Tuesday, 23 June 2009

There's always the pairs

My optimism for our women's team seems to have put the mockers on them and unfortunately, after dropping behind at half time, never looked like catching their strong Italian opponents who ran out eventual winners by 19 imps.
So English interest in the teams has ended, but the pairs semi final has plenty of interest.
Leading the way (and the whole field) are Alexander Allfrey and Andrew Robson. Dave Kendrick is in 5th (playing with van Cleef of the Netherlands) and just ahead of the Irish, Hanlon & Carroll. Also high up were Holland-Brunner (22nd), Sandqvist-McIntosh (35th) and Hallberg (42) - playing with Furunes of Norway.
In the seniors, Hackett-Harper were 5th in qualifying and Hirst-Hassett 14th.
We had no women playing in their qualifying, but the Penfold team will be exempted into the semi-final if they wish to play.

Silver Lining in Liguria

English woe in the open teams in San Remo continued, when our last team (Irens) was beaten in the first knock out round by a strong team of French internationals, Blumental, Toffier, Stoppa and Sante-Marie. Irens was up at half time and despite losing two major swings early in the 2nd it was close to the end, but they came up just a game swing short at the tape.
Disappointing as this was, our champion women's team (Sandra Penfold, Nevena Senior, Nicola Smith and Sally Brock) made up for it by staging an amazing charge in the last two rounds of their event. They came from half a match behind a qualifying spot to overtake 3 teams and end a comfortable 3rd in their group. This morning, in the quarter-final, they face a tough Italian team coached by World Champion Dano di Falco, but they are definitely my favourites in this match. Why not follow them on www.bbotv/vugraph - it starts around 9.00 am.
Meanwhile, pairs qualifying has started for the open and England leads the way after McIntosh (Tosh) and Nick Sandqvist put in a set over 67%. Brian Senior and Jack Mizel are not far behind with just under 60% and Robson-Allfrey and Brunner-Holland are also above 55%

Sunday, 21 June 2009

San Remo - Open/Womens and Seniors Qualifying

After such a great start, things seem to have gone a bit flat for the English contingent in the European.
Well done to the EBL at least for scrapping the 3rd/4th play off - so both our semi final teams - Janet De Botton (+ Artur Malinowski. Nick Sandqvist and Nevena Senior) and "Badger" (Frances Hinden, Jeffrey Allerton, Graham Osborne and Paula Leslie) received bronze medals.
In the pairs however medals were hard to come by, although a great performance by Brian Senior and Sandra Penfold left them just off the pace in 6th slightly more than a top behind bronze. Other English pairs making the 52 pair final were Hinden-Osborne and Brunner-Holland
Over the weekend teams were vying to make the knock out stages of the Open, senior and Women's series.

Our only qualifier for the last 32 in the open was Irens, (Erichsen, Gold, Towsend with Tundal and Groetheim from Norway) who qualified in 2nd place. De Botton and Mizel also made the "A" semi final which was incredibly close throughout, but failed to make the cut. We have one representative in the women's series (Penfold, Smith, Brock & Senior) a team with a host of champions. With two matches to go, they will have to make a great effort to qualify out of very tough group, as they are about half a match off 4th place in their group which will qualify them for the quarter final. Still, they have two of the lowest placed teams left to play so fingers crossed!
We also have one team in the Seniors (Harper, Harper, Hackett and Hoffman) but with two matches to go, they are mathematically out of the running. There remain the pairs events in each series, which end on Friday.
Stop Press - Penfold closes to within 7 VP of joint 3rd with 1 match to go

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Sao Paulo and the next European

Taking a breather from San Remo, there was some good news last week as we learnt that we will be represented in the World Championships in August after all. Our Senior team, heartbreakingly, lost the split tie for 6th place in Pau last year. This meant that they failed to qualify by right, but did become the reserve for Sao Paulo. As a result of the surprise withdrawal of the Netherlands we shall now be sending a team. As a result of partnership and other changes it will not be exactly that from the Europeans. Subject to availability at this late notice the designated team is:




Meanwhile, I've had a few enquires about the new coaching groups, so here is a brief explanation (thanks to Heather and Simon for their input to this):

For quite a while now, we have been considering whether there are better ways to choose and prepare our teams for the major championships. We concluded that the way forward is to introduce a squad system, similar to that used by many of the most successful nations. This will have the advantage of utilising the 2 year cycle, creating more consistency in selection and focussing our resources more efficiently, whilst creating a clear entry path for new pairs.
Because this will be quite a radical departure, we are using an evolutionary approach to meet this end and have started by identifying pairs for "coaching groups" prior to the 2010 European Championships. These partnerships, who have demonstrated the necessary capability and commitment to play at championship level, will receive assistance with their coaching arrangements and their progress and development will be monitored. This is, nevertheless, a half-way house, so other pairs, not supported, are still in contention for places in the team.
Meanwhile, the Premier League or trials will still be the main criteria for the teams representing England in the Home International series.

By the way, we are really happy that the Premier League has grown this year. It is an exciting (and good value) opportunity for any players seeking to extend their game to an event played to the format and standards of Championship bridge.

Tuesday in San Remo - Medals Guaranteed

We are in the medals!
Both our remaining teams won their quarterfinal matches. Badger (Hinden) and De Botton both held handy, but far from decisive leads after 14 boards, but neither erred in the 2nd half. So we were already guaranteed a bronze before the semis started. Hinden, playing the powerful French team of Levy, Mouiel, Cronier x 2 led by 15 at the break had few swings against in the 2nd half and extended her lead to a convincingly solid 49-19.
Meanwhile in an exciting show on BBO vugraph, de Botton, playing the dutch team of Arnolds, Vriend, Bakkeren and Maas stretched a lead of of 13 out to 28 until losing a slam swing to bring it back to 19 with 7 to go. 2 boards later Sandqvist and Senior stretched to 3H which went for 500 at love all. Fortunately though Malinowski and de Botton bid a very thin but lucky 3NT on the other cards to hold the loss to 3imps. Encouraged by this, the next board Artur and Janet bid a rather filthy 6H (3 finesses) which went down 1, but luckily the other room did the same. 2 boards to go and 13 imps up, Malinowski overcalled to show the majors over a strong NT with a hand you could use to frighten your children with. It paid off and he gained an imp when Janet saved an undertrick against par.
Just as well - on the last hand, despite another thin (and I do mean thin!) overcall, Arnolds bid and made 3NT by dropping Q10 offside from 5, when in the other room, Sandqvist and Senior were -2 in 5C. That left 1 imp to spare (on BBO at any rate - the EBL web site said 4). Memories of Beijing for Nevena no doubt :)
Don't forget that you can watch BBO either by logging on, or on BBOTV (http://www.bbotv/vugraph)
So on to the semi finals and our teams avoid each other. Badger (Hinden) must play the French team Neve (Allix, Mauberquez, Neve and Reess) who have emerged from a quarter than included Erichsen, Lavazza and Hansen, whilst De Botton take on Rune Hauge's Bulgarian/Norwegian squad of Saelensminde, Malinowski (no not the present Mrs Malinowski - Artur's former wife Anna !), Gunev Popova and Vist. So Malinowski vs Malinowski. Fireworks?
Well not in the first 14 when there was only one game swing and Hauge held a 1 imp lead. In the 2nd half however, 102 imps changed hands and when the dust subsided Hauge was a convincing winner 89-61. Meanwhile Hinden had the worst of the 1st set against Neve and after a board 14 game swing trailed by 20 - although it was closer at one point, in the 2nd set they only gained 6 to lose by 14 (47-61).
So our teams will be fighting each other for bronze (unless the EBL have made the sensible decision to scrap the unpopular 3rd place play-off and give them both one).

