Saturday, 31 May 2014

10 Stories for the 16th World Crokinole Championship

Tavistock will host the World Crokinole Championship for the 16th time this June 7th, 2014. The one day event is a spectacular display of sportsmanship, camaraderie and competitiveness that’s usually over too quickly. But to help you get the most of it, CrokinoleCentre provides 10 stories you can follow when the first June Saturday arrives.

#1 - Conrad attempts to join an Exclusive Club
This is an obvious one as the 2-time defending World Champion will try to join Brian Cook and Joe Fulop as the only men to have completed a hat-trick of World titles. Fulop earned his 3 titles over a 4-year span with wins in 2001, 02, 04 while Cook won 3-straight from 2007-2009. Last year Conrad joined these men as the only players to have won multiple World titles, and now a third is up for grabs.
Looking at the NCA season would indicate that Conrad is not in his best form. Despite his 1st place finish on the NCA Tour, most of those points came from the 2013 WCC. However, it should be remembered that his wins in 2012 and 2013 were preempted with winless NCA campaigns.

And while we remember he has done it before, it’s time to ask, “Can he do it again?”

#2 - Cook looks for record 4th
Amazingly Brian Cook comes into this year’s tournament as quiet as he did 10 years ago. In 2012 his streak of 8 straight trips to the world final was ended, and in 2013 his run of 9 straight visits to the top 4 came to a close. He has been quiet on the NCA Tour, finishing 8th, with his best finish of the year as a 2nd place in Belleville in September.
While story #1 is Conrad looking to join Cook and Fulop with 3 world titles, Cook has a strong chance of capturing a record-breaking 4th title. And just as Cook quietly found his way to 2nd in 2004, he once again comes in as a quiet favourite for the 2014 title.

#3 - Wide Open Field
The 6th NCA Tour season has come to a close and featured several competitors. The season saw a record 11 different winners take home titles in the 14 events, more than any other NCA season. It also saw a record number of 1st-time winners, suggesting that many new players are rising to the top.
Even outside of the top spot, there has been a lot of different names making up the tournament’s top 4 positions. Jon Conrad, Brian Cook, Louis Gauthier, Nathan Walsh, Fred Slater, Matt Brown, Roy Campbell, Ron Haymes, Eric Miltenburg, Justin Slater and Ray Beierling have all had at least one top 4 singles performance this year.
Clearly there are a number of competitors with the potential to crack the top 4 in Tavistock, we’ll just have to wait to see who it is.

#4 - Doubles Showdown
The doubles competition is a lot like the singles; while there are many teams in contention, there are a few who are a cut above the rest. Those include the Beierlings, the Slaters, the Haymes, and the team of Conrad/Snyder. Together they
have been a part of 13 of the 15 Doubles World Champions.
Due to the low number of games played in the doubles event, only those playing the best in the short time span will advance to the playoffs. Often some of the best teams are left on the outside. Last year however, these 4 teams met in the round of 6 playoffs. They cleaned up the top 4 spots, and Justin and Fred Slater took home their first doubles title.
Coming into this year’s tournament each team only looks stronger. The Slater’s are defending world champions, both finished in the top 6 in NCA Tour, and top 7 in St. Jacob’s. Jason and Raymond Beierling both finished in the top 10 on the NCA Tour, and won the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship back in October. The Haymes were runners-up at the ODCC and have had even better success in singles. Ray Haymes finished second at last year’s world championships, and Ron Haymes won the Hamilton tournament in January to finish 5th on the NCA Tour. Jon Conrad and Tony Snyder took 3rd place at the ODCC and finished 1st and 24th on the NCA Tour respectively. . . . Oh, and they also have the 2-time defending singles World Champion on their team.

#5 - New Contenders at the Top
As previously mentioned the NCA Tour was extremely competitive last season, and a big reason for that was the number of different winners this season. Among those were 3 winners grabbing their first NCA singles title this season. Nathan Walsh, Louis Gauthier and Ron Haymes all achieved this feat and have their sights set for more in Tavistock. Since the inauguration of the NCA in 2009, no player had won the world title without winning an event earlier in that NCA season. The one exception is that of Jon Conrad in 2012, and it’s not like he was far off, finishing in the top 4 three times that season.
Clearly, NCA success is crucial, and Walsh, Gauthier and Haymes have proven they can contend with the best, but will they do so on the first Saturday of June?

