commentator experience, I feel there is great value in simplicity. Tell your viewer the game is first to 9 points and that’s easy to understand. Tell them it’s a best of 3 games where each game is first to 5 points and they’ll probably still understand. Tell them it’s best of 3 games where each is first to 5, but they stop if it’s 4-4, and then if after all 3 games they are tied because they tied each game, or each won one game and tied the other then they have to keep playing until . . .
You get the point. Not super simple to explain.
And in the simplicity also comes the excitement. Tell the viewer it’s one game, one round, one goal to win the championship, and everyone immediately understands the importance of it. Sports fans love the idea of Game 7 in the playoffs, or sudden death overtime. That really only leaves one question.
Even if the advantage of the hammer in a round is worth a 20% edge (60% vs 40%), that does not mean that the player with the hammer has a 20% better chance to the win when the match starts.
If the strength of the hammer is actually 60%, then a race to 9 points format gives the player with potentially one extra hammer a winning chance of 53% against an equally skilled opponent. A 6% edge.
When you extend the match format to something longer, such as the WCC format, the hammer advantage shrinks to about 51.5% vs 48.5% (a 3% edge). Even from a player perspective, such an edge seems negligible in my mind. And from an entertainment perspective, the advantage didn’t seem worth negating at the cost of the sudden death round excitement.
The crokinolereference database has the round-by-round scores from over 5,000 games, and it has information on which player/team had the hammer for 3,000 of those games.
From that data, the advantage of the hammer for one round is 55-45 for singles, and 52-48 for doubles.
(For all images below, clicking of them will access a pdf of higher resolution.)
I found this a little surprising, as the advantage comes in less than I thought it would be for singles, and the doubles result shows the hammer is even less important than in singles (although the sample size is much smaller, and thus the conclusion is less credible).
A 55-45 hammer advantage further shrinks the pre-match advantage in a race to 9 points down to 51.3%-48.7%, and in the WCC format down to 50.6%-49.4%.
I began to wonder if the result would be different if the two players matched up were of equal skill, or if one player was dominant over another. The thought occurred to me that if one player was much stronger than another, then maybe the hammer wouldn’t be an advantage at all since the stronger player may just win every round regardless. Perhaps the existence of these games was skewing the data to show the hammer being less important than it was when two players were of equal skill.
To test this I utilized the ELO ratings I’ve published on crokinolereference, and pulled out the difference in ELO ratings for each game. This reduced the sample size to only singles matches of roughly 2,000 games. I then put all the results into buckets. The first being cases when one player has an ELO rating 200 points below their opponent, the next when the ELO rating is between 150 and 200 points below their opponent, etc.
As you can see, the percentage points scored, both when a player shoots first and when a player has the hammer, increases as their ELO rating is more favourable compared to their opponent. Obviously this makes sense, and at least shows the ELO rating can be used to predict match results.
What is surprising is that the hammer edge remains pretty level regardless of the skill gap between players. Even between matches of equally skilled players, and matches with one dominant player, the advantage of the hammer compared to the disadvantage of shooting first is roughly the same.
A couple of recent Tracey Boards' social media posts also looked at the advantage of the hammer. Analyzing the games from the 2023 WCC revealed it was the case that actually less rounds were won with the hammer.
It got me wondering if there were any tournaments in the database that bucked the 10% hammer edge trend.
There are a couple of tournaments that show hammer advantages much less or more than 10%. However the sample sizes for these events isn’t too substantial.
As one last piece of analysis I pulled out the results for a select collection of players, curious to see if there was any players who might be more or less favoured with the hammer. I’ve highlighted some of the highs and lows below.
There are a few players who on either end of the high/low spectrum, but there’s no one who’s drastically far away from the average 10% hammer advantage.
The Tracey Boards' post later pointed to the opening round 20 race being a bigger component of which player would win the round. They also found that the player with the hammer more frequently wins the 20 race, which is logical since the player shooting first is more likely to miss first simply because they are the first to shoot.
I decided to dust off some undergraduate math knowledge and calculate the percentage chance of winning the 20 race under varying open 20 proficiency of two players.
The below chart shows the percentage chance that the player with the hammer wins the 20 race, in cases when the player shooting first scores open 20s at the percentages shown in the rows, and the player with the hammer scores open 20s at the percentages shown in the columns.
These probabilities are calculated by conditioning on two geometric probability distributions and assuming the round consists of 8 discs.
The cells where the two players have equal proficiency are highlighted, and shows the hammer’s chance of winning the 20 race is at least 57%, with the advantage improving as the 20 proficiency decreases or increases from 80% success.
I had actually calculated this chart about 10 years ago, and it was the basis for my reasoning thinking the hammer had a 60-40 advantage. It seems to me that players are scoring open 20s with success between 60% and 80%, so I figured the hammer is probably winning the 20 race and the round about 60% of the time. With a similar line of thinking I thought the hammer advantage in doubles would be even higher because it seems to me that open 20% success decreases in that discipline.
Of course there’s more to crokinole than just winning the 20 race.
I have decided to significantly reduce the amount of content I produce with CrokinoleCentre. More specifically I will no longer write post-tournament reports, and I will likely upload only a handful of videos each year.
I wanted to provide this advance notice to the crokinole community, in case anyone else feels compelled to pick up the baton.
I’m making this decision now because I’ve come to feel a weight of burden, purely of my own making, that I feel with performing these routine CrokinoleCentre tasks. Somewhere along the line I have convinced myself that it’s a necessity to publish a written report and every playoff video from every tournament I attend, and somewhere along the way I came to believe that delaying in any of these tasks was an act of laziness. In recent years I also came to be responsible for updating three other websites (that of the NCA, WCC and crokinolereference), all of which I wanted to do, so again there’s no one to blame but myself on that front.
The accumulation of all of this is that nowadays on bad days I feel annoyed and fatigued by the work, and even on good days I never feel a strong enthusiasm for it.
I’ve mentioned these feelings at times to other people, and I usually receive both positive and productive feedback, which praises the work I’ve done in the past and proposes solutions to current woes. However, mostly I just find the work tedious, which anyone with video editing or website experience can relate. I’ve done many things to increase efficiency, but it still takes me roughly 5 times the length of a video to complete the entire production, and it’s not really possible to share the workload across multiple editors because the video file sizes are too large to transfer. Meanwhile the tournament reports I write are somewhat formulaic in format, but still take a few hours to publish.
I’ve experienced all of these exact challenges before and for many years, but I find myself having less patience for them now. I used to chuckle when two players spontaneously selected a new location for their playoff match, after I had already framed my cameras perfectly to capture the match on a now empty board. It’s things like these that I’ve just grown sick of. I’m not quite sure of the reason, maybe it just comes with age.
I’ve also had it suggested to me that I monetize the videos, but money is not a motivator for me to do the work. I did do this briefly in 2017 and 2018 when a couple of videos went viral, and received about $3000 from it. It was nice to have, but after I used the funds to improve the CrokinoleCentre product (by purchasing another camera, a new editing software, and external hard drive), the videos were earning less than $100 per month and that to me was not enough to justify making the viewer experience worse. Even if the sum of money available increased, it has the potential to cause further tension as players and tournaments could rightfully claim some portion is duly owed to them.
I initially started making the crokinole videos because I wanted a video record of the World Championship match, and I was annoyed I couldn’t ever go back and watch Joe Fulop winning the title. I started the blog in the golden era of the medium, where thousands of well written and interesting blogs were available online to peruse. Mine was initially essentially a copy of a blog my brother wrote about his university cross country team.
