Bridge, as we established yesterday, is a sport – but today we discovered that it is also a menace to society. The technical wizards at the World Bridge Federation have devised a system that allows you to submit your line-up remotely from (in theory) anywhere in the world. But the Chinese security agencies who prevent a billion or so people from looking at pictures of cats on Facebook had been monitoring the traffic on the remote line-up system, and upon deciding that it looked a bit dodgy they shut the whole thing down. Hard to blame them, really – messages such as Thanchiranukul-Chaiyasing must have looked like impenetrable secret code rather than the names of one of Thailand’s woman partnerships.
We can’t complain about the quality and the variety of the food at our hotel. Dishes that have featured so far include Plentifully Healthy Mushroom Soup and Black Pepper Cowboy Groin. Whereas the bridge on the first day was healthy enough from an English point of view, that on the second was more cowboy groin than mushroom. We began against the United States, who had some bad luck prior to the tournament when one of their players had to withdraw leaving the remaining five to play in ad hoc partnerships from time to time. Quite unintentionally, for the practice is common in their country, they grievously insulted the English by offering us a written defence to their Multi 2D opening. They then chose reasonable but unfortunate opening leads against a couple of games, and England’s half-time lead was boosted by a board on which the scoring-up went: “Plus 450.” “You mean minus 450 – that’s one IMP away.” “No, I mean plus 450 – that’s 13 IMPs in.”
But that was the end of the good news. England mistimed the defence to a part-score, went down in a game that the Americans avoided, and stayed out of a game that looked doomed but that was played with great skill at the other table and made after a small error in defence. USA won the match by 3 IMPs, which was no big deal but a pity after the start.
The next match was against Thailand, whose names had brought down the line-up system. They hadn’t been faring too well until this point, but it’s a huge error to underestimate any team in a world championship. Once again England had a comfortable lead at half way, but this time the opponents not only retrieved the situation but turned it on its head. They bid aggressively to a cold 22-point vulnerable game, they played a doomed 3NT in a delicate 4-3 heart fit and made it, they judged a part-score swing better… in short, they scored 35 unanswered IMPs in the last six boards and won by 22. They were jumping for joy in the corridors, and deservedly so.
We were on BBO for the final match of the day against Norway. They play a lot of good bridge in Scandinavia, and any team from that part of the world is a threat. It was déjà vu all over again, as England enjoyed a small lead at half time that evaporated during the later going. Part of the lead was due to this fine piece of judgement: with AK432 A6 1097 1064 you open 1S at favourable vulnerability after a pass on your right. A weak 3D on your left is doubled for takeout by partner and passed to you. What call do you make?
If you think about it, you should pass despite lack of any sort of trump holding. Partner didn’t support spades or bid 3H, so your aces and kings are likely to stand up and partner should have a couple of tricks somewhere. The English player did think about it, did pass, and did collect 800 from clear blue sky. But the Norwegians had a good auction to a good slam, and picked up enough in dribs and drabs to end the match 10 IMPs further in front than they had started it.
It’s going to be close. Realistically, there are ten teams in contention for eight qualifying places (England are ninth). We have some difficult opponents to come, but since they all have to play against us, so do they. It’s Laura Covill’s birthday on Saturday. She’s hoping for some presents.