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These dramatic pictures were taken by Bijen Gurung of South Wonston.
Thanks, Bijen - they're the best I've ever seen of Finals Night!

Winchester Table Tennis League: Finals Night 2013

Even after the horrible Winter and late start to Spring, Itchen Abbas & Avington Village Hall was bathed in evening sunshine, the birds were singing, and it was great to be back for another memorable Finals Night.
For various reasons the lineup of players was different from previous years, but the standard of play and the excitement was as high as ever, and the large crowd and players seemed to have a great time.

A video of the Singles Final is here - view it at HD 720p resolution and full-screen!
A video of excerpts of some other Finals is here - again, view it at HD 720p resolution and full-screen!

Adrian Reeves organised and ran the evening with his usual good humour and unobtrusive efficiency, helped by Antony Moore , Andy Prince , Paul Martin and other members of the Committee (not to mention much-appreciated support from spouses, partners and umpires). This was a great team effort - thanks to all of them!
Event Match
Special Exhibition Match Julian Walton (IBM) beat Ben Cawston (South Wonston) 11-5, 11-9, 8-11, 13-15, 11-8
The current Singles Champion Julian Walton and 13-year-old Ben Cawston warmed everyone up with a great exhibition of table tennis skills. Officially the result didn't matter, but Julian had rearranged his weekend at short notice to be able take part, so there was a kind of justice when he finished in front at the end of the 5th. Ben is a very fine young player - we've seen some good ones in the League in recent years, and he's right up there with the best. He has represented Winchester in junior events for the past couple of years, but he burst on to the Winchester League Division 1 scene with a remarkable 83% average and losses only to the giants of IBM A. In this match he showed he's very quick on his feet and in his reactions, and more than ready to attack when he gets the chance. Exhibition games often feature showy big-hitting ralleys from way back, with high lobs and exaggerated leaps. This was more like a serious match, which added to the interest, though with nothing formal at stake few will remember who actually won.

Julian reminded us what an exciting player he can be - I hope he'll be back playing even more 'for real' next year!

Ben was returned unopposed as the Under 15 Singles Champion. He won last year, too.
Under 18 Junior Singles Morgan Smith (South Wonston) beat Isaac Tallack (South Wonston) 11-6, 11-4, 11-5
Morgan and Isaac have both played Finals at Itchen Abbas before, so neither was apparently hit by First Night nerves. Morgan is a very accomplished Division 1 player these days, so a win by Isaac would have been a real shock, but he played as if he thought he could win and deserves a lot of credit for that. Morgan played with quiet confidence, offering Isaac chances to hit but also dispatching any loose balls clinically.
Veterans Singles Paddy Shephard (South Wonston) beat Malcolm Davis (Hursley) 11-4, 12-10, 9-11, 12-10
Malcolm Davis has been a bit of a mystery man for the past couple of seasons, coming into the League in Division 2 and playing only irregularly, but scarcely dropping a game, let alone a match. Would this lack of match practice against top players be his undoing? Paddy Shephard is also a newcomer to the League, but he has been playing against the best all season and lost to very few. He's become well known for his ability to mix attack and defence, and his knowledge as an excellent coach means he's a master of both the mental and technical sides of the game. This could be a recipe for a whitewash, I'm supposing! Wrong! Malcolm went into battle with chin jutting, dealing with Paddy's trickiest serves and using his own topspin to great effect. Paddy got away to a great start, but 3 of the 4 games were decidedly close. Malcolm apparently played at a good standard 20 years ago, and showed in this match that the old abilities and the will to win are still there. This wasn't just about Malcolm, of course - it takes two players to make a top match, and Paddy's was a class performance - nothing less would have done.
Handicap Singles Ed Slot (Kings) beat Morgan Smith (South Wonston) 22-20, 21-18
'Plus 7' is a big lead to give away against as strong a player as Morgan, who plays with an apparent calm assurance beyond his years. It looked impossibly big when Morgan won the first 3 points off the reel and Ed seemed understandably a bit glum at 10-0 down in a 21-up game. Morgan had decided he could afford to attack with such a lead - or maybe he'd reasoned that Ed could always out-chisel him in a chiselling kind of game. A chisel, for some of you youngsters, is a woodworking tool with which you can patiently chip away at the surface of a table, say, to make it nice and smooth. Anyway, Ed fended off Morgan's onslaught and just about took the first game, neither player opting to use his bat as a chisel. Morgan mixed things nicely, throwing in occasional fast and very effective serves, but in both games his 7-point lead eventually leaked away and the Handicapping Committee were able to claim they'd got it about right.
Doubles Morgan Smith (South Wonston) & Ben Cawston (South Wonston) beat Ed Slot & Ross Lingard 11-9, 6-11, 11-4, 11-9
Ross Lingard was the current Handicap and Division 2 title holder, so all 4 players were accustomed to the unique Finals Night atmosphere, which is somewhere between a Caesar's Palace heavyweight boxing night in Las Vegas and a village pantomime. Morgan and Ben worked well as a pair, with Morgan murmuring calming words to his slightly more effervescent partner as and when required. Morgan was also good at the angles: if your opponent has to run round his partner and then down the side of the table to get at the ball, your own side has enough time to organise itself to grab the point without further ado.
Division 2 Singles Malcolm Davis (Hursley) beat Pete Humphry (Castle) 9-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7
A second appearance for Malcolm and the first for Pete. Both players had overwhelming 100% records in Division 2, and had never met each other across a table. Malcolm's performance in the Veterans was such as to make me think there wasn't going to be much for Pete to do except pick the ball up from the far corners of the hall. Wrong again! Malcolm tells me he does have a backhand, but his forehand is a lot trustier at present, and Pete picked up on this. He dealt well with Malcolm's varied and viciously-spun serves, several times hitting them for clean winners wide down the forehand, too wide for Malcolm from his off-centre-to-favour-the-forehand position. Pete actually went 2 games to 1 up, but Malcolm kept the determination going and Pete eventually went under. A most exciting and entertaining match.
Open Singles Ed Slot (Kings) beat Sanga Quamina (Kings) 11-6, 12-10, 11-8
Sanga, who is only in the Winchester area until June, was unseeded in the Heats but beat Andy Prince and Paul May to reach the Final. He's an athletic and attacking player and played some excellent points - but Ed has been playing in Winchester Finals (with occasional absences at university) since 2007, and Final Night is home ground for him. When Sanga went 9-2 up in the 2nd a really good battle seemed likely, but then a combination of Sanga wanting to polish the game off and Ed digging in brought them level at 9-9. Ed went on to take that game, and with Sanga's confidence at a low ebb he was pushed onto the defensive and Ed was able to bring his attacking play to bear and win the final game relatively comfortably.

Division Awards
Division 1 IBM A IBM B
Division 2 Castle B Kings D

Team Competitions
Team Eliminator IBM A IBM B
Hursley Shield ('Division 2 Championship') Castle B South Wonston C
Conder-Winnall (handicap) Five Tees A Hursley A

Individual Awards
Arthur Richards ('outstanding achievement') Martin Healey (IBM)
Owen Booker (top averages across Divisions) Barry Dobson (Castle)
Colin Sly Giantkiller (most surprising win by an underdog) Terry Russell (Owslebury)