2018 Championships Review

Despite the Mini Beast from the East, the 52nd Individual Championships of the Burnham & District Table Tennis League went off without a hitch over the weekend of 17/18 March. Four hundred matches were played, with eighty players competing over the two days, and nine matches are yet to come as the Finals Night is held this Thursday evening at Champions Manor Hall – details and schedule of play can be found here.

Of course there are many people to thank for putting on the tournament, especially as they are all volunteers. The architect, the man of the hour, is Alan Dadswell who over a course of weeks takes in the entry forms, organizes all the paperwork behind the draw and match tickets, and sits on the control table for the entire weekend. It is a colossal task. His right hand man on the control table, though he was usually sitting to his left, is Dan Anderson who did the majority of the microphone announcements over the weekend. Special thanks to Alan Mills who headed the refreshments together with Ann Mills and Jo Hart, and also to those who provided baked nourishment: Rose Goody, June Knights, Jan Dadswell and Jean of Brian & Jean. Thank you to Val Board for the raffle on the Saturday, and Jan Dadswell on the Sunday who kindly covered for Val while she fed penguins and lunched with llamas at Colchester Zoo (true story). The draw was orchestrated by Alan Dadswell, Dan Anderson, Peter Ballard, Dave Goody and Lee McHugh, and many thanks also to those others who helped with setting up, packing away and generally assisting in running a smooth event: Brian Ellis, Martin Knights, Steve Scholz, Neil Want, Scott Perry, Alan Mills, Tim Huxtable, Val Board, Keith Adams, David Gatheral and late arrival/special guest Paul Nicol. I apologise if I have missed anyone out.

Before I get into the review of the action, I would like to make a special mention here for Daniel Richardson who was an enthusiast for this tournament and very sadly passed away two months ago. The Restricted Singles trophy will be renamed the ‘Dan Richardson Cup’ to honour his memory. At the weekend there was a condolence book that many players signed and entered messages into; from the bottom of my heart thank you to those that did so. For those who were unaware of the book and would still like to sign it, it will be present on Finals Night.

Onto the action, and what a load of it there was! Several players enjoyed excellent weekends; Daniel Young, Babul McLeod, Eric Green, Scott Perry, Sam Mortimer-Ford and Ben Porter to name just a few, and of course plenty of other players picked up great wins and there were many memorable matches.

Saturday

Things kicked off with the Fambridge Trophy (open to Division 3 players) which was played as straight knockout. In round one, while the top two seeds Louis Gunn and Tim Huxtable enjoyed byes, the youngest match-up saw Sam Mortimer-Ford prevail over Ben Porter in a titanic encounter and fighting back from two nil down -7, -10, 5, 6, 12. Ben’s brother, Alex Porter, caught a difficult first round draw in third seed Brian Ellis and although putting up a superb fight in the first end just losing 15-13, was then downed 3 and 4. Other juniors Oliver Wylie, Blaydon Farmer and Noah Sage did well to progress, over Alan Mills, Phil West and Kath Little respectively. Round one also saw a seeding upset as the Darkest Horse in town Mitch Davies overcame fourth seed John Knights in straight sets. The Dark Horse Lord clearly found his groove early in the morning as in round two he then cruised past Wylie, and then Huxtable over four ends (who had beaten Farmer in the previous round) to secure his place in the Final. Meanwhile in the top half of the draw, Gunn and Ellis proved too experienced for Mortimer-Ford and Sage, and then met in a marathon Semi-Final when Gunn recovered from being five nil down in the fifth end before winning -8, 4, -13, 9, 10. The Final was played later in the day and was a much anticipated one between no.1 seed Louis Gunn and the unseeded Mitch ‘the Dark Horse’ Davies; the first end proved important in momentum as Gunn took it 12-10 and then the next two ends 11-6 and 14-12 to take the title.

