All photos courtesy of John Oman.

RONE, Sweden — The Chaska Kubb Club of Chaska, Minnesota recently traveled to the Swedish island of Gotland to compete in the Kubb World Championship (VM). Gotland lies in the Baltic Sea of northern Europe. Captain Jason “J.P.” Larson founded the club in 2010 and it currently has 12 active members. The VM is a six-person tournament and attracted over 170 teams across two days. Chaska was the only team present from the United States. Chaska’s goal was to win gold in 2018. They would need to knock down 24 kings in this tournament in order to reach their goal.

Pre-Worlds Weekend

The first weekend of their trip was filled with recovering from jet lag and settling in to island life. The Pre-Worlds tournament (For-VM) took place on Saturday, July 28 on the VM grounds in the town of Rone. Chaska Kubb split up into two teams—Blue and White. Blue consisted of Ford Rolfsrud, Phil Dickinson and John Oman. White consisted of Matt Erdman, J.P. Larson and Mark Oman. Both teams won their morning groups and eventually faced the reigning world champions, Blue Orange, in bracket play. Both Chaska teams were defeated. In consolation play, Chaska White played their best game of the tournament and took out Chaska Blue to end their day. Chaska White would go on to redeem themselves against Blue Orange to reach the championship final. In the final, they would face Team Gotland, who were the favorites to win the World Championship this year. Chaska White would take the first game in exciting fashion, but lose the remaining games to finish second on the weekend. This video can be watched on YouTube.

Gotland Experience

During the week, Chaska Kubb would fill their time with morning practice for one hour and follow that up with some vacationing.  Vacationing included several trips around the island. They drove an hour to the north island, Faro, for some time on the beach. Of course, kubb came along and was played on the beach sand. Another day they made the drive to the southern tip of the island for a cliff-top view of the sea. Per Sune rented their home to them for the week and came along as a tour guide on this trip to the south. He had quick-witted humor and always made everyone smile with his stories. Chaska traveled 45 minutes north to Visby to see Johan “Lode” Lundin, the VM tournament referee. He grilled burgers and had the Gloria Victis guys come over for some scrimmaging. There was also a trip to Tofta Beach on the left coast of the island to see the KP Wildogs team and share a wonderful European meal. The eventual world champs showed Chaska a thing or two about kubb that day, taking four of five games in their time together. Consistency and smooth throwing motion were on display.

World Championship Friday (Day One: Qualifying)

The first day of the tournament was on Friday, Aug. 3 where the first round of group play took place. Chaska was placed in a group of five and needed to place in the top two of that group in order to advance to day twp on Saturday. Groups not qualifying for Saturday are placed in the “Little World Championship” (Lilla) bracket. Chaska took care of business winning all eight games with a 4-0 match record and qualified for Saturday. One of their games consisted of a perfect six for six game. Eight kings were down, with 12 more to go.

1v1 at Worlds Friday Night

Chaska was done with qualifying, but not done for the day. Five of the six members chose to participate in the 1v1 at the Worlds Tournament on Friday evening. There were 128 players who signed up and paid their 50 Swedish Kroner entry fee (about $6 U.S. dollars). The champion would need to win seven rounds (14 kings). A long evening was ahead. J.P. Larson and Matt Erdman gave it a good effort, but were knocked out in the first round by formidable opponents. Anton Larsson of Team Jan-Hå of Sweden took out Larson and Jöran Domi Lind of team Gloria Victis of Sweden took out Erdman.

Phil Dickinson survived two rounds to play in the Round of 32, where he met Manne Winarve of island team Ingen. Winarve went on to finish fourth, while Dickinson settled for tied for seventeenth. Dickinson was especially proud when he saw Winarve reading Dickinson’s book “Mastering Kubb” later on in the semi-finals while raising his opponent’s kubbs. Dickinson had given him a copy after their match. Dickinson could not have been happier. Here is his recap of that experience:

On Aug. 3, 2018, I entered the Kubb 1v1 at the World Championship on Gotland, Island, Sweden. In a field of 128 players, I succeeded in getting to the round of 32. There I met my opponent, Manne Winarve, a young man in his early 20s who was from the island. He had a large gathering of family and friends there to cheer him on.

We started throwing batons. As I do in all my games, I applauded his successful shots and encouraged him when he missed. I helped picked up the batons and kubbs after I threw so he wouldn’t be so burdened. He didn’t help me and I didn’t expect it. I only wanted to be helpful and keep the game moving.

