Playing in China

‘The Belt and Road’ International Gateball Invitational Tournament 2018 (“Jinxi Cup”) at Kunshan (near Shanghai)

OK there’s no way of sugar coating it – we placed last out of 16 teams, but what a fantastic experience.

We started our adventure at Shanghai airport, where we were collected by our interpreter (Shirley) and met two lovely fellow competitors from Singapore (the eventual winners!).  The drive to our hotel took about 2 hours and we arrived just in time for dinner with teams hailing from India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and other provinces of China as well as us Aussies of course.

The next day was the day of the competition, and after breakfast (we sat with the Indonesian team who were very friendly), we boarded our coach and were taken to the venue – a 4 court purpose-built facility with artificial lawns.  After the pre-game entertainment – drumming, singing and dancing (all of which were spectacular), some formalities and practice, the games started.  This involved reporting to the administration tent, performing the toss and then lining up in number order, before marching onto the court to martial music – quite inspiring really, and I was proud to lead out the Woodville team for our first game.

We had been drawn against 3 Chinese teams and were resoundingly beaten by all of them.  I think that the Shanghai team we faced were truly world class – they were almost balletic and although they pummelled us on court, I enjoyed watching them play immensely.  They were accurate, ruthless and on a different plane from us both strategically and with ball placement, despite the lightning fast courts – a real eye opener (however, they did generously put one of our balls through gate 2).

It was interesting to note that these teams were very unforgiving of mistakes.  We made one mistake early in each game – a missed easy touch on ball 2 in game 1, a sparking foul (wrong ball stepped on in game 2) and putting our own ball out in game 3 – and were never allowed the glimmer of an opportunity from these moments on.

By contrast the Chinese teams rarely made any mistakes, were accurate with touches and sparking, and all had a non-playing strategist captain, who without exception used a laser pointer.  Once our balls were out, the Chinese balls hunted in packs and it didn’t really matter where we came on.

The format of the competition was, I thought, ingenious in that all teams had two “finals” games to determine the ultimate competition placings – the winners of each of the four blocks played in a “semi-final” and the winners played to determine 1st and second place, with the losers playing to determine 3rd and fourth.  This was replicated for each place in the blocks, so the second placed teams in each block vied for 5th to 8th, and so on.

Our first “final” (to determine 13th to 16th) was against the Hong Kong team.  We fared a bit better, but still made too many mistakes to win the game.  It was the same story in our 15/16th play off against the Indonesian team.

The next day we were taken to the Jinxi old town for some sightseeing – very different from Shanghai.  Overall the tournament was extremely well organised and had teams of a very high standard. Everyone we met made us feel welcome and we made lots of new friends.  I would encourage anyone who wants to see/play against some high-level teams to have a go at this competition. Thanks to the tournament organisers and our hosts Jiangsu Gateball Sports Association.

Geoff Crook

Gateball in Tokyo

If you ever find yourself at a loose end in Tokyo on a Saturday morning then we can heartily recommend playing some Gateball near Tokyo Tower.  We arranged to meet our hosts Takayoshi Uemura (Taka) and Tadashi Takahashi (Tad) at Ukai restaurant by the gateball court.  There was a hard court with a fine gravel surface, which was a first for us – we’d only played on grass before.  After being introduced to the local club players (around 15 players) we had a warm up and started the first game.

We soon got used to the fast surface and won our first game and narrowly lost the second.  After that we were divided amongst the local teams and won and lost in equal measure.  Lunch was bought at the local supermarket and we played for most of the day, with different people leaving and arriving at various points.  Everyone was very friendly and despite the language barrier we laughed a lot and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The following day Tad and Taka had arranged for us to compete in the “Monthly Games” at the Olympic park.  Again we were confronted with gravel courts and 8 teams in 2 blocks of 4.  We were introduced to Mr Kazumasa Nakamura (Kaza) who would be playing with us during the day.  It was very hot and the courts played faster than the Tokyo Towers court, and we struggled to get our balls on (competition nerves strike again!). The competition was fierce but good humoured and everyone was again friendly and gracious. The closest we came to any kind of result was in the last game against Taka’s team, after a glorious slide from Trish allowed her to take off most of the opposition balls. Unfortunately we missed the Agari that would have tied the game.

We collected our prize (very practical in the circumstances) and went out with Taka, Tad and Kaza for a very enjoyable dinner at a local bar.

Our prize!

We have an open invite to return and I’m sure any Australian players that are visiting Tokyo would receive an equally warm welcome.  A big thank you to Taka, Tad and Kaza (as well as Michiko for helping with the arrangements) for everything they did for us, and hopefully we’ll meet again soon! One thing we all felt is that we didn’t want to leave Tokyo!

Geoff Crook

GB in BA

Peter Freer spent a great day playing gateball with Gateball Argentina.  Walter Maeto met Peter at the World Champs in Sao Paulo, and asked Peter to come to their regular Sunday event, just outside Buenos Aires.