The Restricted Singles (open to Division 2 & 3 players) began with a group stage, the results of which generally went with the form book. In group seven Alan Dadswell traded his control table for a table tennis table and beat Dave ‘the lovable’ Goody over four ends, who subsequently went missing which left a few of us concerned about his mental state. In group four, Scott Perry who was actually helpfully filling in for another player’s late arrival, scored excellent wins over Mitch Davies, Luca Bailey and most impressively fourth seed Ken Sheard to top his group, while in group five things were decided on countback as George Ashley, Colin Barham and David Hancox all won two matches each, the result of which was all three players progressing as Ashley nabbed one of the ‘lucky loser’ slots. In knockout round one Perry continued his good form by beating Mike Burton over four ends, while Ashley was downed by second seed Victor Chan, Hancox eased past Mervyn Perriman, and Barham got the better of seventh seed Nick Duce over five ends. In round two, in the top half of the draw no.1 seed Dan Young was unfazed by Tim Huxtable, Allan Steel and David Hancox (Hancox had beaten Perry over five ends at the Quarter-Final stage) to secure his place in the Final without dropping an end, while in the bottom half Neil Freeman booked his Semi-Final by beating Barham and Chan booked his by beating Sheard (Sheard had done well to get past Roger Hance in the previous round). The Freeman-Chan Semi-Final was a competitive one which Chan won -6, 13, 7, 9 to set up the No.1 vs No.2 seed Final meeting between Young and Chan. Dan Young, who is proving himself to be a fearsome tournament player, showed no mercy in defeating Victor Chan 7, 3, 3 to take the title – a hugely impressive scoreline as Chan himself is another much-improved player. Division One for you next season young Young!

The Mixed Open, open to all players except the eight Men’s Singles seeds, is an unseeded straight knockout event with a random draw so always throws in plenty of surprises! In the top half, in round one there were no real surprises but Allan Steel scored a fine four-games win over Sue Body, and Luca Bailey benefited from a walk-over against his scheduled opponent - title holder Glenn Johnson who unfortunately could not make it - which allowed Bailey to score a truly superb 7, 9, 12 win over Dan Anderson in the following round. Elsewhere in round two of the top half Sam Lowman got past the dangerous Matt Rolfe, and Eric Green and Barrie Delf (two contenders for the title) had a mammoth encounter which Delf won 5, -7, 6, -5, 12. In the bottom half of the draw, round one saw a tough match-up between clubmates Steve Maltby and previous finalist Neil Want, which Maltby took 11, 9, 9, and round two saw a big upset when Steve Scholz fought back from two-nil down against Lee McHugh to score a fine win -7, -8, 9, 13, 5. Round three saw Ben Matthews beat Maltby in an exceptionally close five-setter 8, 10, -11, -9, 8, while Ciaran Whelan snuck past teammate Colin Napper also over five ends, Dan Young scored an impressive win over two-time winner Peter Mynard, and three-time winner Babul McLeod brushed aside Scholz. Meanwhile in the top half all round three matches were decided in straight sets, the most impressive one was Steve Whiteley beating Delf 9, 13, 3. So the Quarter-Final line up was decided: David Gatheral vs Sam Lowman, Steve Whiteley vs Dawn Baldry, Ben Matthews vs Ciaran Whelan, and Dan Young vs Babul McLeod. The first Quarter was a strange one, as Lowman very unfortunately experienced a kind of thumb dislocation which meant he had to play two of the ends left-handed, but nonetheless he defeated Gatheral 4, -3, -4, 9, 7, to set up a Semi-Final with Steve Whiteley who had gotten past Baldry 8, 8, -9, 1. In the other Quarters, Whelan beat Matthews 5, -6, 7, 11, and McLeod showed his class in getting past an obviously in-form Dan Young 7, 9, -5, 2. The Semi-Finals were both decided over four ends, Whiteley beating Lowman 8, 16 (!), -6, 7, and McLeod beating Whelan 9, -9, 9, 4. The Final between Steve Whiteley and Babul McLeod was a classic, all-out attack encounter; McLeod always seemed one step behind the relentless Whiteley, as scores went 6 Whiteley, 8 McLeod, 9 Whiteley and 6 McLeod, and in the fifth and final end McLeod might have been done for as he was 10-8 down, but McLeod rallied beautifully to fight back and take his fourth title 14-12.

