Thursday, 23 August 2012

Lille: Women FINAL

Well, they did it and without giving the captain a finger nail biting session. The three sets against Russia yesterday to end the tournament were smooth with few hints of a bad set and we ended up winning by 69- our biggest win and thus both defending the World Mind Sports title won in Beijing and also adding this to the European title won in Dublin in June.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Lille: Women 10

The final against Russia, the 2004 winners of this event started with a doubled game at both tables. Nevena made it and the Russian did not so 12 imps to us. The first set is covered in the online bulletin available from the WBF site.

At the end of the day were are 24 boards up so a margin of 0.5 imps per board!

The final ends later today and the medal ceremony is shortly afterwards. Someone said to me yesterday that the 48 boards per day is not really "enough" however if you do this for four days in a round robin, followed by 4 96 board matches you will likely disagree. I'm exhausted and I'm only watching! 48 boards against very tough opposition who are setting you problems on nearly every board is a lot more draining than 48 boards against moderate opposition. We had a couple of easy matches in the round robin but nothing easy since.

Sweden look favourites for their very first world championship in the Open event.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Lille Women 9

The end of the marathon is in sight. 208 boards in the Round Robin followed by 4*96 boards if you want to win a medal. When we come home on Thursday I am not sure anyone will want to pop in to the YC for a
game although it is the championship Pairs which Heather is participating in!

From having a slender lead at the end of the first day against France we put the match beyond doubt in the next two sets to lead by 65. We lost a few in the last set but won pretty comfortably.

The final is against Russia so we are guaranteed at least silver. At Veldhoven last year in the Venice Cup we lost in the semi final and then lost the 3rd place play off. That is not a good feeling but our team are in sufficient form that a gold medal is very much on the cards. All of the match will be on BBO from 9.30 UK time each day.

News of the day from the open semi final was that those who put the word" invincible" before the name Monaco will have to think again as they were beaten in the semi final by Sweden. You would have got long odds on a final which did not involve Monaco, Italy or the USA at the start of the event.

Thank you to all of you who have sent emails or Facebook messages to the team. Much appreciated and good to know people are rooting for the team back in Blighty!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Lille Women 8

We are half way through the semi final and have a small lead to take into the final 48 boards. For the second time in the event England bid a grand slam and made it when the opponents were only in game!

This time it was Heather & Nevena. Heather held as South

S A 3
H K J 10 6
D K J 10 9 6 5 4

The auction was:


When Nevena bid 4D to show interest but no club control Heather could be sure that the values were in the right place. This was 14 in and the first time in the match we had been ahead.

Just to show political correctness the WBF had advised that there were to be drug tests at the half way point of the semi final. Seniors are not tested either because they would not be part of any Olympic competition or perhaps because they would all be rattling with pills anyway. One of our players was randomly selected. A good homework question at this point is what drugs would be helpful for playing bridge. It probably isn't the same as would help greco roman wrestlers or 400m runners! As long as using lavender before each match doesn't breach the regulations I think our team is safe.

2nd Homework question: The regulations for WBF Championships are 125 pages long(there are supplementary regulations of about 40 pages for each championship). How many pages are devoted to the anti doping rules? Answer: 52 (so you are not on tenterhooks until the next blog)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Lille Women 7

The QF ended with a comfortable win for England over Sweden. For the 2nd match running we were good in the last set and gave little away. We went in 20 up and won the set easily. Our opponents for the semi final are France. They triumphed when they beat a strong Dutch squad on the very last board. This is not the same French team as the one who were the runners up in Dublin a few weeks ago. This team finished 2nd in their trials. The winners got the European championship and the runners up this event. Interestingly three of the four semi finalists are from our Round Robin Group.

It's warming up here and not just in the bridge sense. The temperature gauge above the local pharmacy said 43 Celsius yesterday and whilst that may have been subject to a little Gallic exaggeration it was certainly hot and the aircon in the players area was not functioning making it a very hot and unpleasant experience.

