The second round of the Baltic Times Open saw a step-up in competition and a step-down in formality. The atmosphere had less of the first tournament's "hi, my name is" cocktail party feeling as people already knew each other. But when it came time to bowl, diplomatic friendships were put aside. Each team became focused on one thing - winning.
"We drew up a strategy - strike each time," European Commission team member Gints Turlajs joked. "It looks a bit more competitive tonight. It's a little more about the game. [During the first round] everyone was mingling around to meet each other. Now people look ready to go."
Of the 17 participating teams, only six would go on to the third round. Based on the first tournament's scores, Parex Bank, the Swedish Embassy and the Netherlands-Latvian Chamber of Commerce carried the most potential. However, with many teams having changed their players and others having trained, anything was possible. And the opening game between the team captains proved this.
As part of the new structure, the BTO second round commenced with a bonus competition between the team captains. The top 10 scoring players' points would be added to their team total at the end of the night. The German Embassy's team representative, First Secretary Frank Jarasch, won the opening game with a total of 58 points. Coming in 11th during the first round, both he and his team members were rather surprised by their win.
"I was lucky," Jarasch said. "What's more important, though, is that our team made it to the second round. That's a bigger win."
This wasn't the tournament's only surprise. When the final score was tallied up, Parex Bank, the previous champions, only made eighth place. The Russian Embassy advanced from 12th place to third and the Danish Chamber of Commerce jumped from 13th place to second. The Swedish Embassy, demonstrating as much team spirit as talent, took first place overall.
Much of the competition's unpredictability had to do with the fact that many diplomats couldn't attend this round of the tournament. Almost half of the teams had at least one new player and some had as many as three. According to Netherlands-Latvian Chamber of Commerce player Ivija Kamperman, this was the reason that her team fell from third place to 13th.
"It's a pity that the chamber members couldn't be here," said Kamperman. "They were the main athletes and without them we're not so good."
Two of the original players for the U.S. Embassy couldn't compete because they were placed on temporary duty. However, team captain Russ Kern, chief of ODC, made up for this loss by training a couple weeks beforehand with two bowlers from Parex Bank.
"I bowled with two girls from Parex Bank a couple weeks ago just to practice," Kern said. "Plus we have two new players - we'll see if they're good recruits."
Another recruit was Russian Ambassador Igor Studennikov. Bowling for the first time, the amateur did considerably well and helped his team score a total of 436 points.
"I had no practice," the ambassador said. "It's a pity that I had fewer points than the American ambassador, but next time I will train more and score the best."
Others didn't take the game so seriously - especially the champions. Perhaps the least intimidating and most light-hearted team of all, the Swedish Embassy's winning strategy was to let loose and have fun.
"We're here to win and so we did," Second Secretary Anders Lindgren said with a touch of humor. "When it came down to crunch time, we're the ones who controlled the nerves. To be honest, we're just here to have fun - but it's always good to win."
In the overall rating after the first two rounds, the Swedish Embassy is in first place with 35 points, Parex Bank is second with 29 points, the Russian Embassy is third with 27 points.