2011 London Festival: Highgate "A-Team" Bhatta the opposition

24 pairs took part in the London Tournament Festival competition at Highgate yesterday, with Cholmeleian brothers Abhishek and Aroop Bhattacharya claiming the victory champagne after a narrow win over Julian Black and Sam Newby in an enthralling final.

An eclectic mix of pairs took part in a highly enjoyable London Tournament festival competition at Highgate, with players aged 11-60+ and representing a huge range of schools and clubs. The competition got off to a moderately chaotic - but not unexpected - start as the organiser got to grips with late drop-outs, non-arrivals, latecomers and newly created last minute pairings but some order began to emerge as the field split into three tiers. Eight groups of three pairs produced two qualifiers for the Last 16 and 8 pairs for Plate B. The Last 16 matches then produced eight winners for the main quarter-finals and eight losing pairs for Plate A.

Plate B was reduced to 6 pairs as a couple of the Highgate girls pairs - and anyone who hasn't seen the young Highgate girls squad play really should as they have some outstanding prospects - had to leave at lunchtime. This left an afternoon round robin competition, with some fiercely contested matches, some creative pair swapping and an undefeated winning pair, young Ipswichians Sam Christopher and Tom Gale, who won the crucial match 12-11 against Ipswichian veteran Peter Boughton and Emmalina Thompsell.

Plate A produced some fascinating quarter-finals: another young Ipswichian pair - Tom Martin and Dominic Barker - played terrifically to beat Alun Meredith and Peter Chen; North Oxford's Karen Hird and Jonny Nelmes came through a tough match against the Redmond sisters; veterans Ronald Pattison and Tony Walters showed Ipswichian schoolboys Chris Lavelle and Alex Macfarlane the value of experience and an epic three game all-Westminster match ended with Riki Houlden and Fred Tomlinson just winning against Ben Merrett and Alistair Stewart. Nelmes and Hird were too strong for Martin and Barker in the first semi-final and it looked like a similar story in the other semi as the Westminster boys won the first game 12-1 against Pattison and Walters. Ronald and Tony got their act together after that shock to the system and the second game could have gone either way before the Westminster boys came through 15-13. The final was played as one game to 15 due to time constraints and Jonny and Karen were handicapped slightly by the long wait between their semi and the final; on top of that the Westminster boys produced their best Fives of the day to overturn the result from their morning pool match and win Plate A. The mini-plate for the losing quarter-finalists was won by Lavelle and Macfarlane.

The main part of the Festival saw eight well matched pairs make it into the quarter-finals. Each of the four matches was won 2-0 but none were won easily and all four winning pairs had to work hard to make it into the semis. In the first quarter-final Julian Black and Sam Newby beat Ralph Morgan and Alex Nice; in the second Aldenham pair Phil Lyndon and Carl Rennie saw off the considerable challenge of Ipswich's Henry Patten and Isaac Wagland; Nick Bunyan and Ian Mitchell made the Bhattacharya brothers work very hard indeed in the third and Jeff Lawrence and Merlin Goldman edged past Archie Cameron-Blackie and Tony Stubbs in the fourth. The four losing quarter-finalists then played a mini plate competition which produced the closest matches of the day. Wagland and Patten beat Morgan and Nice 14-13, 12-8 and Bunyan and Mitchell came from behind to win 7-12, 12-5, 12-10 against the Cranleighan/Reptonian pairing of Cameron-Blackie and Stubbs, before Bunyan and Mitchell beat the Ipswich boys 15-14 in an epic final.

The semi-finals of the Festival itself were equally tense as all four pairs were beginning to almost taste the champagne that awaited the eventual winners. Julian Black and Sam Newby got the upper hand early on in their match against Phil Lyndon and Carl Rennie. The Aldenham pair dug deep in the second game with Phil Lyndon in particular calling on his last reserves of energy to take it to 10-10 before Black and Newby closed out the match 15-11. Abhishek and Aroop Bhattacharya had won their quarter-final 12-10, 12-9 and they held their nerve once more to repeat the scoreline against Jeff Lawrence and Merlin Goldman. The final looked as if it would go the same way as the Bhattacharyas won the first game 12-9 and got their noses in front in the second. After winning a succession of close games, though, this time they were unable to convert as Julian Black and Sam Newby gutsily saved match points before finding some inspiration at the crucial juncture to win the second 15-11 and level the match. The big questions at the start of the third were whether this burst of scoring would prove to be a decisive shift in momentum in favour of Julian and Sam and whether the Cholmeleian pair could recover from the disappointment of having squandered match point. The response from Abhishek and Aroop was as impressive as it was swift as they raced into a 7-1 lead in the third game in no time at all. At the end of a long day's Fives and after the effort required to claim the second game, Julian and Sam were unable to reduce the deficit and the Bhattacharyas powered through to win 12-3 and claim the title.

