Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Open Team for the 2012 European Championships

2012 is a big year for our international teams. Not only are the European Championships (Dublin, June 12-24) taking place but there is an Olympiad to consider as well, although the August dates for that have not yet been confirmed.

The following Open team has been selected for the European Championships:

Tony Forrester/David Gold

Andrew Robson/Alexander Allfrey

Peter Crouch/Derek Patterson

Reserves: Tom Townsend/David Bakhshi NPC: Simon Cope Coach: Ben Green

The same team has been selected for the Olympiad, assuming this takes place in 2012.

The selectors were fortunate to have such a wealth of talent to choose from. Just a few of the pairs who could rightly consider themselves unfortunate not to have made the team are Jason & Justin Hackett, Jeffrey Allerton/Ian Pagan and Chris Jagger, Frances Hinden and Graham Osborne, Fredrik Bjornlund and Nicklas Sandqvist, Espen Erichsen and Norman Selway, and Martin Jones and Neil Rosen. No doubt they will curse the selectors and vow to work harder to make the cut next time.

So who are the players who will be representing the EBU on the international stage and hoping to achieve long overdue success in a major Open tournament?

Andrew Robson needs little introduction. As the proprietor of the Andrew Robson Bridge Club, the bridge correspondent of the Times, perhaps the most sought-after bridge teacher and lecturer in the UK and author of numerous excellent books, Robson may have become the best-known figure in English bridge. His partner, Alexander Allfrey, is less visible to the bridge-playing public, but has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the bridge world over the last two or three years and is the captain of the team that includes all the pairs who have been selected for the European Championships. This team won the 2011 Premier League in fine style, finishing ahead of most of the other contenders for international selection. Statistically, Allfrey/Robson were the second most successful pair in the Premier League, just behind their teammates, Forrester/Gold. The same team reached the final of the Gold Cup in 2011. In 2010 they won the Lederer Memorial Trophy and the Brighton Four Stars A Final.

One or two football fans have been surprised to hear that Peter Crouch has already been selected to play for England in the European Championships this summer. He certainly has a good touch for a (not so) big man. He and Derek Patterson were, statistically, the strongest pair in the first Camrose weekend of 2012 where they teamed up with Robson/Allfrey and Forrester/Gold. Crouch and Patterson’s years of hard work on their system has paid off with some spectacular results in recent years. Besides their successes with the Allfrey team, they won the 2009 Premier League with different teammates and they had the best Butler score in the 2010 Camrose, helping England to 1st place.

Tony Forrester is another England star who needs little introduction. He is the Telegraph bridge columnist and author of numerous books. He has played for England in more Camrose matches than anyone else alive and he enjoyed a long and successful partnership with Robson, with whom he won the European Teams Championship in 1991 and the Reisinger (a prestigious US “major”) in 1998 and 1999. He has won the Gold Cup on ten occasions. His current partner, David Gold, was not even born when Forrester first started dominating the English game. Gold is now a full time bridge professional, running the St John’s Wood Bridge Club. Forrester and Gold were, statistically, the top pair in the Premier League 2011. In partnership with David Bakhshi, Gold won the 2011 NEC Cup Open Teams in Japan and he has also achieved strong results in partnership with Tom Townsend. Bakhshi and Townsend will themselves be reserves for the European Championships, having travelled the world to play in major tournaments and develop their game.

With Simon Cope once again picking up the reins as NPC and Ben Green as coach, I think this squad will have every chance at the European Championships and the Olympiad which follows. They are used to playing together (and winning!) as a team and they have the stamina and talent to do well. I am sure all EBU members will wish them every success!

NICK SMITH (selector)