#6 - Outside Competition
Last year Wilf Olson made a splash as an unknown from Saskatchewan to make the top 16, after finishing 11th in the preliminary round. The year before Lawson Lea of PEI made the playoff round with a 10th place finish in round one. And if you go back even further, Julian Chalmers of BC finished 5th in 2011 after a great tournament. While no competitors from outside of Ontario have been able to crack the top 4 yet, several are getting close. Perhaps we’ll see a couple of Olson’s return this year, along with crews from PEI, and several pockets of the USA.
All are welcome at the World Championships, and it would appear all have an opportunity to win the world title.

(by the way a great read from the other Olson on the 2013 World Crokinole tournament:

#7 - Lucky Number 7?
The doubles competition was already mentioned, but one team does deserve special attention. Ray and Jason Beierling won the doubles competition in 1999 and 2000, then again from 2007-2010. A record 6 doubles victories, but the 7th has alluded them for a few years. It has actually alluded them since their creation of the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship. For three straight years, one of the best doubles teams around was kept from winning one of the most competitive doubles tournaments (due to some great play from Brian Cook and Fred Slater).
But that streak could not last forever, and the Beierling’s won their first ODCC last October. Now they are looking for more. Will they make in 7 wins on June 7th?

#8 - 20’s Rubber Match
In the 15 year history of the World Championships, 16 crowns have been handed out to 20’s champions. (Confused? Read here: A Word about 20's Shootouts). Those 16 awards have been hoarded by 8 men. Only 3 of which have earned a single title, 2 more winning twice (Cook and Fulop), and 3 others who have racked up 3 wins each. Those 3 are Al Fuhr, Ray Beierling and Justin Slater. Al Fuhr has not been on the crokinole scene in years, and collected all of his wins from 2001 to 2005. The real battle has been between Beierling and Slater, who have won the title in each of the last 6 years. And it’s been quite a ride!
These last 6 years have seen a world record destroying 142 20’s by Slater, and two 20’s shootouts between Beierling and Slater. Now they are both level at 3 wins each, and the next victory will push one of them to the historic feat of most 20’s titles in WCC history.
While there is always the possibility of another competitor making a push for a top 20 score, the excitement builds around Beierling and Slater who have turned this once boring sideshow of unexpected winners into a spectacle. The only question is which way the story will turn next.

#9 - Young Guns
Crokinole is clearly a game for all ages. In 2008, Brian Cook played an 82-year-old Ab Leitch in the world finals, and a year later played a 16-year-old Nathan Walsh. But the most recent crokinole tournament, the 2014 Ontario Singles Championship in St. Jacobs, gave way to the youngest final in NCA history. A pair of 21-year-olds, Walsh and Justin Slater played for the Ontario title.

The 2 finalists in the world championship  have never had a combined age of under 50. Is there a chance a pair of young guns smash that record in Tavistock?

#10 - The First Triple Crown?
Since Jon Conrad became the first to win the doubles and singles competition in the same world championship in 2012, there has been the thought that a player may be able to win the Triple Crown. That of course is the trifecta, doubles, singles, and 20’s World Champion.
Looking at the field, it’s hard not to believe that it could happen. Premier 20’s scorers like Ray Beierling, Justin Slater, Jason Beierling, Louis Gauthier, Nathan Walsh, Ray Haymes, Jon Conrad and Roy Campbell have a decent chance to win both the 20’s and singles competitions. What’s more is that all of those players have teamed up with some very strong partners to make some dangerous doubles teams.
The feat would be incredible. To win all 3 titles requires elite play from 8am to 10pm, comprising of approximately 1000 shots of competitive action.

No player has ever done it before, and it would sure make for a good story at the 2014 World Crokinole Championship, June 7th in Tavistock, Ontario.

You can follow all the results from the 2014 World Crokinole Championship on the official website: or on Twitter with CrokinoleCentre: @CrokinoleCentre

Get excited for the tournament with the 2014 World Crokinole Championship promotional video: 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

World Crokinole Championships - Cues Singles Preview

Contributed by Andrew Hutchinson

The first Saturday in June is just around the corner, which means the biggest day on the cues crokinole calendar is almost upon us.  The World Crokinole Championship is the only tournament of the year that brings the world’s best cues crokinole competitors together.  Again, this June 7th, the most effective with “the stick” will congregate in Tavistock, coming from St. Jacobs, Kitchener, Milverton, and beyond!  These “men (and ladies) with cues” will renew their longstanding rivalries in cues doubles in the morning and cues singles in the evening.