But eventually CrokinoleCentre grew into a way for me to ensure that crokinole tournaments wouldn’t pass by and eventually be forgotten. I value the historic record and the ability to share stories about events years after they happened with people who were never there. Additionally it’s been nice to have people express that they’ve enjoyed a particular blog or video I’ve made. I’ve also taken joy from CrokinoleCentre work allowing people analyze and understand crokinole more. There used to be less than a handful of names that people recognized as strong crokinole players, and now there’s a long list. When I was in Hungary I was asked questions about dozens of Canadians that people enjoyed watching. It was heart-warming to know that I had played a part in making that connection.
Crokinole will probably always occupy a part of my idle mind. It used to be a joyful daydream from monotonous study or work, and it’s been fun pretending to be some reporter or columnist or commentator. But recently that part has been onerous; the cause of more work to be done, rather than some excitement to daydream about.
I definitely won’t be going anywhere. I’ll still be playing and volunteering, probably bring my camera to each tournament, and I’ll still make the odd video or blog (if no one else does it I’ll still ensure the championship matches are published at some point). But I want to free myself to do other things in crokinole I think I’d enjoy. “Taking a step back” from the limelight, but still doing my part in sustaining the game. I have accumulated a long list of ambitions, but like finishing your homework before playing video games, I’ve deferred these ambitions due to a feeling that I should finish the other routine stuff first. I don’t wish to defer them any longer.
There was excited chatter when Dale Henry published a list of abbreviated names registered for the 9th Turtle Island Crokinole Championship. Included in it was “Brian C” which was quickly deduced to be the 4-time World Champion Brian Cook, who last played an NCA event in 2015, but has continued his spectacular chronicles in crokinole with prestigious titles in Hungary and the UK since then.
Some players strategically altered their morning practice, eagerly occupying the seat opposite Cook when it opened up in order to get some warm-up games against him and scout his quality and style of play. While Cook is an established player, the local crokinole scene has changed enough that the majority of players in attendance had never played against him. Among them were pre-tournament favourites Connor Reinman and Andrew Hutchinson, and there was a great deal of interest among the crowd regarding how Cook’s level would compare to the recent World Championship finalists.
Dale Henry began the day welcoming the crokinole crowd of 43 strong back to the Tuscarora Nation House for the first time since 2019. He took time as well to note the passing of Chief Leo Henry, and his mother Carolyn “Care” Henry, who had both enthusiastically attended all eight previous editions of the tournament. Throughout the day funds were raised for cancer research, most notably with an engraved crokinole disc, and donated to the Center for Indigenous Cancer Research at Roswell Park.
The competitive division had 24 players, and it was a pretty strong field with only room for 8 in the afternoon A group. Ray Beierling had the top score of 63 points in 10 games, one ahead of Reinman and Hutchinson. Walsh scored the most 20s with 110, and finished with 53 points for 5th, behind Jeremy Tracey and ahead of Travis Keener.
Simon Dowrick scored 50 points for 7th; his score boosted by an 8-0 win he recorded against Brian Cook. But that didn’t stop Cook for taking the final spot in group A, with 48 points and 94 20s, just ahead of Jason Beierling’s 48 points and 81 20s. Cook and Jason Beierling met in the preliminary round and drew their game 4-4 as well, showing the margins for the cut-off of the top group were precariously slim.
To remain in contention for the tournament victory the players had to finish in the top 4 of the 8 player group A, so the common line of thinking was that an even score of 28 points would be right around the cut-off for the playoffs.
Hutchinson had a tremendous start and found himself at 28 points after only 5 of the 7 games. In those first 5 games he even had a 0-8 loss to Ray Beierling, but was buoyed by 8-0 wins over Reinman and Dowrick, and a 7-1 win over Tracey. He would finish first in the group with 38 points.
Ray Beierling lost his opening game to Travis Keener 6-2, but rebounded with that aforementioned win against Hutchinson. With 28 points going into the final game he cemented his playoff spot with an 8-0 win against Jeremy Tracey.
Brian Cook had a steady round and sat 4th or 5th in the standings throughout the entirety of the round. A final 4-4 draw against Hutchinson would give him 30 points for 3rd place.
The final playoff position came down to the last game with Reinman having the edge at 27 points, Tracey sitting right behind at 26, and Walsh further back at 22 points thanks to an 0-8 loss at the hands of Tracey. Ray Beierling eliminated Tracey with an 8-0 win in the last game, and Reinman almost met the same fate as he trailed Walsh 0-6, but Reinman got the final 2 points to finish with 29 points to Walsh’s 28 for the 4th playoff entry.
That setup semifinals that were rematches of the 2011 and 2023 World Championships, and in both cases the winners would repeat in Tuscarora. Ray Beierling trailed Brian Cook 2-6 in the race to 9 points, but started to chain open 20s together at the precise moment when Cook struggled make any open 20s, leading to a comeback 10-6 win for Beierling.
The Hutchinson vs Reinman semifinal was tense throughout. At 4-4 there was a late round 20 race, with Hutchinson missing the hammer open 20 shot to go down 4-6. Immediately after another late round 20 race saw Hutchinson miss his final shot as well, but Reinman botched a relatively routine takeout to instead tie the round to make the score 7-5, rather than a commanding 8-4. Hutchinson pushed the match to 7-7, but Reinman prevailed in the last round for a 9-7 win.
The championship game had a couple nice shots, but lacked the suspense and entertainment of the semifinals. Reinman had found his groove in 20s and was scoring comfortably. Beierling was also racking up a good number but couldn’t get his foot in the door and trailed 8-0. Beierling did prevent a shutout, but ultimately lost 10-2 as Reinman defended his 2019 Turtle Island victory and picked up his 7th NCA tournament win.
Connor Reinman took the top spot in the first event when crokinole returned from covid-19 to win the NCA Players Championship in June of 2022, in what was the beginning of a dream season for Reinman that included the NCA Tour Championship and a discussion that he may have supplanted Justin Slater as the best in the current edition of the game. All that remained was an elusive World Championship title, and Reinman earned that final jewel after a thrilling pair of playoff victories.
Planning for the 2023 World Crokinole Championship began as early as 2019, with the organizational committee meeting, as is tradition, 9 months prior to the next event. Registrations poured in for the 2020 tournament that looked set to be a third-straight year of the World Championships pushing the limits on the number of accepted entrants. When the pandemic led to the cancellation of the events from 2020-2022, many participants happily deferred their registrations, and when the 2023 tournament was officially announced yet more registrations piled in, ultimately leading to the tournament setting up a record 127 crokinole boards for the day. Among the registrants included four dedicated crokinole players/promoters:
The Competitive Doubles category had 54 teams in competition, the highest number since the Recreational Doubles division was added to the tournament, and it led to the cutoff to make the top 6 for the playoffs being extremely difficult. The preliminary round has consisted of 8 games since 2015 and the cutoff has ranged between 46 and 49 points each year, but this year 50 points was only enough ensure a 20s tiebreak for the final playoff spot.
The first time pairing of Connor Reinman and Jeremy Tracey didn’t have to worry about tiebreakers, as they finished first in the preliminary round with 56 points, and a tournament-preliminary-round-record of 123 20s. It was Reinman’s third doubles playoff appearance, and Tracey’s second. The 3-time World Champions of Justin and Fred Slater scored 52 points for the third seed, and 109 20s to be the only other team to score a century in the tournament. The Slaters entered the playoffs as the most accomplished team, with 8 prior playoff appearances.