Now to cover the Junior events. The Cadet Singles (Under 15s) groups saw Ben Porter beat Noah Sage 6, -11, 8, 10 in group two, while Sam Mortimer-Ford topped group one by getting past Edward Vale and Elliot Gordon in straight sets, while Vale got the better of Gordon 7, 7, 8. In group three things were a little more competitive as Alex Porter beat Hugh Millard -6, 8, 3, 8 and Blaydon Farmer beat Millard 10, 4, 7, and in the battle for group topper Farmer got the better of Porter 6, -8, 2, 6. The Semi-Finals saw Dan Young, who had been seeded past the groups, defeat Farmer 6, 3, 3, and Ben Porter avenge his Fambridge Trophy loss to Mortimer-Ford by winning 4, 9, 10. In the Final it was always going to be a monumental task for Ben Porter to make an impact on Dan Young but Porter put in a fine effort and Young triumphed 4, 8, 7 to take the title. In the Junior Doubles (Under 18s) Dan Young and Ben Porter paired up and proved a force to be reckoned with; in the group stage they won all their matches including fighting back from two-one down to defeat the strong prospect of Luca Bailey/Kieran Stanley -7, 10, -9, 4, 4, while in the other group title holders Noah Sage/Sam Mortimer-Ford came out on top. In the Semi-Finals Young/Porter proved too strong for Oliver Wylie/Blaydon Farmer winning 10, 3, 7, and Sage/Mortimer-Ford put in a superb effort to go two-nil up against Bailey/Stanley (two players with Division Two experience), but the latter pair fought back strongly to win -12, -9, 5, 5, 9 to book their Final meeting with Young/Porter. In the Final and a repeat of a group match, Young/Porter had clearly found their groove as a pairing and impressively defeated Bailey/Stanley 4, 6, 10 to take the title. In the Junior Singles (Under 18s), in group one Kieran Stanley beat Sam Mortimer-Ford in a bizarre scoreline -10, 10, 7, -10, 1, and Mortimer-Ford got the better of his doubles partner Noah Sage 12-10 in the fifth, while Stanley also defeated Sage over five ends, and Ben Porter and Mortimer-Ford met once again which went the way of Porter over four ends. In group two Dan Young predictably ruled the roost, while in group three Luca Bailey came out on top. The Semi-Finals saw a repeat of the Cadet Singles Final when Dan Young beat Ben Porter 9, 3, 5, and Woodham teammates Kieran Stanley and Luca Bailey played a repeat of last year’s Junior Singles Final which again went in favour of Stanley but only just 5, 10, -10, -8, 7. The Final between the top two seeds, Kieran Stanley and Dan Young will take place on Finals Night.

Saturday rounded off with the Handicap events, a Singles and a Doubles both played as straight knockout, where the players' starting points are predetermined by their handicaps and range from +15 all the way to -20! These matches are played in the old format of ‘Best of 3 games, up to 21 points, 5 serves’ and aim to level the playing field to give every player an equal chance regardless of ability, and the Doubles with partners drawn out of a hat always throws together some interesting pairs. In the Handicap Singles the following players progressed to the Quarter-Finals: Neil Freeman (-8), Ben Matthews (-12), Luca Bailey (-1), Reece Seddon (-18), Sam Mortimer-Ford (+10), Sam Lowman (-12), Kieran Stanley (-1) and Glen Laing (-10), all minus handicaps with the exception of the fine efforts of Mortimer-Ford. In the previous rounds David Hancox had slaughtered Matt Rolfe 8, 4, with only a seven point start, and Peter Mynard achieved that rare feat of finishing an end on minus points when Neil Freeman beat him 21—1 (the double minus looks weird I know!), 16-21, 21-13. Meanwhile, Peter Mortensen and Phil West had an exceptionally tight match which went the way of Mortensen 19, -19, 18, and George Ashley scored a superb scalp over Barrie Delf 18, 14, with only a seven point start. In the Quarter-Finals Ben Matthews beat Neil Freeman, Reece Seddon beat Luca Bailey, Sam Mortimer-Ford beat Sam Lowman, and Glen Laing beat Kieran Stanley. The Semi-Finals saw Seddon (-18) get past Matthews (-12), and Laing (-10) put in a long, gruelling effort to beat Mortimer-Ford (+10) -18, 14, 18. The Final was a classic attack versus defence battle with Seddon starting on minus eight points against Laing, and with respect to how well Laing had been playing in this event Seddon very impressively took the title 10, 16, and became one of very few players to win the Handicap Singles while being the holder and no.1 seed in the Men’s Singles. Thanks to the info provided by Kevin Briggs, we know that the great Martin Speight won both the Men’s Singles & the Handicap Singles in 1976/77, and Peter Ballard also achieved this double in 1995/96. The Handicap Doubles saw Scott Perry do another fantastic job of filling in as he replaced John Tendler as Gary Young’s drawn partner, and they breezed through the rounds setting up their Finals Night appearance versus Woodham teammates David Gatheral/Lee McHugh (this pair was drawn at random, honest!); Gatheral/McHugh’s closest shave came in round two when they just managed to get past Martin Knights/Glen Laing, despite some blistering forehand winners from Knights. In the Semi-Finals Perry/Young had a lefty-righty showdown with Neil Want/Ciaran Whelan, while Gatheral/McHugh saw off the challenge of Victor Chan/Brian Ellis. So the Final between Perry/Young (-10) and Gatheral/McHugh (-12) – who will win? – we will find out on Thursday when the Handicap Doubles (it really is the most important event, isn’t it?) will make a rare Finals Night appearance.

