ALANSON, Mich. — Great Lakes Kubb Stadium in Northern Michigan played host to the fifth annual Great Lakes Kubb Championship on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018.
It was a sunny, yet cool, day in Alanson with temperatures starting in the 40s that warmed into a high temperature of 64 degrees. Six teams from three states were competing—Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. All skill levels were represented, ranging from a former U.S. National Champion to kids competing in their first kubb tournament.
The teams competed using the Kubb United ruleset and a round-robin format for the qualifying rounds, instead of the Klassic System. Captains randomly drew numbers to determine the order the teams would play each other in the qualifying matches, with each match being best two out of three games with one-hour time limits. Once the playoffs were seeded, all matches were a best-of-three format with no time limit.
After five qualifying matches, the standings were:
- The Blocking Dead (Dave Giese, Bryan Jones) (4-1)
- Good Kubbin’ (Phil Dickinson, Dan Laninga) (4-1)
- Kubbadox (Jesse Fraim, Bob HIckes) (4-1)
- J.R.’s Kubb Crew (J.R. Hrejsa, Joe Hrejsa, Matt Kusiak) (2-3)
- Suggestions? (Will Dickinson, Bryan Higgins) (1-4)
- Don’t Know (Andrew Cole, Gracie Hrejsa, Heather Hrejsa) (0-5)
Head-to-head record was deemed as the tie-breaker before the qualifying rounds started, but that did not help determine who the number one seed was. Blocking Dead had lost to Kubbadox in the qualifying rounds, Kubbadox had lost to Good Kubbin’ in the qualifying rounds, and Good Kubbin’ lost to Blocking Dead in the qualifying rounds. As a result, a throw-off between the three teams determined the one through three seeds. Each team inkasted three field kubbs, set them up as they desired, and then had to clear as many field and base kubbs as possible with their six batons. The Blocking Dead won the tiebreaker, followed by Kubbadox, and Good Kubbin’. The Blocking Dead and Kubbadox earned first round byes in the playoffs because of being seeded first and second in the championship bracket.
In the first round of the playoffs, the number four seed J.R.’s Kubb Crew defeated number five seed Suggestions two games to zero. The number three seed Good Kubbin’ defeated number six seed Don’t Know two games to zero.
The semi-finals paired up teams that played exciting and highly competitive matches in the qualifying rounds. J.R.’s Kubb Crew would take on The Blocking Dead in first matchup. In qualifying, Blocking Dead defeated J.R.’s Kubb Crew in game three with all 10 field kubbs in play. In the semi-final matchup, they once again would play three games, but this time the number four seeded J.R.’s Kubb Crew would take the match two games to one to knock out the defending champion, and number one seeded ,The Blocking Dead.
In the other semi-final, the two seed, Kubbadox, was looking for revenge on their only loss on the day. They would play the number three seed, Good Kubbin’. In the qualifying rounds, Good Kubbin’ defeated Kubbadox two games to one, and both teams had multiple rounds in game three to end the game. Ultimately, Dickinson took care of business and lead his team to victory. In the semi-finals though, Kubbadox was able to take advantage of a few mistakes and defeated Dickinson and Laninga in two very competitive games.
This set up a championship match of the number second seeded Kubbadox versus fourth seeded J.R.’s Kubb Crew that was streamed live by Kubb On and is available to watch on Facebook.
The teams had interesting choices to make at the king toss, as both of the sides the teams could choose to play from had advantages and disadvantages. The pitch itself was fresh and had not been played on all day, however it went east/west instead of north/south. One team would have the sun in their eyes as it set in the west. The other team would have the wind blowing in their faces. The king toss winning captain would have to decide whether it was best to take the first two batons or choose side. And if you chose side, which one? The one with the wind at your back but players would have to stare into the setting sun? Or do you choose the side with your shadows moving on kubbs distracting your concentration and having the wind gusting directly in your face?
Hickes would win the toss and take the first two batons. Hrejsa chose the wind at his back and they would battle the sun for the first game, but as it set, would become less and less of an issue as the marathon match wore on.
Game one of the finals came down to a battle of wills between Kusiak and Fraim. J.R.’s Kubb Crew had one penalty kubb that stood for turn after turn after turn with Kusiak trying to eliminate it with his throws, while Kubbadox had one baseline kubb that Fraim struggled to eliminate for turn after turn. Finally, Fraim would eliminate the last baseline kubb but he did not have a baton left to slay the king. Kusiak would come up clutch on J.R.’s Kubb Crew’s next turn as he hit the penalty kubb and eliminated the king with his two batons after his teammates would take care of business and put him in a position to win the 40-minute long game.