The father-son team of Andrew Hartung, and 2005 World Champion Bruce Hartung, scored 55 points for the second seed, making the playoffs for the first time. The grandfather-grandson team of Josh Bechtel and Ray Kappes finished fourth in the preliminary round with 51 points. It was Ray Kappes’ ninth playoff, and Bechtel’s first, as all eight previous playoffs from Kappes came alongside Kevin Bechtel, with two third place finishes being their best showings.
The final playoff spots went to a pair of teams scoring 50 points and advancing via a 20s-tiebreak. Reid and Nolan Tracey made the playoffs for the second-time in a row, previously finishing in second in 2019, scoring 82 20s. 2017 champions, Clare Kuepfer and Nathan Walsh, nabbed the final playoff spot with 76 20s, making the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven events; a feat only matched by the Beierlings.
Missing out on their first chance to make the top 6 playoffs were Dale Henry and Eric Miltenburg, who scored 50 points, but only managed 58 20s. They would ultimately finish 10th in the tournament, equaling their best ever World Championship finish. The defending champions, Jason and Ray Beierling missed by one point and a few 20s after scoring 49 points and 74 20s. This snapped a tournament record 7-year playoff streak and ended the Beierlings’ hopes of winning 3-straight World titles.
Also narrowly missing the playoffs were Jeff McKeen and Ron Reesor, who scored 48 points. Three first-time pairing cross-national teams, Jeremy Herrmann (USA) and Tyson Kuepfer (CAN), Garrett Tracey (CAN) and Magnus Rundström (SWE), and Ian Witt (UK) and Mark McCleary (USA) scored 47, 47 and 46 points respectively. Rundström and Witt just missed a chance to be the first European to make the playoffs at the World Championships. Cathy Kuepfer and Bev Vaillancourt also got quite close to the playoffs, scoring 46 points and ultimately finishing 12th for their best ever World Championship result.
The Doubles playoff format at the World Championships has remained unchanged since 2001, and consists of a 5-game round robin among the top 6 teams. Often the margin to become World Champion is a small one. The Slaters and Traceys got out to an early lead, both having registered 12 points after two games to sit tied for first, with a three point gap back to Kuepfer/Walsh, six points to the Hartungs, and seven and eight points to Reinman/Tracey and Bechtel/Kappes.
The Slaters and Traceys met for a first place battle in game three. The Slaters were better on open 20s during the game and it was only a last shot ricochet-20 by Reid Tracey that salvaged a tie in one of the first three rounds to give the Slaters a 5-1 lead. The nerves of the championship stage began to show in a wild fourth round in which the Slaters almost managed a big comeback before the Traceys clinched it. However it was the Slaters moving into a sole first place position with the 5-3 win.
Kuepfer and Walsh weren’t able to make up ground, only managing two ties and 6-2 loss in their final games to finish with 19 points for fourth place. After game three the Traceys also couldn’t collect enough points to challenge for the title, tying Kuepfer/Walsh and losing 6-2 to Bechtel/Kappes to finish third with 21 points.
In the third game Reinman and Tracey mounted a charge with an 8-0 win over the Hartungs to move four points back of the Slaters, just ahead of their fourth game matchup with the Slaters. In that game Reinman/Tracey had a comfortable two 20 lead in round one evaporate and the Slaters had a tough hanger-20 chance to win the round, but it was missed for 2-0 for Reinman/Tracey. Nearly the same happened in the second round where a three 20 advantage for Reinman/Tracey was lost, and only salvaged by a double-takeout-20 by Reinman to lead 4-0.
The third round came down to a pair of hanger-20 chances. Tracey missed his chance, and Justin Slater followed up to make his to get the Slaters on the board at 4-2. The fourth round was won on the stoicism of Fred Slater, who went 4-for-4 on open 20s, and with it the Slaters maintained a four point advantage going into the final playoff game.
Reinman and Tracey won their last game 6-2 to finish with 23 points and second place, as the Slaters’ 4-4 tie against the Hartungs was enough for 25 points and the 2023 World Crokinole Championship.
It was the sixth time since 2011 that 25 points was the winning score of the doubles playoffs (the lowest ever recorded), and it was the third time that the Slaters managed to win with 25 points. They were the only team in the playoffs to not lose a game, managing three ties with wins of 8-0 against the Hartungs and 5-3 against the Traceys.
This is the fourth World Championship for the Slaters (their previous wins coming in 2013, 2014 and 2016), and it moves them into a tie with Jon Conrad for the third-most doubles victories at the Worlds, only trailing the Beierlings.
100 players entered the competitive division, the most since 2010. The preliminary round decides the 20s champion along with the top 16 players advancing to the playoffs. The points cutoff to make the playoffs ended up being the highest in a decade as 57 points were needed to make the top 16. Only from 2008-2010 has such a score been required, when 58, 57 and 58 points were the cutoffs respectively in those years. That was bad news for Nolan Tracey, who scored 57 but lost out on a 20s tiebreak, and for Mike McTague, Clare Kuepfer and Eric Miltenburg, who just missed out by a couple of points. Andrew Hartung and Fred Slater ended up three points out, with Reuben Jongsma and Philip Ware four points out.
The battle for the 20s was pretty interesting, with five players meeting or exceeding 100 in the 20 count (the most players who have ever done this at the World Championships). James Medway and Ray Kappes scored 100 each for their first ever centuries at the Worlds. Ron Langill scored 110, which is the eighth-most 20s ever scored in the preliminary round at the Worlds, but it was only enough for third on the day. Ray Beierling scored 114 (fifth-best preliminary score) but it was also not enough, as Connor Reinman racked up 127 for the 20s crown. The win is Reinman’s first 20s title, and the first time since 2008 that someone other than Ray Beierling and Justin Slater won the crown. The mark of 127 is the third-best preliminary round score in the tournament, behind Beierling’s 131 in 2014, and Slater’s 142 in 2012.
This was the composition of the pools for the playoffs. Pool A:
In Pool A action, Justin Slater moved into a solid position to make the playoffs when he scored an 8-0 win against the only other previous world champion in the group. The 2005 champion, and 2007 runner-up, Bruce Hartung managed a very respectable showing in his first crokinole tournament since 2009, finishing fourth in the pool with 27 points. Reid Tracey was in the hunt for the final four, but lost each of his last three games against Jeremy Tracey, Justin Slater and Matt Brown to ultimately miss out.
The critical matchup occurred in game 6 when Matt Brown played Jeremy Tracey, with the two of them sitting 2nd and 3rd at the time. Matt Brown won the matchup 6-2 and won his final game 8-0 to seal the deal. With it, Brown scored 39 points to nab first place in the pool, with Justin Slater at 38 points for second. Jeremy Tracey gave Slater his only defeat in the pool with a 6-2 win in the last game, but his 32 points was only enough for third in the pool, outside of the playoff cutoff.
In Pool B Connor Reinman was a runaway freight train. Already in first place he scored an 8-0 win over Ray Beierling in game four, which relegated Beierling from third to fifth in the group. At that point it seemed the battle for the second playoff spot would come down to Andrew Hutchinson and Jon Conrad, but Ron Langill put on an incredible late charge. Langill only had 10 points after four games, but racked up wins of 6-2, 8-0 and 6-2 to triple his score, and end up at 30 points.