Lots of players, and we started with 10 minutes of warm-up calisthenics.  The 20 odd teams were split into Over 75 and Under 75, which gives you an idea of the age ranges – but all players were skilful, even if all of us had some bad shots. Eight courts, on fairly long grass. Each team played 8 games, and refereed another 3-4 so a long day. Huge shared meal half way through, and lots of bonhomie!

Several players were sporting kangaroo pins and Canberra Gateball badges, which we’d presented to officials for our World Champ games in Brazil. A really good day!


Final Results from the world championship in Brazil

Kew achieved an Australian first by winning their pool and progressing to the round of 16.

Having won one game and losing a second on countback the previous day, Kew faced the team from South East Paraguay conscious that a victory would clinch their position as group winners. It was a tight game with errors on both sides. Captain Philip’s final hero suicide shot on ball 10 clinched the win by denying ball 10 the opportunity to make a play. The final score was 9-8.

Through to the final knockout phase Kew played against the eventual runners up from Shanghai and were given a lesson in precision ball placement.

Canberra faced a final challenging game against a local team who had the finesse to handle the dry clay court. After establishing control the young Brazilian team kept Canberra out of the game.

Redcliffe played a Brazilian team who had been called in to the comp to replace a Chinese team that had failed to arrive. The locals were accurate with their touches and Redcliffe failed to achieve the rhythm they had demonstrated in their win on the first day of competition.

The lightening fast clay courts were a challenge for all the Australian teams. The days prior to the tournament had seen a lot of rain – and dry clay courts play very differently to the muddy ones seen in practice.

The final was between the Nippon Country Club Brazil (White) and Shanghai (Red), the team that had knocked out Kew in the round of 16.

Both teams played hold off and by the end of the first round only 5 balls were on the court -1,3,4,6 and 10. Red had control of gate 2.

In round 2, 5 came on with pivots in place but missed the pivot ball. 7 followed so all Chinese balls were in play. At this point no one was interested in scoring. It was all about jockeying for position. White gathered defensively in corner 1.

The first ball passed the second gate at 17 minutes into the game. 9 and 3 had passed gate 2 by the end of the round.

White scattered along line 1 as there was a risk of gate and touch by red. Reds gathered at 3 but in setting up put 7 out on the fast clay courts.

Brazil exploited the opportunity and sent 8 from line 1 to eliminate the reds. Ball 8 touched 9 but missed ball 1 on the line. Red slowly added points through the middle stages of the match. But an unfortunate double touch foul and an out-of-character missed shot at Ball 6 let White back in the game. Ball 6 touched 8 and the avalanche began.

With only 5 minutes remaining, Shanghai were leading 9 to 5 and the fervent Brazilian supporters were watching the clock anxiously and cheering the late Brazilian aggression.

Having achieved control, the Brazilian team gathered at gate 2.

The local crowd went wild as the Brazilians raced against the clock.  Ball six sparked three balls through gate 2 and set a gate touch for 8. 8 scored the gate touch, moved 4, 6 and 10 to gate three then removed ball 9 from the line near gate 1. Ball 10 put 4, 6 and 8 through gate 3, before scoring gate 3 itself. The final Agari was icing on the cake. Brazil had scored 10 points in three balls to overturn the deficit and win by a comfortable margin in the end – though the margin overstated the closeness of the game.

The patience of the Brazilian team to set up their win was a lesson to all Australians in how to play the game at this level. The skill level demonstrated on the fast clay courts was outstanding and complemented the strategic duel. A clear feature of play at this level was the defensive positioning of clusters of balls when not in control of the gate.

Australian Gateball is improving slowly but surely…and we know what we have to practise!!!

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First Day of Competition at the WGC, Sao Paulo

A solid day for Australia on day one of the World Championship in Sao Paulo. Redcliffe and Kew recorded a win and a loss each.

Kew were in control against a Brazilian team in their first game and continued to win by 9 points. In their second game their Argentinian opposition cleared the court with a late gate and touch and levelled the scores. Although scores were tied, the Argentinians had put their final ball on the goal pole and won on the countback.

Despite a magnificent slide from the first corner by Paul, Redcliffe’s early game had seen them go down by only 1 point to a Brazilian team. Later in the day they came back to win a game by 7 points over a Paraguayan team. Check Redcliffe player Nikki ‘s facebook post for some pics and commentary.

The day ended with Kew and a diverse crowd watching Canberra go down in a close one. After initial dominance by the South American team, Canberra took the advantage when balls were put out and began to put on some points. In the final few minutes Argentina regained the upper hand and went on to win the game. Canberra have posted pics here

Canberra will be hoping for a win in their last round tomorrow. Redcliffe and Kew will be hoping for another win and for results to go their way to see if an Australian team can make it into the finals for the first time