In our first year of club play, Russia was a dog, posting an average center count of 2.83, 0.94 points below Italy and the lowest count of any center in our five years of play. But since then, Russia has checked in with competitive center counts ranging from 4.19 to 5.37. Plucking the white block is still no reason to gloat, but it shouldn't elicit groans, either.
Italy, meanwhile, enjoyed by far it's best year, reaching an average center count of 5.92, an improvement of 52.6 percent over the previous year. Its mark was second only to France's 6.45. In many circles, Italy is considered the toughest country with which to do well. Perhaps its success in Chicago this year is an indicator of a rising quality of play.
For the first time, six of the seven powers posted average counts of more than 5. Unfortunately, Austria continues to lag. Its only year above 5 was our first. Since then, it's topped 4 only once.