2020 Kinnaird Down To The Last Four
16/03/20: The qualifying rounds of the 2020 Kinnaird Cup in association with Advanta Wealth were played at Eton over the weekend, with over 50 pairs taking part in a fantastic weekend of Fives.
Despite the threat of cancellation/postponement due to coronavirus, the 2020 Kinnaird weekend went ahead as usual with the minimum of disruption.
29 pairs made it to the start line of the main tournament this year, including the vast majority of the top players. There were no shocks in the first round, although the late withdrawal of one pair and subsequent shuffling of the draw created an opportunity for ladies champions Karen Hird & Charlotta Cooley to make history by becoming the first female pair to make it into the Last 16 of the Kinnaird Cup, thanks to a hard-fought win in four close games over Olavian school pair Isaac Adebekun & Vish Prashar.
Things began to hot up in the afternoon at the Last 16 stage. The top four seeds all progressed in reasonably straightforward style, with Tom Dunbar & Seb Cooley cruising through against Old Westminsters Can Koksal & Ben Merrett and Karen & Charlotta's run hitting a brick wall in the shape of Jonny Ho & Riki Houlden. Third seeds James Toop & Matthew Wiseman - back in a major tournament for the first time in two years - were given a decent workout by Wulfrunians Chris Austin & Sid Simmons (if only Chris could still summon the awesome power of old!) and Tom McCahon & Alex Abrahams showed glimpses of their ability against fourth seeds Anthony Theodossi & Ryan Perrie.
Further down the list, however, the seeded pairs were not having it all their own way, perhaps not surprising given the depth of quality in the draw. Eighth seeded Cholmeleians Joe Marks & Matt Kovar found themselves up against 2019 semi-finalist Ed Taylor and his brother Al and although the Highgate pair recovered well from losing the first two games to win the third to 6, it was the Salopian pair who won the fourth 14-12 to clinch their place in the last eight. Ed was joined there by his semi-final partner from last year Sunil Tailor, who teamed up with Old Harrovian Rahul Wijeratne to take on fifth-seeded Olavians Howard Wiseman & Tony Barker. The Olavian pair started more strongly, winning the first game to 8, but the new pairing began to gel better as the match progressed and Sunil & Rahul were crucially able to win a tight second game 14-11; from then on, the momentum was all with them and they won the third to 8 and the fourth to 2 to complete a fine victory. Sixth seeds Laurie Brock & Andrew Joyce also found themselves in a tough battle against Eton coach George Thomason and top Eton school player Alfred Backhouse. This was a match played to a very high standard and it is always enjoyable to see a player new to this level perform as well as Alfred; indeed it was the Eton pair who just found the extra edge as each game reached the final stages, their comeback in a single hand from 4-10 down to 11-10 up in the second game particularly important as they won 13-10, 13-12, 12-10.
With the 5th, 6th and 8th seeds already out, 7th seeds Hugo Young & Noah Caplin were also in grave danger of elimination at the hands of Mill Hill coach Andrew Rennie and Old Millhillian Charles Plummer. Hugo & Noah have been the breakthrough pair of the season with a quarter-final appearance at the London Tournament before Christmas followed by a barnstorming run to the semi-finals of the Northern tournament at Shrewsbury in February. They started off in impressive fashion, winning the first game 12-3 in double quick time but it soon became clear that this was not going to be a straightforward win as Andrew & Charles raised their game significantly in the second, keeping it tight all the way through and then saving game points before taking it 14-13 to level at one apiece. Hugo & Noah were clearly unsettled by this and Andrew & Charles began to gain in confidence as their opponents faltered, winning the third game to 5 and establishing a significant lead in the fourth. This was a real test for Hugo & Noah and they passed it impressively (if narrowly), pulling back from 4-9 down and saving a match point at 9-11 before levelling at 11-11 and then winning the game 14-12 to take it to a decider. Andrew & Charles weren't done yet, though, and the fifth game had a bit of everything - some brilliant rallies and shotmaking from all four players, mistakes made under pressure, the lead changing hands several times and some tense (but impressively amicable) discussions about lets - and perhaps the only surprise was that it finished 15-13 rather than 15-14, in the end in favour of Hugo & Noah, who were able to take a deep breath and assume their place in the quarter-final line-up for the first time.
