The Pairs Championship will enter the semi final stage this weekend, upon the completion of the quarter final rounds on Monday. The top four pairs will proceed to play each of their three fellow qualifiers in turn over the next weeks to decide the finalists. Defending champions Olaizola II and Mendizabal II will kick start the semi finals on Saturday with a match against Martinez de Irujo and Goni III in Pamplona. Bengoetxea VI and Beloki, and Berasaluze VIII and Begino will enter the fray in San Sebastian on Sunday.
Monday 23rd February Beotibar, Tolosa
XALA – ZUBIETA beat OLAIZOLA I – PATXI RUIZ 22-6
The final scoreboard tells us that Asier Olaizola and Patxi Ruiz lost once again at Beotibar on Monday. This in itself was hardly important, or startling, news. However, the result of this match meant so much more and a seemigly pointless encounter between two pairs, already eliminated from the championship, took on the status of one of the strangtest and most important matches of the year so far. The fate of two couples, Bengoetxea VI/Beloki of Asegarce and Gonzalez/Barriola of Aspe hung on this evening; a Xala/Zubieta win would see the former qualify for the semi finals and an Olaizola I/Patxi Ruiz win would see the latter pair go through. Whatever happened, a win for either side would result in elimination for a pair from their own empresa. Certain elements of the press spent the week discussing the potential ramifications of this situation; could either pair be tempted to play at ‘worse than their best’ for the good of their own empresa? In the end however, fair play was the only sporting option and there was nothing remotely suspect about the outcome as Asier and Patxi were once again outplayed by a better pair. Xala and Zubieta have won their last three matches in commanding style and Monday was no different. Xala must consider himself unlucky to be leaving the tournament at this stage given the recent exalted level of his play. Despite being one of the players of the competition, he has never quite had the defender to back him up and head to head record against the other pairs in contention was his undoing in the finals standings. He did however bid farewell with a flourish to which Asier Olaizola, who gave everything he could muster, had no answer. Zubieta, on this occasion, supported him consumately, outplaying Patxi Ruiz with ease.
And so, Oinatz Bengoetxea and Ruben Beloki will be back for more as the championship moves into the semi final stage. Gonzalez and Barriola suffer from Asier and Patxi’s failure to perform and leave the competition. They will be joined in the next stage by defending champions Olaizola II and Mendizabal II, Martinez de Irujo and Goni III, and Berasaluze VIII and Begino.