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« Clark: 2018 AC Worlds Overview | Main | Chapman is AC World Champion »
Sunday
Feb112018

Soo: Chapman Crowned World Champion in New Zealand #10

DAY 9: FINALS

One of the most well-liked and respected players in the game, it seemed only a matter of time until Paddy Chapman (NZ) would add the title of AC Singles World Champion to his croquet resumé. A past winner of the NZ Open, the NZ President's Invitation, the UK President's Cup, and a leading member of NZ's victorious MacRobertson Shield team, Chapman did not lack for impressive accomplishments. But the world singles title cements his reputation as one of the very best.

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To top it off, he did it in New Zealand. No Kiwi had won this tournament since Joe Hogan became the first WCF world champion in 1989. If Chapman felt extra pressure in front of his home supporters, he handled it in his usual manner, keeping a calm and steady demeanor throughout.

One also might have thought he would feel extra pressure playing against Reg Bamford, the four-time champion. But the (previously) little-known fact is that of those who have played Bamford in 10 or more games, no one has a better winning percentage than Chapman.

Bamford opened the match with a fifth-turn break to 1b, and Chapman missed the very long shot. While Bamford had done only one sextuple peel in the earlier stages of the tournament, he completed two in a row in the semifinals. But a shocking missed roquet turned the break over to Chapman. Chapman advanced a ball to 4b while peeling Bamford's backward ball through 4, a defensive measure to make it that much harder for Bamford to finish in a single turn. Bamford hit the lift shot and advanced his backward ball to the peg, likewise peeling the opponent's backward ball through a hoop. Chapman hit and scored 2, but failed a near-impossible jump shot at 3. Luckily for Chapman he did so with Bamford's peg ball nearby; Bamford played that ball and made a strong leave. Chapman shot from 4b to 2b and hit. Despite some difficult moments he finished to take game 1 +7tp.

Yes, Paddy, you can smile now. Click to Zoom.Bamford hit on turn 4 of game 2, this time going to 4b with a diagonal spread. Chapman took the (marginally) shorter shot from A-baulk; the shot started on line but curved off just enough to miss narrowly. As Bamford played what would ordinarily be a very high-percentage turn for him, the rain really started coming down. On top of earlier rain, the lawns were beginning to become soggy in spots, and there was much sideline chatter about whether or not they had reached the "unplayable" threshold. Bamford was clearly unhappy with the conditions, but continued on for a +26tp win to level the match at 1-all.

The rain had slackened, and the manager allowed a little extra time for the lunch break to give the lawns a chance to dry a bit. For the second game in a row Chapman did not take croquet and Bamford won +26tp. Game 4 started with a hit and a leave by Chapman on turn 3, and the same by Bamford on turn 4. Chapman missed and Bamford again made a break to 4-back with a diagonal spread. Facing what could be his last shot of the match, Chapman lifted black to A-baulk and shot at blue near the peg, hitting, to huge applause from the polite but obviously partisan crowd. In control again for the first time in a few hours, he made a break to 4b and added two peels on Bamford's backward ball.

For the first time in the match, Bamford missed a long shot, in this case a twenty-some yarder from corner III. After a slightly difficult start Chapman developed a standard triple peel. Two peels done and in good position at 2b, his hoop shot groveled through by just a few inches, leaving him no shot at the reception ball. He quickly lined up to shoot at black, near rover, and made the roquet to the great relief of his many fans. He re-built the break and finished the triple, +15tp, to take the match to game 5.

The game opened with the same sequence as game 3: Bamford to the east boundary, Chapman just outside corner IV, Bamford hits partner and makes a leave, Chapman misses on turn 4, and a Bamford break to 4b on turn 5. As in game 4 Chapman lifted to A-baulk (with blue this time) and shot at his partner ball near the peg. And as in game 4, he hit. His break was not up to his usual standard of precision, the slow lawn still a factor, but he coped well enough to make nine hoops and another NSL (New Standard Leave). As in game 4, Bamford lifted to corner III. The result was also the same, a miss into corner IV.

And as in game 4, Chapman couldn't quite convince himself to play the shot out of corner IV hard enough to get a straight rush to 1, and had a reverse take-off to about one-yard position. Safely through, this time there was no drama. He jawsed the 4b peel after 3. Failing to get a rush back up the lawn after 4, he rolled up anyway to finish the peel and take off back to 5. Once through 6 he had a long peel attempt at penult, which again finished in the jaws. This was a key moment in the turn: from this position Chapman's odds of finishing were very high. He is arguably the most precise player in the world at the short game, and he finished the turn in complete control, peeling rover from about three inches. Chapman's mask of calm slipped ever so slightly here: observing closely you could see some little gestures showing his excitement. He allowed himself half a smile after pegging out to become World Champion.

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