Meanwhile, Conrad and Hutchinson drew the game against each other 4-4, and then both only managed a 3-5 loss to Reinman, and a 4-4 tie to Ray Kappes in their final two games. The end result would be 30 points for Conrad, tying him with Langill, and 32 points for Hutchinson who got the final playoff spot.
Looking at the playoff cutoffs is always interesting, especially when a score of 32 is good enough for one player (Andrew Hutchinson), and not enough for another (Jeremy Tracey). Historically, 32 points has only been enough to qualify for the playoffs about 20% of the time at the World Championships. Although there could be some karma at play, as Hutchinson still holds the record for the highest ever round of 16 score that did not result in a playoff spot, when he scored 36 points in 2018.
Connor Reinman finished miles ahead in Pool B, with 43 points; tied for the 3rd-highest round of 16 score at the Worlds with Justin Slater’s 2012 and Joe Fulop’s 2001 score, only behind Slater’s 2014 score of 44 and Nathan Walsh’s 2014 score of 45. Reinman did set a round of 16 record by scoring 104 20s, beating Justin Slater’s old record of 94 in 2014.
So the stage was set for the semifinals. Justin Slater was the only prior champion who advanced to the final 4, marking the 19th straight year that the final 4 would be contested with at least one prior winner. For Slater it was his 8th trip to the top 4, and he had made the finals in all previous 7 appearances. Connor Reinman was the next most experienced player, with this being his 3rd final 4, but he had not made the finals in either previous appearance. After Matt Brown’s 4th place in 2014 this was his second trip to the final 4, and he was looking to make his first World and NCA final, while for Andrew Hutchinson it was his first final 4 appearance.
With Brown having surpassed Slater for top spot in Pool A, the semifinals were set with Andrew Hutchinson playing Matt Brown, and the two pre-tournament favourites, Connor Reinman and Justin Slater, playing in the other semifinal.
It was Brown and Hutchinson’s first elimination game meeting, and neither looked too comfortable as both struggled to score open 20s, and missed a few hanger-20 or short ricochet-20 chances. In the first game Hutchinson was leading 4-2 and had the lead in the round until Brown’s follow-through-20 attempt got knocked into the 20 hole thanks to the actions of a damaged disc. Hutchinson looked calm when it happened, but did take an extra pause before his next shot, and recouped to score back-to-back open 20s to tie the round and win the first game 5-3.
Play in game two was much improved, with both players scoring open 20s in succession and the game was tied at 2-2. In the third round Hutchinson had the hammer but Brown managed to keep two discs on in the 15 without allowing a double opportunity for six straight shots. Hutchison played patiently and ultimately settled for a tie to make it 3-3. Hutchinson won the fourth round when he made a touch-20 and Brown hogged his next open-20 shot, giving Hutchinson a 5-3, 5-3 semifinal victory.
Connor Reinman and Justin Slater were meeting for the third time, having previously traded victories with Slater winning in the 2018 Ontario finals, and Reinman winning at the 2023 Elmira semifinals. While touted as a 20-scorer Slater’s key to success for the last several years has been superior board-play, even when matched or surpassed in open-20 shooting. The first game saw the opposite of that with Slater stronger on open-20s, but Reinman more than made up for it. Reinman scored a couple of follow-through 20s to draw level, and then in the fourth round he forced Slater into going for a double-takeout that resulted in Slater scoring a 20 for Reinman, and Reinman taking the first game 5-3.
In game two Slater had a 3-1 lead, and the advantage early in the third round to threaten to win the game. Slater missed a heavy-hanger-20, which Reinman then converted, and then the two players traded 5 open-20s each to tie the round for 4-2. Slater had one follow-through-20 chance to win the game in the fourth round, but missed it and it was tied 4-4 with Slater to have the hammer in the fifth round. Reinman won the 20-race to open the round, and Slater patiently traded takeouts looking for an opening, but none came. Slater was forced to go for a takeout-20 that might have been impossible to extend the match, but missed and Reinman had won the match 5-3, 6-4.
In the 3rd place match, Slater won game one 6-2 after forcing Brown into attempting a triple on this final shot to keep the game alive. In the second game Slater continued to be better on open-20s, but Brown put him under some pressure by never erroring on a takeout and frequently getting multiple discs on the board, but Slater was up to the task, winning the second game 5-1 and taking 3rd place.
That setup a championship match between Connor Reinman and Andrew Hutchinson. It was the first time the championship had been contested by two players who had never previously been to the finals since 2005, and only the fourth time ever with the other two occurrences being in the first two years of the tournament’s history.
Reinman had won all three previous meetings, 11-5 in the 2019 Turtle Island final, 9-1 in the 2022 NCA Players semifinal, and 10-0 in the 2022 Owen Sound final. The most memorable match of the three being Reinman’s 20-barrage at the Players Championship when he made 23 of 24 open-20s.
But it was Hutchinson who was stronger on the open-20s, and Reinman was under pressure. Thankfully Reinman was already stuffing the highlight-reel of the match in game one, when he made a follow-through-20 and a long ricochet-20 on back-to-back shots. The first game went to the fifth round tiebreaker, where Hutchinson was still better on open-20s, going 4-for-4 to win the first game 6-4.
Hutchinson threatened to put the match on its last legs early, using a bounce-back-20 for a 2-0 lead, and winning a 20-race in the following round. But Reinman made a tight ricochet-20 to level the 20-count and Hutchinson finally missed an open 20 on his last shot to make it 2-2. The pressure of the match was relieved briefly when Hutchinson left a hanger-20 that was converted on the opening shot of the third round and Reinman led 4-2. And then Reinman caught a 20s hot streak, going 6-for-6 in the next round to win the second game 6-2.
That pushed the match into a decisive third game, the 5th time in a row, and 9th time in the last 12 years, that the World Championship would need a third game. The shooting in the third game was marvellous. Hutchinson stretch to his right to manufacture a takeout-20 where most players would think only a follow-through was possible, and led 2-0. Reinman then made what can be described as a hybrid follow-through-rebound-20 in the second round, in what was the most technically difficult shot of the match, to tie things at 2-2.
A keen eye would observe a tactic from Reinman in the third round. Hutchinson missed long on the opening 20, leaving a shot in which most top players would attempt a roll-away-takeout when they had the lead. Reinman, as he had in some games earlier in the day, took on additional risk and went for the follow-through-20, making it and moving ahead 4-2, to move one point away from the world title.
Reinman was first to miss in the fourth round, but almost immediately made a long rebound 20 to draw even, leaving his disc hanging heavily over the 20-hole as the crowd audibly gasped. Hutchinson made his most iconic and under-stated shot, leaning to his right to make the roll-away-takeout. Hutchinson then successfully maneuvered the play to the outside of the board. Reinman attempted a couple shots to come back into the middle but finally surrendered by peeling on his second-last shot. The 20 count was tied with Reinman having one disc left, and Hutchinson having two, but disastrously Hutchinson’s open-20 was left short as a heavy-hanger.
The crowd was gripped in silence, and Hutchinson stared at the ceiling, as Reinman tried to steady himself for a hanger-20 that would make him World Champion. He took the shot, made the takeout and the 20, and fist pumped as his dream had been realized.
The crowd applauded handily as the two combatants embraced, and Connor Reinman became 12th different person to win the World Crokinole Championships, and the first to carry a non-Canadian citizenship.