The Taylor brothers had elected to play their quarter-final on the Saturday evening and were unable to make any impression on an untroubled Cooley & Dunbar, their only consolation being the narrow avoidance of the triple bagel that the top seeds' second round opponents had suffered. The other six pairs were back on Sunday afternoon to compete for the other three semi-final slots and this time the seeded pairs were largely in control. Toop & Wiseman looked in fine fettle as they saw off Thomason & Backhouse in straight games and Theodossi & Perrie found some impressive form to see off the dangerous Tailor & Wijeratne in three, the key to the match being their sudden death 12-11 win in the second game. Ho & Houlden predictably completed the semi-final line-up, but not without a minor scare against Young & Caplin, who after a sticky start hit a purple patch in the third to take a game off last year's finalists.
As always, the Saturday Pepperpot Plate competition for pairs losing in the first round and the Sunday Festival for the less ambitious bubbled away in the background, keeping the courts full, providing lots of enjoyable and competitive Fives for players of all ages and abilities.
An injury to Dom Redmond meant that her original partner (and one of last year's Pepperpot winning pair) Gwydion Wiseman was paired up with Old Cholmeleian Chris Blackaby, who had been left without a partner due to a late withdrawal. These two have faced each other before on a Rugby Fives court but they quickly began to gel well as an Eton Fives pairing. They came through a tough challenge in the quarter-finals, sneaking through 8-7 in the deciding mini-set against 2019 runners-up and 2017 champions Steve Burnell & Tim Gregory then defeated Ashley Lumbard & Emily Scoones to take their place in the final. The other side of the draw was also producing some classic matches with Uppinghamians Matt Chinery & Robert Thorogood winning a three game quarter-final against Cranleighans Phil Roper & Will Howard and the QEB/Cambridge pair of Viral Gudiwala & Akhil Shah also making it through a tight three-setter against Alex Knight & Chris Lumbard. Thorogood & Chinery ran out of steam in the semi-final, meaning that Shah & Gudiwala went through to take on Wiseman & Blackaby. In keeping with the rest of the competition, the Pepperpot final was long and close; the first two games were both extended epics, as Akhil & Viral took the first 14-12 and Chris & Gwydion the second 15-13. With everyone else long gone home or headed to the pub and just a small handful of hardy spectators left, Blackaby & Wiseman finally got on top in the third game to run out 12-6 winners, a second consecutive win in the competition for Gwydion Wiseman, whose weekend was not over yet...
The Sunday Festival featured 23 pairs and was a particularly good version of the event - there was no dominant pair, with anywhere up to 10 pairs in with a chance of winning the overall competition, and a good mixture of youngsters, club players and a veteran or two. It was especially pleasing to see a couple of pairs entering on the back of the FiveStar/Highgate "Back to Fives" initiative earlier in the year.
The morning group stages sorted the field out, producing a last sixteen knockout round and a seven pair Plate A. Most of the last sixteen games were fairly straightforward, although the Alleyn's School pair of Gwydion Wiseman (him again!) & Stuart Scott won a deciding mini-set against Chris Lumbard & Phil Wilkinson and the Zuoz/Bryanston combination of Marc Tavra & Tancred Campbell survived a second set scare to beat Olavian schoolboys Tommy Farmer & Aaditya Anoop. Tavra & Campbell continued to successfully walk the tightrope in the quarter-finals with a sudden-death-in-the-decider win over the fancied Isaac Weaver & Nick Choustikov while Wiseman & Scott - having finished third in their morning group - continued to improve fast, defeating Tim & Natasha Gregory. In the bottom half of the draw, Ralph Morgan & Elana Osen needed three games to defeat Olavians Genesis Nsenga & Ethan Nancekivell-Smith while Karen Hird & Charlotta Cooley convincingly won a repeat of recent ladies finals over Ashley Lumbard & Emily Scoones.
Tavra & Campbell's luck finally ran out at the semi-final stage as they fell in straight games to the increasingly confident Wiseman & Scott, while Hird & Cooley continued their excellent weekend with a comfortable win over Morgan & Osen. The final was a fascinating contrast of styles. For the Alleyn's pair - a formidable duo on a Rugby Fives court - Gwydion Wiseman was by now well into his Eton Fives stride after a busy weekend and his partner Stuart Scott was adapting quickly to the Eton court, while using his Rugby Fives power hitting from the back of the court to good effect. Karen & Charlotta were never going to compete in the power game but brought a lot of Eton Fives knowhow and courtcraft to the match-up, producing a brilliant final, with the result in doubt almost all the way. Gwydion & Stuart came from behind to win the first game 12-10, but Karen & Charlotta hit back, producing their best and most controlled passage of play from 10-10 onwards in the second to win it 15-11. Having got so close to the winning line, the Alleyn's boys were unable to kick on in the third game and Karen & Charlotta finally took control of the match to win 12-4 and claim their second Festival title of the season, having triumphed in the London Festival at Harrow in December.
