Friday, 15 October 2010

Philly Youngsters, Part Five

I think it is fair to say that today will be burned bright into the history of English Bridge.

The World Championship semi-final against the Netherlands. As soon as board 2, the action had started. Dan and James had a mix-up using their defensive methods against a short club and conceded a 1400 penalty. However, there had been issues of whether the 1C bid had been alerted properly on both sides of the screen. The resulting ruling went against the team, but captain MGB decided to appeal. The rest of the set was up and down. Despite a couple of other big swings out, we still led by three at the end of the stanza.

Immediately things went wrong at the start of set 2. A tricky discard problem caused a slam to be let through and the psychological tone was set. The Dutch couldn't get anything wrong and we couldn't get anything right. The result? 1-78. It is fair to say that things weren't the brightest in the England camp at that time.

We regrouped. There wasn't much to the set three boards but we eked a few IMPs back. Twelve of them. So prior to beginning the final set we were looking at the wrong end of a 62-IMP deficit and only 14 boards to do something about it.

This lot are made of stern stuff. They have a lot of experience of generating obscene quantities of IMPs in very short spaces of time in online matches. So they didn't ever stop believing that it was possible to come back. Quite the opposite. If they could get off to a sharp start then they knew that the pressure would start to tell. After all, the opponents could only lose it from here.

The first few boards in the Open Room didn't encourage much, indeed we lost a further game swing next door. But then James and Dan threw caution to the winds and rolled in a couple of light games. In the other room Graeme was allowed to make a cold-off 3N and the noose was definitely tightening. We also received the news that we had won our appeal that transferred a further 17IMPs into the account.

The critical deal came four from home. The Dutch East came in over a 15-17NT and in a competitive sequence his partner made what he thought was a lead-directing double. His partner took him seriously and 'saved' over our 4H game. This resulted in a 1700 blowout and the decisive 15 IMP swing. Both pairs came out to score up thinking they maybe hadn't done quite enough. As the scores totted up, suddenly the impossible became reality. We had won the semi final.

Credit to the Dutch, they had played superbly in a memorable match. We are sorry it had to be them, because we know them well. Their coaches Marten and Monique are genuinely really nice people who have their teams play the game the right way. We hope they can win the Bronze tomorrow as some consolation.

Anyway, we are just trying to wind down now to get some sleep before tomorrow. Poland await in the final.