Macey White played in the 2018 British Opens and sent a few notes back to tell about the experience. Saving some for the USCA magazine, but Macey gave me permisssion to post this one to perhaps spur some discussion on AC:

From the British Open:

The British Open experience is quite different from most American tournaments, even American Association Croquet tournaments.  Terms like Swiss format, zed games, Y games, the Plate, Process and Draw are used.  This year’s open started on July 7 and finishes on July 15.  Nine days of great croquet and plenty of chances to play, even for those who don’t win a lot of games.

The tournament has doubles and singles.  Doubles is single elimination with losers going to play in a double elimination “Y” playoff and winners continuing on towards the doubles championship finals.  My partner and I drew current world champion Paddy Chapman from New Zealand and English great David Maugham for our first game.  We were happy to score 11 points before Paddy and David pegged out sending us on a quick trip to the “Y” bracket.

In singles we played a modified Swiss format which is kind of like our block play.  The first 9 games were prescheduled and with everyone playing an equal slate of handicapped competition.  When you accumulate 5 wins you jump out of the Swiss and qualify for the championship knockout (single elimination ladder).  If you accumulate 5 losses you drop out of the Swiss and into the losers’ bracket, called the Plate.  The losers of the first round of the championship knockout also drop into the Plate.

Technically the Plate is a Georgia Draw and Process and is structured as two single elimination brackets, the Draw and the Process.  The winner of the Draw plays the winner of the Process to determine the Plate winner.  Losers of the Swiss get assigned to play in both the Draw and the Process.  Games in the Draw bracket are assigned by a random draw.  Losers of the Swiss also get entered into the Process and are assigned places in the Process bracket by a mathematical means which is based on the assigned playing order of the first round of the Draw.  In the Process, players who are schedule to play in the early rounds of the Draw, are scheduled so that if they both win, they wouldn’t meet again until the later rounds of the Process. 

First round losers from the Championship knockout also go to the Plate and get dropped into second round slots in either the Process or the Draw, but not both. 

This is kind of complicated and if you get this without having to read through it again, you are doing better than me.  In the end, the way it works out is that losers in the Swiss have two lives in the Plate (double elimination), one life in the Draw and one in the Process, losers from the Championship Knockout get only one life in the Plate because they only go to the Draw or to the Process.

All this complexity means that even if you lose a lot of games, you keep playing.  I am writing this on the seventh day of the nine-day tournament and no one has yet been eliminated.  Most of us will be playing on the eighth day as well.  And, for anyone sitting around wanting more games to play they can sign up for a “zed” game.  These are non-tournament games between whoever wants to play, and they do count for handicap.

That’s a lot of croquet! 

In the singles championship knockout, the matches are the best of three games.  Time limits on the singles games are 4/7/10.  This means if you start play at the normal British 10am starting time, your first game finishes at 2pm (4 hours from the start), your second game ends at 5pm (7 hours from the start) and your third game finishes at 8pm (10 hours from the start).  Except of course if you take time out for lunch or tea.  That gets added to the games time.

What does this cost?  Entry to the British Open is £95 whish is about $125.  Most tournaments here cost about £25 or less.  That only includes the play and meals and tea etc. are pay as you go.

Most clubs here have a bar and Cheltenham’s bar is stocked with beer, wine and soft drinks.  One of the great traditions here is that when you win a game you offer to buy your opponent a drink. 

So far, I have won a bunch of beers, still in it though. Cheerio!

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My own comment on this is that I am always fascinated to hear about the subtle differences in croquet culture outside the US. The 10:00 a.m. start for me was something new. Quite a contrast from the US where 8:30 a.m. is relatively standard and I've certainly had the opportunity to enjoy a few 7:30 and 7:00 a.m. starts.

Of course at the level for an event, I would think few players would be expecting to go to time.Still, they are clearly not so afraid of playing during peak temperature for the day.

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