All England AC Handicap Final at Chester

Anne Alvey from Bury Croquet Club is the 2023 CA All England AC handicap champion on this its centennial year joining a select group of women who have won this competition. Anne narrowly beat Gareth Hobby from Caversham Croquet Club based on their head-to-head result when Anne won 13-10 on time, both having won four of their five games. At the end of the weekend both saw their handicaps automatically reduced to 11 and 12 respectively, and additionally Gareth qualified for the CA Bronze award following his exploits in a 4th round tie.

Eight qualifiers travelled to Chester to compete in these finals where their handicaps ranged from -0.5 to 20 although six of those handicaps were 12 and above. This meant that over the weekend Bryan Harral (Wrest Park) and Simon Tuke (Ealing) faced an astonishing 141.5 bisques between them, and both still managed to win 2 of their 5 games although it was suggested that these bisques represented a serious trip hazard for spectators.

All games were played to base 10 and time limited to a challenging 2.5 hours to ensure that failing light would not be an issue and a timely close to the first day’s play would be achieved. To that end the matter of time passing was a consistent discussion topic between opponents, and led also to some dramatic examples of speed croquet. For example with under 10 minutes on the clock Simon Tuke who had at that point managed to run but one hoop took his front ball to Penult, and in his time extension turn, his second ball round to peg for a thrilling win over Clive Moncrieff (Glamorgan).

The most complete game of the weekend saw Bryan Harral hit in on the 3rd turn and take the ball to Rover setting a challenging leave, where upon Gareth Hobby using his bisques wisely took the 4th turn ball also to Rover with a similarly wide leave. Bryan narrowly missed the long hit in, and Gareth proceeded to finish on the 6th turn including his first ever Rover peel. The audience was impressed.

At the end of day one Anne Alvey led with 3 wins out of 3 but the rest of the field were close on her tail allowing them to enjoyed their Saturday night on the town in Chester mingling with the refreshed spectators from a Chester Races weekend. All seemingly survived the experience.

Sunday saw better weather but in her 4th round tie Anne lost to Sean Doherty (Ealing), and with the other results meant that the Manager’s nightmare was fast becoming a reality with a potential six-way 3-wins-each tie beckoning. This seriously affected his enjoyment of the splendid lunch on offer.

And so the 5th and final round got underway.

Patricia Mulcahy (Phyllis Court) won a hard fought game against Clive Moncrieff to claim her third win, as did Sean Doherty against Bryan Harral. However the key games were playing on adjacent lawns.

Here Bernie Phillips (Guildford and Godalming) and Gareth Hobby quickly and not so successfully used their bisques and fell back to something akin to a dog-fight which Gareth narrowly won. And so the 6-way tie was averted with Gareth moving into the overall lead with 4 wins, and awaiting the outcome of Anne’s game against Simon.

Anne had seemingly held her nerve and used bisques wisely and, with great determination, moved to Peg and Rover with time running out. But again the speed croquet of Simon came bubbling to the fore as he raced his first ball to the Peg but chose not to peg out Anne’s ball. He quickly gained the innings and looked certain to win as he progressed a 4-ball break effortlessly to 2-Back where he inexplicably missed the short roquet on his reception ball. And time was called…

Anne overcame nerves to hit in but in trying to clear her opponents balls away contrived to miss a short roquet towards Simon’s 3-Back ball and defeat loomed large… but Simon missed and the 2023 All England H/C champion was crowned.

For her efforts Anne now holds the splendid trophy for the year and Bury Croquet Club a beautiful shield presented to the CA by the New Zealand Croquet Council in 1956 for the club of the current champion.

Competitors in the All-England association croquet handicap final at Chester. Left to right: Sean Doherty, Simon Tuke, Gareth Hobby, Bernie Phillips, Anne Alvey holding the winner’s trophy, Bryan Harral, Patricia Mulcahy and Clive Moncrieff

Robin Tasker
Tournament Manager Chester