The Cues Doubles preview can be found here.

Cues Singles: Finally, the highlight in the cues crokinole world, the cues singles division at the World Crokinole Championship: where your partner in the morning becomes a fierce competitor in the afternoon – all for the chance of taking home $300!  Cues singles at the World Crokinole Championship has been growing in popularity and has become increasingly competitive over the last few years.  It is difficult to pick a frontrunner, but following his first championship in 2013, Wayne Kipfer is arguably the favourite this year.  Kipfer’s consistent play is unparalleled in the cues crokinole world and his ability to strategize puts fear into the heart of even the best of his competitors.  As unflappable under pressure as ever, Kipfer will look to add to his championship and two 2nd place finishes in cues singles.

The big question heading into this event is which Lorraine Proud will we see?  Will it be the lady who won back-to-back cues singles championships in 2011 and 2012?  Or will it be the one who failed to reach the round of 16 in 2013?  When on her game, Proud is the toughest competitor and the best 20’s shooter in the cues game.  Last year’s performance, however, failed to meet the high bar that Proud has set for herself – but you can be sure she will use that as motivation to climb back to the top of the cues world.  A player on the ascent, Proud’s doubles partner Carol Litt, will be seeking to build on her first ever top-four singles finish (3rd place) in 2013.  Litt, having outdone her doubles partner for the first time in 2013, is causing everyone to wonder if we are seeing a “changing of the guard” or if last year was merely an anomaly.

Let us not forget about Wayne Schultz, the most decorated cues singles competitor in WCC history.  Schultz has a record 8 top-four finishes, comprising of three championships, two 2nd place finishes, and three 3rd place finishes.  However last year he failed to place in the top-four for the first time since 2005 – will he be able to get back into the money this year?  Schultz, and fellow stalwart Floyd Kuepfer, are certainly two of the scrappiest players in the cues game.  Even when they appear to be beat, they always seem to find a way to steal a couple of points from their competition.  It is this tenacity that ensures each of them will always be a threat to make noise, or even win it all!

Another tough competitor who is always in the thick of things is Carl Litt.  Just like Wayne Schultz, Carl Litt placed in the top-four every year since 2006 until being knocked out in the round of 16 last year.  Rounding out the top competition in cues singles is Oscar Weber.  2013’s 2nd place finisher is always a tough matchup.  This year he’ll be looking to add to his two championships and 5 top-four finishes.

In addition to the top-tier talent, there are a few others looking to bring home some money in the cues singles division.  Will last year’s fourth place finisher, Andrew Hutchinson, be able to keep up with his elders and challenge for a top-four finish again?  Will Dave or Dennis Brubacher make it back into the money in singles for the first time in 4 years?  Or will another from the extensive brood of Brubachers make a run into the top 4 for the first time?  Will a consistent veteran, such as Raymond Schwartzentruber or Sam Wagler, place again?  Will a relative newcomer, such as David King, Kelly Fischer, or Dave Martel, break through after their steady progression the last couple of years?

There are many questions heading into this tournament, but there’s no question that Wayne Kipfer and Lorraine Proud are the cream of the crop.  Yet they will be tested, as there are plenty of seasoned vets and newcomers alike looking for a shot to take their place in the spotlight!  However things turn out, the 2014 World Crokinole Championships promises to be one of the most memorable cues events in recent history.

A full rundown of the fingers events will be provided in the coming week as the 2014 World Crokinole Championship approaches on June 7th.

Andrew Hutchinson is a competitive cues crokinole player who broke through in 2013 to finish 4th in the singles competition. He can be followed on Twitter in his preparation for the 2014 World Crokinole Tournament at @FavouriteHutch

Sunday, 25 May 2014

World Crokinole Championships - Cues Doubles Preview

Contributed by Andrew Hutchinson

The first Saturday in June is just around the corner, which means the biggest day on the cues crokinole calendar is almost upon us.  The World Crokinole Championship is the only tournament of the year that brings the world’s best cues crokinole competitors together.  Again, this June 7th, the most effective with “the stick” will congregate in Tavistock, coming from St. Jacobs, Kitchener, Milverton, and beyond!  These “men (and ladies) with cues” will renew their longstanding rivalries in cues doubles in the morning and cues singles in the evening.