Connor Reinman’s crokinole story dates backs many years; he first played cues at the 2010 World Championships, and can even be seen in the background of some CrokinoleCentre footage from matches in those years. He first became known on the crokinole scene as a commentator on CrokinoleCentre, and then later emerged as a top player in 2017; as his surprise 3rd place finish at the 2017 World Championships was over-shadowed by Bonnett’s victory that year. Even though his tournament attendance was sporadic due simply to location, it was clear quickly that he was rising the ranks.
But before victory came disappointment, and his biggest was the 2019 World Championship semifinal thriller that he lost to Darren Carr, when many would have expected that year’s playoffs to come down to a Reinman v Slater final. Along with that he had the earlier disappointment in the day, finishing second by a mere two points in the doubles competition, while having had a similar fate befall him in 2019.
But when crokinole returned from covid, Reinman would not be denied. Victories at the NCA Players Championship, Owen Sound and Elmira. His first NCA Tour championship for 2022-2023, now backed his first World Championship in 2023.
The Ontario Singles Crokinole Championship has been a marquee event in the crokinole circuit for over 40 years, while the National Crokinole Association Tour attained prominence immediately after it was formed in 2009. Both competitions have been won by the greats of the game, and on May 6th in Elmira Josh Carrafiello joined the prestigious list of Ontario winners, while Connor Reinman joined the coveted list of NCA Tour Champions.
56 players arrived in Elmira (34 in the competitive, 22 in recreational) to compete for the Ontario title and to get one last tune-up before the World Championships. The event was the final stop on the 2022-2023 NCA Tour, and three players were in competition for the title. Connor Reinman had the lead coming into the event, as he had much of the year, and could only be surpassed by Ray Beierling (needing at least a trip to the finals) and Jason Beierling (needing a tournament victory).
Ray Beierling’s Tour hopes were dashed after the preliminary round. He scored 44 points in 10 games for 6th in his pool, knocking him into the B Pool in the afternoon. He was surpassed by Robert Bennett, Kris Flossbach, Jeremy Tracey, and Josh Carrafiello. Carrafiello grabbed the last qualifying spot from the group with 50 points, ahead of Jon Conrad’s 47.
Jason Beierling’s chances remained intact when he scored 58 points in 11 games for second in his group, behind Reinman’s tournament leading 69 points. Ray Kappas also advanced with 58 points, and was joined by Clare Kuepfer who got 50 points, just ahead of Peter Carter (49) and Reid Tracey (47).
The third competitive pool was led by Ron Langill, Nolan Tracey and Andrew Hutchinson. Tom Johnston advanced as well with 45 points in 10 games ahead of Nathan Walsh’s 42 and Jeff McKeen’s 40.
The Recreational division was also one to watch as the recreational side of the NCA Tour was up for grabs. Vuth Vann needed a strong showing to finish ahead of the emerging Grant Flick, and he was off to a good start, grabbing the top seed heading into the playoffs. Flick just missed the playoffs with 42 points in 10 games for 5th, as Julie Bonnett-Woodley scored 44 for 4th. In the semifinals though Bonnett-Woodley would defeat Vann, while Kevin Ranney defeated David Stokoe in the other semifinal. Ranney claimed the recreational division with a 10-6 win in the finals over Bonnett-Woodley. Vann would finish in 3rd place, but his 137 tour points weren’t enough, as Grant Flick scored 138 and won the 2022-2023 Recreational NCA Tour.
Shifting back to the competitive division, Mark Gallas impressed in the afternoon C pool, first defeating Ab Leitch 10-6, then defeating Bob Jones (who eliminated Darren Carr 10-8 in the other semifinal) by a score of 9-7. Ray Beierling was in fine form in the afternoon, getting the top seed in the B pool into the playoffs, and then proceeding to win 10-4 over Nathan Walsh and 10-6 over Reid Tracey. Walsh defeated Roy Campbell 10-6 for third.
The A Pool action saw an extremely large gap emerge between the playoff contenders and the rest of the field. A whopping 12 points separated Carrafiello in 4th from Clare Kuepfer in 5th. Connor Reinman earned the top seed at 70 points in 11 games, and scored 148 20s. The 20s score was almost an Ontario Championships record, good enough for 3rd all-time and just 4 20s back of Nathan Walsh’s record from 2013. Andrew Hutchinson was the second seed with 65 points, Jeremy Tracey (making his 7th top 4 appearance of the season) was the third seed with 58 points, followed by Carrafiello with 57.
With Jason Beierling finishing 7th and failing to make the playoffs, Connor Reinman’s maiden NCA Tour title was sealed, but undoubtedly he was looking to defend his 2019 Ontario Singles Championship.
Both semifinals were tight and tense affairs. Hutchinson and Tracey played a meticulous match. The decisive moment may have come when Tracey scored a 20 for Hutchinson in the final round when trailing 8-6. Tracey did fight back to level the round, but Hutchinson only needed a tie and clinched in by making his last open 20 for a 9-7 win.
While one semifinal ended with the crokinole version of an own goal, the other semifinal began with one when Reinman scored a 20 for Carrafiello in the first round. But that round would also end in a tie when Reinman made a follow-through 20 on his last shot. From 5-1 down Reinman reeled off 6 points for a 7-5 lead, and was in position to win the match in the 7th round, but a missed takeout opened the door for Carrafiello who took advantage to tie the match at 7-7, and then win it in the next round for a 9-7 match victory.
The 3rd place match saw the 2022-2023 NCA Tour nearly end as it had began, with Reinman facing Tracey in a rematch of the NCA Players Championship last June. Reinman won that match in Wilmot, and in Elmira he came back from down 8-0 to win 10-8 to finish 3rd.
That left the Ontario Championship match between two players who still actively play cues. It was Hutchinson’s 9th finals appearance in a singles event on the NCA Tour, and his first at the Ontario Singles Championship. For Carrafiello it was his first ever fingers final or top 4 appearance.
Carrafiello looked unfazed in his first-time finals appearance and was largely error-free in the early rounds. Hutchinson hadn’t found an open-20 rhythm and had a couple takeout errors that led to Carrafiello having an 8-2 lead in the race to 11. Another takeout error from Hutchinson early in the 6th round gave Carrafiello the chance to keep numerous discs in play behind the pegs, and he prevented Hutchinson from having a 20-chance for a 10-2 lead.
With his back against the wall Hutchinson’s play improved and he somewhat comfortably won the next two rounds to stay alive at 10-6. But Carrafiello won the 20-race to start round 7 and again had discs on his side of the board. Hutchinson missed two chances at a double peel to force play back into the middle, and Carrafiello clinched the match with a 12-6 victory.
The win is an impressive one for Josh Carrafiello who became the 13th different person to win the Ontario Singles Championship dating back to 1980, joining the list of crokinole legends like Dan Shantz, Leo Gaessler and Joe Fulop, and the modern-day titans of Justin Slater, Brian Cook, Ray Kappes and Connor Reinman. Carrafiello has chosen to play cues at the upcoming 2023 World Championships; the WCC schedule unfortunately robbing us of a chance to see one of the top players in the fingers division.
Connor Reiman was declared the 2022-2023 NCA Tour Champion after a very impressive season, winning three events (NCA Players, Owen Sound and Elmira) and being the only player to make the top 4 in every event played (7 in total). He becomes the 6th different winner of the NCA Tour after its 13th season.
Ray Beierling finished 2nd on the Tour, having also won three events (Ontario Doubles, US Open Doubles and Chatham) but only having a 3rd place against Reinman’s additional 2nd place finish. This is Beierling’s seventh 2nd place finish on the NCA Tour, to go along with two Tour victories.