One surprising thing about Lille, certainly compared to my last visit in 1998, is the very significant number of beggars on the street. They all have children or dogs in tow but are not particularly aggressive. They are most at risk from the Renault Clio's driven by young Frenchmen with a hazy idea of the difference between road and pavement. Each restaurant is favoured by a set of rose sellers coupled with accordion players and their hangers on with yogurt pots for money collection. The ones playing tunelessly outside our restaurant had a small episode with a motor bike. The bike, with a scratch was the only thing to suffer damage but the resultant shouting and threat to summon the police scared the accordionist off. I wanted to give the motor cyclist 2 Euros for saving us.

If you get or see the Sunday Telegraph there is a full page article on the mind sport games featuring our women's team.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Lille: Seniors 7

As you will have seen, the Seniors were unable to capitalise on their superb start in their 64 board match against Poland.  The Poles won the second set 49-6 to lead by 1 IMP at half time.  England fought back to win the third quarter 46-28 and take a 17 IMP lead into the last set.  Alas we couldn't hang on and lost the match by 9 IMPs.  As always in these situations, there were ten or so boards where a small change in luck or bid or play would have meant a different outcome.  I would like categorically to quash the rumours that the return to Suffolk of our lucky mascot and consultant dietician had anything to do with the final result.

The England Senior team is sponsored by Roger O'Shea and Pharon Independent Financial Advisers and we would like to thank them for their generous support.

So now the baton passes to the England Women's team.  Well done against China and the very best of luck against Sweden and beyond.

Lille Women 6

Our last 16 opponents were China. This is what happens when you don't do well enough in the Round Robin to exercise choice. Mind you I doubt we would have been their choice either. We both ran out of other possible opponents so a repeat of the Gold Medal Match from Beijing it was.

We were one up after 16 and 10 down at the end of te day. On the second day of the match(all KO matches are of 96 boards) we got to 9 in front with one set to play and the team played very well to win the last set hardly conceding an imp. On to the Quarter Finals we go with a match against Sweden. They were also our opponents in the QF in Veldhoven last year in the Venice Cup. On that occasion a very close match for 5 sets ended with the English putting on 50+ in the last set to triumph.

The last set in other matches did not lack excitement. USA were 65 down to Poland and lost by only 4. Indonesia were about 55 down to Turkey but the first 6 boards of the last set were 63-0 to Indonesia and they hung on to win. An enormous last set for Monaco in the Open to finally see off Canada showed clearly that these long matches are a matter of never say die! Even if you have a comfortable lead a couple of bad results to start with are often followed by some more.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Lille: Seniors 6

Our final round robin matches were a roller coaster ride; a 17-13 win against Egypt, a 7-23 loss to Singapore, a 17-13 win over Canada and a 19-11 win against Hong Kong left us in third place with one match to go. Since this was against bottom-of-the table Morocco, and the team in second place, Indonesia, were playing top-of-the table France, we had high hopes of finishing second in the pool.

Alas, Morocco played well and beat us 19-11 and so we ended up in fourth place, with no control over our opponents in the first round of the knock-out.  The draw was a tense affair, squeezed in between the last round robin match and the start of the knock-out.  France chose neighbours Netherlands and Indonesia chose near-neighbours Japan.  Germany could have continued the pattern by selecting Poland, but opted for the USA, leaving Poland to face England.

Poland were not the opponents we would have chosen if we had finished second, and their team contains five World Champions.  On the other hand we have won our last four encounters with them, including at the European Championships in Dublin in June.  We started extremely well and have a 52-10 lead after 16 of the 64 boards.  I have had a nice meal and feel compelled to share this poem with you:

There was a bridge player called Hackett
Who said of their five clubs "I'll whack it".
The defence it was sure,
The result was down four,
And the board cost the Poles quite a packet.

In the interests of historical accuracy, the Poles were only three down, but Papa H tells me they might/could have been down four, and so I exercised a bit of poetic licence.

