Kinnaird Cup 2021: Better Late Than Never

31/05/21: The delayed 2021 Kinnaird Cup in association with Advanta Wealth finally got underway at Eton over the weekend and saw glorious sunny weather with an atmosphere and Fives to match.

After the most frustrating of seasons, it was wonderful to see the Fives world congregate once again at Eton.

The format was much the same as always with the early rounds of the main competition plus the Pepperpot Trophy plate on Saturday and the quarter-finals and Festival on Sunday.

There were a few issues with injury and availability among the top players but it was still a very strong looking line-up that graced the courts on Saturday. The top eight seeded pairs sat out the morning action while the other sixteen fought it out to join them in the second round. There were no major surprises but some excellent matches in the first round, with Tom Betts & Joey Prior coming back strongly to win in four after losing the first game against Ant Theodossi (not playing with Ryan Perrie this year due to not being available on Sunday, but instead partnering fellow Berkhamsted school coach Chris Davey). Salopians Adam Morris & Will Sissons performed a similar trick against Ipswichians Tim Gregory & Steve Burnell and Nathan Turnbull & Alex Abrahams had to do the same against Karen Hird & Charlotta Cooley, who looked in fine fettle a week before they start the defence of their ladies championships' crown. The match of the round, however, was between Shrewsbury School's Rory McDonald-O'Brien and Digby Taylor-West (a trophy engraver's nightmare) and Old Westminsters Ben Merrett & Can Koksal. The school pair got in front early on, their excellent cutting just giving them the edge in the first two very tight games. before the steadiness of the Westminster duo turned the tide in the third and fourth, both of which they won comfortably. Ben and Can then established an 8-3 lead in the fifth and looked set to win, but two and a half games of good work was undone in one disastrous hand as the Shrewsbury boys went from 3-8 to 11-8 in the blink of an eye, before closing it out 12-10.

The second round saw the arrival on the scene of the eight seeded pairs and the three top seeds - Tom Dunbar & Seb Cooley, James Toop & Matthew Wiseman and Jonny Ho & Riki Houlden - wasted no time in booking their quarter-final places. Fifth seeds Hugo Young & Noah Caplin were equally efficient, with fourth seeds Ed Taylor & Sunil Tailor not far behind, although Turnbull & Abrahams pushed them quite hard in the third game of their match.

There were some tantalising games in prospect a little further down the seeding list. Old Westminsters Laurie Brock & Issy Salim put in a hugely impressive performance to brush aside Old Cholmeleians Joe Marks & Oli Hallam, but the sixth and seventh seeded pairs were up against it right from the start. Eton coach Ryan Perrie and promising Berkhamsted schoolboy Jack Pemberton were involved in a see-saw encounter with Tom McCahon & Sahil Shah, looking to make their first ever major tournament quarter-final. Tom & Sahil got off to a great start, winning the first game to 9, but Ryan & Jack regained the initiative in game two with a convincing win. Game three saw another shift in momentum as Tom & Sahil got their noses in front before a lengthy fourth game, which featured the most exciting and engrossing Fives of the match, Tom & Sahil eventually taking it 15-14 to book their place in the last eight, much to their obvious delight.

The final game attracted the most interest and was a fascinating encounter between two former champions. Howard Wiseman - winner in 2008 - was partnering his son Gwydion against 1991 winner Manuel de Souza Girao and two time finalist (1990 & 1998) Richard Tyler. Manuel & Richard had been practising hard in the run up to the tournament and it showed as they hit their straps right from the start. Howard is still a very fine player and Gwydion an extremely talented youngster; they were able to achieve parity in the rallies but it was Richard and Manuel's set piece - in particular their return of cut - that gave them the advantage and propelled them to a straight games win.

The Pepperpot Trophy invariably produces some excellent matches and this year was no exception. Burnell & Gregory have established a reputation in recent years for staying the course well in this competition and always being there or thereabouts at the end of proceedings. Wins over top ladies pairs Dom Redmond & Elana Osen and Hird & Cooley took them into a third final in five years, where they were up against Theodossi & Davey, who had come from a game down to beat Koksal & Merrett in the other semi-final. It was a similar story in the final as the Ipswich pair took the first game 14-11 before the Berkhamsted pair raced though the second, winning to 4. The decider was a thriller with both pairs producing short spells of dominance but neither one able to establish a winning lead. Inevitably it went to 11-11 and in the end it was actually the much less experienced Davey who produced the key couple of shots to take his pair to a 14-12 win and claim the trophy.