Sunday

At 9am things kicked off with the Men’s Singles preliminary groups. Dan Young got past the awkward pimple-play of David Gatheral -4, 9, 6, 10 but both players progressed through to the main groups, while Dan Anderson fought well to beat Neil Freeman -7, 4, -9, 9, 6. In the main groups, group one saw Steve Muth score an impressive four-games win over Eric Green, and no.1 seed and title holder Reece Seddon defeated Muth also over four ends to top that group. In group two Gavin Price participated in his first Burnham Championships since 1978 (40 years later!), and in his first match of the day he opened with a good win over Lee McHugh in three tight ends 10, 9, 11; John Tendler also beat McHugh over five ends while Price did the same to Tendler. Duncan Taylor, the seed in group two and recently crowned Chelmsford Men’s Singles Champion, achieved long overdue revenge on McHugh 1, 3, 7, while Price gave Taylor a tougher contest only being downed -7, -18 (!), -6. In group three third seed Keith Adams beat Chris Jacob 11-1 in the first end but then could have been in trouble, but eventually prevailed 11-7 in the fifth, while David Gatheral beat Jacob over four ends, and in the match to decide group winner Adams impressively beat Fambridge teammate Gurjit Bhambra 7, 2, 10. In group four all matches were decided in straight sets except for the last one to decide group winner between fourth seed Gary Young and dangerous non-seed Simon Jacob; Young won 8, -4, 2, -9, 8. In group five fifth seed Kevin Read came out on top but not without dropping an end to one of the stars of the weekend Daniel Young. Group six could have been a real group of death with sixth seed Minda Sinkus, Mixed Open winner Babul McLeod, Peter Mynard and Roger Hance, but Sinkus showed his class, while Mynard took an end off McLeod and Hance took two ends off Mynard. In group seven seventh seed George Reeves ruled, but Colin Napper was pushed all the way by Allan Steel just edging home 11-8 in the fifth. And finally in group eight eighth seed Charles Sweeny, recent Basildon Men’s Singles finalist, showed his attacking prowess against Barrie Delf, Ben Matthews and Dan Anderson, while Delf needed five ends to see off Matthews, and Matthews needed the same to see off Anderson. In the last sixteen of the knockout stages all matches went with the form book with the eight seeds progressing to the Quarter-Finals, but two matches worth making note of are Steve Muth leading Keith Adams two games to one before succumbing 11-4 in the fifth end, and Dan Young really pushing Minda Sinkus with some wonderful play, Sinkus prevailing 8, -6, 14, 7. In the Quarter-Finals, somewhat surprisingly given how much of an open contest this looked, the top four seeds made it through to the Semi-Finals to be played on Finals Night. Reece Seddon impressively beat Charles Sweeny 9, 8, 10 to set up his Semi-Final (a repeat of last year’s Semi-Final) with Gary Young, who in a very close match got the better of Kevin Read -5, 7, 8, -9, 8. The other Semi-Final will be between Duncan Taylor, who defeated George Reeves 7, 6, 8, and Keith Adams who scored an excellent win over Minda Sinkus -4, 4, 12, 7.