Monday, 15 June 2009

San Remo, part 2

The reason for my confusion over the placings of the qualifiers is explained by the fact that the EBL site originally specified only 16 teams qualifying, but they have actually qualified 32 . Just as well for the event as a number of strong teams, including Lavazza, didn't make the top 16. 4 of "our" teams got through that round with only McGann failing in a close match and Erichsen losing out to Lavazza. A tough draw that, at this stage. It resulted from the "picking system" allowing the leading teams from qualifying to choose their opponents. Obviously no-one wanted Lavazza or Erichsen (including Helness and Brogeland) so they ended up on the shelf till the end.

The last 16 saw de Botton draw Callaghan and a storming 1st 14 boards saw Callaghan virtually out of the match at 85-13 down with both de Botton-Malinowski and Senior-Sandqvist returning great cards. Perhaps not surprisingly after the fireworks, the 2nd set was relatively low scoring and close until the end when de Botton put on another 25 imp.

Meanwhile both Badger (Hinden) and Penfold were making heavy weather down 15 and 16 respectively. Eminently retrievable over 14 of course. Despite a partial recovery by Penfold, she could quite make it and was 11 short in the end. Hinden started the 2nd half with two game swings out and was looking doomed, but a marvellous late recovery ended in a 3 imp win (62-59)so "Badger" with de Botton will carry the English flag into the last 8.

Meanwhile, the tough draw for Lavazza continued with a tie against the Hansen team who had led the qualifying. Mostly Austrian, they also included Kovachev of Bulgaria and Cecilia Rimstedt, a junior world champion from Sweden. The match was incredibly close, with Hansen leading by 1 imp with a board to go, after the trading of slam swings. A flat 3NT on the last board, however, saw the Italians eliminated.

Apart from the "live update" on the EBL web site, you can also watch a couple of matches each set on BBO.

Unfortunately, the site doesn't yet show any pairs results yet. Qualifying is underway. I've heard from Lizzie Godfrey, an ex-pat english international living in the mountains of Southern France that the venue is wonderful and that session timings are much better than before. Great bridge, great weather, great resort - what else can you ask for?

Sunday, 14 June 2009

San Remo, part 1

The qualifying for the Knock out phase of the mixed teams (round of 16) in San remo was completed over the weekend. 11 teams with English players made the A semi final, from where most of the qualifiers come.

Of these a highly creditable six teams with English interest qualified: "Badger" (Jeffrey Allerton, Frances Hinden, Paula Leslie, Graham Osborne) were 5th, just ahead of Janet de Botton (+ Artur Malinowski, Nick Sandqvist and Nevena Senior) in 6th. Sandra Penfold (+ Brian Senior with van Cleef and van Ettingen from the Netherlands) Tenerife winners Erichsen (Espen and Helen with the Brogelands and Helnesses from Norway), McGann (Fiona Brown with Hugh and Glaerum and Hoyland from Norway) and Brian Callaghan (+ Chris Duckworth, Gill Salt and David Stern from Australia) also qualified although their final positions are not obvious from the EBL site. Unsuccessful Group A teams with English players were Blakey, Brunner, Dhondy (the holders), Piedra and Seale.

We go into the last stages with a lot more qualifiers than other countries, so there's plenty of reason for optimism.No communication from troops on the ground yet - hopefully I'll get some over the next few days. :¬)

Friday, 5 June 2009

Open European in San Remo

The Open European in San Remo (NW Italy) starts next Saturday (12th June). Anyone can play as long as they are in good standing with their National Bridge Organisation and there are plenty of events: Mixed, Open and Women's pairs and teams running for two weeks in one of the best resorts on the Piedmont coast. There are already over 40 English Pairs entered, so if you still fancy going, you'll have plenty of company.

The bridge is played with screens, but in my experience the rules are enforced more pragmatically than they are in the major championships, probably because so many are experiencing bridge at this level for the first time. This is the last Open of the decade of course and it's been a productive 10 years for the English (about time perhaps) with a number of medals earned, including Golds for the Dhondys and the Erichsens. Plus I calculate 6 silvers and 7 bronzes as well.

So why not visit the web site and make a late booking - you may have the best holiday of your life!

The results will be on the web site and we will highlight English successes. Hopefully I will also be able to publish reports "from our own correspondents" as well.