When I threw my field kubbs and batons, Manne looked the other way. He was not engaged in conversation with me. He was doing what I have seen many great players do in other countries. He was in his “thinkbox”. He was focused on his routine and next throw. He didn’t want to be bothered by what he couldn’t control. This would only make him anxious or stressed and distract from his play. I wondered if he was emulating some of his kubb idols.

I took the first game from him. During the second game, the crowd applauded and encouraged him. It was a close game. We had a lot of kubbs in play. I was in a position to win the game and match. I had four batons and three pieces of wood to knock down. Manne was quiet, walking around and thinking as I was throwing. I had one field kubb standing. I threw a baton. Missed. Disappointed, I flipped a second baton in my hand and threw. Missed again. Several people in the audience groaned. I took a few steps backward and paused. I needed to reset my brain and body. Something was wrong and I needed to hit with my next baton. I looked up. Every eye in the audience was on me. I looked at Manne. He was out of his thinkbox and watching me. I stepped up to the baseline and threw my third baton. It missed. The audience groaned. I thought I heard “oh no!” from several people. I couldn’t believe I had missed for a third time.

I turned around and walked away from the baseline, looking away from Manne and his crowd. I looked down at my last baton. I was in my own thinkbox. I needed a moment to relax and go through what I had to do to get this last kubb down. I knew if I didn’t do so, Manne would get to move up to an advantage line and the game would be over. I turned around and stepped up to the baseline with my last baton. I flipped it a few times. Then I heard Manne say, “You can do it.” His family and friends did the same. “Come on, Phil! You can do it!” I flipped the baton in my hand and threw. The field kubb fell. Manne and his crowd of supporters erupted in applause. I was relieved.

It was in his next turn that Manne would go on to win the game. Later he took the third game to win the match. His family and friends crowded around me. They told me they were impressed by my enthusiasm and encouragement toward Manne during the games, like I was rooting for him to win. They couldn’t believe I even helped him pick up his game pieces.

I will never forget that match. I don’t think Manne will either. I think something changed in him. There is something about the engagement that happens between opposing players on a kubb pitch. Sometimes it’s about winning. Sometimes it’s about helping others win. And it should always be about both. For the rest of that weekend we talked and laughed together. We became good friends and it was hard to say goodbye.

Kubb is more than a game. It’s a way of life. It’s about the people, sportsmanship, and the feeling of family and friendship. Kubb unites people and creates peace on earth. And it also strengthens our hearts.

John Oman was able to cruise to victory in his first two rounds winning them 2-0 each. In the third round, he met Toni Thürwanger from the Hagar-Schindhard club of Germany who pushed him to play well or exit early. Both games were close, but John was able to finish them off in 20 total batons or less. One more turn and Tony probably would have closed them himself. Feeling good about this win, he went into Round four where the level of play went up significantly. Lukas Schirmann of SMP United from Switzerland would be the next opponent. Prior to the fourth round match, Robert Harnack of Kubb’Ings said to John with a chuckle, “This is the best singles player in Switzerland, Johnny. Good luck!” John responded with “Good” and a smile. It was time to get better at kubb. John got out to a 4-2 lead in game one when Schirmann drilled all six kubbs tight and cleared them in two batons. He went on a three for three run at 8 meters and took down the king to end it. Losing a match that way is probably the best way to go down. In game two, Schirmann continued his momentum and controlled the game quickly. John Oman was not able to recover, and Schirmann finished it in 10 batons. John finished tied for ninth and Schirmann went on, but lost in the next round to Winarve for a tied for fifth placement.

Photo of Andreas Heiden with Mark Oman.

Andreas Heiden with Mark Oman at 1v1.

Mark Oman pulled together a nice run to the quarterfinals where he ran into Andreas Heiden of Berlin. Mark and Heiden exchanged 8 meter shots back and forth, but Heiden’s 8 meter game was too good. Mark finished tied for fifth out of the 128 competitors. Prior to this match, Mark had to go to three games with Jonathan Snöbohm from Ingen. Snöbohm had a large contingent of local fans that were rooting loudly for him. Mark took the match in game three during the accelerated match tiebreaker. Mark’s 8 meter game took over and put distance between him and his opponent.

In the 1v1 final late in the evening, Josef Björklund of Team Gotland took on Andreas Heiden of team MNTP 87 of Berlin. Björklund took the match 2-0 in dominating fashion. The match can be viewed on YouTube.