The Ladies’ Singles saw four players compete in a round-robin group to decide the finalists for Finals Night. No.1 seed and title holder Dawn Baldry, Shirley Carroll and Sue Body all defeated Kath Little in straight sets, while Carroll beat Body 11-7 in the fifth and Baldry beat Body impressively in straight sets, so the Final will be contested between Dawn Baldry and Shirley Carroll. Baldry has won this event three times to date but never two years in succession, while Carroll has won it twice and two years on the trot in 1978 and 1979 – could Carroll spring a surprise this Thursday?

I will now cover the Plate Event (Consolation Singles) as those who did not qualify through any of the group stages in the Men’s Singles and Ladies’ Singles were automatically entered into this event. In round one David Hancox beat Tim Huxtable 13-11 in the fourth and Luca Bailey beat clubmate Vince Gurney 11-9 in the fourth, while Colin Napper impressively brushed aside Dan Anderson 5, 9, 5 and Lee McHugh had a tough opening match versus Chris Jacob but came through -7, 11, 9, 2, and Roger Hance defeated fellow Maldonite Brian Reidling 9, 5, -8, 8. In round two Hance scored a fine win over Napper, while Neil Freeman beat Hancox, Eric Green beat Bailey, and David Gatheral got the better of John Tendler. The Quarter-Finals were all decided in straight sets, Eric Green beating Sue Body, Neil Freeman beating Kath Little, Lee McHugh beating Roger Hance and perhaps most impressively Peter Mynard beating David Gatheral 8, 10, 4. The Semi-Finals were both decided over four games, Green defeating Mynard 2, 6, -11, 4 while McHugh downed Freeman 4, 8, -7, 6. The Final which was played late in the day was an attack-versus-defence classic, both McHugh and Green playing some of their best table tennis and featuring some interesting role reversal at times with Green blasting forehand pimple attacks at McHugh; after four close ends Green eventually prevailed -9, 11, 9, 10.

The Ladies’ Doubles featured the same players as the Ladies’ Singles and the only four female entrants into the entire Championships, therefore the event itself was the Final and Dawn Baldry/Shirley Carroll defeated Kath Little/Sue Body 7, 7, 5 to take the title. In the Mixed Doubles there were naturally four pairs, and after a round-robin group the Final to be played on Finals Night was decided to be between Dawn Baldry/Colin Napper and Shirley Carroll/Steve Whiteley. The group crunch game was between Baldry/Napper and Sue Body/Reece Seddon, which the former pair won fighting back from two-nil down -6, -8, 9, 6, 8. It is of course slightly saddening that this year’s tournament only consisted of four female players and zero junior girls, and I could have just glazed over this fact, so perhaps more could be done by clubs to encourage more women and girls into the sport and to compete on the local league level. (As an aside, David Gatheral the Coaching Officer of the league, is arranging eight weeks of girls coaching beginning in April – further details will be made available soon)

The Men’s Doubles saw a seeding upset in the opening rounds as the unseeded father-son duo of Chris Jacob/Simon Jacob defeated fourth seeds Lee McHugh/Peter Mynard 12, 6, -3, 12. Elsewhere in the opening stages, Reece Seddon/Steve Muth beat Steve Whiteley/Colin Napper 6, -7, 9, -10, 2, and then booked their Semi-Final slot by beating the Jacob pair -8, 9, 7, 7. Meanwhile, Woodham pair Luca Bailey/Allan Steel got the better of Tim Huxtable/David Hancox over five ends, and Eric Green/Babul McLeod beat Gurjit Bhambra/Peter Ballard. At the Quarter-Final stage no.1 seeds and title holders Duncan Taylor/Kevin Read beat Eric Green/ Babul McLeod 2, 10, 5 but keep the Green/McLeod formation in mind because they produce a sensational result in the Veteran’s Doubles! The Semi-Finals were both decided in straight sets, Taylor/Read beating third seeds George Reeves/Charles Sweeny 7, 7, 3, while Seddon/Muth were downed by second seeds Keith Adams/Gary Young 8, 6, 6. So the Final to be held on Finals Night will see no.1 seeds Taylor/Read going for their fourth title in five years, while no.2 seeds and Fambridge pair Adams/Young will be looking to cause an upset as neither player has won this title before.