The quarter-finals on Sunday took place in even hotter temperatures than the day before, the glass-roofed Eton courts making playing conditions quite uncomfortable at times. It was business as usual generally as the top three seeds showed that there is still a considerable gap between them and the rest. Dunbar & Cooley beat Brock & Salim for the loss of eight points, Toop & Wiseman dismissed McCahon & Shah for the loss of six and Ho & Houlden defeated Tyler & de Souza Girao - who were unable to repeat their Saturday heroics - also for the loss of just eight points. A gulf in class indeed. The final semi-final place was up for grabs between the experienced Taylor & Tailor and the coming force of Young & Caplin. The early exchanges went the way of Ed & Sunil, as they established an early lead in the first game which they never relinquished. At 10-5 up in the second, things were beginning to look ominous for Hugo & Noah, but at this point things began to click for them as they began to deal better with the challenge of playing against two left-handers (three on court altogther with Noah there too of course), finding better angles and speeds into the buttress and not allowing their opponents to dictate the play. 10-5 was turned into 11-11 and although Ed & Sunil rallied to claim the second game 14-11, a corner had undoubtedly been turned. From that point on Hugo & Noah began to take control of the match, but at 0-2 down the situation was precarious and they couldn't afford any lapses. There weren't any, though, as the younger pair began to win the set piece battle and control the majority of the rallies, slowly turning the screw and winning the next three games to 7, 6 and 4 to book their place in a first ever Kinnaird semi-final.

The semi-finals will take place at Eton on Sunday July 4th and should be fascinating as we wait to see whether Hugo & Noah can narrow the gap to the top pairs as they take on Seb & Tom and whether Jonny & Riki can make a better fist of their second consecutive semi-final against Matt & James and gain revenge for their defeat at the same stage in last year's competition.

The other atrraction on Sunday was the Festival, and this was a vintage (in many ways) edition. 17 pairs took to the start line, with some enthusiastic school pairs from Ipswich and club players of all ages, genders, shapes and sizes taking part, including uberveteran Nigel Cox partnering apprentice uberveteran Peter Boughton, a partnership with a combined age of just under 150.

The group stages sorted the pairs out into quarter-finalists and plate contenders, with the main excitement hinging around whether Boughton & Cox could defy medical science and qualify for the knockout stages. They got so so close, losing their first match 15-14 to Westminsters Elana Osen & James Alster and their second 15-10 to Emily Scoones & Rachel Wood (jokes at this stage of proceedings about a "Group of Death" were banned for fear of tempting fate). The other six qualifiers for the quarter-finals were Old Citizens Spencer Chapman & Nick Choustikov, Shrewsbury School's Nick Argyle & Jago Ainslie, North Oxford pair Karen Hird & Andy Bishop, Ipswich School's Charlotta Cooley & Will Kelly, father & daughter combo Tim & Natasha Gregory and the scratch pairing of Matt Chinery & Chris Wheeler. The quarter-final matches were fairly straightforward, with the four top pairs going through relatively comfortably to set up two enticing semi-finals: Hird & Bishop v Osen & Alster and Chapman & Choustikov v Ainslie & Argyle. The other four pairs went into a highly competitive plate, which saw Chinery & Wheeler hold their nerve twice to claim the win with 15-14 and 15-13 triumphs.

The two semi-finals - as is so often the case - were the best matches of the tournament. Spencer Chapman - channeling his inner Cox & Boughton - was older than the other three players on court combined in the first match, but experience is a valuable commodity on a Fives court and he & Nick Choustikov held off comebacks in both games by the Shrewsbury boys to win through 14-13 and 15-10. The other semi-final was the match of the day with all four players playing their part in a hugely entertaining encounter. Karen & Andy sneaked the first game 14-13 from nowhere before Elana & James hit back with a dominant 12-6 win in the second. Again, the Westminster pair looked as though they had the edge for most of the third game but Karen & Andy fought tenaciously, saved match points, levelled at 11-11 and then won the sudden death point at the first time of asking. 

The final was another fine match, but without quite the same level of tension as the two semis. With Andy tiring and Karen unable to control things in quite the same way as she had in the semi-final, it was the impressive Chapman & Choustikov combination who came through to win 12-8, 12-5 and claim the prize.

But what, I hear you ask, of Messrs Boughton & Cox? Well remarkably they continued to defy Old Father Time throughout the afternoon, mastering the art of reducing movement to a minimum while still producing winner after winner and despatching an increasingly befuddled series of seemingly younger and younger opponents, none of whom could quite work out what was happening to them. As the coup de grace in the plate final was delivered, it was worth reflecting on the enduring appeal of a sport that can produce a well-matched final between two pairs with a combined age difference of 110 years. A fitting conclusion to a splendid weekend.

My thanks go to Ryan Perrie, Bill Norton and everyone at Eton for allowing us to use the courts, to Mark Williams for his organisational help, to Advanta Wealth for their continued sponsorship and to all those who came and played and made it such an enjoyable weekend.