My thanks go to all who took part in an excellent weekend of Fives and to Highgate School for allowing us to use their facilities.

Festival Tournament Results

Last 16

J.Black & S.Newby beat T.Martin & D.Barker 15-2

R.Morgan & A.Nice beat A.Meredith & P.Chen 15-6

P.Lyndon & C.Rennie beat D.Redmond & L.Redmond 15-7

H.Patten & I.Wagland beat K.Hird & J.Nelmes 15-7

A.Bhattacharya & A.Bhattacharya beat R.Pattison & A.Walters 15-3

N.Bunyan & I.Mitchell beat C.Lavelle & A.Macfarlane 15-3

A.Cameron-Blackie & T.Stubbs beat B.Merrett & A.Stewart 15-12

J.Lawrence & M.Goldman beat R.Houlden & F.Tomlinson 15-8

Quarter-Finals

J.Black & S.Newby beat R.Morgan & A.Nice 2-0 (12-8, 12-2)

P.Lyndon & C.Rennie beat H.Patten & I.Wagland 2-0 (12-4, 12-10)

A.Bhattacharya & A.Bhattacharya beat N.Bunyan & I.Mitchell 2-0 (12-10, 12-9)

J.Lawrence & M.Goldman beat A.Cameron-Blackie & T.Stubbs 2-0 (12-8, 12-7)

Semi-Finals

J.Black & S.Newby beat P.Lyndon & C.Rennie 2-0 (12-8, 15-11)

A.Bhattacharya & A.Bhattacharya beat J.Lawrence & M.Goldman 2-0 (12-10, 12-9)

Final

A.Bhattacharya & A.Bhattacharya beat J.Black & S.Newby 2-1 (12-9, 11-15, 12-3)

Quarter-Finalists Plate

Semi-Finals

H.Patten & I.Wagland beat R.Morgan & A.Nice 2-0 (14-13, 12-8)

N.Bunyan & I.Mitchell beat A.Cameron-Blackie & T.Stubbs 2-1 (7-12, 12-5, 12-10)

Final

N.Bunyan & I.Mitchell beat H.Patten & I.Wagland 15-14

Plate A

Quarter-Finals

T.Martin & D.Barker beat A.Meredith & P.Chen 2-0 (12-4, 12-10)

K.Hird & J.Nelmes beat D.Redmond & L.Redmond 2-1 (3-12, 13-12, ret)

R.Pattison & A.Walters beat C.Lavelle & A.Macfarlane 2-0 (12-3, 12-2)

R.Houlden & F.Tomlinson beat B.Merrett & A.Stewart 2-1 (12-2, 9-12, 12-9)

Semi-Finals

K.Hird & J.Nelmes beat T.Martin & D.Barker 2-0 (12-4, 12-7)

R.Houlden & F.Tomlinson beat R.Pattison & A.Walters 2-0 (12-1, 15-13)

Final

R.Houlden & F.Tomlinson beat K.Hird & J.Nelmes 15-6

Plate A Quarter-Finalists Plate

Semi-Finals

C.Lavelle & A.Macfarlane beat A.Meredith & P.Chen 2-0 (12-9, 12-8)

B.Merrett & A.Stewart beat A.Meredith & P.Chen 2-0 (12-3, 12-3)

C.Lavelle & A.Macfarlane beat B.Merrett & A.Stewart w/o

Winners: C.Lavelle & A.Macfarlane

Plate B

1. S.Christopher & T.Gale

2. P.Boughton & E.Thompsell/O.Hirshfield

3. F.Rowe & J.Caplin

4. D.Seymour-Howell & F.White-Thomson

5. G.Kitteridge & M.Barnes

6. W.Carling & S.Melrose & O.Hirshfield

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