The team has retired early and left me with the (pleasurable) task of bringing you up to speed with the good news.  I hope I will be this cheerful this time tomorrow night.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Open - Final

So, the great comeback completely failed to materialise. It was killed off early by Denmark, but in reality while the team wasn't playing well, lady luck had also decided to head elsewhere. A near impossible lead decision let through the first slam swing and the second was created by the Danes bidding a 7D that required dropping Qx trumps missing 5 cards in the suit. In a match that was nearly drawn, those two boards were worth the 25VPs required. They say that lightning doesn't strike twice. Nobody told Guadelope that. This time we were the victims as they proceeded to play like they could see through the cards. This time the slam required three finesses and a 3-3 break, but it all materialised. By now, the heart had gone from the fight and another heavy defeat against Egypt summed up the event. The team not really on it, the opposition often playing above themselves and us not really able to catch a break. Still, I have confidence that this collection of players will bounce back strongly. Their attitude in defeat was superb and they never resorted to any form of criticism or bickering. It has been a pleasure to work with them and their captain Pat Collins. Alan Shillitoe

Lille Women 5

A worrying day yesterday. We started with Turkey and all was going swimmingly until about three boards from the end when they bid a grand. This relied on playing AK10xx opposite J9xx for no loser. In addition the hand over the AK10xx had opened 3S so a second round finesse looked the odds play. The Turkish declarer cashed from the top and there was Qx so that was -13 and that with another couple of indifferent results was a 14-16 loss. In the next round we became the first(and as it turns out only) team to beat Russia. We won 20-10 and now with two weakish teams to play all looked good.

Chinese Taipei, however, hadn't been told they were a weakish team and went into a 40 imp lead after 8 boards. At one point we were 6-24 down to them, got a bit back but still lost 10-20 to give us work to do and worse ensure final qualification was not in our own hands.

In the final match this morning we won 21-9 with a solid performance against Kenya and other results including Chinese Taipei walloping one of our rivals(Poland) meant we moved into what looks on the table a rather comfortable 4th. We don't find out who we are playing in the last 16 until late today and the KO phase starts at 10.00 tomorrow(9.00 UK time).

I was interviewed by a journalist from Le Monde yesterday. Nice to see the press showing some interest. I shall now go and find a copy.

Lille: Seniors 5

Our opponents today are Egypt (currently 14th), Singapore (11th) and Canada (7th).  The Seniors still have five matches to play to complete their round robin, unlike the Open team who have three matches left, and the Women, who are playing their last match this morning.

The top eight teams qualify from each of the two Senior pools.  The way the draw works for the round of 16 is that the winning team in Pool A will choose their opponents from the teams lying 5th to 8th in Pool B. Then the second team in Pool A will choose from the remaining three 5-to-8 teams in Pool B, and so on.  Although the Senior team are very likely to finish in the top eight, it is important that they finish as high as possible so that they can have some control in selecting their next opponents.

These are the sort of procedures that the World Badminton Federation should have had in place in the Olympics to ensure that all the pool matches had some importance and that deliberately losing matches would not be in the competitors' interests.

Lille: Open 4

Well, if it is going to happen it is definitely going to be squeaky bum time. We are 27VPs off 4th with three matches to go. However, all the top sides have tough run-ins. They WILL have to drop VPs from playing each other. For us it is simple. Smash Denmark, smash Guadelope and smash Egypt to have any chance. Any one of those horses not come in and we are on the first Eurostar home.

So today. India 16-14 win, unlucky (heard that before) not to win by more. Jordan (all jokes on this one sadly already stolen by Messrs Dhondy and Burn) 19-11 win. Mexico...

Ah yes, the Mexico match. At last an interesting set of deals. And certainly not flat in this match! We got off to a fast start, but then the Mexicans bid a slam that made on 2-2 trumps and a 3NT that was much, much worse but completely cold. Both sides bid non-making slams. We doubled and let through 3NT on a tricky defensive problem. Robson and Allfrey were up and down and out of the playing room in record time. After 12 boards had been scored, we had a narrow lead. It didn't feel good. But Forrester and Gold had been having a monster and their men had completely cracked. Three game swings appeared out of nowhere in the last few deals and that was enough for an 88-48 win and 24-6VPs. 136 IMPs in total had been shipped by both sides in just 16 deals. 8.5IMPs/board. 11 swings of 10 IMPs or more.

I'm going to claim some of the credit. It appears my advanced motivational techniques are finally working on Mr Forrester. The secret? OK then. Make sure he is sitting where he has a nice view of the room and give him a big bag of Maltesers.

