Ray Lee

world mind sports games — women’s round robin wrap-up

Phew — 17 rounds done, and the field is reduced to 16.  How did I do on my predictions, both before the event and the ones that should have been easier, after Round 14?

Group E finished England, USA, Poland, Italy, Brazil.   This one was close to my forecast, but I had Egypt originally instead of Poland.  The Egyptian anchor pair ran into trouble, and they ended up playing in different partnerships — rarely a formula for success in these things.   I managed to get this one right with 3 rounds to play.

Group F was the toughie, with all the top teams playing each other pretty much.  The final standings were Finland, Russia, France, China, Denmark, and Spain the lucky top 6th.  My first picks for this group were France, China, Spain, Denmark and Russia, but I although I gave Finalnd a mention, I didn’t think they would be close to winning the group, so I take no credit there.  Wednesday night I correctly called the top six, but not in the right order.  And I did say the 16th qualifier would come from this group.

Group G finished Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Turkey, Singapore.  I had this one right from the start, with the exception of calling New Zealand instead of Singapore.  Indeed, as late as Wednesday, I still didn’t think Singapore would make it ahead of Hungary.  A big loss to Barbados killed Hungary, while Singapore blitzed Mexico to qualify comfortably.

There are several matches in the Round of 16 that are very tough to call.   If we concede Germany (over Brazil) and England (over Singapore) each a place in the next round, we get to some much closer matches.  Poland-China will I think go to China, but not without a struggle.  Likewise USA-Spain could be an upset, but in the end I think the Americans will just make it through.  France-Sweden is a close call, and I’m going to go for Sweden — Cat Midskog has one medal already, so why not another?   Finland is an in-form team right now, and I have to believe they will dispose of Turkey.  Russia is a team that started slowly, as they did in Istanbul, and finished strong, so I’ll take them to beat Italy.  Finally, Netherlands-Denmark will be close, but the Dutch ladies are a very experienced squad, and I think they’ll emrge on top.  So — going for the overdogs with the exception of Sweden; if you are looking for other potential upsets, take Poland over China and Spain over the USA.

Now for a look at the Canadian team, and some evaluation of their results.  To be honest, looking at the team we sent (only two of whom had played at this level before, and neither of those very much) I didn’t expect a much better finish, and said so in one of my earlier posts.  Even given that, though, it’s hard not to be somewhat disappointed.  This is a team that got drawn in the easiest of the three sections — 6 teams out of the 18 finished at 201 VPs or under.  Yet we couldn’t break into the top half of the field.  It didn’t actually matter much whether we played good or bad teams: we averaged 14 VPs against the top 9, and just over 16.6 against the bottom 8.  The collapse on the final day was disheartening too — 36 VPs against lower half of the table opponents when we were at least in remote contention for a playoff berth.   Yes, it turned out that we would have needed 298 to qualify, but that wsn’t impossible; however, once we got blitzed by the Philippines in Round 15, it was all over.

It was all eerily reminiscent of four years ago in Istanbul.  In 2004, again the Olympiad team had scored an upset victory in the CWTC by a narrow margin over much more experienced (and at least on paper, much stronger) opposition.  Again, they struggled in the round robin, played inconsistently, and finished just below half way.  I’m not going to repeat the views I expressed after last year’s Venice Cup on how we select wonen’s teams.  But I will say that if my methodology had been followed, we’d have fielded a team this year that, looking around this event, would have had an excellent chance of bringing home a medal.  And it’s possible that team would have been stronger than any of those who contested the 2008 CWTC in Montreal.  But being Canadians, we probably want to continue to be egalitarian in our qualification procedure, and accept 10th in group as a reasonable finish.

It’s worth a quick look at the Butler to see how our individual pairs performed.  I’m not a great believer in absolute Butler scores, because these depend on the opposition you face among other things, but they do give you a good indicator of gross trends.  Clearly Fung-Culham turned the best results, with Nesbit-Cumpstone in the middle, and Lacroix-Gaudreault somewhere down the track.  Our top two pairs faced more of the top teams than Lacroix-Gaudreault, so that was not a factor.  Fung-Culham’s Butler was inflated by two or three very big scores against tailenders, but overall they had plus scores in 7 out of 11 matches.  Nesbit-Cumpstone played the toughest schedule, by a hair, and recorded 5 out of 12 plus sessions.  Lacroix-Gaudreault, with the easiest set of opponents, managed only 4 plus sessions out of 11.

Undoubtedly it will be ‘all-change’ for CWTC teams make-up in 2009, as it is almost every year.  Let’s see if someone can’t come up with a group that will go to Brazil with a serious chance at a medal for once.

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