2004 Engadin Challenge

Dan Hawkins and Seb Cooley report:

On the 25th/26th July the Zuoz Fives Club Zurich held the 7th Engadin Challenge cup at the Lyceum Alpinum in Zuoz. The weather looked as though it would not be good to us; on Friday evening when we went for dinner, it was snowing. Nevertheless over the weekend, it was cold but dry, so the best place to be was on court and running around.

The pairs were finalised early on Saturday morning, and looked just about perfect - the pairs were even. Naturally those pairs were changed after just two rounds. The successful format for 2002 was reused this year - all pairs played together in groups and the tournament was then split into two part: the main and the festival. This led to some mismatches as festival pairs met the main seeds for the tournament, but it was good practice and experience for the younger players from the Lyceum. In total 28 Lyceaner took part. The Lyceum's first pair, Federico Galperti and Constantin Thun ('Tintin'), played together at their own request. They would have a hard task against some of the English players and, indeed, members of the Zurich club. Maybe Federico realised this: he was ill on the morning of the tournament and though he battled through two group games, he dropped out. All was not lost for his partner Constantin, however. The partner of the tournament's assistant organiser (Seb Cooley) also fell ill, so amid allegations of corruption and soup poisoning, Seb and Tintin joined forces.

An outside observer may opine that all rivalries were set aside for the Saturday evening dinner. Those who have played for a few years, however, know the tactical importance of this event; here are many games won and lost. Rare is the player who does not know who he will play against on Sunday morning. This year we were joined at the dinner by over 20 pupils (it was practically compulsory for them). It was a lovely meal in the Dorta restaurant, and as sociable as it should always be. A small contingent of English players remained at the end, singing the praises of (and drinking to) a mysterious person whom they may have met as a barmaid on previous trips to the Engadin. We do not know whether she put in an appearance. If not, it was her own loss.

The Festival Tournament

Due to the very large number of Lyceaner, especially beginners, playing, this became an almost purely school competition. A few of the English players were also in this tournament teaching the new players some old tricks, and those English who were here did well.

In the end the young Fenno Brakel, who at 13 has already been playing for four years, was victorious with partner Richard Bourne. In the final they beat Sebastian Spears and the very strong beginner Lukas Runser. Those at the Lyceum who made the final stages of the festival definitely proved their ability over the weekend and earned the right to play in the Championship in two years time.

The Main Tournament

On Sunday morning, play continued promptly, despite many promises (Mr Walters) that Saturday would be a long (or a short) night. The last quarter-finals were played, then semis and final. The semi-finals saw an even and strong pair of Dr Curt "Housemaster" Schmitt and Doug "cricket assistant" Foster play against Tintin "Fives Keeper" and Seb "Coach" Cooley. It was a rapid game, in which Curt set the mood before the start by daubing himself in warrior-style face paint retrieved from a grazed knee. Tintin, unfazed, did more than just support his partner, raining fast, accurate shots into the base of the pepper from the back court. Curt and Doug could not find enough winners in the end, so the game went to the fives specialists. In the other half of the draw, Martin Powell and Georg Stucki played Chris Tanner and Richard Black. Martin and Georg had already played that morning but still managed to hold out in a tremendously long match, where each precious point was fought tooth and nail. They qualified for the final and chose to start soon, rather than cool down and have to warm up again. In the final, Tintin and Seb stormed ahead 6-0 after only two hands. Martin and Georg played a clever, slower game though, and clawed back the deficit, forcing the game to be set to 15. They went 12-10 ahead but could not hold on, and Tintin and Seb won 15-12. In the second game their morning came back to haunt them, and the youthful energy overcame the cleverer game more convincingly to take the tournament win.

So the scratch pairing won the tournament - the organiser will have to keep a closer eye on his assistant in future! Most importantly, everybody left Zuoz having enjoyed the weekend and played a good standard of Fives in the traditional competitive but very friendly Zuoz style. We hope to be able to repeat the success of the tournament in 2006.