One aspect of these championships that many people might not be aware of is the ongoing development of playing tables that automatically record all the bids and plays. The WBF realised that the standard of recording was atrocious and tasked a Dutch company with developing a system that was trialled at the World Champs in Veldhoven last year. That prototype has been improved and there are 4 matches using it here in every round. It uses video motion tracking technology to recognise the bids and cards.

This system has a number of important implications. Firstly, it will mean complete records of every match when it comes into use. Secondly, all the data is timestamped. So if there is a director call about a hesitation, the officials will be able to use the system to determine how long it really was. But there is a further use of the time data. Currently, all international matches have time limits, but these are set in terms of the whole table. If a table is slow, then an adjudication is necessary to apportion responsibility. If the time data is automatically recorded, it is a simple matter to sum the time used by a pair. This would mean clocks in use at a table with each pair being given half the time to play the deals. Such a system has the potential to radically alter the way internationals are played. Slow pairs would get into time trouble and be forced to speed up or lose large quantities of IMPs and VPs. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

For more information, check out the company's website:

Monday, 13 August 2012

Lille: Open 3

So. It didn't quite go as hoped. A feature of the tournament has been the extraordinarily dull deals. Bizarrely enough, this has caused problems for a few of the better sides (I'm including us in there!). Most of the better players in world bridge tend to be quite active and able to generate things out of thin air. On a flat set of deals, this active style can actually be counterproductive. Reigning world champions, the Netherlands, conspired to generate a loss to India on a set of deals that were a guaranteed cure for insomnia in the Vugraph theatre. The Dutch managed to top that though, with a 25-4VP loss to mighty Guadeloupe, possibly the most extraordinary result seen in world championship bridge.

They are in a qualifying spot though. Something we are not. These dull deals combined with a couple of costly errors gave us a narrow loss to Bosnia. A recovery of sorts against perennial whipping boys Bye was followed by the must thrash encounter against the table propping Koreans. It was the same tale for 12 boards. Nothing in the set provided you could open a no-trump and lead 4th highest, but then finally the dam burst for the first time in the event. Dog lovers everywhere were cheering as three game swings materialised and gave us a 22-8 win.

It was at dinner that captain Pat provided some analytical uplift to the team. While everyone was busy guarding their desserts from the marauding spoon of Forrester (a cornered Peter Crouch desperately guarding his chocolate concoction), he pointed out that of the teams who might still have hopes of qualification, we do have comfortably the easiest run-in. We still need to start scoring big and quickly (duffing up India tomorrow morning would be a great start), but maybe the late change of fortune (it was a particularly sick 3N that Andrew Robson was allowed to make - and doubled) in the last match is a signal of better things to come.

Lille Women 4

Revenge for the women's olympic hockey defeat was taken in the first match with a comprehensive 25-4 win against Argentina. Judicious mention of the Falklands kept them off balance.

In match two we met Egypt and what looked like a close win became a big one when two of the last three boards were double figure gains so we came out of this match winning 24-6.

In the final match against Canada, one of our competitors for a qualifying place, we lost narrowly 12-18.

61 victory points for the day was a satisfactory outcome

That leaves us in a qualifying position with 4 matches to play. We start Monday with two difficult matches against Turkey(bronze medalists in Dublin) and Russia (long time leaders of our group) but then end with two easier matches against Chinese Taipei and Kenya. After that we read the 76 pages of rules if we have qualified to help us decide what choice we have in the last 16. 

Lille: Seniors 4

After our morning off, we got a maximum 25 VPs against Belgium and then a close-fought 15-all draw against Israel to maintain out unbeaten record (6 wins and 2 draws) and retain the lead in the group.  We were losing the match against Israel until the very last board, when England went two down in 4S in the Open room but Israel went three down doubled in 4S against Gunnar Hallberg and John Holland in the Closed room.

Our first match today is against France, the current World and European Champions, who are in third place.  Interviews with competitors in the London Olympics have taught me that we no longer ‘take each match as it comes’ but now prefer to ‘execute in the present’.  After executing (guillotining?) France we play Indonesia (lying 4th) and India (9th).