Cues Doubles:  In the cues crokinole world, there is one duo that strikes fear into the heart of all cues doubles teams: Lorraine Proud and Carol Litt.  The most dominant team of this decade, Proud and Litt
 are looking to win their 3rd straight doubles championship and 4th in total.  They have been virtually unstoppable the last few years, and for as long as they continue entering this tournament it would be foolish to call them anything but the favourites. 

Proud and Litt’s favourite status does not mean they won’t face some tough competition.  There will be a number of pairs with a serious chance of upending the two-time defending champions.  Hottest on Proud and Litt’s heals might be Oscar and Paul Weber.  The Weber’s were the last team to finish ahead of Proud and Litt, squeaking out a cues doubles championship in 2011.  What the Weber’s lack in flair, they more than make up for in consistency.  In fact, Oscar Weber has the most top-four finishes in WCC cues doubles history with 7, including 2 championships with his current partner, Paul.

Another team with a good chance to take down the defending champions are Dave and Dennis Brubacher.  The always competitive Brubacher brothers have been on the scene for about a decade finishing 2nd in 2005, 3rd in 2012, and 4th in 2011 in cues doubles as well as accumulating numerous 2nd through 4th place finishes in cues singles.  The question everybody is asking is if this might be the year the Brubacher brothers finally win it all and take themselves home a championship?  Whatever the case, make sure you don’t get lulled into a feeling of safety by their good natured personality – the truth is they have the ability to take down anybody in the field.

In addition to the Weber’s and the Brubacher brothers, there are a few other pairs with a serious opportunity of seizing a seat on Proud and Litt’s throne.  Sam Moore and Gary Palmer will no doubt be looking to improve upon their 2nd place finish from last year.  Raymond Schwartzentruber and Sam Wagler, although never having finished 1st, always put up a tough battle, including 3rd place in 2013.  Husband-and-wife duo Merv and Marjorie Roth had a run of 3 top-four finishes between 2008 and 2010, but none since – will this be the year they finish back in the money?   In addition to these formidable opponents, there is always a chance that another pair breaks into the top-four or even challenges for the championship.

A full preview of the cues singles competition, as well as a rundown of the fingers events will be provided in the coming week as the 2014 World Crokinole Championship approaches on June 7th.

Andrew Hutchinson is a competitive cues crokinole player who broke through in 2013 to finish 4th in the singles competition. He can be followed on Twitter in his preparation for the 2014 World Crokinole Tournament at @FavouriteHutch

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A word about 20's Shootouts at the World Crokinole Championships

This will be short, but I’ve been meaning to write about the use of the 20’s shootout at the World Crokinole Championships (WCC) for a while.

What I’m talking about is the 12-shot competition of open 20’s that is reserved for the rare case of two players tied in total points AND total 20’s for the final qualifying spot. In that case, which I have never seen occur, the shootout seems like a decent way to break a tie while making for a lot of excitement.

Speaking of excitement, the two 20’s shootouts I have seen in the last couple of years were not very exciting.

What I’m referring to is the 2011 and 2013 Beierling v Slater 20’s shootouts used to determine the 20’s Champ for the year. Here’s a look at both of those shootouts:

I delayed putting up the one from 2011 for awhile. As you can the see the camera work was quite substandard, and I don’t think either player would really enjoy re-watching their play. But I felt it was necessary to post to illustrate my point.

The 2011 shootout ended 6-3 for Slater. Shooting percentages of 50% and 25%, well below the percentages they must have had to record 102 each in the preliminary round. The poor performance was understandable though. The decision to have a 20’s shootout was a surprise from the WCC organizers. In 2008, Ray Beierling and Merv Wice both scored 97 20’s as the top score and the title of 20’s Champion was shared.

Not knowing any differently, the same was assumed for 2011. Until it was announced that there would be a shootout. Ray Beierling had just won the world title in an exhausting match, and Justin Slater hadn’t touched a disc in over an hour.

The 2013 shootout was a bit better, taking place before the round of 16 action which seemed like a good time to stage the event. Beierling scored 10 of 12, pretty respectable, while Slater scored 5, but most of his misses came after he was down a few 20’s and likely knew the comeback chances were quite limited.

However, I like the idea of breaking a tie in this way. The 20’s competition is essentially a throw away event anyway. The winner is determined by most 20’s after 10 rounds of play; there is no build up to determine the winner, and no way of knowing who is in the lead throughout. For a game that people call “not a spectator sport” the 20’s competition doesn’t even give you the chance.