Andrew Hutchinson rounded out the NCA Tour podium with one win (Belleville), two 2nd places (Owen Sound and Ontario Doubles) and a 3rd place (NCA Players). The 3rd place finish on the Tour is Hutchinson’s second-best Tour finish after his runner-up performance in 2019-2020.
So that concludes the 2022-2023 NCA Tour. A Tour which returned crokinole from the covid-19 slumber, and pivoted quickly to make up for missing tournaments to include 4 tournaments on the NCA Tour for the first time; in Wilmot at the NCA Players Championship, in Elmira for the Elmira Winter Classic, in Chatham for the Frosty Flick, and in Voorheesville for the US Open.
What’s next for the NCA remains to be seen. An Annual General Meeting has been called for June 14th which should shine more light on what the future holds; more info available here.
But competitive crokinole has not yet met it’s crescendo, as the World Crokinole Championships returns this year in Tavistock for its 22nd edition.
Defeated in the semifinals in the prior year the Beierlings returned to Voorheesville with the goal of becoming 2-time US Open Champions. While the chants of USA rang out from time-to-time, it was two newly formed all-Canadian teams that the Beierlings defeated in their quest for the title.
The 3rd edition of the US Open Crokinole Championships promised to be the best yet with a full house of teams selling out the competition slots well in advance of event. With 32 teams in attendance, players came in from southwestern Ontario, Baltimore, Charleston, Chicago, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Maine, Brooklyn, Houston, and Dallas. The crokinole tournament might be better described as a festival of crokinole that celebrates the community that can forged from the game. And all players were welcomed warmly into Voorheesville crokinole scene.
The weekend’s itinerary unofficially kicked off when out of town players started arriving Thursday night, and quickly finding themselves called upon for crokinole action. The first official agenda item for the weekend was a Friday disc golf tournament, of which Voorheesville’s Jason Molloy appears to be successfully recruiting more and more crokinole players to partake each year. (I was told, by others Molloy had converted, that I should take up the sport no less than three times over the course of the weekend.)
However, the bulk of players arrived in time for the Friday night social held at the local brewery, which also featured live music, a Bruins game on TV, and about half a dozen crokinole boards that were quickly in use. A little while later the first official crokinole event of the weekend took place with 52 people participating in a hole survivor tournament. The competition involves players starting out with a pre-set number of discs (it was 4 in this case), and attempting to sink open-20s. With each made shot the player retains their disc, and with each miss the player loses the disc, until eventually only one player has any discs remaining. Mike McTague, certainly one of the top Voorheesville players, won the event, extinguishing any Canadian-thoughts that victory at the US Open would be a certainty for the northerners.
More crokinole and socialization followed the hole survivor conclusion. Even with the brewery closing early on the Friday night, there was a few more hours of crokinole action after players returned to their accommodations.
The American Legion in Voorheesville has warmly welcomed the crokinole activity that has been spurred on in the town over the last few years. The US Open participants gobbled down breakfast sandwiches on the main floor of the Legion before collecting each collecting their own US Open emblazoned drinking glass, paint brush (for collecting wax in the ditch) and pen (affixed with a light for inspecting whether discs are touching the boundary lines).
The preliminary round split the 32-teams into 3 pools (designated as Ales, Lagers and Ciders). The pools had been drawn up randomly via a live stream in the week leading up to the event, and from that point there was wide agreement that the Ales group looked the toughest. However, all 32 teams would proceed to the playoffs, so the preliminary round was only used for seeding.
The top 2 seeds from the preliminary round came from the Lagers group as Beierling/Beierling and Hutchinson/Walsh finished 1st and 2nd. The Brooklyn team of Marc Ponzio/David Jefferson finished 3rd in the group and got the 8-seed for the playoffs. Out of the Ales group came the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th seeds which were Jason Molloy/Mike McTague of Voorheesville, Paul Brubacher/Ron Langill, Nick Ozmore (New Hampshire)/Roy Campbell, and Reid and Jeremy Tracey. The 4th, 9th and 10th seeds were all Voorheesville teams coming from the Ciders group with Brian Christofel/Kevin Jobin-Davis in 4th, Matt Hotopp/Tyler Reynolds in 9th and John Powell/Tom Ensslin in 10th.
Before the playoffs began the Extra Pint Crokinole Club had a quick ceremony where they awarded Travis Keener and Justin Frerich their own club banners. Keener (Toledo, Ohio) and Frerich (Dallas) both recently started their own chapters of the Extra Pint Crokinole Club, and with the ceremony complete were now formally apart of the Extra Pint Crokinole’s extended family.
With all teams seeded, the playoffs began. A 32-team bracket was established with single elimination format to determine the US Open champion. The first round only saw two cases of the lower-seeded team advancing in the 16 matches that were played. The 20th seeded team of Seth Frank/Brian Monaco beat the 13th-seeded Dwight Anderson/Justin Perry by a score of 7-5, while the 18th-seeded Larry Stafford/Michael Stafford won 8-6 over the 15th-seeded Ben Harding/Michael Barth.
Into the round of 16 the 20th-seeded Frank/Monaco team pulled off another upset, beating 4th-seed Brian Christofel/Kevin Jobin-Davis 8-2, while the 11th-seeded team of Chet Boehlke Jr/Ehern Lewis also scored an 8-2 upset over Nick Ozmore/Roy Campbell.
That brought the action into the quarterfinals. The top-seeded Beierlings continued to look strong earning the 3rd-straight 8-0 victory by defeating Brooklyn’s Ponzio/Jefferson. In the all-Canadian quarterfinal Reid and Jeremy Tracey won a convincing 8-2 over Andrew Hutchinson and Nathan Walsh. There was also and all-Voorheesville quarterfinal where Jason Molloy/Mike McTague won 8-4 against Chet Boehlke Jr/Ehern Lewis. The last quarterfinal pitted the 5th-seeded Brubacher/Langill against the red-hot 20th-seeded Frank/Monaco. Brubacher/Langill narrowly ended the streak of Frank/Monaco, winning by a score of 7-5.
There were consolation brackets for all of the teams eliminated in the playoffs, and all of the teams taken out in the quarterfinals were in the running for what was a secretive and much-hyped 5th place award. The award, designed and featuring Seth Frank, was unveiled in the morning to much fanfare.
Seth Frank himself remained in the contention for the award when Frank/Monaco won 8-4 against Ponzio/Jefferson. Hutchinson/Walsh defeated Boehlke/Lewis 8-2 in the other consolation semifinal. The battle for the 5th-place award drew a bit of a crowd and Frank put on a show with some spectacular round-winning shots, but it was Hutchinson/Walsh who would take the match 8-6 along with the one-of-a-kind 5th place award.
In the morning there was also the announcement that the crokinole board that the championship match would be played on would be raffled off. The board, manufactured by Tracey Boards, was advertised by the tournament organizers as “a good starter board.” (A line which was repeated several more times throughout the day whenever a Tracey was within earshot.) When the raffle was drawn, Lizz Donnelly of Brooklyn became the owner of the 2023 US Open Championship board.
Shifting back to the championship action, the semifinals were set. An all-Canadian semifinal of Beierling/Beierling against the first-time pairing of Brubacher/Langill began play to few spectators as the crowd gathered around the other semifinal. In the other match Reid and Jeremy Tracey played the hometown favourites of Molloy/McTague.