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Lille Women 3

The second day went rather better than the first. We beat Jordan 25-5 in the first match, our second maximum. Coach Burn inspires the team by giving them a sheet of A4 with the salient points of the opponents system together with any suggested ways of defending against their germ warfare. He also gives a short introduction to the country so our players can look knowledgeable.
Here is his intro. to Jordan
"Jordan is in Western Asia, or the Middle East, between Israel and Saudi Arabia. It has got a lot of uranium. It is not to be confused with Katie Price(aka Jordan), who is in between various marriages and has got a lot of silicon.

We beat Spain 18-12 in the second match but lost 12-18 to Poland in the third. At present we are just out of the qualifying positions but a good run tomorrow will soon sort that out.

Lille: Seniors 3

A good day at the office; a 20-10 revenge win over Germany, who beat us in Dublin, kept us in first place; a 15-15 draw with Turkey on a very dull set of boards saw us drop to second overall; and  an excellent 25-5 win over Brazil took us back into the lead. {25 is the maximum number of VPs a team can get; the scoring then goes 25-4, 25-3 etc.}

The Brazil match included a deal where Colin Simpson and David Price made 3NT with a 5-5 spade fit.  The Brazilians thought that playing in 4S was a good idea and went two down.  Gunnar Hallberg, while very appreciative of the 11 IMP swing to England, topped this with a tale of successfully playing in 3NT with a 7-5 fit in spades.

Things are going well, but we are only just over one-third of the way through the round-robin.  We start Sunday with a bye, so the captain allowed the team to have an extra half of shandy (each) on Saturday night and an extra half hour lie-in on Sunday morning.  The afternoon match is against Belgium, lying in mid-table at the moment, but always dangerous.  Then we play Israel, who were second overnight.  Our first match on Monday is against France, lying fourth as I write this, and European champions in Dublin.  So, three big matches coming up.

Lille - Open 2

So a difficult day for the team. Three matches. Three defeats. One of them, to the Dutch, very heavy. However, the numbers only tell part of the story. Part of being an insider is just that - you get to see what is behind that story.

Granted the team has not played up to their level so far. But lost in the background noise are the great little plays that went unrewarded - several occasions where opposition indiscretions either didn't cost or even gained because of the layout. Others were the little extra vigorish went unrewarded.

Momentum is a word that is frequently banded about. It is a nebulous concept - some mystical plane that somehow gets ascended to where all of a sudden every card starts flying in the direction you want. And yet, momentum is what this team needs. Tomorrow brings another opportunity to kickstart things. Lowly Bosnia (although not as lowly as currently ourselves), a Bye and a finale against bottom placed (presumably South) Korea.

The team needs wins and big ones too. But despite things not having gone well at the table, I still have reason to feel it can be turned around. There is no blame culture. People have put their hands up and taken responsibility for the things they have done wrong and often for things they haven't. They are all unified in pulling for the team goal. And eventually, the tide must turn. The question is whether it can turn quickly, and strongly, enough.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Lille Women 2

Having arrived and settled in the first task at hand is surviving the captains meeting. This is no mean feat but at least the players are preserved from having to attend. The officials didn't take all that kindly to me pointing out that the published times on the website were different from the official printed programme(as it happened neither of these sources was correct!) and that the regulations were not available on the website. They covered this by saying "they are" which regrettably was less than true!
On to the bridge and we did not have a great first day. We lost our opening match to Scotland 10-20. The biggest loss was a double game swing when Scotland bid 4H in one room and in the other opened a strong NT to which partner responded 3S invitational. You now had to bid vulnerable with
H J987432
D 2
C AK964

When you didn't that was your last chance and 3S was raised to game.

In the second match we played a weak Guadeloupe side and were 13imps down after about 7 boards but then the rains came and we won 25-4. Back on track. In the final match against Australia we had an awful match and lost 6-24 to leave us in 8th position. The leading five teams will qualify for the KO stages. In addition the best 6th in the three groups will also qualify to make 16. It takes a page in the regulations to explain how the best 6th is selected and a column in the bulletin to tell us how the draw will be made for the KO stages. In short the better we do in the qulaifying the more control we have over our destiny.

Lille: Seniors 2

A fine start to our campaign with wins over Commonwealth nations Australia (22-8), South Africa (20-10) and Scotland (21-9), leaving us top of the group with 63 VPs.  But it is early days.  Why are people allowed to say that?  Surely to be grammatically correct it should be 'it is an early day' or 'these are early days'.

