Third-place play off, Friday 27th and Saturday 28th September
Romania, who we beat handily on the first day of the event, outplay us in the first set, winning four double-digit swings. There is one ray of light, on this deal. The auction starts 1S-2H-3D-P, and the Romanians bid to 7D. Michael leads the jack of spades, taking out an entry to dummy. The only risk to the contract is clubs 5-1, the auction suggests that East will have spade honours and some shape to justify her overcall, and the lead suggests that East has spade length. So the best line is clear: cash the king and ace of diamonds, unblock South's club honours, then cross to dummy while drawing the remaining trump, catering for East's actual shape. But declarer simply runs trumps, relying on a club break or squeeze, and finds the unlucky lie where this fails. Graham has not been challenged by the trump lead at the other table, so we gain 19 IMPs. Or do we? The partitions separating the BBO rooms are not sound-proof, and Frances reports to the Director that she'd heard some remarks at another table about a making grand slam. After due consideration, the Directors award a weighted score, which takes one IMP off our gain. We lose the set 53-29.
The second-set is strewn with errors by both side, but we make more than Romania, and lose another 10 IMPs. All the players are tired after a fortnight of high-level bridge, and the fatigue seems to be affecting us more than our opponents. I tell the team that unless they can recover their focus we will lose the match. But we continue to make mistakes, and lose another 22 IMPs. The play-off matches are only 80 boards - two sets to go, so we have a lot to do and will have to play much better to have a chance.
We do play better on the second day, and this deal gives us hope. Michael, South, opens 1D, West overcalls 2S, Fiona, North bids 3H, and East bids 3S. I expect Michael's 4H to end the auction, but no, West decides to save in 4S, and when Fiona doesn't double that, Michael decides to bid slam. 6H would be beaten by a club lead, but East leads a spade. Fiona runs the jack of hearts to West's king, then does then right thing in both hearts and diamonds to make her contract.
We win both sets, but not by enough - we lose by 24 IMPs. Congratulations to all the medal winners, and especially to the England Senior and Women's teams.