Brubacher/Langill began their match (now playing first to 9 points) with a 4-0 lead as they were superior in open 20 shooting. They even had an advantage in the 3rd round with hammer and two discs on the board, until the Beierlings managed to use one Brubacher/Langill disc as a guard, while they hid their own disc behind it. Brubacher tried to make the combination-takeout through his own but failed to do so and the Beierlings took advantage to win the round, and tie things up at 4-4. Leading 6-4 Brubacher/Langill put pressure on late into the round on the Beierlings’ hammer, forcing Ray Beierling to have to make an open 20 to win the round, which he did to make it 6-6. From there the Beierlings were the superior team in 20-shooting and they captured the last two rounds to win the match 10-6.
One year earlier Molloy/McTague earned an emphatic victory in the US Open semifinal when the beat the Beierlings, and now the crowd were hoping they could repeat in defeating another Canadian team. The Tracey’s were leading 5-3 when a nervy 5th-round took place that looked like it could be decisive for the match. Both sides narrowly missed on 20’s attempts leaving four discs on the board (2 for each side) on the Tracey’s hammer. The door was opened for Molloy/McTague to win the round following a missed shot from Reid Tracey, but he redeemed himself with a double takeout on his next shot, setting up a 7-3 lead for the Traceys. In the 6th round the Traceys looked to be on the verge of victory as they still led by a 20 even after McTague made a brilliant rebound-20. But Jeremy Tracey lost his shooter on successive takeout attempts, and Jason Molloy respond with the open-20 to salvage one point for 8-4. Things got even more intense when a well-played round from the Traceys left them a shot to win the match, but Reid missed on the final shot takeout and the score was 8-6. But Reid Tracey redeemed himself once again in the following round, first scoring a 20 on his second-last shot to tie the round, and then making a double-takeout on his last shot to guarantee the semifinal victory.
The last match played at the Legion was a 10-4 3rd place victory for Molloy/McTague over Brubacher/Langill as the crowd headed back to the brewery for the championship match.
The championship would have the Beierlings going for their 9th NCA doubles title, which would tie them with Fred Slater for most all-time, and keep both of them in the hunt for the 2022-2023 NCA Tour victory. For the Traceys, a win would mean the exacting of some revenge in distinct ways. For Reid, his best ever doubles finish was a 2nd place at the 2019 World Championships, missing the world title by one point to the Beierlings. For Jeremy, the Beierlings had defeated him and Andrew Hutchinson by a 12-10 score at the Ontario Doubles Championship back in November.
The tournament organizers set the stage of the championship, affixing a spot-light above the championship board, running a digital scoreboard, and relaying an overhead video feed of the action to TVs inside the brewery. The first half of the match was well-played, but featured 6 mostly-comfortable holds of hammer, and the score was tied 6-6 in the race to 12 points. The hammer teams hadn’t found themselves under any pressure until a ricochet-20 from Jeremy Tracey went unanswered following two Beierling 20-attempts, and the Traceys had the first steal to go ahead 8-6.
The 8th round looked like it could go either way late into the round, but Jason Beierling got a break-through rebound-20 that returned the match to level-pegging at 8-8. Into round 9 the Traceys won the early 20-race, but the Beierlings responded twice with takeout-20s. The Traceys responded the first time with an open 20, but missed the second and the Beierlings held the hammer to lead 10-8. In the 10th round it was the Beierlings winning the 20-race, but this time the Traceys weren’t able to generate the necessary 20 to tie the round. Jason Beierling missed an open 20 chance to seal the victory, but it still left Jeremy Tracey with a very tough follow-through-20 to extend the match. When he missed, it clinched the Beierlings 12-8 US Open victory, and confetti rained down on the board as the players shook hands.
With the victory complete the Beierlings took part in the Extra Pint tradition of downing the yard to cap off the 2023 US Open Championship. But even then the night was not complete. Players remained jovial and socializing, and of course playing crokinole well into the night. Representatives from various American crokinole clubs swapped stories, ideas and visions for how they wanted to further grow the game of crokinole in their respective cities. Each of them, and in Voorheesville especially, seemed to be on the right path. The enthusiasm for crokinole, and the effort some individuals have put into establishing their own clubs is reminiscent of the energy of the early days of the NCA. However in the early days of the NCA there was no road map to follow, and some energy went mis-directed as people were still figuring out how to run a crokinole club or tournament. With a greater support base and collective knowledge of how to run crokinole gatherings, combined with this level of zest for the game, crokinole’s growth in America is not inevitable, but it is extremely promising.
For more stories about the US Open, Andrew Hutchinson’s latest podcast episode includes many interviews from the event. Ryan Kaczynski of the Brooklyn Crokinole Club commentated the Tracey/Tracey v Molloy/McTague semifinal here. Other vides are appearing the Extra Pink Texas YouTube channel, and CrokinoleCentre also has a semifinal and championship match. The full results from the tournament can be viewed on the Extra Pint website.
The success of Justin Slater on the crokinole board during the 2010s led to him amassing a record number of WCC and NCA victories, but between the final tournament played pre-covid and the first few events of 2023, Slater was in his longest ever singles tournament drought. He ended that streak in a comfortable fashion by winning the 2023 Forest City Flickers Crokinole Tournament in London.
69 players entered into the London tournament, the largest attendance in the 12 year history of the event. The tournament was hosted at the London Bridge Centre which received rave reviews from some players for it’s substantial space and quality tables and chairs. There were 39 players entered into the recreational division, and another 30 in the competitive.
The Recreational action has been heating up with an intense battle on the NCA Tour. Vuth Vann and Voeun Vann have been near the top following strong performances in Elmira and at the Ontario Doubles, and were sitting 1st and 2nd on the Tour coming into London. Michigan contenders, Grant Flick and Jacob Warren, both finished in the top 4 in Chatham as their first entry on the 2022-2023 Tour and were set to make a late charge for the Recreational title if they could manage another good performance in London.
Both Flick and Warren made the final 4, advancing as the top seeds, and were joined by Joe Richards and Ron Reesor of the host Forest City Flickers crokinole club, with Robin Baillie, David Skipper and Vuth Vann just on the outside of the playoff cutoff in 5th, 6th and 7th. In the semifinals, both Flick and Warren defeated their London-based opponents, before Warren won the final 10-4 over Flick.
The results from London ensures that all 4 of Vuth Vann, Voeun Vann, Grant Flick and Jacob Warren have a chance to win the NCA Tour’s Recreational division at the NCA Tour Finale.
The 30 players in the competitive division were split into 3 pools in the morning. Although a few players advanced comfortably into the afternoon A group, there was a rather incredibly tight race for the cutoff. 43 points and 86 20s, scored by Jason Beierling in 9 games, were what was ultimately needed to advance, and 8 players were within 2 points of that score.
In the afternoon A group the tight race for the cutoff continued. Connor Reinman set a new tournament-20s—record with 124 in 9 games, which averages to 137.8 over 10 games and is 15 20s better than Ray Beierling’s previous record. Reinman also had the high points score with 43, which Ray Beierling also scored for the 2nd seed. Justin Slater scored 40 points for 3rd, and Jason Beierling got the final spot with 39, just ahead of Roy Campbell at 38, Andrew Hutchinson at 37 and Ron Langill at 37.
In the semifinals, the lower seeds came away as winners with Jason Beierling defeating Reinman 10-2, and Justin Slater reversing the result of his last two matches against Ray Beierling (losses in Wilmot and Elmira) by winning 10-4. The finals was a confident showing from Slater who never looked to be in much trouble, as he won the tournament with a 9-1 win over Jason Beierling.