There were plates galore, with Plate A for the morning non-qualifiers producing a set of matches that were thrilling and baffling in almost equal measure, with loads of close matches and everyone seeming to be beating everyone else. Eventually it was the other Alleyn's pair of Jake Johnson & Harrison Shaw who came out on top, after a crucial 12-8 win in the final match against runners-up John Cooley & Edmund Phillips.
My thanks go to Advanta Wealth for their sponsorship, to Eton College for hosting the event, to Mark Williams for his organisational skills and to all of those who came to Eton in difficult circumstances and made it such a fantastic weekend.
The semi-finals of the main competition are due to be played at 2:30pm on Sunday March 29th. A decision about whether or not that will be possible will be made in due course.
T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) BYE
C.Koksal & B.Merrett beat A.Knight & C.Lumbard 3-0 (13-11, 13-10, 12-9)
E.Taylor & A.Taylor beat S.Burnell & T.Gregory 3-0 (12-8, 12-2, 12-9)
J.Marks & M.Kovar (8) beat N.Choustikov & O.Avery 3-0 (12-1, 12-0, 12-2)
H.Wiseman & T.Barker (5) beat W.Seath & P.Hall 3-0 (12-1, 12-0, 12-0)
S.Tailor & R.Wijeratne beat R.Morgan & A.Cameron-Blackie 3-0 (12-7, 12-6, 12-0)
T.McCahon & A.Abrahams beat A.Shah & V.Gudiwala 3-1 (0-12*, 12-7, 12-5, 12-4)
A.Theodossi & R.Perrie (4) beat W.Thomas & M.Tavra 3-0 (12-2, 12-1, 12-5)
J.Toop & M.Wiseman (3) BYE
C.Austin & S.Simmons beat P.Roper & W.Howard 3-0 (12-9, 12-4, 12-2)
G.Thomason & A.Backhouse beat D.Redmond & G.Wiseman 3-0 (12-2, 12-2, 12-2)
L.Brock & A.Joyce (6) beat R.Thorogood & M.Chinery 3-0 (12-3, 12-1, 12-0)
N.Caplin & H.Young (7) beat Y.Bleunven & T.Byrne 3-0 (12-2, 12-1, 12-1)
A.Rennie & C.Plummer beat E.Scoones & A.Lumbard 3-0 (12-0, 12-5, 12-5)
K.Hird & C.Cooley beat I.Adebekun & V.Prashar 3-1 (9-12, 12-11, 13-11, 12-4)
R.Houlden & J.Ho (2) BYE
*conceded due to late arrival
T.Dunbar & S.Cooley beat C.Koksal & B.Merrett 3-0 (12-0, 12-0, 12-0)
E.Taylor & A.Taylor beat J.Marks & M.Kovar 3-1 (12-9, 12-5, 6-12, 14-12)
S.Tailor & R.Wijeratne beat H.Wiseman & T.Barker 3-1 (8-12, 14-11, 12-8, 12-2)
A.Theodossi & R.Perrie beat T.McCahon & A.Abrahams 3-0 (12-5, 12-6, 12-7)
J.Toop & M.Wiseman beat C.Austin & S.Simmons 3-0 (12-3, 12-2, 12-5)
G.Thomason & A.Backhouse beat L.Brock & A.Joyce 3-0 (13-10, 13-12, 12-10)
N.Caplin & H.Young beat A.Rennie & C.Plummer 3-2 (12-3, 13-14, 5-12, 14-12, 15-13)
R.Houlden & J.Ho beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 3-0 (12-3, 12-0, 12-3)
T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) beat E.Taylor & A.Taylor 3-0 (12-0, 12-0, 12-1)
A.Theodossi & R.Perrie beat S.Tailor & R.Wijeratne 3-0 (12-8, 12-11, 12-8)
J.Toop & M.Wiseman beat G.Thomason & A.Backhouse 3-0 (12-5, 12-4, 12-6)
J.Ho & R.Houlden beat H.Young & N.Caplin 3-1 (12-1, 12-4, 5-12, 12-5)
Semi-Finals, 29th March
