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« Chapman is AC World Champion | Main | Clarke: Bamford and Chapman for the Title #09 »
Saturday
Feb102018

Soo: No Time Limits Needed #09

DAY 8: SEMIFINAL RECAP

The Main KO semifinals were played at the Wellington Municipal Croquet Club, a hundred year old club with three lawns south of the city center. Weather was calm and overcast with occasional sprinkles, and fog developing throughout the day. The lawns were about the same medium-slowish pace we've seen at most venues throughout the week, with some lusher areas and a few tricky hoop approaches, but overall quite true. The main challenges were the hoops -- based on the number of failed shots these must have been quite solid -- and the pressure of the situation.

2018 AC Worlds KO | AC Worlds Articles | KO Forum Discussion | Soo Photo Gallery

The cast of characters: Paddy Chapman (NZ), playing with smooth precision and a calm demeanor. Jose Riva (ESP): intensity, determination, and aggressive tactics. Stephen Mulliner (ENG): the defending champion with the will to win. Reg Bamford (ZAF), the four-time champion and a commanding presence on the lawn, in complete control of his game.

Imposing time limits in the main event of a world championship should be a last resort. It made sense for the block games at Plimmerton (whether or not it made sense to use Plimmerton at all is another question), but was questionable at best yesterday and simply wrong today. No games went to time yesterday although some were close, meaning the time limits did little if anything to shorten matches and yet were at times a looming issue, which may have affected players' tactical choices. There was no reason to expect slower play today, given the lawn conditions and the quality of the players.

As yesterday, a Mulliner TPO was the manager's nightmare. This was in game 1. Chapman had a squeeze off the contact, and developed a tight three-ball break on his next turn, but failed 3b from close position, trying for a forward rush. Many turns later Mulliner pegged out his forward ball, leaving rover vs. 3b. Chapman finally found his long shot, but failed 4b after a long roll-up: Mulliner +4tpo. At this point there was under 15' on the clock, meaning the next game would have a time limit of just over two hours. Chapman made quick work of the game, however, +26tp in seven turns, to put the match back on track.

On Lawn 2, Riva won game 1 +26tp on the sixth turn. No roquets in game 2 until turn 6, when Bamford went round to 1b. Riva missed the very long shot from 1 to corner III, and Bamford made a quick start to the sextuple peel, two peels completed after just two hoops of his break. Despite this "easy" situation there were some challenges the rest of the way, but Bamford finished +26sxp to equalize the match. (At this point the other semi-final was still in game 1.)

Game 3 started just as game 1: Bamford hit and made a leave on turn 3, Riva hit and made a break of nine on turn 4, and Bamford missed the lift on turn 5. Riva's standard triple attempt quickly turned into a delayed triple, with a few exciting moments, but looked well in control down the stretch, until his shot sending partner (yellow) down to rover finished a few yards short of the hoop. This led to a peel attempt from something over two feet, which ended with yellow in the jaws and red a few inches behind. He attempted the jump, which put yellow through, but red bounced back. Riva then stepped sideways into the ball. Had he "quitted his stance under control" before contacting it, as the Laws stipulate? The referee's ruling was that he had not, with which I agree. Bamford asked to have the balls replaced, apparently in the erroneous belief that otherwise yellow would score the hoop. This made what would have been a trivial start a mildly difficult one, and in fact he ran hoop 2 from at least three feet out. As in game 2 he made six hoops and a leave, and Riva missed the very long shot, 30+ yards. While his first peel came later than it had in game 2, the break never looked in doubt as he completed his second sextuple peel in a row, +4sxp to take a 2-1 lead in the match.

Game 3 in the Mulliner-Chapman match started with a Mulliner break to 1b. Tactically questionable, given Chapman's shooting today; vintage Mulliner. Chapman missed, and Mulliner nailed the first peel before scoring hoop 1 with his own ball. A little later he over-rolled position at hoop 3, and failed the severely angled shot at the hoop. Chapman went round, "popping" Mulliner's ball through #3. Mulliner missed the lift and Chapman completed another triple, +16tp, for a 2-1 lead. Mulliner started game 4 with a roquet on turn 4, and another 1b leave. Chapman missed, barely. Mulliner managed three peels plus an attempt at a fourth, before failing 3b. Chapman's break ended with a failed shot at 2, and he had inadvertently rush-peeled Mulliner's forward ball through 4b. After an exchange of missed shots Mulliner made the last two hoops with his forward ball and a cross-wire leave. Chapman missed the very long shot and Mulliner finished +25 to equalize the match at 2-all.

Back on Lawn 2, Riva opened game 4 with a "supershot" ball near the peg. He roqueted Bamford's ball on the east boundary on turn 3 and made nine hoops and a defensive spread. Bamford hit from corner III. Having won the previous two games with sextuple peels, it was no surprise that he opted for another 1b leave. With Riva's clips on 1 and 4b Bamford knew which ball Riva would play, and he put that ball several yards toward corner I, making the shot that much longer, probably about 38 yards. Riva shot and watched intently, then let out a shout when the shot hit its target. He had an easy pick-up for a standard triple peel to level the match. The break started well, but his first attempt to peel penult failed. After 1b, he was either attempting to rush-peel the ball or to bounce it back off the wire, but the ball ended in the jaws. In that position sometimes a take-off to 2b is a good option and sometimes not; it depends on the exact position of the ball. At any rate, Riva played an Irish peel. He played the shot well, the striker's ball finishing about halfway between the peg and rover, but he missed his moderately-paced eight-yard shot at his 2b pioneer. Bamford was in with a turn to win the match; with three peels done he failed 1b from close position. Riva hit with his forward ball, scored rover and made a leave. Bamford hit with his 1b ball, went round with no peels and pegged out Riva's rover. Riva had a couple of chances but both shots missed, and Bamford finished +6. He has now reached the final of this event for the fifth time, and he is a four-time champion. This is not good news for his opponent.

Chapman had the first ball around in the decider, and Mulliner missed the lift. Chapman needed a few attempts on the penult peel, but by the time the striker's ball was for penult he had good position to rush to the hoop, with partner in excellent position for the rover peel. He over-cut the rush, played a good reverse take-off to position, and failed the hoop. Mulliner's rush to 1 went long and his approach left him a tough shot at 1, which failed. Chapman played his forward ball and advanced to the peg with a reasonable leave. Mulliner missed and Chapman finished to reach his second world championship final.

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