We have established the most direct route between our hotel and the playing venue, about a 20 minute walk, so will be able to conserve extra energy for today's matches, which are against Germany (who beat us in Dublin), Turkey (who are lying in second place) and Brazil (who have the great Gabriel Chagas, former World Champion, playing for them).

Friday, 10 August 2012

Lille: Open 1

Greetings from Lille!

The team have settled in and played their first days worth of matches here in the Grand Palais. Initially walking into the building felt like something straight from an MC Escher painting with staircases going everywhere and some of the lighting being subtly disorientating, but we are now getting on with the task at hand.

Those of you who have been following us online may have wondered why Gold-Forrester didn't play a set today. Unfortunately, David has been suffering the effects of food poisoning all week and still hasn't properly shaken it off. I can report that he and Tony will be back in action first thing tomorrow against ze Germans.

So it was down to Crouch-Patterson and Allfrey-Robson to do the business today. A solid start against Chile (21-9) was followed by a disappointing 11-18 defeat to Spain. Those of you capable of rudimentary addition will note that adds up to only 29VPs. The answer was Alex and Andrew getting a slow play fine. However, the lesson to be learned from these things is to take your time and get it right, not to throw away IMPs to rush and beat the clock. Since we gained 13 on the last deal through a piece of Robson enterprise (that allowed him to play unmolested in his making game instead of them playing in their cold one), it was clearly time well spent.

The team finished off with a squeaky 16-14 victory over the Belgians to finish slightly above average.

Tomorrow rates to be the toughest day in the round-robin. The Germans and the Swiss both entertain good hopes of qualification. Our final match is against current Bermuda Bowl holders the Netherlands who are clear favourites to top the group. Good results in these matches would leave the team in a strong position as we would then have played most of the tricky fixtures.

Alan Shillitoe

Lille: Seniors 1

The Seniors have all arrived in Lille.  The Opening ceremony lacked the Danny Boyle touch and was mercifully short.  Susan Stockdale of the England Women's team took the 'Olympic' oath on behalf of all the competitors in all five sports.

We have 17 teams in our pool; 16 round robin matches and one bye, with the top 8 going into the quarter finals.  We start our campaign against Australia (who have the great Ron Klinger playing for them).  We have decided it would not be sporting to mention their Olympic medal tally before the match begins.  Next up is South Africa, and we finish the day with Scotland, against whom we will be seeking revenge for our loss in the European Championships in Dublin in June.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Lille: Women 1

The World Mind Sports Games start on Friday of this week.

This is the event that used to be called the Olympiad and morphed into its current form in 2008 in Beijing where the English women won the Gold Medal by 1 imp against China.

The original idea was that it should be in the Olympic host country but allegedly London was too expensive, Manchester too dangerous and Cardiff too small so Lille it is. There has been a major championship in Lille before and the playing conditions are good and these days it is but 1 hour 25 minutes from St Pancras.

The English Women's team is the same as won European Gold recently in Dublin (Nicola Smith, Sally Brock, Heather Dhondy, Nevena Senior, Susan Stockdale & Fiona Brown npc Jeremy Dhondy, Coach David Burn)
The format is a round robin followed by a KO involving the top 16 teams. We have high hopes and I will update here daily once the event has started.

Friday, 3 August 2012

U20 World Championships - part 8

So it is all over.

Yesterday we played an absolutely tremendous match against Poland that will surely go down in history.

Ten down due to the carry over we bid two grands and two small slams in the first set of 14 boards and outplayed them on most of the others to take the lead by 47 imps. (72-15, +57 over 14 boards)

The next two sets were tight and we lost 10 imps and then 28 imps to leave us 9 up. Sadly the last set my team was tired and the bridge was not up to the great quality they had produced throughout the week, and we lost very heavily in the end.

It is a shame because Poland are clearly the best team here of the other nations, and at the time of writing have just disposed of France by over 120 imps, winning every set in a match that wasn't at all close. USA 1 scored a very popular victory when they overcame a huge deficit to beat the unpopular Israel team by 32, but I suspect tomorrow the match won't even go the distance and Poland will win the Gold medal by a large amount.