Kinnaird Cup 2021

1st Round

T.Betts & J.Prior beat A.Theodossi & C.Davey 3-1 (10-12, 12-7, 12-5, 12-5)

J.Marks & O.Hallam beat N.Choustikov & S.Thatcher 3-0 (12-8, 12-5, 12-1)

A.Bhattacharya & A.Bhattacharya beat N.Argyle & J.Ainslie 3-0 (12-0, 12-3, 12-1)

N.Turnbull & A.Abrahams beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 3-1 (10-12, 12-8, 12-9, 12-2)

W.Sissons & A.Morris beat T.Gregory & S.Burnell 3-1 (9-12, 12-9, 12-7, 12-9)

R.Tyler & Souza Girao beat D.Redmond & E.Osen 3-0 (12-2, 12-0, 12-0)

T.McCahon & S.Shah beat M.Chinery & E.Scoones 3-0 (12-2, 12-3, 12-7)

R.McDonald-O'Brien & D.Taylor-West beat C.Koksal & B.Merrett 3-2 (15-14, 14-11, 4-12, 4-12, 12-10)

Last 16

T.Dunbar & S.Cooley (1) beat T.Betts & J.Prior 3-0 (12-0, 12-1, 12-0)

L.Brock & I.Salim (8 ) beat J.Marks & O.Hallam 3-0 (12-3, 12-4, 12-7)

H.Young & N.Caplin (5) beat A.Bhattacharya & A.Bhattacharya 3-0 (12-1, 12-2, 12-1)

E.Taylor & S.Tailor (4) beat N.Turnbull & A.Abrahams 3-0 (12-1, 12-5, 12-8)

J.Ho & R.Houlden (3) beat W.Sissons & A.Morris 3-0 (12-2, 12-5, 12-1)

R.Tyler & Souza Girao beat H.Wiseman & G.Wiseman (6) 3-0 (12-8, 12-6, 12-2)

T.McCahon & S.Shah beat R.Perrie & J.Pemberton (7) 3-1 (12-9, 4-12, 12-8, 15-14)

J.Toop & M.Wiseman (2) beat R.McDonald-O'Brien & D.Taylor-West 3-0 (12-1, 12-0, 12-1)


T.Dunbar & S.Cooley beat L.Brock & I.Salim 3-0 (12-2, 12-1, 12-5)

H.Young & N.Caplin beat E.Taylor & S.Tailor 3-2 (9-12, 11-14, 12-7, 12-6, 12-4)

J.Ho & R.Houlden beat R.Tyler & Souza Girao 3-0 (12-4, 12-1, 12-3)

J.Toop & M.Wiseman beat T.McCahon & S.Shah 3-0 (12-0, 12-2, 12-4)


Semi-Finals - Eton, Sunday 4th July at 2:30pm

T.Dunbar & S.Cooley v H.Young & N.Caplin

J.Toop & M.Wiseman v J.Ho & R.Houlden


Pepperpot Plate


A.Theodossi & C.Davey beat N.Choustikov & S.Thatcher 2-0 (12-0, 12-4)

B.Merrett & C.Koksal beat M.Chinery & E.Scoones 2-0 (12-9, 13-11)

K.Hird & C.Cooley beat N.Argyle & J.Ainslie 2-0 (12-5, 12-5)

T.Gregory & S.Burnell beat D.Redmond & E.Osen 2-0 (12-4, 12-1)


A.Theodossi & C.Davey beat B.Merrett & C.Koksal 2-1 (10-12, 12-3, 12-7)

T.Gregory & S.Burnell beat K.Hird & C.Cooley 2-0 (12-10, 12-8)


A.Theodossi & C.Davey beat T.Gregory & S.Burnell 2-1 (11-14, 12-4, 14-12)

Plate B


N.Choustikov & A.Field beat D.Redmond & E.Osen 2-0 (12-3, 12-7)

M.Chinery & E.Scoones beat N.Argyle & J.Ainslie 12-9


M.Chinery & E.Scoones beat N.Choustikov & A.Field 12-7

Kinnaird Festival


S.Chapman & N.Choustikov beat E.Scoones & R.Wood 15-5

N.Argyle & J.Ainslie beat T.Gregory & N.Gregory 15-5

E.Osen & J.Alster beat C.Cooley & W.Kelly 15-5

K.Hird & A.Bishop beat M.Chinery & C.Wheeler 15-3


S.Chapman & N.Choustikov beat N.Argyle & J.Ainslie 2-0 (14-13, 15-10)

K.Hird & A.Bishop beat E.Osen & J.Alster 2-1 (14-13, 6-12, 12-11)


S.Chapman & N.Choustikov beat K.Hird & A.Bishop 2-0 (12-8, 12-5)

Quarter-Finalists Plate


T.Gregory & N.Gregory beat E.Scoones & R.Wood 15-7

M.Chinery & C.Wheeler beat C.Cooley & W.Kelly 15-14


M.Chinery & C.Wheeler beat T.Gregory & N.Gregory 15-13

Plate A

Group A

1. H.Dunnett & O.Garrard

2. S.Paisley & R.Dunstan

3. L.Free & J.Hughes

4. O.Jacklin & O.Cook

5. P.Chen & S.Evans

Group B

1. N.Cox & P.Boughton

2. P.Wilkinson & G.Guetard

3. N.Urmston & H.Garrard

4. K.Mikowski & L.Craughwell-Franks


P.Boughton & N.Cox beat H.Dunnett & O.Garrard 15-12


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