International Fives Tournament in Geneva
John Reynolds reports:
28/06/16: A truly international Eton fives tournament has taken place in Geneva, featuring players born in at least a dozen countries around the world, including nine members and friends of the Old Citizens Fives Club.
OCs Harrison Jones, Alexander Kasterine and John Reynolds were joined by Chris Ballingall, Peter Chen and his friend Tracy Hsiao, Karen Hird, Ashley Lumbard, and our new chum from Poland, Magda Knapik, who has plans to build courts in Krakow.
The London (and Krakow) contingent contributed to the multi-national flavour of the 32-strong event, run by Filippo Variola and other Geneva-based old boys of the Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz, whose pupils are drawn from all over the world – in this case Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Holland, Italy, Macedonia, Mexico, Spain and Taiwan as well as Switzerland.
Our extremely generous hosts were as hospitable as ever, and we ate as their guests all weekend long.
However, it was a sad occasion as the architect responsible for the building of the two courts some 35 years ago, Arturo Hofmann, died earlier in the year. He was sadly missed but the courts and this splendid international tournament, for the Benny Oei Cup (named after another founding spirit of the Old Zuozers Fives Club) stand as his legacy.
The final was won 2-1 by Zuoz student Leon Schönleber and his old-boy partner Christian "Hoffi" Hoffmeister, in a hard-fought match against two other old boys, Roland Knapp and Felix Büchi.
Leon emerged as the player of the tournament, and it was his return of cut and his sophisticated positional sense on court during rallies, especially up court, which made the difference in the final.
The standard of fives at the tournament has been improving fast over recent years, thanks to the investment of the Lyceum in fives coaches and to the students' involvement in events like this.
The coaching of Matt Wiseman - who has just finished a four-week stint at the school - was evident in the return-of-cut style and in the intelligent movement around the court of the school pupils.
The involvement of our friend Alexander Heuberger, Heubi to us, at the school over recent months has also, evidently, had an energising effect on the game there. It was Heubi who organised the tournament this year, seeding the field of 32 players so that Saturday's matches produced the 16 players that competed on Sunday in the quarter finals, semi finals and the final itself.
The games were played with a wonderfully generous spirit which is characteristic of the way that Zuozers play the game and a great advertisement for the game itself.
Forty of us taking part in the Benny Oei Cup - and a few friends and spouses - had supper in a spectacular spot and warm evening sunshine on the banks of Lac Léman on Saturday.
We ate perche and chips - a speciality of the region.
The party of eight fives players from London and Krakow dined as the guests of the Zuoz Fives Club Geneva.
Beforehand, eloquent tribute was paid to the late Arturo Hofmann, the architect of the courts we were playing on, by the competition's maestro Filippo Variola, and the Lyceum's newest member of staff, Alexander Heuberger, before a minute's silence was observed.
The competitors were joined OZ fives stalwart Florian Favre and president of the Geneva branch of the OZ fives club, Rüdiger von Maltzahn, who presented the trophies on Sunday.