Team England continue to play in the Transnational Swiss teams which runs alongside the final knock-out matches, so you can continue to follow their results on the same site.

On a positive note I am incredibly pleased with the courage and determination that my team showed. Their behaviour and attitude throughout the tournament has been exemplary and I was proud to captain them.

It is worth remembering that Toby, Michael, Chris and Freddie only made their international debut six months ago in the Channel trophy, and have never played even a European before. Although Shivam (the oldest member of the team!) has played several, Alex has never played a World Championship before and only played one European last summer. I think they all have a great future ahead of them.

This will be my final blog, the team returns home on Sunday evening though most of them will be in action during Brighton if you want to congratulate them on a great campaign.

Michael Byrne Under 20 NPC 2012 World Championships
Alan Shillitoe Under 20 Coach 2012 World Championships

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

U20 World Championships - part 7

So we have just qualified for the quarter finals of the World Championships, and in the end it was quite close.

Our team scored 15-15 and 15-15 with Singapore and Japan, but as it turned out even two huge wins would not have been enough to come in 4th place as the other results didn't go our way.

It was worth noting that Italy (who we beat 24-6) and China (who we beat 16-14) were just behind us in joint 8th/9th, so both of those results were crucial.

This was one bright spot from the final match against Japan:

S A x x x
H A Q x x x
C A x x
S Q 8 7
H K 10 8 x x x
D J x x
C x

You bid to 6H after South has opened 1D and North has raised pre-emptively to 3D.

What now?

As usual the thing to look out for when you have a huge fit and shortages is an end-play. The Japanese declarer started well by ruffing clubs and diamonds and drawing trumps (1-1) leaving himself with just the spade suit to sort out.

He eventually tried a spade off the dummy and Chris (sitting north) played the ten — what now?

Thinking that South had short spades, something like 2-1-5-5 shape, he ducked hoping that the king would fall on the next round. Freddie now overtook the ten and played another and Chris claimed one off, having started with K109x in spades.

Rather than try and sneak a spade to the 8 declarer should have played ace and another putting up the queen, which gains when North has the king or when South has it doubleton. Nevertheless a good shot by declarer and goes to show the high standard of this event — as this was from the team that was bottom!!!

Tomorrow we face Poland who as European Gold Medallists are favourites for the event, but their bidding is notoriously unstable, and while they play the cards well so do my team. Alex as ever found a way to see the bright side of things when he pointed out that the advantage of beating Poland in the quarter finals rather than the final would be that we don't have to hear the Polish National anthem at the closing ceremony!

We shall see....

Monday, 30 July 2012

U20 World Championships - part 6

Today we cemented our qualifying position, but we need a final good day to have a chance of making the top 4.

We started with the Norwegians, who are normally more threatening than they were this morning.

A moderate start became a losing position, but we pulled it back with interest to win 19-11.

This hand seemed obvious to me and Chris who held it:

S K 8 2
D K 10 9 8 7 6 4 3 2
C 5

The textbooks remain strangely silent about what you should bid on hands like these, but at game all I can't see anyone with red blood bidding less than 5D. That's how it appeared to Chris too, and he was greeted with a double and a singleton trump in the dummy. Freddie also put down the ace of clubs though, and only a trump promotion got it two down for 500.

4H made a comfortable 11 tricks next door so 4 imps to the good.

The second match we lost to the French heavily when both rooms struggled a bit.

Once more we bounced back with a good thrashing of Argentina. Unfortunately the match was marred by a director call on the first board which took a lot of time and seemingly made the match a bit more hurried.

This was the interesting first board that shows you should never give up:

S K 5 3
H A Q J 10 3 2
D 10 9
C Q 10
S A Q 7 4
H 9
D A K J 8
C K J 6 3

You bid to 6NT after West shows the minors, and East doubles it — what do you do?

A diamond lead is led and the ten holds on dummy, if you overtake it and lead a club to the queen, you have a chance of a brilliancy....

West is 6-6 (in the minors) and east 6-5 (in the majors) so once the queen of clubs holds you are home! Simply play a heart off the dummy towards your 9.