In Pool B, Josh Carrafiello was the class of the field. He missed the A group cutoff by one point, but dominated the B pool round robin with 51 points in 9 games. It was Rex Johnston however who would win the group, defeating Carrafiello 10-6 in the final, after scoring 43 points for the 2nd seed, ahead of Clare Kuepfer with 39 points and Gerald Kuepfer and Jeff McKeen with 38.
Lastly in the C Pool, Tyson Kuepfer and Mike Beaton advanced to the finals with 52 and 47 points, ahead of Gloria Walsh and Matthew Knapp at 46 and 45 points respectively. Kuepfer would claim the C title in a narrow 10-8 win over Beaton in the finals.
The NCA Tour ventured into new territory having its first-ever February event, hosted in Chatham for the first time, and for the first time staged in the venue of a private enterprise. That combination brought the February Frosty Flick, hosted at the Turns and Tales Board Game Cafe and Bookstore.
A number of the NCA Tour regulars joined a decent contingent of local new players, and the 49 flickers packed in like sardines into the front room of the Turns and Tales cafe, where passers-by could get a glimpse of the crokinole action through the window. Also joining the competitors was a relatively large amount of media attention. A local radio station, CKSY, had been chatting about the tournament all week as one of the co-hosts registered to play, local news papers ran stories on the event, and a local media company, Chatham Torch, ran a livestream of the crokinole action.
On the competition side of things, 21 players entered the competitive division, and 28 went into recreational. The Vann brothers of Vuth and Voeun entered the recreational division as top contenders given their high standing on the recreational NCA Tour standings, but would have a tough challenge as Grant Flick, 2019 Recreational World Championship 3rd place finisher was also in attendance.
All three were in contention in the afternoon with Flick taking the top seed into the playoffs with 42 points, followed by Jacob Warren at 39 and Voeun Vann at 36. Al Little narrowly took the final playoff spot with 34, just ahead of David Skipper and Vuth Vann at 32 points. In the playoffs Voeun Vann and Grant Flick prevailed in the semifinals to set up a championship showdown, where ultimately Flick won the match to capture the Chatham Recreational title.
The competitive division split the field into two pools for the morning. The A pool had a larger concentration of tough customers, most of whom gathered point totals in similar neighbourhoods with Andrew Hutchinson leading the way at 62 points in 10 games, followed by Josh Carrafiello at 59, Justin Slater at 55, Jeremy Tracey at 53 and Ray Beierling at 52.
The B pool was less competitive and Connor Reinman ran away with first at 60 points over 9 games. The point total (pro-rated to 66.7 over 10 games) was the tied for the 2nd highest this 22/23 NCA Tour, behind Justin Slater’s 68.3 in Wilmot’s preliminary round, and tied with Andrew Hutchinson’s mark in the preliminary of Belleville. Nathan Walsh was 2nd in the pool with 51 points, followed by Ron Langill at 46 and Reid Tracey at 41.
The afternoon groups also split into A/B with the top/bottom half scorers heading to the A and B groups respectively.
In the B group, Nolan Tracey led the way with 51 points in 9 games. Clare Kuepfer and Jeff McKeen scored 47 and 46 to finish 2nd and 3rd. Travis Keener, organizer of the new Extra Pint chapter in Ohio, scored 43 points for 4th, with a 4 point gap back to Dan Hepburn for 5th.
The playoffs saw a reversal of the round robin action, with Keener eliminating Nolan Tracey in the semifinal, and meeting Kuepfer in the final following his victory over Jeff McKeen. Keener was on fire in the B group title game, winning the race to 9 by a score of 10-0 over Clare Kuepfer.
In Group A Justin Slater entered the playoffs as the top seed after earning 54 points in 10 games. He also scored 117 20s, which was the tied for the 2nd highest 20 count on this year’s NCA Tour, only beaten by Ray Beierling’s 122.5 from the Belleville preliminary round. Connor Reinman tied Slater’s 20 total of 117 and scored 48 points to finish 3rd. Jeremy Tracey scored 50 points for 2nd, and Ray Beierling had 46 for 4th.
Josh Carrafiello earned his highest ever fingers result on the NCA Tour, finishing 5th after scoring 41 points, ahead of Andrew Hutchinson in 6th at 40.
There was a lot of excitement building in the room as the semifinal matches got underway, with everyone doing some mental calculations to determine the NCA Tour implications of the playoff matches. The story was pretty clear though, a Connor Reinman tournament victory would nearly clinch the Tour title, as only a select few would be able to catch up to him by winning all three of the following stops on the Tour.
Reinman was set to play Jeremy Tracey, in a rematch of the NCA Players Championship final where Reinman won 10-4. The players started off this semifinal evenly matched and after 4 rounds the score was 5-3 in Reinman’s favour. But Reinman’s open 20 shooting was superior in the next two rounds, as he scored 4 on 5 opportunities (80% success rate), while Tracey only managed 2 on 6 (33%), which gave Reinman the advantage needed to win the semifinal 9-3.
The other semifinal renewed the Ray Beierling and Justin Slater saga once again. By CrokinoleCentre’s records it was the 12th elimination singles matchup between the two. Slater entered the match with a 7-4 win-loss advantage, dating back to 2010, but Ray Beierling had won the previous encounter from the NCA Players Championship quarterfinals. The Chatham semifinal match began with the player’s showing similar aptitude on open 20s, but Slater was more error-prone on takeout shots and after 4 rounds Beierling had a 6-2 lead. The 5th round had the defining moment as Beierling was first to miss on an open 20, but Slater did not complete a takeout, and Beierling replied with a follow-through 20 to take a definitive edge, which he carried to a 10-2 victory.
The loss for Slater was the 4th consecutive singles tournament (dating back to Hamilton 2020) that he has qualified for the playoffs as the top seed and then lost the first elimination match. Amazingly, he has not had a single 4-tournament stretch without winning an event since 2009 when he first started playing.
Slater was able to rebound though and win a tremendous and thrilling 3rd place match against Jeremy Tracey, despite Slater having to deal with substantial crowd distractions, and despite Tracey making several final-shot takeout-20s.
That left the final between Connor Reinman and Ray Beierling. Reinman owned a 2-0 head-to-head record against Beierling, thanks to a pair of semifinal wins in 2019. The final was tied at 4-4 after some shaky play, but both player’s elevated their quality for the rest of the match. In rounds 5 and 6 and both players made classy follow-through-20, although Beierling won both rounds to lead 8-4.
Beierling had won the 20 race to start round 7, but Reinman made a brilliant rebound-20 and a string of open 20s to stay alive with the match now at 8-6. In round 8 Reinman missed his opening 20 and Beierling made the takeout and stuck his shooter onto a peg. The placement was so good Reinman was forced to take risky shots going for a 20, but when he missed Beierling pounced on the ricochet-20 and cruised to a 10-6 win and the Chatham title.
The win for Ray Beierling is his 17th, and first since 2017, NCA singles title. He is now firmly in the hunt for the NCA Tour victory, currently sitting in 3rd place, just behind Andrew Hutchinson.
Connor Reinman continues to lead the Tour, despite his 3-tournament win streak being snapped in Chatham. There are three events left on the NCA Tour, and Reinman can only be passed if Hutchinson or Beierling win 2 of the remaining events, or if any of the other players in the top 10 on the NCA Tour can manage hat-trick of wins or finals appearances to conclude the Tour.