If I was to make a suggestion for the World Championship, I’d like to see the top two 20’s scorers have a 20 shootout for the title every year, regardless of whether they tied in 20’s scores. I think it would add more excitement and credibility to the event, especially as it’s likely to see a lot of Ray Beierling/Justin Slater matchups. 

I do see two disadvantages though. The first is that it would take away from the excitement of the winner 20 score. It was an exciting moment when it was announced Justin Slater scored 142 20’s in his 10 preliminary games in 2012. Having an additional round of action would somewhat takeaway from a recurrence of that event. The second is that large differences between the first and second scorers in the preliminary round become nullified and disregarded. While in most cases the difference is minimal, cases such as 2012 saw a massive difference of 38.

Either way, I think it’s worth a thought.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Conrad Wins 2nd NCA Championship, Slater Wins 4th Ontario Title

If it does turn out to be the final games of crokinole played in the St. Jacobs Firehall, it was quite a show.

22 of the best players around filled the upper level of the firehall for the final tuneup before for the 2014 World Championship, and the end of the 6th National Crokinole Association Tour.

Splitting into 2 groups in the morning, with everyone gunning for the top half cutoff for the afternoon. Justin Slater scored at the top with 64 points, followed by Brian Cook (59), Fred Slater (58) and Nathan Walsh (55). Also filling out the top group were Ray Beierling, Jon Conrad, Louis Gauthier, Roger Valliancourt, John Harvey, Eric Miltenburg and Paul Brubacher. 
Roger Vaillancourt leans to set up for a shot during first round action at the 2014 Ontario Singles Crokinole Championship.

20’s scores were extremely high, with 5 players recording over 100 20’s. Nathan Walsh led the way with 128, with Justin Slater at 115 and Ray Beierling at 113.

Just missing out on the top group were Robert Bonnett (by 1 point) and Jason Beierling (by 3 points). They would go into the B group with the top scores, and then emerge with the two best scores through the second round robin. Bonnett would come away with the victory in the B final match, winning 6-2, 6-4.

The second round play in the A group was extremely tight. Brian Cook and Justin Slater would claim the top 2 spots. Cook also led the way in 20’s with 133. Jon Conrad and Nathan Walsh would take 3rd and 4th, both with 48 points, just leaving Ray Beierling on the outside in 5th with 44 points.

The semifinals set up an exciting pair of matches. Top seeded Brian Cook would play Nathan Walsh. The two met in the 2009 world championship finals, as well as the last two Belleville Challenge finals. The other semifinal was a rematch of the 2012 world championship, with Jon Conrad and Justin Slater.

Justin Slater preparing for a shot early in the day in St. Jacobs.

With his qualification into the semifinals, Jon Conrad had already done all he needed to do to claim his second consecutive NCA Tour title. Meanwhile, Ray Beierling had guaranteed at least a 2nd place tie on the Tour, and the final spot on the podium up for grabs between Slater and Walsh.

The awards for the top 3 finishers on the NCA Tour, and the Tour's grand trophy.

The battle for the last spot would only intensify as both Justin Slater and Nathan Walsh would win their semifinal matches to set up the youngest final in NCA history, at a combined age of 42.

Nathan Walsh won the first game, of the best of 3, and was up 4-2, before Justin Slater turned the tides, winning the last 5 rounds and taking the match 2-6, 6-4, 6-0.

It was Justin Slater’s 4th Ontario Singles Championship and 3rd consecutive.

For the effort, Justin Slater slipped into a tie with Ray Beierling for 2nd place.

Justin Slater (left) and Ray Beierling (right) pose for their 2nd place tie  with tournament convenor, Fred Slater (middle).

And for the second straight year, Jon Conrad won the NCA Tour. With the victory, Jon Conrad becomes the first to ever win the NCA title while only recording one tournament victory on the year. Of course, he did that at the toughest tournament of all, the World Championships.

Jon Conrad (left) accepts the award for the 2013-2014 NCA Tour Champion.

And with that, Conrad goes into the 2014 World Crokinole Championships with a mission to win his 3rd straight title, and also start off the 7th NCA Tour on the right foot. But many others will look to do the same.

There is less than a month to go until the 16th World Championship tournament, and CrokinoleCentre will look to keep you up to date on all actions leading up to the games greatest event on June 7th in Tavistock, Ontario, Canada.