If East puts the king up you have 11 easy tricks (3 diamonds, 1 club, 4 hearts, 3 spades) and when you cash the ace and king of diamonds East is squeezed. There is no guess to make as either the hearts become good or if one is still out then the spades are.

Instead if East ducks then you knock out the ace of clubs and again you have 11 tricks (3 clubs, 3 diamonds, 2 hearts 3 spades) and East is again squeezed in the majors on the run of the clubs and diamonds.

In the open room our declarer was put off by the hesitation when he played a club to the queen and 9, clouded by the fact that East had given preference to clubs during the auction. The directors were sympathetic, but they didn't feel they could adjust the score because declarer had taken a very long time to play to trick one and it was thought that East needed a bit of time to wake up and realise what suit was being played. However declarer did recover to strip and end play East to get out for down one, -100.

Why does this show you should never give up?

When we came to score up the other table read out first (as they always do when I watch one table) and announced "plus 500" for win 9 imps.

At the end of the scoring I ventured to ask what contract they had doubled, thinking perhaps they had bid to 6H or something fanciful.

"Oh, I doubled 4S" said Alex.
"I suppose I should have passed, but I was fairly sure they wouldn't run to 4NT" he added, almost as an afterthought.

Tomorrow we have a bye (18vps) then lowly Singapore and bottom placed Japan — time to relax and enjoy the pressure being off before the quarter finals the day after.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

U20 World Championships - part 5

Another tough day, but again a disappointing result was followed by a solid one.

Against Israel we lost 24-6, with several key swings on hands that could have gone the other way.

This was one bright spot that saved a few VPs:

S K 8
H A Q 10 8 7 2
D 5
C K 9 8 3
S J 7 5 3 2
H J 9 5 3
D K Q 7
C 2

Alex Roberts was North and reached 4H after a heavy weak two 3rd in hand and a deceptive 2NT enquiry by Shivam.

East led the queen of clubs to the ace and the queen of spades was switched to, Alex winning the king.

Without a moment's thought he banged down the ace of trumps and dropped the singleton king offside. I tried to explain to him about finessing, but he has always struggled with card combinations. Worse was that he even claimed his line was "completely obvious" and that he had counted points and that the fact that west had failed to open the bidding told him where the king of trumps was! All nonsense of course, and he's lucky I don't put him on the first plane home. If it's one thing I can't stand it's people that do something clever — especially when it works! Ah well, it's better to be lucky than good. (I've heard some people say that sarcasm doesn't come across well in print — I trust that isn't the case here)

In the second match we played China who were rather unstable and our team showed great appreciation of what to do with a double fit in both rooms:

Game all, dealer North.
S K 10 9 8 7
H A K Q 8 6 3
C 7 4
S J 6
H J 10
D K 10 9 4
C K Q 9 8 2
S 5
H 5
D A J 7 6 5 3 2
C A 10 6 5
S A Q 4 3 2
H 9 7 4 2
D Q 8
C J 3

In the open room Toby opened 1H as North and East overcalled 2D, and Michael sitting South bid 2NT to show a limit raise or better in hearts. West bid 3C presumably for the lead (4C would have been a fit jump and a more sensible bid) and Toby bid 3S to show his second suit, always a good plan in murky auctions. East bid 4NT (which on one side of the screen was blackwood and on the other was choice of games!) and Michael knowing of the double fit bid 5H. West passed and East bid 6C converted to 6D which came back to Toby. What now? Partner hasn't doubled 6C so he will have values in spades, so it seemed safer to bid on, and 6H ended the auction and was one down.

This seems a shame as we had a chance of a plus score, but when you see things from the closed room you appreciate that taking out insurance is a sound policy.

This time Alex as East overcalled 3D weak and Shiv made a fit non jump of 4C over 3D. North bid 4H, East 5C, and eventually Alex saved in 6D over 5H. South doubled and cashed his ace, and north encouraged — two easy spade tricks to take.....

That was a painless 1540 in the plus column and 16 imps to England. "Thanks for coming lads, but we won't be seeing you in the knock outs" I felt like saying as China were disposed of.

Tomorrow we have an unstable Norway, solid boring France and rather loose Argentina, and we hope to make our qualification look more likely.