Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The Ladies and Seniors Teams' Road to Pau

In our first article we looked at the prospects and aspirations of the Open Team. In this one we consider the Ladies and Senior Teams.

Our ladies have been by far our most successful team in The European Championships and since the inauguration of the ladies series in 1935 Great Britain (England since 2001) have won the gold medal a record thirteen times — the last time in 2001 with a team comprising Nicola Smith, Heather Dhondy, Michelle Brunner, Rhona Goldenfield, Sally Brock and Margaret James-Courtney.

Time moves on and a number of our senior lady players, notably Nicola Smith, Michelle Brunner and Rhona Goldenfield, will not be playing. Nicola tells me it is the first European Championship she has missed in thirty years. Some record and which, in all probability, will never be equalled and when I spoke to her she told me she had lost none of her enthusiasm for international bridge and hoped to be back.

This year our team will consist of Heather Dhondy and Nevena Senior, Sarah Teshome and Catherine Jagger and Anne Rosen and Catherine Draper. Sarah and Catherine competed successfully in the last European Championship getting a bronze medal and will be able to share in their experiences with their team mates who have formed new partnerships in the last year. The trials to select the team was won by Catherine and Anne, giving the partnership their first opportunity to play in a Ladies European. Both have represented England in the past albeit with different partners. Heather and Nevena complete the team and whilst their partnership is still in its infancy both players have great individual records in both domestic and world events and their experiences should be a great value to the team.

To summarise, anything could happen but I will be very suprised if we fail to qualify for the World Championships and a medal, possibly gold, is a decided possibility.

The Seniors event only started in 1995 and, in the early years was something of a "Mickey Mouse" event. This is no longer the case, the rules have been changed, standards are very high and to win a medal would be a great achievement.

Our team consists of David Price and Colin Simpson, Chris Dixon and Victor Silverstone and Ross Harper and Andrew Thompson. David and Colin are top players at any level and have represented England in the Open Series in 2004 and 2006 finishing 5th and 10th respectively. Chris and Victor are household names, both having played in previous Open teams and twice winning the prestigious NatWest Trophy invitation event. The two professors Harper and Thompson are a new partnership. Ross has been very successful playing with Paul Hackett winning The Australian Gold Coast Congress Teams and this year's Senior Trials. Fortunately/unfortunately Paul also qualified for The Open Team and consequently Ross teamed up with Andrew. Whilst Ross is a professor by academic qualification Andrew, to the best of my knowledge, has no professorship but he is affectionately known in London bridge circles as "The Professor" and he is an international player of considerable experience. This is a very strong team and if Ross and Andrew gel a medal is more than a possibility.

Alan Mould tells me that, in his opinion, home advantage is worth 25 victory points so if we can get behind our teams we can erode some of that advantage. Incidentally I understand The French Bridge Federation propose to hold an open tournament Tournoi de Paires de leuro on the middle weekend (21st/22nd June) so if you would like to support our teams and play a little competitive bridge as well come along and enjoy a few days in France. Please check the details with the EBU nearer the date.

In our next article we will look in more detail at the individual players. Keep reading.

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