S.Cooley & T.Dunbar (1) v A.Theodossi & R.Perrie (4)
J.Ho & R.Houlden (2) v J.Toop & M.Wiseman (3)
Pepperpot Trophy (Plate A)
E.Scoones & A.Lumbard beat P.Hall & W.Seath 2-0 (8-5, 8-3)
N.Choustikov & O.Avery beat Y.Bleunven & T.Byrne 2-0 (8-4, 8-3)
R.Thorogood & M.Chinery beat W.Thomas & M.Tavra 2-0 (8-6, 8-6)
P.Roper & W.Howard beat R.Morgan & A.Cameron-Blackie 2-0 (8-2, 8-5)
E.Scoones & A.Lumbard beat N.Choustikov & O.Avery 2-0 (8-5, 8-3)
G.Wiseman & C.Blackaby beat S.Burnell & T.Gregory 2-1 (7-8, 8-2, 8-7)
R.Thorogood & M.Chinery beat P.Roper & W.Howard 2-1 (8-6, 1-8, 8-6)
A.Shah & V.Gudiwala beat A.Knight & C.Lumbard 2-1 (7-8, 8-6, 8-3)
G.Wiseman & C.Blackaby beat E.Scoones & A.Lumbard 2-0 (12-7, 12-5)
A.Shah & V.Gudiwala beat R.Thorogood & M.Chinery 2-0 (12-6, 12-6)
G.Wiseman & C.Blackaby beat A.Shah & V.Gudiwala 2-1 (12-14, 15-13, 12-6)
Plate B (Plate A Round 1 losers)
1. W.Thomas & M.Tavra
2. R.Morgan & A.Cameron-Blackie
3. P.Hall & W.Seath
Plate C (Plate A Q-F losers)
S.Burnell & T.Gregory beat N.Choustikov & O.Avery 2-0 (8-1, 8-0)
I.Weaver & N.Choustikov beat I.Bhargava & N.Daniel 2-0 (8-1, 8-2)
M.Tavra & T.Campbell beat T.Farmer & A.Anoop 2-1 (8-4, 7-8, 8-3)
G.Wiseman & S.Scott beat C.Lumbard & P.Wilkinson 2-1 (7-8, 8-6, 8-5)
T.Gregory & N.Gregory beat A.Agarwal & C.McMichael 2-0 (8-0, 8-1)
R.Morgan & E.Osen beat O.McGuinness & J.Smith 2-0 (8-2, 8-1)
G.Nsenga & E.Nancekivell-Smith beat W.Seath & O.Avery 2-0 (8-4, scr)
A.Lumbard & E.Scoones beat T.Sachi & P.Haldia 2-0 (8-4, 8-1)
K.Hird & C.Cooley beat A.Lewis & M.Bhargava 2-0 (8-1, 8-0)
M.Tavra & T.Campbell beat I.Weaver & N.Choustikov 2-1 (5-8, 8-6, 8-7)
G.Wiseman & S.Scott beat T.Gregory & N.Gregory 2-0 (8-2, 8-6)
R.Morgan & E.Osen beat G.Nsenga & E.Nancekivell-Smith 2-1 (8-5, 7-8, 8-3)
K.Hird & C.Cooley beat A.Lumbard & E.Scoones 2-0 (8-5, 8-2)
K.Hird & C.Cooley beat R.Morgan & E.Osen 2-0 (12-1, 12-4)
G.Wiseman & S.Scott beat M.Tavra & T.Campbell 2-0 (12-7, 12-10)
K.Hird & C.Cooley beat G.Wiseman & S.Scott 2-1 (10-12, 15-11, 12-4)
Plate A (Round Robin)
1. J.Johnson & H.Shaw
2. J.Cooley & E.Phillips
3. B.Whelan & S.White
4. R.Bhagwat & H.Catchpole
5. B.Fitzpatrick & J.Funnell
6. L.Lancaster & J.Beckett
7. O.Free & L.Free
Plate B (Last 16 losers)
T.Sachi & P.Haldia beat I.Bhargava & N.Daniel
B.Agenugba & C.McMichael beat A.Lewis & M.Bhargava
T.Farmer & A.Anoop beat O.McGuinness & J.Smith
C.Lumbard & P.Wilkinson BYE
T.Sachi & P.Haldia beat B.Agenugba & C.McMichael 12-3
C.Lumbard & P.Wilkinson beat T.Farmer & A.Anoop 12-2
T.Sachi & P.Haldia beat C.Lumbard & P.Wilkinson 2-1 (13-12, 4-12, 12-7)
Plate C (Plate B first round losers)
1. I.Bhargava & N.Daniel
2. A.Lewis & M.Bhargava
3. O.McGuinness & J.Smith
Plate D (Plate B semi-final losers)
T.Farmer & A.Anoop beat B.Agenugba/C.McMichael/A.Agarwal 2-1 (6-12, 12-3, 12-10)
Plate E (Quarter-Final losers)
T.Gregory & N.Gregory beat I.Weaver & N.Choustikov 14-13