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2007 International Croquet Invitational Thursday, June 14, 2007

Reg Bamford of South Africa checks the angles as he sets up a "tea lady" shot June 10 in the International Croquet Invitational at The Resort at the Mountain in Welches. Bamford, the top-ranked croquet player in the world, was beaten 2 games to 1 in the championship match by world no. 2 Robert Fulford of England.

Ten of the world's best croquet players—including all of the top five—made the trip to The Resort at the Mountain last week for the 11th annual International Croquet Invitational. The last two winners, Reg Bamford and Robert Fulford—currently ranked first and second—met in the final.

(right) Robert Fulford smiles June 10 in spite of the rain after winning the 2007 International Croquet Invitational tournament in Welches, Ore.

Bamford, who lives in England but plays for his native South Africa, started the finals on the wrong foot by playing the wrong ball. That gave Fulford a bit of a break to start the game. But Bamford was able to hit the tea lady shot left by his opponent, a likelihood of about 10% in the estimation of commentators Danny Huneycutt and Trevor Bassett.

Bamford finished out game one of the best-of-three match with a triple peel (+19TP).

In game two, the South African was well on his way to becoming the first ever to win back-to-back titles at The Resort until missing a short shot near hoop 1.

South Africa's Reg Bamford stares in disbelief after missing a short shot in the second game of the championship match. The miss proved to be the turning point in the match.

Fulford took over from there. He finished game two with a triple peel of his own (+20TP).

Game three was all Fulford, who completed a sextuple peel for the win (+24SXP).

It was Fulford's second win at the Invitational. He won the Quaich Cup in 2005, and finished second in 1998, his only other appearance in the tournament.

The weather played a role in Sunday's matches. It varied from bright sunshine to drizzle to pouring rain, making the grass, balls and mallets wet. The biggest concern for the players, though, was getting cold. Several commented that once you get wet and then sit out for 30 minutes while your opponent plays, it is hard to play again on your turn.

(below) England's Robert Fulford lines up his balls for a croquet stroke in the pouring rain.

Final Results

Championship match:
R. Fulford (Eng.) def. R. Bamford (S. Africa) -19TP, +20TP, +24SXP

Consolation match:
C. Clarke (Eng.) def. J. Stark (USA) +26TP, +26TP

Standings, Final (Country, World ranking):
1. R. Fulford, 16 wins (Eng., 2)
2. R. Bamford, 14 (S. Africa, 1)
3. C. Clarke,13 (Eng., 3)
4. J. Stark, 10, +68 net points (USA, 44)
5. D. Huneycutt, 10, +66 (USA, 18)
6. A. Westerby, 9 (NZ, 5)
7. P. Landrebe, 8, -23 (Aus., 16)
8. D. Maugham, 8, -40 (Eng., 4)
9. J. Williams, 5 (NZ, 37)
10. T. Bassett, 2 (Aus, 85)

You can read more about the tournament in the Sandy Post, or online at Croquet World Online (search for "2007 Resort Invitational"). You can also see some of my photos from last year's event here.


Anonymous said...

The lingo in the explanation of what a "Tea-Lady shot" is from the link is priceless:

"At the end of your break to 1-back, in preparation for a sextuple during your next turn, the current conventional leave is to cross wire your opponent at hoop 1, and join up near corner III, with a rush to hoop 2. Ideally The cross wiring at hoop 1 is tight enough to ensure that your opponent can't jump the hoop to hit in. "

-- SMG

Matthew said...

As with other sports, croquet definitely has its own language. Let me translate that for you:

Technically, each player only gets one shot per turn. But by putting a ball through a hoop or hitting another ball, you can get extra strokes. A "break" is when you string several extra strokes in a row. Players at this level normally run breaks that take half an hour or more.

To win a game, you have to move both of your balls through all six hoops, twice (in a specific order), and then they both have to hit the peg in the middle of the court. "Hoop 1" has a blue top, and is near corner 1; "1-back" is the first hoop you go through a second time (i.e. hoop 7). Corner III is diagonally opposite hoop 1.

When they say "join up," they mean put your pair of balls close together, to allow yourself a fairly easy shot to start your next turn (assuming that your opponent doesn't make the tea lady shot).

At the end of your turn, you have to leave your opponent at least one ball to hit, without any hoops in the way. But you don't have to leave them an easy shot, hence the tea lady, which is all the way across the court (40+ yards).

The opening of the hoops is only 1/16" wider than the balls, so if there is any diagonal aspect to the shot, you can't get through. By putting the opponent's balls on opposite sides of a hoop, they are "cross wired," and can't hit each other. You have to get them fairly close to the hoop, though, or the opponent could jump over the hoop.

If I understand a "rush" properly, it means hitting your non-playing ball down court to the place you want it to be (e.g. hoop 2). So they're saying you want to set that up for your next turn.

Now, you're only allowed to directly hit one of your balls in a given turn, i.e. if you start with red, you can only hit the red ball this turn. However, you can hit the red ball into the yellow ball. If you do that and put it through the hoop, that's called a "peel" on the yellow ball.

A sextuple peel, then, means you've peeled one of your balls through all six hoops in your turn. (Meanwhile, of course, you also have to advance the other ball through all twelve hoops.)

There's one more rule that plays into the game here: once you start putting your ball through the hoops for a second time, if you miss a shot and your opponent gets to play, they get some kind of advantage that I'm not entirely clear on. Thus, just before that situation occurs, the player will leave the opponent a "tea lady shot," i.e. the most difficult possible opportunity. Odds are that your opponent will miss the shot, and then it's your turn again.

To summarize, you play your first ball (e.g. red) through the first six hoops, then set up the tea lady shot. When your opponent misses that one, you start playing the yellow ball through all 12 hoops, and simultaneously "peeling" the red ball through the last six hoops to complete the sextuple peel (SXP).

Just one more thing, to put the SXP in perspective, only 100 SXP's have been made in the last 12 months, by 15 different players. Most of those are by three players--Fulford (47), Bamford (15), and Maugham (12).