The draw for the Edinburgh International Curling Championship, sponsored by Belhaven Best, is now available and can be seen here.
Twenty-four teams play in four sections, the first games scheduled for 09.30 on Friday, November 27. Two qualifiers will go forward from each section to the quarterfinals and each of the sections looks tough and will provide the teams with a pretty rigorous workout. Each team, of course, is guaranteed five games of top-class curling on ice that has been consistently swingy in the first month of the new season.
Current champion, Andy Kapp and his German team face local teams Brewster, Shaw and veteran Colin Hamilton as well as the Irish team skipped by JohnJo Kenny and the Italians, skipped by Joel Retornaz. I suspect that the 2.00pm Saturday draw will give the neutral an important game to watch in that section; Andy Kapp plays Tom Brewster in what could well be the decider for first and second place in the section.
Reigning European and World Champions, Team Murdoch, have had a slow start to their season so far. Mind you, they make a habit of peaking at the right time and winning the major Championships. The Edinburgh International falls neatly the week before the upcoming European Championships, so I expect them to be approaching peak condition in Edinburgh. They meet England's Jamie Malton, Michael Opel, Henry Carter and Keith Wilson in the opening draw of the competition. But maybe their toughest competition will come from young Glen Muirhead, who showed so well in last season’s Scottish Championship. Glen brings a revised team from last season, but with Michael Goodfellow and Thomas Sloan as new team members, they will be up for the challenge. The Murdoch v Muirhead clash takes place at 11.30 on Saturday morning.
Warwick Smith is perhaps favourite to progress from his group though the section does look wide open. Jamie Dick is taking some time to get it together with his new rink and will be anxious to do better than he has up until now. French and Russian Champions Dufour and Drosdov are also in this section. Adrian Meikle had a good win against Dick in the Hamilton Mini Tour event and will be keen to repeat his win while Lee McCleary will also be up for things.
Perhaps the toughest looking section is D, where local star, Pete Loudon, faces some stiff foreign competition from Due (Norway), Rantamäki (Finland) and Gulbis (Latvia). But lurking in the background, lying in wait for all-comers, is Hammy McMillan, who returns with his strong team of last season. Former GB Olympic curler, Philip Wilson plays third stones and former Scottish Junior Champions, Ross Paterson and local boy Sandy Gilmour make up the front end.
That's Ritvars Gulbis in the photo above. The Latvian skip brings his team to this Curling Champions Tour event in Edinburgh, en route to the European Championships in Aberdeen. The Latvians are up against Hammy McMillan in their first match at noon on Friday, November 27.
Pic © Skip Cottage