Game two started slowly as both teams struggled to find success in their 8 meter play. After the two teams combined to go 0-10 with the 8 meter shots, J.R. Hrejsa finally ended the streak with his last baton of the turn. Hickes and Fraim eliminated one 8 meter each on their next turn and the back-and-forth battle had begun. Kubbadox won game two with Hickes’ consistent groups and blasting skills and a more consistent showing at 8 meter shots by Fraim. On the winning turn, Hickes would clear six field kubbs with his three batons and Fraim would eliminate the last baseline kubb, slay the king, and have a baton to spare.
Game three was more like game one, as it took 35 minutes to complete and was a knock-down, drawn out fight for the championship. Both teams traded base kubbs early, but Hrejsas and Kusiak took the advantage when J.R. Hrejsa cleared four field kubbs with two batons and his teammates cleared two of the last three base kubbs left. Needing a good counter punch to stay in the game, Hickes grouped six field kubbs and cleared them in two batons. Fraim would eliminate one base kubb with his first baton, but then Fraim and Hickes went 0-3 with their last three batons. From that point, the teams would stall out as the inkasters (Hickes and J.R. Hrejsa) would trade great group for great group, the blasters would put their 8 meter player in position to win the game, but the 8 meter players (Fraim and Kusiak) could not find any consistency, or even luck to win the game.
Fraim finally broke through the cold streak when he had to step up and clear left-over field kubbs prior to going after the last baseline kubb. Fraim would go two-for-two with his first two batons to clear the field, reset himself prior to his last baton, and eliminate the last baseline kubb. Alias, Kubbadox did not have any batons to slay the king.
Knowing this could be their last turn, J.R. Hrejsa had an impressive group of nine field kubbs but had tough luck with his blasts. Joe came in to clear the last couple of field kubbs, leaving Kusiak to try to win the match. Matt stepped up to the line, threw with confidence, but it was just wide of the kubb. As Kubbadox breathed a sigh of relief, Kusiaks second baton also missed its target.
Sensing this was a now-or-never time to win the championship, Hickes had a masterful group of nine field kubbs to answer J.R. Hrejsa from his last turn. Hickes would also have tough luck with his blasts as toppled field kubbs and batons in front and behind of his intended targets would keep his last blast from clearing the pile. Fraim would step up facing as close to the same situation that he had on his team’s last turn. There was two field kubbs remaining to clear, but if he could, he would have another baton to slay the king and win the championship. With batons and toppled field kubbs in the way, Fraim would step up and go two-for-two to clear the field and have a chance to win the match. With his last baton he would clip the far lower corner of the king, but it would not fall or even move.
Stunned, and knowing that this was really their last shot, J.R.’s Kubb Crew would take advantage. J.R. Hrejsa would group the nine field kubbs with the best pile of day from any player. He then outdid himself by blasting down those nine kubbs with only two batons. Joe Hresja, who a few turns before prematurely started stepping to slay the king when his baton was in the air and ultimately missed its mark, stepped up to the baseline with purpose and confidence. He connected with his first baton to clear the baseline and then reset himself and successfully slayed the king with his second. The joy and excitement displayed by the winning team put a smile even on their competitors faces.
The Blocking Dead impressively defeated Good Kubbin’ in a best of one third place match. Giese and Jones decided they were through missing any shots, as they quickly eliminated their foes just a few turns into the match.
During the tournament’s downtime, the competitors also took turns playing in the Golden Baton Challenge. Competitors would get ten batons to hit as many field and base kubbs as possible during their turn. Each field kubb was strategically placed in the field by painted markers so that shots of all different lengths and potential doubles and triples were consistent for all players. After all competitors had one round under their belt, both Phil Dickinson and J.R. Hrejsa were tied with six points. They both played the Challenge one more time and Phil Dickinson came away as the champion with eight points.
The players were also competing for a new award called the Mister Rogers Award. Each team’s inkasters kept track of how many Neighbor Rule award kubbs they had on the day. A neighbor is a drilled kubb that is elevated on another field kubb and has an inbounds footprint. J.R. Hrejsa won the award with six award kubbs.
Congratulations to all of the competitors on a well-played weekend of kubb.
Photos courtesy of Bryan Jones.
Watch Finals Match
Watch the archived live stream of the finals match on Facebook