SCANDIA, Minn. — On this early 2020 kubb-tournament-filled winter day, there was no better place to chuck wood at wood than Scandia, where the Kubb Society hosted its fourth annual Vinterfest Festival Kubb Scramble. The Kubb Society’s Scandia tournaments are known for their festive atmosphere, camaraderie, and inclusive, good-hearted competitive spirit.
For many, the day began with a stop at the Scandia-Marine Lions Club pancake breakfast, where the country’s most attractive (it says so on the placemats) volunteers keep the plates and coffee cups full. Then, just a short walk past the hockey rink brings you to the professionally-groomed kubb pitches (thank you, Elaina Wald) for the start of the day’s action. This year’s tourney field was largely made up of Twin Cities players, but it also included a handful of Scandia and Forest Lake, Minnesota-area locals, and an unfashionably late-arriving contingent of royalty from nearby Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Morning round-robin play featured six rounds of 25-minute matches. Each round included four matches, with each team consisting of two or three players. As is customary for Scandia tournaments, a scramble format was used. In a scramble, each team in every round is a mix of randomly matched players that changes every round. This gives players have a different mix of teammates every match. In a best-case scenario (with enough players), every team would be a different mix of players for each match in every round, and you would never play with the same person twice.
During the round-robin play, every player on the winning team received three points for a win and one point for a tie. Players accumulate individual points throughout the day that ultimately determines the tournament’s winner. A “drop the sticks” format was used, whereby when time expires the match is over regardless of whose turn it is or where in the match the teams are.
Playing conditions were ideal for the time of year in the upper Midwest. There was no wind, and with the temperature hovering right around, but mostly below freezing, the baselines didn’t suffer from slushy snowmelt. The snowshoe-groomed but still snowy pitches meant there was only minimal icy-skidding for drillers.
Round-robin play ended with no surprises. Brian Winistorfer finished the morning in first place with a perfect 6-0 record, earning 18 tournament points. All alone in second place was Ben Lancette with 15 points. In a three-way tie for third with 12 points each were Rob House, Tim Motzko, and Tony Kutzke. After that were six players with 9 points, four players with 6 points, and three players with 3 points. No one finished the morning winless!
The afternoon round of scramble play proceeds differently than the round-robin part of the tournament. Players are somewhat randomly matched with one or two teammates for the remainder of the tournament, based on their morning results. In this case Team 1 consisted of the one, five, and nine seeds, and Team 2 of the two, six, and 10 seeds. Teams 3 through 7 had two-members each, and Team 8had three members (confused yet?).
Another aspect of the scramble format is that it is possible that players on one or more of the teams made up of lower-seeded players could accumulate enough individual points to rise to one of the top finishing positions. Points earned in the afternoon are added to each individual’s morning round points to determine finishing positions. Afternoon wins are worth five points, and ties are worth three points. There is also technically no championship or consolation bracket. But for the purposes of the finishing round of four matches, the top eight teams play each other and the bottom eight teams play each other.
In their first match of the afternoon, Team 1 (Brad Larson, Tim Motzko, Brian Winistorfer) faced an early scare against Team 4 (Tony Kutzke, “Danger” Dave) who had a number of turns where they could have knocked off the veterans. Team 1 ultimately prevailed, overcoming some uncharacteristically erratic drilling by Winistorfer. But this was, unfortunately, the high point of Team 1’s afternoon as they did not manage to earn another point for the rest of the day–adding only 5 points to each player’s morning total. Team 4 went on to finish strong with a tie and two wins (12 points), which was enough to keep Kutzke in overall fourth place (24 points) for the day.
Team 2 (Steve Dolan, Dori Dufresne, Rob House) were the stars of the top four teams. They finished with a 3-1 record, earning each player an additional 15 points for the day. This strong finish leap-frogged House into first place overall at the end of the day, with 27 total points.
The biggest movers of the afternoon came from among the bottom group of four. Team 7 (15 and 16 place finishers Debbie Lancette and Demian Moore) entered the afternoon with only six points from the morning’s round-robin. Lancette and Moore went 4-0 in the second half of the tournament, largely due to Lancette’s nearly perfect 8 meter game. Ironically, this afternoon sweep produced a two-way tie for second place between the two teammates, with each finishing with 24 points for the day. In unremarkable fashion (a grand total of a single baseline kubb was toppled between the two) the resulting throw-off for second place was won by Moore.
It’s difficult to leave the Scandia pitches without a bellyful of cheer, and (for most), beer and booze as well. Equally difficult is departing without receiving some sort of tournament memento in addition to the always fabulous prizes awarded to the top finishers. This year was no exception. Door prizes included a couple of custom made, black Kubb Society canvas kubb-kit bags (think Country Kubb, but a bit larger), Summit beer, and a variety of “kubbs down, bottoms up” prizes awarded throughout the day.
The top four finishers each received a one-of-a-kind Vinterfest-decorated tournament bib, homemade D’s Nuts (thank your Dori!), and a potentially life-changing $2 Minnesota Lottery scratch-off ticket. Each of the top three finishers also received a Kubb Society emblazoned “Can You Dig It?” colorful pillow. Additionally, the first place finisher took home a bottle of homemade amaretto (thanks, Jenna!), second place received a pottery vase courtesy of Rob House, and third place got a six-pack of high-end Summit beer (thanks, Amanda and Tony Kutzke!).
One tournament wrinkle that needs highlighting—Kubb Society and tournament director Tim Motzko has recently introduced the use of “chits.” As a way of evening out skill levels, less-experienced players are given one or two chits to employ during each of their matches throughout the day. A chit is essentially a very small kubb that measures about 1 inch by 1 inch by 3 inches. Chits have proven to be an effective, if not annoying, way of leveling the playing field.
After determining the end of the pitch from which each team will play the players with chits place them anywhere on their half of the pitch. If they have two they place them both. In the case where players on opposing teams have chits, the total number of chits cancel each other out on a one to one basis. So, if one player has two chits and an opposing player has one chit, only one chit would be placed. If each had a single or each had two chits, then none are used for that match.
The opposing team must knock down all opponent chits before knocking down the king. A chit can be knocked down at any time during the match, and by any legal means, such as a thrown baton or a tumbling kubb, and including via a drilled (inkast) kubb.’
Photo courtesy of the St. Paul Kubb Society.