At the recent Feast of St Sebastian, I was asked by the Steward to run a "pro-am" rapier tourney. With this brief in mind, I decided to pair novice fencers with experienced ones in a pairs competition. I had six fencers to play with, which was perfect for a round robin, each bout best of three, which we played three times over, each rotation with different weapons combinations.

Of course, classifying fencers as "novice" or "expert" is not always simple: I think everyone was happy to classify the two Dons as "expert", and there were two fencers who had only authorised in the last year (although one of them had some prior experience with other recreation groups) so they got labelled "novice". The remaining two had both been fencing for some time, but both had taking substantial breaks: I decided to label the one who had authorised first as the "expert". The pairs were made by having the newest fencer choose her partner first and so on. In any case, I think the three pairs wound up pretty competitive, and the final results support that.

In order to generate a little extra chaos, I stipulated that for the first rotation the expert would have only a dagger, the novice a rapier. For the second rotation, each fencer was also allowed a defensive weapon (one chose cloak and dagger, another parrying gauntlet and dagger, the rest bucklers). For the third and final rotation, we went back to the beginning, but with the novice and expert swapping weapons (novice with only dagger, expert only rapier). Finally, an improvised extra distraction: for any "dead rubbers" (one team winning the first two passes), the experts ganged-up on the novices. This worked well in the first rotation, when the experts were armed with only daggers, but not so well in the final rotation when they had the rapiers: it probably entertained only me, but it had a nice symmetry to it.

Fighting in pairs isn't something we do much of, so it added some novelty. Also, downsizing from six fencers to three pairs made the fencing fast and furious with very few breaks. This seems to have been appreciated. So far, I've only had positive feedback. BTW, the final score was 4:3:2.