I travelled to Hungary on October 26th for the 41st Hungarian Open. I’ve been to this event before so I was looking forward to catching up with some familiar faces and meeting some new people. I took a train from Leeds to Manchester Airport and then a flight from there to Brussels followed by another one from there to Budapest a couple of hours later. I arrived in Budapest on time and was transported to the hotel for a bite to eat.
The umpires’ briefing took place later that evening and it was good to meet all the umpires who were attending. We had already been informed that the event was to use an experimental scoring system – 5 games to 11 with extended play to 15 – and we were given a set of announcements for this system.
The first day was qualifying which didn’t start until 11am so I got a bit of a lie in! We arrived at the venue for the briefing and, following that, there was quite a heated discussion amongst the umpires about the announcements which should be used if the score reached 10 all and proceeded to 14 -13 or 14 all. Eventually we reached a consensus but we still went on court with a certain amount of trepidation. It was very strange saying ‘10 game something’ and saying ‘game’ at 11 rather than ‘interval’ as well as ‘two games to zero’ but, by the end of the first day, I felt confident using the new system. There was a 2 minute interval between games but no intervals in the middle of the games except for in the fifth when there was a one minute interval to include the change of ends.
By the end of the second day, this new system felt very familiar – it was surprising how natural it felt to be using it even after a relatively short time. I think that it was easier for me to adapt to it than some of the others, due to my experience of umpiring NBL events, but by then everyone felt confident using it.
The games varied in length from 10 minutes (11-1, 11-4, 11-3) to 50 minutes for some of the 5 end games but we did seem to be at least on schedule all the time and ahead of schedule a lot of the time. Indeed there were times when no games could go on because it was more than 10 minutes before the scheduled time for matches.
The general feeling about the new scoring system amongst the umpires (and the few players) that I discussed it with was that the games were too short. No one was in favour of changing over to this new system despite the sessions finishing earlier. Three of the five finals were over after 3 games in less than 30 minutes each and one of the remaining matches lasted 32 minutes for four ends. I was lucky enough to umpire the last match of the day – the men’s doubles – which was the best of the finals, going the full distance and finishing 11-8 in the fifth after 48 minutes. I did remember the interval in the last game and the change of ends!
I managed to return from Hungary on the expected day (unlike last year!) and just over a week later was on court at Derby for the first event in an NBL match with 5 ends to nine plus Powerplays to contend with, followed by the Premier weekend on the Saturday with 3 games to 21. It’s fair to say that by then having used 3 different systems within 14 days, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing and just went with the flow!