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« Croquet Poll: 2018 Most Popular Croquet Mallet | Main | Soo: Chapman Crowned World Champion in New Zealand #10 »
Wednesday
Feb142018

Clark: 2018 AC Worlds Overview

Many congratulations to Paddy Chapman on becoming our new AC World Champion! The final was a good quality match played in easy conditions – apart from during one downpour when the lawns became unplayable for about 10-15 minutes. Unfortunately, the hoops were left in the same holes that had been created on Wednesday and which had become wet inside with overnight rain. This made the final very much a shooting contest rather than a more complete test of skill. We need to ensure that hoops are in fresh holes for finals – as is normally the case.

How did Paddy win? At first glance, people will say that he played better, but the more analysis you do, this will be found to be untrue. From a physical playing perspective, both players made one error and Paddy hit a lower percentage of his shots. There are four scenarios that I think I should comment on. The first was in game 1 when Paddy misapproached hoop 3 and then failed an almost impossible hoop. Reg had to make a leave with his peg ball and ended up giving Paddy a long shot that Paddy could easily pick up not only a break but a delayed tp from. After the initial roquet was made, there was a good opportunity to croquet Paddy’s 4-b ball between h1 and C1 and rush partner off the lawn near C3 followed by cross-wiring at h3 from Paddy’s h3 ball. This would have left a very long shot and in order to get the balls into play early enough to have a delayed triple, Paddy would have needed to play a roll from C1 loading h4 going to balls near C3. I do not believe he would even have attempted such a line of play on the very heavy lawn they were playing on. This would probably have given Reg an extra shot.

The second scenario is the leave in game 5. Reg had been going to 4-b and making a diagonal spread. Paddy had repeatedly lifted the Westerly ball and shot at partner at the peg – hitting on each occasion. This was in stark contrast to his shots at the “short lift” from A-Baulk which he had repeatedly missed. It therefore came as a surprise to me that Reg allowed Paddy to take the same shot he had been hitting rather than make an NSL/MSL and forcing Paddy to take the shot he had been missing.

The third scenario is about not going for a sextuple. Reg had done two very nice sextuples at Wellington in the semis and had missed a 5 yarder on his sextuple in game 1 of the final. I assume that he believed that the lawn was too slow for him to be comfortable about sextupling in the deciding game, after Paddy had displayed some improved shooting. This is clearly a completely valid decision, but if you are as good a sextupler as Reg and then decide just to go to 4-b, I expect some more bells and whistles on your way round. PoPs, or leaves that make it a bit more difficult for your opponent should they hit must be part of your repertoire. As it was, there was nothing to demonstrate the excellent physical skill level that Reg possesses..

Finally, there were the openings. Reg kept hitting and yet in no game did he approach hoop 1 third turn. In normal advanced play, third turn balls to 4-b are the most powerful weapon of an elite player. I was left thinking that Fulford would not have lost a match in which he had played as well physically.

The above allowed Paddy to hit a couple of lifts in games 4 and 5, immediately have an easy break and have a standard tp after Reg had missed the long lift, rather than taking the short lift that he had consistently hit throughout the match. It was a great display of how to beat a better player by Paddy, who entered the match with a 5-1 record against Reg and ends it with an 8-3 record and the Wimbledon Cup. I have said for some years that Paddy has the complete game and all that it needed was him to find some shooting form at the right time. He was fortunate that Maloof put down two finishing turns to eliminate him in the round of 16. He was fortunate that he didn’t need to shoot well in the following two rounds. However, very few people ever win a Worlds without some good fortune and he took full advantage to beat a fantastic player playing well in the final. New Zealand have their first World AC Champion for 29 years and he is a worthy Champion.

The next event will be held at Cairnlea in 2020 and we can expect easy lawns and easy, wide (not 1/64th”) hoops in sandy soil. We should be able to break, what will then be, the 15 year run of not having a sextuple in the final and hopefully more than 5 of the World’s top 13 players will compete.

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