The Sunday rounds off with the Veteran and Super-Veteran events, because we want to test these guys’ stamina! The Over 60s Singles saw a tough match-up in round one when Eric Green did well to beat Gavin Price 5, 8, -9, 7. The rest of the early results went with the form book and the Semi-Finals saw Chris Jacob defeat Mike Burton 1, 6, 7 and Steve Whiteley get past Eric Green -9, 6, 5, 13 in a brilliant match with a series of devastating chop smashes. In the Final Whiteley was on fine form and he took the title by beating Jacob 8, 8, 4. The Veteran’s Singles for Over 40s saw David Gatheral impressively defeat Chris Jacob 8, 8, 6 in the opening stages, while perhaps even more impressively Dawn Baldry beat Steve Muth 8, 15, -7, 9, and Dave Goody beat Brian Reidling 9, 2, -3, -10, 9. Mixed Open winner Babul McLeod was absolutely flying by this point and he smashed past his doubles partner Eric Green 9, 6, 8 and then Barrie Delf 10, 4, 5. The Quarter-Finals saw McLeod take an end off second seed Duncan Taylor – no mean feat considering Taylor’s amazing form – and Keith Adams beat George Reeves -6, 2, 8, 13 while Gary Young eased past David Gatheral, but the real stand-out result at this stage was seventh seed Gurjit Bhambra taking out no.1 seed and holder Kevin Read 6, -9, 11, 10! The Semi-Finals saw Taylor incredibly defeat Adams 4, 1, 5 to set up his Finals Night meeting with Young, who did well to get past an obviously in-form Bhambra 7, -9, 7, 9. So finally we get onto the last event of the weekend and traditionally the very last matches played before everything gets packed away – the Veteran’s Doubles – and as I alluded to above the real surprise here (one of the biggest scalps of the weekend in my opinion) came in round one when Eric Green/Babul McLeod defeated second seeds Keith Adams/Gary Young, 5, 8, 6 – wow! This match featured some truly brilliant and unpredictable play from the Green/McLeod combination. The pair then defeated Steve Whiteley/Gurjit Bhambra over four ends and Steve Muth/George Reeves in straight sets to book themselves into the Final; in the previous round Muth/Reeves were pushed all the way by Barrie Delf/Sue Body just winning 11-8 in the fifth end, while other results all went with the form book. The other Semi-Final was won by no.1 seeds, holders and winners for the last three years Duncan Taylor/Kevin Read over Gavin Price/Chris Jacob 7, 7, 2. The Final, the very last match played at the Championships, was between Read/Taylor and Green/McLeod and it was always going to be a tough ask for the latter pair despite their sensational form, and so it proved as Read/Taylor took their fourth title in four years 6, 5, 6.

That’s all folks. Similarly to last year there is going to be a lot of Young on Finals Night – and no I’m not talking about the youth! – but with a lot of extra Taylor this time. Now let’s open that sealed envelope and see how I got on with all my predictions...

Men’s Singles – not telling yet ;)

Ladies’ Singles – not telling yet ;)

Mixed Open – Babul McLeod [CORRECT, ker-chiiiiiing]

Restricted Singles – Victor Chan [WRONG, well played Daniel!]

Fambridge Trophy – Louis Gunn [CORRECT]

Cadet Singles – Daniel Young [CORRECT]

Junior Singles – not telling yet ;)

Junior Doubles – Kieran Stanley/Luca Bailey [WRONG, I wasn’t counting on the amazing pair of Young/Porter!]

Handicap Singles – Kieran Stanley [WRONG, I was counting on you Kieran!]

Handicap Doubles – Peter Mynard and his partner [WRONG, oh dear not doing too well here]

Men’s Doubles – not telling yet ;)

Ladies’ Doubles – Dawn Baldry/Shirley Carroll [CORRECT]

Mixed Doubles – not telling yet ;)

Veteran’ Singles – not telling yet ;)

Veteran’s Doubles – Kevin Read/Duncan Taylor [CORRECT]

Over 60s Singles – Steve Whiteley [CORRECT again, how awesome am I?]

Plate Event – I abstained!

Lee McHugh - Press & Publicity Officer - Burnham Table Tennis League

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